Healing page by page in earthquake-hit Turkiye — a global problem

in front of World Book and Copyright Daymarked on April 23rd of each year, Miko Alazas IOM We spoke to Turkiye, an Adiyaman bibliophile who is contributing to the healing of his community through the power of books.

Muhammad vividly remembers the day his uncle gave him his first picture book. He was 10 years old and this was the beginning of his love of literature and poetry.

As an adult, he organized book club gatherings with his friends. In his teens, he used to host book fairs. After graduating from university, he worked in the field of journalism.

Already in his 20s, he had his dream retirement plan of opening a bookstore.

Little did he know that his retirement plans would be realized decades early when an earthquake struck his hometown of Adiyaman in 2023, leaving behind devastating damage.

Looking back on the immediate aftermath, Muhammad said, “I lost a lot of my relatives and saw a lot of horrible things.” “We all needed to come together as neighbors and as a community.

He spent some time in Istanbul undergoing treatment and then returned to Adiyaman, contemplating what his next steps would be.

As part of the recovery plan, authorities built a “social market” in the town center, with a variety of shops catering to residents’ needs and boosting economic activity. Plans also included a bookstore.

Already known locally as a book lover, Muhammad was at the top of the list of recommendations for people he could trust to open and run a bookstore.

“I was selected by the authorities to lead this effort and was provided with the first set of books by the Turkish Red Crescent,” he says. “We were starting from scratch. After the earthquake, everything was destroyed.”

Despite the uphill battle, Muhammad was driven by the belief that books could help communities heal collectively.

“My goal was to help people recover through books. Books teach you everything and make you feel everything from pain to happiness.”

Starting with old iron shelves, Muhammad wanted to transform his bookstore into a more attractive and comfortable environment.

Through the International Organization for Migration (IOM) cash grant program, Muhammad was able to purchase a new bookshelf.

“This cash grant program is part of IOM’s broader support for recovery efforts in disaster-affected areas. We will work closely with local governments to help selected entrepreneurs purchase goods and equipment and help them re-establish their businesses. This, in turn, promotes socio-economic activities,” explains IOM National Project Director (Livelihoods) Charal Yetishkin.

As of March 2024, 333 entrepreneurs in 10 states received cash grants. Recipients include immigrants, refugees, and members of host communities, and cover sectors such as food, textiles, and services.

© IOM/Anur Bashi

Muhamed is one of more than 300 earthquake-affected entrepreneurs who benefited from IOM’s cash grant program.

It’s been almost a year since he opened his bookstore, and despite the recent devastating disaster, Muhammad is happy with his life.

“I love this business. I’m happy to be surrounded by books. I meet people from all walks of life and build unique relationships with each customer.”

Muhammad is also involved in an effort to rebuild a public library named in memory of a literature teacher who died in the earthquake. Through this, he hopes to make books more accessible.

“When I read books, I am fascinated by new worlds,” he says.

In fact, every day, Muhammad hopes that his customers will be drawn to a new world of healing and hope in the midst of tragedy.

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