Turkish Village Buries Boys, Hopes
JAMES C. HELICKE
May. 03, 2003
KARDESLERKOYU, Turkey (AP) _ Just last weekend, Erhan Berk, a chubby-faced 14-year-old, persuaded his grandfather to pay to enroll him in a computer course. The boy dreamed of one day working in an office, and the old man was even considering buying the boy a computer, despite his poor farmer's budget.
On Friday, Kadir Berk bent over his grandson's body before lowering it in a grave. Erhan was among dozens killed when an earthquake the morning before collapsed a school dormitory.
The boy's grandfather said this impoverished village's hopes for a better future were buried under the dormitory rubble in the nearby town of Celtiksuyu.
``We sent our children to school so they'd have a chance to put bread on the table. But not even the dream of that is left now,'' Berk said.
Across this poor area in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish east, more than 100 people died and about 1,000 people were injured in the pre-dawn, magnitude-6.4 earthquake before. By Friday afternoon, a total of 32 students were still missing in the collapsed dorm, 117 had been rescued and 49 found dead.
This village was particularly hard hit. From some 50 tin-roofed houses here, at least 12 children died and nine others were missing. The name of this place is Kardeslerkoyu _ or siblings' village _ because nearly everyone is related.
Turkey's government relocated the entire village in 1971 after another devastating quake that killed 900 people. Berk had hoped that the move _ and the nearby boarding school _ would offer a way out of poverty.
On Friday, the village was focusing on burying its children in its little cemetery.
Mehmet Becerikli, 12, was buried late Thursday. Erhan's body was retrieved from the wreckage early Friday morning and buried immediately according to Muslim traditions.
At Erhan's funeral, village men wailed as they lifted the white burial shroud from his chubby face and blonde hair for a last glance.
While several men measured Erhan's body and finished digging the grave, an aftershock briefly shook the ground, jolting several men from their squatting positions.
Berk recalled his last day with his grandson.
Erhan asked his grandfather Sunday if he could sign up with a computer class. Berk later that day went into Bingol, the closest city, to compare prices of computer courses.
``Erhan said, 'I can earn a good living working in an office someday if I can use a computer,''' Berk recalled.
``I agreed to pay for it. It was expensive, but I had to do it,'' he said. ``There was no way I was going to send him to school just so he could stay a farmer like me.''