12/8  In one day on December 1st three amazing things happened: 22-year-old Fatima shared that her life may be at stake since her husband divorced her and she doubts that she will ever see her 6 year-old son again; a friend expressed his fear of the PKK possibly killing him; and a 5.0 earthquake shook our hotel violently and brought down 3 more buildings. 

Chuck and I were given a translator and a driver by the Department of Civil Services to go to tent cities and minister to traumatized children.  We organized 60 to 70 children ages three to 13 into a large circle where we encouraged the kids to mime short skits for the others to guess the theme.  It was going well until the Muslim call for prayer from loudspeakers for five minutes  causing us to stop our play twice.  The interruptions made it impossible to organize the children’s production of skits so Chuck and I split our efforts: he played individually with interested children, while I went with the translator to talk with a greatly distressed 22-year-old Fatima.  She had been separated from her 6-year-old son when her husband divorced her to marry another woman.  Since women have limited rights in Turkey she doubts that her ex-husband will allow her to see her son again. The traditions and laws of the conservative Muslim groups favor the husband’s and father’s rights over women’s rights (from the Quran Sura 66:5, 2:223,282). When Fatima was 15 her father arranged a religious marriage rather than a legal marriage with a 23 year-old family friend.  Seven years later the husband claims the marriage was not legal and marries another woman keeping the child from his mother.  Fatima has no choice but  to return to her parent’s home but according to the tradition of this Muslim community, her life is now under the control of her brother, father and mother  who have the right to kill her for becoming a burden to the family.  Fatima is now considered “shamed” because she is no longer a virgin but rather a rejected woman with few social opportunities. Few young Muslim men would want to marry a disgraced woman. Her fate is to stay at home and serve her brother, mother and father.   She will not have the opportunity to go to a university because she lacks sufficient education and she isn’t able to become employed unless her brother permits it.  Fatima is complaining of dreams of her son every night and continues to cry in the day for not being able to see him. She was hoping that I would be able to help her.  Of course all I could do is encourage her to have faith in Allah and to take every opportunity to make contact with her son. 

                Chuck and I made friends with a Turkish engineer who was in Van inspecting the buildings damaged by the earthquake to determine which buildings were habitable and which needed to be destroyed.  His assignment suddenly changed and he was relocated to the mountains east of Van next to Syria.  This man was very concerned for his own safety as the PKK terrorists hide in the mountains and are known to brutally kill many Turks. The sad part of this story is that the PKK are Kurds and Turkish citizens who comprise the majority of eastern Turkey.  The Kurds’ objection is that they, as the oldest people’s group in Turkey, want their language preserved and taught in the Turkish schools. The Kurds have been unsuccessfully advocating for their rights for the past 30 years.  It is sad that this engineer is not safe to repair the fortresses and buildings in the mountains of eastern Turkey.

                Later that night at 3:00 a.m. we experienced a 5.0 earthquake that violently shook the entire hotel. The building was trembling for several minutes as we ran down three flights of stairs to join the rest of the occupants of the hotel trying to get to safety outside.   Afterwards everyone in the hotel either slept in the lobby or stayed up anticipating other after-shocks (which were many). 2 large cracks emerged on the front walls and plaster fell in some places from the ceiling.  It was reported that 3 more buildings collapsed downtown. We made the decision to leave Van since there were no hotels that were considered safe to stay in.  First thing in the morning we called the bus station and asked the manager if we could get bus tickets out of there.  He said the buses were full but there was a last minute cancellation by a man who had jumped out of his window during the earthquake and broke his leg.  We were able to buy his ticket and his companions and the manager personally drove to our hotel to deliver the tickets.  We were on the bus by 9:30 a.m.  I had pangs of survivor’s guilt but got over them as we moved to safety. It seemed the Lord was moving us on.   I suppose we could have stayed in one of the tents but the temperature was below 32F and getting colder. 

                Three events of horrifying proportion in one day were more than I could handle.  My body was so tense, it ached.  “Three in one” incidentally is what the Muslims refuse to accept about the Christian God.  They do not understand or accept the Trinity.  Jesus, by the way, according to the Quran did not die on the cross; Judas did. In actuality the Quran has conflicting stories on how Jesus left this earth; one saying Jesus died a regular death and another saying He ascended. Jesus or Isa is merely an important prophet in the Quran. Claire