Our Imam, Tosun Bayrak, went to Kosova on July 25th for five days. His goal for this trip was to identify one or two villages which the Jerrahi Order could assist in rebuilding, both through immediate purchase and delivery of building materials, financial help, and ongoing assistance as well.
Mr. Bayrak has gone to Kosova twice before, last summer and last December, in the height of the refugee crisis, while the war was still going on. He brought money, supplies, clothing, and medication to people in need.
The one hour flight from Istanbul was late, hot, and crowded with relief workers. In Skopje, hostile Macedonian officials confiscated bales of clothing being brought for refugees. The well-intentioned driver sent to pick up Mr. Bayrak and his assistant, in trying to avoid checkpoints at the border, turned their trip into a three hour one, so that they arrived at midnight.
On Monday, July 26, Mr. Bayrak went to the UNHCR building hoping to contact someone in charge with whom he could consult and receive assistance from. An extremely helpful assistant was able to direct him to some possible villages in need. Mr. Bayrak then prepared to set out, still determined, despite the torrential rains which had turned all the roads leading to villages to mud. He was accompanied by two members of our Turkish network.
A doctor whom he had met on his previous trips was able to get a jeep and a driver, and he proceeded to the village of Pokleke, which is one of the villages the Jerrahi Order has committed to rebuilding. Here he was able to give the suitcases full of donated medical supplies he had brought to clinic staffed by five Pakistani volunteer doctors.
Next, he went to the Drenica area in the center of Kosova, a place that was also in the news: it became a temporary haven for tens of thousands of refugees in the middle of the war, where they were protected by the UCK.
Imam Bayrak chose the village of Obri as the second village to help rebuild. 170 people, mostly resistance fighters, died at Obri. Thirty houses are being rebuilt here.
Then, Mr. Bayrak and his companions went to Lipjan, where there was building supply company. Imam Bayrak had gotten estimates from Turkey, Macedonia and Albania for supplies, and found that after adding in bribes and transportation, buying materials in Kosova came to almost the same. He was also in favor of getting the supplies quickly, and spending the money in Kosova rather than outside. Kosovar builders helped by calculating what was needed to build the houses, and these materials were ordered. Thus ended a grueling but productive fifteen hour day.
On the next day, Imam Bayrak visited Yaqub Krasniqi, the former prime minister who is now the Minister of Construction in the provisional government. They discussed the plans for rebuilding the villages, and Imam Bayrak received the minister’s support of his idea.
Then Imam Bayrak set aside the funds for the construction materials, and after allowing money for two rooms for five nights, realized he would have to eat very lightly for the remainder of the trip, since all the funds he had brought were now allocated for the house supplies.
Above pictures show that the materials that Jerrahi Order of America purchased for reconstruction of Pokleke arrive.
On Wednesday, Mr. Bayrak went to Prizren, which is under the jurisdiction of German and Turkish peacekeepers. What should have been a one hour trip took three hours; there were many checkpoints and Russian soldiers were stopping people from passing. Mr. Bayrak was armed with a letter from Assemblyman Sam Coleman’s office which worked like a magic wand: the letter enabled him to pass through all the checkpoints with no trouble.
They proceeded to the village of Krusa. Here 110 men were massacred, and teams deployed by the War Crimes Tribunal were digging, looking for a mass grave. Twenty-three women and seven children remain here. The villagers were standing by, weeping, waiting to identify bodies. The area was secured by yellow tape, like a crime scene. There was even a tank and crime detection units- a miniature army was deployed here, looking for death, while all around were people with no homes, no food, nothing, who were receiving no help.
Imam Bayrak insisted on entering the area as a religious official. He went to pray with and for the villagers, and while he was there, one body was disinterred. He wanted to help those who were living, so he gave food, chocolate and toys to the survivors. He gave them each 70 DM (approx $35) and promised to send 100 DM ($50) per person per month to these poor women and children. This is the third commitment made by the Jerrahi Order, to send money and supplies to this small, ruined community.
On Thursday, the Jerrahi group went to receive the first supplies to be delivered to the village of Pokleke. When the materials arrived, people from neighboring (also destroyed) villages came to help, with good will and their wheel barrows, and no sign of resentment. That night Imam Bayrak travelled to Macedonia, in order to return the next morning to Turkey.
To summarize, Imam Bayrak, on behalf of the Jerrahi Order, was able to sponsor reconstruction of two villages, and to begin supporting a group of thirty people (women and children). He went to Kosova with $150,000, in the hope of repairing or rebuilding thirty-five to forty houses in those two villages.
This money was enough for the roughest construction, walls and a roof, what UNHCR calls "dry and warm room shelter". This means the door and window openings will be plasticked over, and that the building is a shell. The villagers are skilled and able to build the houses themselves; all they need are the materials.
But, these people have no beds, no stoves, no blankets. They are now able to manage by cooking outside, but winter comes early and harshly to this region.
The Jerrahi Order will continue to collect money for the above items. Stoves for both cooking and heating can be bought for $50 each. Mattresses can be bought for $10 each. The Jerrahi Order will also continuously collect money for the people of Krusa.
In addition, the following items ONLY will be accepted, for shipment as soon as possible:
Rubber (waterproof) boots for children
Warm pants and tops for adults and children (for example, heavy sweatshirts and sweatpants)
Warm (thermal) underwear and heavy socks
These items will be shipped by Turkish Airlines to Istanbul and by bus directly to the villagers in Kosova.
The Jerrahi Order, during the course of this tragic war, has sent eleven containers of food and clothing from Turkey. Approximately $200,000.00 was distributed to refugees during the crisis last year.
The Jerrahi Order is not hampered by bureaucracy or red tape. Through the connections Imam Bayrak has made in Turkey and Kosova, donation money and supplies can be given directly and in a timely fashion to people in need. We guarantee that 100% of any donation money will reach the Kosova people. As has been our principle in all of our relief efforts, we cover any costs and fee. Donations are tax deductible.