Turkey's Arab community adapting to pandemic lifestyle

Like others, Arab immigrants that include the diaspora living in Turkey are also struggling to adapt to life during self-isolation, secluded and cut off from their busy routines. But for many the lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic has come as a blessing, allowing them to rediscover social relations.

The unprecedented situation which made the world come to a grinding halt is proving to be a testing time for many grappling with a multitude of emotions, anger, and frustration.

Ahmed İsmailoğlu, an assistant professor at the Hacı Bayram Veli University in Ankara, said the lockdown period has made him spend more time with his family and rediscover social relations. "It has made families sit together and relive each other," he said.

Finding an opportunity out of the crises, the professor said he has been catching up on studies and research that he had postponed due to his vexing schedule. "It also made me see the positive side of digital media and benefits from it in terms of communication, research and online teaching," he said.

For Egyptian student Asem Mansour, life has come to a standstill but some aspects continue.



"Since the outbreak, I do not go out except for extreme necessities and surely do not leave without wearing a mask," he said.

Arabs show affection by shaking hands and touching faces, but COVID-19 has forced them to abandon this practice, like it has for many other customs.

"We have abandoned these practices and try to keep 1 meter of distance from anyone when outside," he said.

Back at home, Mansour is careful not to touch anything until he changes clothes and sanitizes his hands and face.

Arab residents are, however, hail measures taken by Turkey to prevent the spread of the pandemic.

"The professional measures are taken to deal with the crisis, the clear and frank actions of both the president and the health minister – who I see as a professional person with experience, and a strict and comforting tone at the same time – is the main reason for my reassurance," said Ahmed Salama, an Ankara-based Arab resident.

According to official data, Turkey has one of the strongest medical care systems in the world, with at least 1,500 government hospitals dotting its landscape and 40,000 intensive care units.

Salama noted that the country's self-sufficiency model, and the manufacturing of its own medical masks, hygiene and sterilization equipment is remarkable. Unlike in other parts of the world, there is no shortage of food items in markets. According to the Health Ministry, Turkey has conducted almost 700,000 tests, thus becoming one of the top testing countries in the world.