Cablegate: Charge's Ramadan Outreach Touches Ankara's Poorest

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

141438Z Nov 05




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan,
the Charg carried out an active program to connect with the
poorer segments of Ankara's population. In each of her
events, which included a visit to Ankara's largest mosque,
an iftar dinner, and calls on charitable organizations, the
CDA stressed the Embassy's desire to be a good neighbor and
participate in the spirit of sharing and charity that
characterizes Ramadan. The Turkish response was very
appreciative, and media coverage was both positive and
extensive. End summary.

--------------------------------------------- -
Low-Profile Approach Emphasizes Ramadan Spirit
--------------------------------------------- -

2. (SBU) Given Turkey's unique mix of a fiercely secular
elite and widespread religious observance among the broader
population, finding the right approach to acknowledge
Ramadan is a delicate task. This year, to show respect and
appreciation for Muslim traditions without roiling
secularists, the CDA led a discreet yet energetic Ramadan
outreach schedule. Mixing religious and secular events,
Post reached out to lower-income and disadvantaged Turks,
using a series of visits and meetings to stress that the
Mission is a part of the local community and strives to be a
good neighbor.

Touching Base with the Religious Community

3. (U) In an effort to connect with the religious
community, the CDA visited Ankara's largest mosque on
October 5, the first day of Ramadan. She met with Imam
Ismail Cosar, who gave a tour and explained the history of
the mosque. The two discussed the common threads in all
religions and how respect of others' traditions is essential
to reaching greater understanding. The imam cited several
verses from the Koran that call for tolerance, sharing, and
helping one another. As the CDA was leaving, the imam
emotionally said that he found the visit very meaningful.

Reaching Out to Local NGOs

4. (U) On October 6, the CDA and emboffs visited LOSANTE,
Turkey's only hospital solely dedicated to treating children
with leukemia. Dr. Ustun Ezer, president of the Ankara
Foundation of Children with Leukemia (LOSEV), which runs the
hospital, gave a tour of the facility and described a
"children's cancer village" that LOSEV is planning for the
southeastern city of Diyarbakir. He explained that since
many of LOSANTE's patients are from outside Ankara, they do
not receive the follow-up treatment they need since care is
not available in their towns. Dr. Ezer expressed an
interest in receiving more corporate sponsorship from
American businesses. The CDA congratulated Dr. Ezer on his
vision and promised to pass the word about LOSEV to the
American business community in Turkey.

5. (U) On October 31, the CDA visited the non-profit
Anatolia Modern Education Foundation (ANACEV) women's
literacy center in the economically depressed Yildiz
neighborhood. Since its founding eight years ago, the
center has provided basic literacy, parenting, and
handicraft classes to 1400 women living in the numerous
shantytowns that surround Turkey's large cities. The CDA
toured the facility and met with women in each class.
Several of the women were in their 50s and 60s, but
explained that they were determined to learn how to read and
write in order to empower their families. The children
waved Turkish and American flags as we departed.

Welcome in Ankara's Poorest Neighborhoods

6. (U) With urban poverty a growing problem in Turkey, the
CDA visited two of Ankara's poorest inner-city
neighborhoods. On October 18, the CDA and emboffs attended
an iftar dinner in the Mamak neighborhood hosted by Mamak
Mayor Gazi Sahin in one of the tents where free iftar
dinners are offered nightly during Ramadan. The mayor said
that he and his constituents were very touched that the CDA
wanted to share an iftar dinner with them, and expressed his
eagerness to establish closer relations with the U.S. The
other iftar participants seemed genuinely moved by the
Embassy's presence.

7. (U) On October 24, the CDA and emboffs visited Ankara's
oldest and poorest neighborhood, Altindag, where 85% of the
residents live in substandard housing. The mayor gave a
presentation on the poverty alleviation plans underway in
the neighborhood and took the group on a tour of the Hayir
Carsisi, a municipal government-run charity store that runs
solely on donations from businesses and local organizations.
Just before the Charge's arrival the Embassy delivered 20
large bags of clothing donated by Embassy staff.

Public Reaction Overwhelmingly Positive

8. (U) Both the press and the public received our outreach
very positively. While the Embassy did not request press
for any of the events, several media outlets picked up on
them and provided straightforward, positive coverage. The
daily newspaper Sabah (circulation 450,000) featured an
article and photos of the CDA's visit to LOSANTE in its
October 7 issue. The Turkish daily newspaper Milliyet
(circulation 250,000) featured the CDA's visit to Mamak in
its October 21 issue. Daily newspapers Sabah and Cumhuriyet
(circulation 45,000) covered the CDA's visit to Altindag.
All major Turkish newspapers, including Milliyet, Hurriyet,
Sabah, and Radikal, covered the CDA's visit to ANACEV, as
did Ankara's major TV networks. In addition, the public
warmly welcomed the Embassy's outreach program. At each
stop along the way, the CDA and emboffs were applauded for
their efforts to share in the Ramadan spirit.


9. (SBU) Given the dual nature of Turkish society, post
found this low-key approach to Ramadan outreach extremely
successful. Whether the event was in a secular or religious
context, whether with an imam or government official, the
Turkish public received the CDA's visits to the less
fortunate very positively. Media coverage was
straightforward, and usefully counteracted the negative
press U.S. policy often receives in Turkey.


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