Turkey’s first lady Emine Erdoğan received recognition on Wednesday for her “exceptional efforts of inspiring leaders, innovative initiatives and partnerships who have provided smart solutions for global challenges.”
Erdogan, the wife of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was presented the “Changemaker” award at the World Humanitarian Forum, which is being held in London.
“I accept this award on behalf of the generous Turkish people whose hearts ache when they see a child in tears, and who regard a foreigner as a godsent guest rather than with suspicion,” Erdogan said in her acceptance speech.
“I take great pride in the fact that my country is remembered with the egalitarian and inclusive approach it has adopted in dressing the wounds of the world," she said.
Erdogan told the forum that the “history is full of wars, disasters, tears and blood”.
“While some parts of the world are thirsty for peace, trust and stability, the other half does not even realize that it is humanity that is falling off the face of the earth,” she said.
“Unfortunately, the world we live in is going through major humanitarian crises despite all claims of development and civilization of the 21st century,” she added.
“Against such a background, our duty as individuals and societies is to choose to side with the good or the evil.”
- Most generous nation
Explaining Turkey’s humanitarian aid programs, Emine Erdogan said Turkey is “referred to as the most generous country of the world with our governmental institutions as well as our civil society organizations.”
She said Turkey is “currently the biggest humanitarian donor of the world considering the ratio of its humanitarian aid to gross national product.”
“This stance is integral to the proactive Turkish foreign policy, supporting peace and stability across the world,” she added.
Giving details of humanitarian efforts by Turkish agencies around the globe, Erdogan said “humanitarian assistance for Turkey is not limited to just boxes with humanitarian aid, dispatched in emergencies.”
“It is the belief in global justice that goes beyond all political calculations,” she said.
She said: “It is a conscientious act that is a far cry from the colonialist mindset, one that will eliminate dependencies of those who receive it.
“Humanitarian assistance is always based on preserving human dignity.”
- Syria and beyond
Erdogan said Turkey has been “the biggest host of people displaced due to the Syrian war that has been going on since 2011.”
“With our open-door policy, we unconditionally welcomed people who were running from weapons into our land,” she said.
“It was a requirement of [our] neighborhood. We adopted a policy of non-refoulement for all Syrians,” she added, referring to Turkey refusing to return asylum seeker to countries where they fear persecution.
She underlined that the “aid we offer to refugees is delivered ‘based on their own preferences and in a dignified manner’.”
Erdogan said: “International institutions, notably the United Nations, speak highly of our refugee camps.
“Those camps do not smell of garbage or sewage; there are no children freezing from cold, no muddy grounds or wet tents.”
She said: “Turkey has left traces of peace, trust and love in Afghanistan, Mongolia, Chad, Egypt, Yemen, Haiti, and scores of other countries, way too many to count.
“Another issue we follow up closely is the persecution of Muslims in Rakhine [in Myanmar], which I personally went to see, and which shook me to the core.
“Besides the construction of 2,070 bamboo houses, the ongoing project for building 2,500 houses in the region is our gift to humanity.”
Emine Erdogan said Africa “constitutes a chapter in and of itself for us.”
She said numerous projects are underway in vocational education, administrative and civilian infrastructure, healthcare, and the development of agricultural and animal husbandry sectors across the continent.
“Total assistance delivered to the African continent by our country between 2010 and 2017 exceeded $2 billion,” she said.
Emine Erdogan left for Turkey Wednesday evening.