Civil society organizations working in various fields in different cities participated in the festival we organized with discussion sessions, games and diversified performances within the scope of our Civil Society Capacity Strengthening Center project, which we implemented with the financial support of the EU Delegation to Turkey.
Disability, LGBTI+, health, refugee, children and women's rights; organizations working on different topics such as gender, cultural heritage and nature conservation also had the opportunity to present their work at the stands they opened.
The Civil Voices Festival, which took place for the sixth time this year, is supported by the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality. More than a hundred volunteers from Yaşar University, AIESEC İzmir, the Pİ Youth Association and the Social Climate Association contributed to the event.
“Türkiye can count on this vibrant, creative, diverse and mature civil society.”
The Civil Voices Festival was opened by Alexander Fricke, Head of the Section of Civil Society, Fundamental Rights, Judiciary and Home Affairs of the EU Delegation to Turkey. In his speech, Fricke said that governments around the world are putting serious pressure on civil society and reminded that civil society organizations are an indispensable element of democracy.
“Governments are taking more and more measures against civil society organizations. However, we know that civil society is necessary for everyone, both for democracy and to combat difficult times. We saw that again at the beginning of this year. "Thanks to the resistance and motivation of civil society organizations, many things are possible."
In his speech, Fricke said that the efforts of civil society in Turkey during the Kahramanmaraş earthquakes were crucial, and he thanked for the solidarity, resilience, empathy and citizen consciousness shown by Turkey during the earthquakes.
“We would like to thank the civil society organizations, volunteers and people who provided urgent assistance to the people affected by the earthquake in Turkey earlier this year. We are grateful for the solidarity, resilience, empathy and citizen consciousness that you show as one of the best sides of this beautiful country. We believe that Türkiye can rely on this vibrant, creative, diverse and mature civil society.”
For a better life: side by side, shoulder to shoulder
The Civil Voices Festival opened this year with the session "Civil Society and Solidarity in the Age of Crises". Representatives from the Theater Cooperative, the Women's Coalition and the Hatay Ayağa Kalkıyor Platformu attended the opening session of the festival, which was held for the sixth time this year. In the session, the questions of how we can take our efforts for extraordinary solidarity and cooperation a step further in difficult times, how solidarity can be strengthened, how we can expand the social base, how geographical and human borders can be overcome, what new and creative solidarity experiences can be, culture and art, earthquake solidarity and women were answered. With the participation of representatives from various organizations, an answer was sought.
"What we experienced during the pandemic made us active during the earthquake"
Vildan Güleç from the Theater Cooperative said that the field of culture and the arts has always been negatively affected by times of crisis, that they experienced this during the pandemic period and that theaters were the first to be sacrificed in difficult times. He explained that they have learned from the difficult times they have lived through and that these experiences have helped them during the earthquake.
“Cultural workers and artists have gone through very difficult times. But we have learned from this process and we have seen that this learning experience has made us active during the February 6 earthquake. The member theaters of the Theater Cooperative worked with children in Hatay and Kahramanmaraş after the earthquake. We reached 7500 children and were with these children. We realized that it is easier to move when you are organized, and with this mobility, people come to you.”
"There is one thing we want to remember during the recovery: To walk together"
İlknur Üstün from the Women's Coalition reminded the audience that the problems in the disaster area continue and that reconstruction will take a long time. He emphasized that in order to find a solution, it is necessary "to "arrive at an equal, equitable tone."
“There are still problems in the disaster area today. There are so many problems and needs. Seeing the needs for yourself and solving the problems is only possible if those affected come together. It is not possible to do anything other than that. The problems can only be solved together with the people and organizations on the ground. And there is something we would like to remind you of once again: Walking together. To be able to meet on an equal footing. For this reason, we would like to remind you once again of the women's slogan:
"Solidarity keeps us alive"
Ayhan Kara from the Hatay Ayağa Kalkıyor Platformu explained the course of the earthquake and said: "We do not want you to experience what we have experienced. We have a great responsibility. Nature determines the size of the earthquake, but we determine its intensity," he said.
At the Civil Voices Festival, civil society organizations working in the cities affected by the earthquakes in February also reported on their experiences in the fight against disasters.
Solidarity is the path to recovery
In the session titled Stories of Power, Hamit Levent Evci and Asuman Şahin from Adıyaman Civil Society Solidarity Group, which is an example of a post-disaster civil coordination mechanism, told the story of their start of work in the region by saying, "How can we as civil society organizations work more effectively with the local people and for the local people?" Even if we can not do anything, at least we can be there for each other!”
Another guest at the meeting was Hatice Kapusuz and Sibel Tekin from 10 Ekim Dayanışması. Kapusuz and Tekin shared the encouraging story of the Braided Struggle team, which consists of families, injured people and volunteers who came together as part of the memorial and healing activities for 10 Ekim Dayanışması, blankets with the names of the people who lost their lives in the Ankara massacre, memorial trees wrapped in blankets and knitted solidarity blankets.
Search and rescue dogs were also present at the festival
The search and rescue dogs of the Association for Social Development and Aid Mobilization (SGDD-ASAM) also took part in the festival. The exhibition, in which the dogs Vega, Vira and Kor participated, also provided information on search and rescue dog training and disaster relief. Vira, one of the dogs participating in the show, served as an assistant to the search and rescue teams working in the disaster area after the February 6 earthquake.