More than 80 Turkish philanthropists to visit Syria


Turkiye Diyanet Foundation will send 81 philanthropists from Turkey's 81 provinces for distributing humanitarian aid among civilians in Syria, according to an official on Thursday.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, the foundation's Board of Trustees Vice President İlyas Serenli said there is a difference between helping others without observing the scene and providing aid to people after seeing the real situation on the ground.

"We want people to see the environment there," Serenli said as he explained the motivation behind sending philanthropists to Syria.

So far, the Diyanet Foundation has provided over $51 million in aid since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, he said.

The foundation's activities in Syria have been operating through coordination centers in Idlib, Azaz and Al-Bab cities in the northwestern part of the country, he said.

Serenli said humanitarian aid to Afrin would be initiated after the region gets cleared of terrorists.

Turkey on Jan. 20 launched a counter-terrorism operation in northwestern Syrian city of Afrin for clearing the city of PKK/PYD/YPG-Daesh terrorists.

Serenli said Turkish people have always wanted to send aid to Syria.

"Now, we will take 81 philanthropists to Syria. We had planned to take them to Syria in February but we could not implement it because of counter-terrorism operation in Afrin.

"We will implement this project after peace prevails in the area," Serenli added.

He said the Diyanet Foundation had launched several aid collection campaigns in Turkey for devastated Syrians and provided religious services, education, construction and restoration works along with basic humanitarian support.

In cooperation with the National Education Ministry, the foundation has also given educational support to children of 13,000 Syrian refugee families living in the provinces of Ankara, Gaziantep and Sanliurfa, he added.

A total of 110 mosques located in Al-Bab, Azaz, which were cleared of terrorists during the Operation Euphrates Shield, and Idlib had been repaired by the Turkish charity foundation, he said.

Serenli said the foundation had also sent 1,640 trucks of humanitarian aid to Aleppo under the campaign "Don't Let Humanity Die in Aleppo" in late 2016, to support stranded civilians in the northern Syrian city.

He said the support under the campaign remains ongoing.

"For example, we have sent and continue to send 10 trucks full of humanitarian aid every month from the Turkish province of Kayseri," he added.

As part of its daily basic food support to Syrians, the foundation also distributes 220,000 loaves of bread and hot meals to 15,000 people every day.

We have also launched some sustainable projects in the country to normalize the daily life, he said.

Distribution of hot meals and bread, setting up tents and water wells, supplying food and clothing to Syrian war victims are among the biggest priorities of the foundation's efforts in the country, according to Serenli.

The foundation has established 1,316 tents in 24 locations in the de-escalation zones of Hama and Idlib to give shelters to the people who escaped from bombardments.

"A total of 7,500 families are living there. We provide all kinds of basic needs there," he said.

It also distributes potatoes from Turkey's Nevşehir province and apples from Kayseri province among 4,500 families in the Azaz region.

The foundation also gives salaries to 1,326 religious officials appointed at mosques in the region. It also appointed five muftis in Syria, he added.

Syria has been locked in a devastating civil war since early 2011, when the regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.

According to UN officials, to date hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict.

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