Children of killed soldiers and veterans praise Turks for ‘not leaving us alone’

Children of killed soldiers and veterans praise Turks for ‘not leaving us alone’

Fırat Alkaç – ISTANBUL
Children of killed soldiers and veterans praise Turks for ‘not leaving us alone’ The children of killed soldiers and veterans have praised the Turkish people for “not leaving them alone,” particularly through the help of the Turkish Armed Forces’ Mehmetçik Foundation. 

“We have found out that we are not alone. We have the Turkish people supporting us. We have learned that we are not forgotten,” Merve Şahin, Emine Nur Gündüz and Fatih Başkan, whose fathers were either killed or wounded, told daily Hürriyet on Sept. 1. 

Şahin, Gündüz and Başkan are among the 3,619 children whose education expenses have been covered by the Mehmetçik Foundation. 

Muammer Şahin, Merve Şahin’s father, was killed by outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants in the southeastern province of Şırnak in 1997 when her daughter was just eight months old. Merve Şahin, her sister and her mother then moved to Istanbul from their home in the Central Anatolian province of Sivas. 

Over the past 20 years, the Mehmetçik Foundation has covered all of Şahin’s education expenses, and she is currently studying at university. 

Saying her “life has changed” with the help of the foundation, Şahin added that “she feels proud of the Turkish nation.”

“I’ve always felt the sadness of growing up without a father. However, the Mehmetçik Foundation turned our sadness into happiness. The foundation didn’t abandon me or my family after I started going to school,” she said, adding that completing her education “was a source of pride in addition to the pain that stemmed from growing up fatherless.”

Emine Nur Gündüz, 22, is the daughter of a veteran. Her father İbrahim Gündüz was wounded in 1995 after stepping on a landmine in Şırnak. 

She graduated from Kocaeli University’s Geology Engineering with the help of the foundation and now aims to do a master degree. 

“My father received treatment at a hospital for nearly two years and had to undergo eight surgeries. He was given the official title of ‘veteran’ [gazi] after recovering. The Mehmetçik Foundation was always with us. It helped us with education expenses and we participated in the cultural activities organized by them. We met people who suffered from the same fate as us. Thanks to the foundation, we learned that we were not alone or forgotten,” Gündüz said. 

Başkan, 21, is currently studying at a private university’s Public Relations and Publicity Department and is preparing to take exams once again in order to become a physical education teacher. 

“My father Engin Başkan served in the army as a gendarmerie officer. He was injured in clashes during an operation. The Mehmetçik Foundation always stayed with us. We completed our education and were reminded that we are not alone thanks to it,” he said. 

Retired Colonel Gürkan Gülçin, the foundation’s representative for Istanbul’s European side, said it is “one big family.” 

“The children of our friends who have served for their country are our children too,” Gülçin told Hürriyet.

“Our foundation is not an institution that collects aid. The benevolent people in our country are making donations. In addition to monetary donations, there are also realty donations. With the support of those aiding us, we are now giving educational assistance to 1,098 children,” he said.

“The children we support are completing their education, entering life, getting married and starting families. We are proud to have the Turkish nation’s support behind us,” he added.