Owners of CT restaurant seek help for Turkey earthquake victims: ‘We really need the support of everybody’
The owners of a Waterbury restaurant and an official from a New Haven mosque issued an urgent plea this week for monetary donations from Connecticut residents to help the victims of multiple earthquakes in Turkey and Syria that have left tens of thousands of people dead and many more injured and displaced.
The owners of Sultan’s Turkish Restaurant were joined by one of the leaders of the Diyanet Mosque in New Haven during a Tuesday press conference at the Plank Road eatery. Tannel Aktas, one of the restaurant’s three owners, said that while donations of clothing and other items are appreciated “what we the people of Turkey really need are monetary donations.”
“We collected about 60 or 70 bags of clothes and other materials in about a week,” Aktas said. But the logistics of trying to sort through the donations and the logistics of trying to get the clothes to Turkey make financial donations more practical and effective, she said.
State Rep. Geraldo Reyes Jr., D-Waterbury, made a $1,000 donation to the relief effort on behalf of the General Assembly’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus. Reyes said many parts of Puerto Rico are still recovering from Hurricane Fiona, which hit the island last September.
“The infrastructure there (Puerto Rico) is probably not much better than it is in Turkey right now,” he said. “Our hearts are with you.”
The relief effort is being coordinated by the Diyanet Mosque, which is located on Middletown Avenue, according to Musa Ugurlu, who is the secretary for the house of worship.
“We are now trying to raise money to send it over there; that’s what they need, that is what they have asked for and that is what we’re trying to do,” Ugurlu said. “We’ve already got a lot of clothes and essential needs items, tents and winter stuff. Our mosque sent about seven containers of humanitarian materials.”
About 500 people attend the mosque and many of its members are from the region of Turkey that has been hit by multiple earthquakes over the past week, he said.
Connecticut’s Turkish American community is about 8,000 people, said Selim Urgin, who is another one of Sultan’s owners.
The restaurant, which Aktas and her husband have owned since 2011, serves as a gathering place and focal point for Turkish Americans living in the Waterbury area, according to Aktas, who was born in the United States. Her husband, Birol Aktas, has family is from northern part of Turkey.
“Every summer we take the kids, we go over to Turkey for vacation, we see our family,” she said. “Now, it’s hard because a lot our customers who come here have been effected and you have to be careful with the words you say, what you ask, because you don’t know what they’re going through. Just imagine that some people are the only ones left and they’ve lost everything; it’s just so sad.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, took part in the press conference and said the United States “has a humanitarian obligation to provide disaster aid,” even though relations between this country and Turkey have been strained in recent years because the actions of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Selim Noujaim, a former state Representative from Waterbury, said as someone who was born in Lebanon, the suffering caused by the earthquakes “hits home.”
“We are all people and we feel for each other,” Noujaim said.