Ukraine: Imam evacuated from Mariupol calls for humanitarian aid
By Mesut Zeyrek
COLOGNE, Germany (AA): A Turkish imam evacuated from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol called for urgent humanitarian aid to the region.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Mehmet Yuce, the imam of the Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent Mosque in Mariupol, said people were suffering difficult conditions and many civilians have died in the city.
“Right now, the need for water, food, clothing, and heating must be urgently met. The weather conditions are bad, rainy, and the temperatures have dropped to minus 10-15 degrees (Celsius). They’re really hungry and thirsty,” Yuce said.
Arriving in Cologne, Germany with his pregnant wife Nadia and their baby after eight days on the road, he said they did not expect the war would actually break out.
“We thought that if such a thing was possible, they (Russian forces) would come from the east. At the first stage, we couldn’t get out of there (Mariupol), as our city was like a peninsula on the border, with Russian troops entering from all directions at once.”
The Russian forces first cut the Internet and then shut down the electricity, water, and television broadcasts in Mariupol, said Yuce.
Having arrived in Mariupol to lead prayers at the mosque just months ago, he said they were able to contact the Turkish Foreign Ministry and the Directorate of Religious Affairs with the help of the Ukrainian security forces.
Yuce, who is fluent in Russian, added that after the war began, they had opened the mosque’s doors to everyone fleeing the Russian attacks, sheltering up to 200 people at times.
During the assault on the city, a rocket struck the mosque’s garden and damaged its doors and windows, he recounted.
“This war, fought between two brothers, is really upsetting to us. We hope it ends as soon as possible, peace comes, and people continue their lives in peace,” he added.
His wife, Nadia Yuce, said they had faced difficulties due to Mariupol’s proximity to the Russian border.
“The first days of the war were terrible, we just heard the sounds everywhere. We were shocked and no one could believe that it is a war,” she said.
She said they were happy to be in Germany now. Most Ukrainians hope to return home one day, she added.
Around 160,000 civilians are trapped in Mariupol, the mayor of the besieged Ukrainian city said on Monday.
At least 1,151 civilians have been killed and 1,824 injured in Ukraine since Russia launched a war on its neighbor on Feb. 24, according to the UN, which has said that the true figure is likely far higher.
More than 3.86 million Ukrainians have fled to neighboring countries, with millions more displaced inside the country, according to the UN refugee agency.
*Writing by Gozde Bayar in Ankara
[Photo: Mehmet Yüce, Imam of Suleiman the Magnificent Mosque in Mariupol, Ukraine, which was under Russian siege, evacuated with his pregnant wife, Nadia, his one-and-a-half-year-old child from Mariupol to Cologne, Germany on 29 March 2022. Photographer: Mesut Zeyrek/ AA]
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