The fifth edition of the International Benevolence Awards by Turkey's top religious affairs authority saw awards going to people with outstanding "goodness" stories from Turkey to Mali.
Seven people whose stories of good deeds warmed hearts were presented with their awards at a ceremony on Wednesday evening at the presidential complex in Ankara. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was among the guests at the ceremony hosted by organizer Turkish Diyanet Foundation, a charity linked to the state-run Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet or DİB).
The 19-year-old Huzeyfe Aydın was among the Turkish recipients of the awards. A visually impaired young man who currently studies law, is known for his devotion to translating Arabic textbooks to Braille for fellow visually-impaired students at the imam-hatip high school he attended. He later increased copies of Braille textbooks with the assistance of friends and now delivers it for free to visually impaired students at other schools.
Zilha Seta of Bosnia-Herzegovina, known as Aunt Zilha in Sarajevo where she runs a charity, is recognized for her devotion to feed the poor in the soup kitchen she set up 27 years ago. She originally set up a soup kitchen in 1992 to help residents of the city entangled in the Bosnian war. After the war ended, she kept it open, this time for the poor and homeless, regardless of their ethnicity in a country where ethnic differences fuelled the war. Today, the kitchen serves more than 1,000 people daily, and this number goes up to 5,000 during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month in which the fasting faithful that cannot afford meals visit.
Osman Gökrem, another Turkish recipient, is imam of Selime Hatun Mosque in Istanbul's Beyoğlu district. He is better known as a patron of the homeless in the city. The 52-year-old imam built a bathroom in the basement of the mosque for the homeless who frequented the quarters where the mosque is located and serves soup and tea every Saturday morning for them. He also personally cares for homeless men, shaving their beards and cutting their hair in his free time.
Aisha Maslohi, a Palestinian recipient of the Benevolence Awards, is known for her resistance to Israeli occupation. Her 25-square-meter house remains the only Palestinian Muslim residence in the Megharibe neighborhood of Jerusalem decades after Muslims were forced to leave the area after the 1967 war. Maslohi lives alone in the centuries-old house she inherited from her ancestors and flatly rejected all offers to purchase it, determined to keep it as a sign of Palestinian presence in the area. Her house near al-Aqsa mosque, a flashpoint area where Israeli soldiers and fanatic Israeli civilians often bar entry to the Muslim faithful, is surrounded with barricades set up by Israel, but she never considers leaving it to what she called "occupiers."
Turgay Tanülkü is a familiar face to Turkish viewers for his roles in popular TV shows, but few know the actor, who spent time in prison in his youth, for his work for convicts all over Turkey. For more than 20 years, Tanülkü toured Turkey to set up theater troupes among convicts, especially juvenile delinquents, and staged plays with them. He also adopted 26 children, mostly young convicts he helped to reform and start a new life after being released from prison, along with helping the children of convicts to attend school.
Şengül Kazan is recognized for her 40 years of work for Darülaceze, a nursing home for the elderly and disabled in Istanbul. Kazan visits the place two days every week and has done the nail care for elderly tenants of the facility since 1979.
Frederic Omar Kanoute is a retired Malian footballer. Named African Footballer of the Year in 2007, the forward for Spanish side Sevilla, converted to Islam in his twenties and launched a foundation for impoverished children in Mali. He set up Sakina Children's Village in Mali in 2010 to tend to orphaned and vulnerable children. Kanoute is also known for his efforts to prevent the closure of a mosque in Seville by paying out of his own pocket as the privately owned mosque was about to be sold after its contract expired.