Quake-affected Turks observe Ramadan with heavy heart

ANKARA: For Nurettin Ozdemir, a grocery shop worker in the Turkish capital of Ankara, this year’s Ramadan is different from that of previous years, as Türkiye is yet to recover from massive earthquakes that claimed more than 50,000 lives.

“We have seen many disasters, but none of this scale. Life must go on. However, even when one laughs, there is still bitterness inside,“ said Ozdemir, who is now working for a grocery shop in the Hosdere neighbourhood.

For him, the Muslim holy month, which began on Thursday this year, is usually “colourful and joyful.” “But this year’s Ramadan will be a bittersweet one,“ he said.

More than 13 million Turks are directly affected by the strong tremors centred in southeastern Türkiye on Feb. 6, according to official statistics. Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said 3.3 million had left the quake zone. More than 1.5 million people are being accommodated in tents and container camps in the disaster zone, Türkiye’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority has announced.

Remzi Buyuk, a pensioner from Ankara, said the disaster had left the whole country in grief. “Ramadan still has its importance, but there is no beauty left this year,“ he said.

The earthquakes are expected to deal a heavy blow to the Turkish economy. Erdogan said on Monday that the earthquakes were estimated to cost the country some US$104 billion, or 9 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2023, reported Xinhua.

The repercussions of the earthquake are expected to add woes to the economy, which was already plagued by high inflation. Türkiye’s food inflation was among the highest of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries in 2022, according to data published by the organisation on March 7. The country’s food inflation was 71 per cent, compared to the OECD average of 15.2 per cent.

The annual inflation rate in Türkiye decreased to 55.18 per cent in February from 85 per cent in October of last year, but prices are still high and are adding to Turks’ expenses during Ramadan.

“Everything is expensive, this makes Ramadan even more difficult. We have to cut off main items such as meat or dairy products,“ said Aysen Duru, a housewife from Ankara’s Cankaya district. –Bernama