Turkey’s Dedeman Mosque Turns into a Temporary ‘No Cash’ Supermarket, Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

The racks normally reserved for shoes are lined at the entrance to an Istanbul mosque with pasta packets, oil bottles and biscuits-like a supermarket.

They’re not for sale, though. Rather, they are for the poor who are seriously affected by the pandemic of coronavirus.

The sign on the window of the mosque tells those who can leave something and says those who need something should take it.

Abdulsamet Cakir, 33, imam of the Dedeman mosque in the Sariyer district, came up with this idea of reaching out to the poor via the place of worship after Turkey suspended mass prayers in mosques until the risk of outbreak passes.

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Turkey’s official death toll from the virus now stands at 2,259 after 119 more deaths were reported on Tuesday, and major cities including Istanbul will be under lockdown for four days from Thursday.

“After the suspension of mass prayers, I had an idea to revive our mosque by bringing together well-off people with the people in need,” Cakir told a section of the media inside the mosque, where bags of food and cleaning products were piled up on the floor.

The young imam, who takes the products from the floor and places them on the shelves at the entrance, said he was inspired by a donation culture in the Ottoman period called “charity stone” — a small pillar stone erected at certain locations of the city to connect rich people with the poor.

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Cakir hangs a list on the wall of the mosque where citizens who need help write their names and telephone numbers.

The imam later sends the list to local authorities who check whether the names are really in need and his team then sends a message that they can visit the mosque and receive whatever they need: eight items at maximum.

‘No cash’

The mosque has been providing services for two weeks and reaches out to 120 people in need per day. And the list includes over 900 people.

A maximum of two people wearing masks and gloves enter the mosque and take what they need, while others wait outside, standing a few paces from each other.

The mosque does not accept cash donations and instead receives aid packages.

 The mosque’s shelves are full of products sent from all over Turkey and even abroad.

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