The Bridging Peoples Association aims to establish public solidarity and friendship between all peoples on the basis of equality, justice, and freedom.
We prefer to call ourselves a solidarity group rather than a non-governmental organization. We stay actively engaged in politics because our lives and politics are inseparably intertwined.
We are attempting to promote a safe space in order to create a public friendship between all people groups. We are striving for a society free of hate, fear, isolation, conflict, and enmity towards one another. Bridging Peoples relies on volunteers and believes in a collective effort, without pursuing closed-minded interests.
We have been working with refugees ever since Turkey – and Izmir in particular – became a major destination for people escaping war and insecurity in their home countries. Since our launch, we have never turned our back on any refugees we have met.
The Bridging Peoples Association is not in the business of conducting ‘projects’ for the United Nations (UN) or the European Union (EU). We think the conventional ‘project’ approach is conducive to quasi professionalism and undermines the spirit of voluntary work. Voluntary work enables us to escape the trap of market relations and protects us against the deterioration of our work into a market commodity. We do not accept monetary donations from any state(s), national, or international institutions. We value independence and the ability to question traditional wisdom. We conduct our work with small voluntary donations and membership fees.
Our association includes a large number of healthcare professionals (including nurses, midwives, dentists, healthcare workers, dietitians, psychologists, and doctors); a field group that combs the streets and neighborhoods; a translation/interpretation group with experts in Arabic, Kurdish, and Farsi; and an art and culture group that organizes events for adults and children. We have carried out a wide range of activities in various neighborhoods with the assistance of hundreds of volunteers. People from all kinds of professions and backgrounds contribute their skillsets. Our volunteers include musicians, actors, lawyers, teachers, students, workers, unemployed people, and most importantly refugees. We have no executive committee meetings. Activities are organized during our public meetings that are open to all association members and members of the public. Everybody has equal voting rights – irrespective of membership status. Every person – irrespective of his or her background – is encouraged and allowed to contribute what they can.
We believe in solidarity – not in charity. In fact, we think charity is dysfunctional because it is momentary, and its reach is person-specific. It also creates a culture of dependency that relies on the will of the wealthy and powerful. Additionally, it may not be distributed correctly all the time. Charity is not a substitute for governmental assistance or public responsibility (be that social, economic, or political responsibility). Charity can only assist. Therefore, we have always called on government officials to carry out their duties. For each of our fieldwork and healthcare projects, we have written detailed reports and submitted them to the governor’s office, health directorates, public health directorates, and AFAD. We have submitted petitions and held face-to-face meetings with these entities. We have detailed the facts on the ground, informed the public of the situation, and democratized the production and dissemination of information.
On the other hand, solidarity parallels the rights-based struggle. It is not limited to the provision of health care, food, or clothing. It is about including the refugees and working together with them. Solidarity helps prevent preconceptions of the refugees as helpless victims, and compels support for their voice in the political sphere. Solidarity means participating alongside the refugees in their fight for their rights. It precludes the vertical politics of the state. It means questioning the political consequences of the state’s actions.
We embrace solidarity as the oldest and most precious humanitarian institution.