This article was written for Fethiye Times by Nichola Chapman
“Safe Migration in a World on the Move”
In a blaze of diversity, thousands of migrants wearing colourful costumes from their countries of origin, descended on the Turkish capital, Ankara.
Young and old, they came to celebrate International Migrants Day (18th December); an annual event, host by the Turkish Government and held a mere stone’s throw from the President’s place of residence, the White Palace.
The presence of the President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, at the conference lent an added air of excitement to the atmosphere, as this year there was a special emphasis on migrants that had fled global conflict and settled in Turkey. They came from every continent, and in the greatest number, those that had arrived from one of Turkeys neighbouring countries, Syria.
Stands displaying cultural information, delicious delicacies from different Turkish Provinces, photography exhibitions, children’s artwork and examples of literary and creative works by local migrant artists, writers, bloggers, photographers and charitable projects, specifically those that support migrants fleeing conflict, lined the walls of the Conference Centre
Throughout the conference centre, many spontaneous performances and cultural craft demonstrations by attendant migrant singers, dancers, musicians and artists created a fun and lively atmosphere.
Muğla’s stand displayed the work of those migrants that attended to represent the Province, presenting photographs, journals of published articles, information about the area and of work carried out by local migrant charitable organisations and foundations. Samples of Bodrum oranges and mandarins, bottles of olive oil, Turkish Delight and cologne were shared with visitors to the stand. Passers-by were treated to unscheduled musical renditions by Senbek from Kazakhstan who sang and played the Dombra, a long-necked Turkic lute and a musical string instrument that attracted much interest and people that thought they too could play it.
Of particular interest to the participants from Muğla was a presentation to Süleyman Soylu, Minister of the Interior by Recep Batu, Head of Muğla Migration, of an original painting by Carol Bostan from Fethiye.
A visit by Atay Uslu, Member of Parliament for Antalya Milletvekili to the Muğla stand caused quite a stir too.
The President’s Speech
During the event President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addressed an audience of three thousand in the Conference Hall and synonymous with the spirit of the event said:
“As Turkey, we walk tall when it comes to the issue of migrants. We must protect and uphold the rights of all migrants and refugees. Let’s make sure no one is left behind.”
And the highlight for some was the opportunity to personally meet the President of their new home, a country that had embraced and welcomed them with open arms and giving hands. A record Turkey can be proud of, with the highest number of migrants in the world, around 4.5 million in total that include 3.3 million Syrians under Government Protection.
Sightseeing in Ankara
The day had started off with some early morning sightseeing visiting a mosque, taking a few selfies before heading off for a very enjoyable day. To round things off, here are a few more photos and a video of children’s artwork drawing on their past and present experiences portraying both the trauma and the joy they have been exposed to in their young lives.
Representing Müğla migrants:
Abid Ihsan: Bangladesh: University student
Frances Kan: Taiwan: blogger and writer
Jane Akatay: Britain: writer
Nichola Chapman: Britain: amateur photographer
Senbek Utebekov: Kazakhstan: University student and musician
Müğla – Official representatives:
Recep Batu: Göç İdaresi İl Müdürlüğü – Head of Müğla Migration
Barış İzmir: İl Göç Uzmanı – Migrant Specialist
Erdem İzmire: Şoför
Feature Photo ©Süleyman Soylu