This is a very cold winter in Turkey. And as temperatures are relentlessly plunging to new lows, hundreds of thousands of homes are unheated in what is increasingly become a desperate situation.
The inclement weather, coupled with the country's worst economic crisis in decades, has produced shortages of oil, electricity, gas and coal that mete equal discomfort to rich and poor.
In Ankara the sun rises over the snow-clad, bare hills at 8:20 a.m. At 8:30 a.m. power is cut off for five hours to conserve electricity. There are similar power cuts all over the country. Istanbul, Turkey's most populous city and the center of its trade and industry, suffers from power cuts sometimes lasting 10 hours a day.
It is a cheerless start to the day. The electric fan heater stops whirling and the flat quickly drops to balcony temperature. I shave in candlelight and wash my face in a bucket of cold water. Water goes with the electricity and often does not return with it.
Because the building's fuel oil supplies have run out, we have had neither heat nor hot water for 10 days and are not expecting to get them back soon.
The children are camping with grandmother, whose flat miraculously still has heat.
In the kitchen I light all the fires on the gas range (the hoard of bottled gas on the frigid balcony is enough for two months, one for brewing tea and the others for warmth).
The fuel crisis began three years ago when the dramatic rise in world oil prices caught up with Turkey's underdeveloped economy. It has been deepening ever since, bringing Turkey's rate of growth down to zero.
Earlier this year, Turkey's Western allies decided to mount a joint rescue operation but only a small portion of the promised $1.5 billion in credits has actually found its way to Turkey. About $350 million in U.S. economic and military credits still await congressional action.
"NO COUNTRY in the world has been as badly hit by the increase in oil prices as Turkey," says Ismail Hakki Aydinoglu, the governer of Turkey's Central Bank, seated in his unheated office on a weekend.
This year Turkey will spend virtually all of its export earnings on oil imports from Iran, Iraq, Libya and the Soviet Union or for spot market purchases.
Next year even export earnings may not be sufficient.
Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel's rightist minority government has set a rather ambitious export earnings target of $3.5 billion for 1980. The oil bill is estimated to be between $3.5 and $4 billion. But even before it starts thinking about oil, Turkey will have to pay 45 percent of 1980 export earnings to service its debt to Western governments and banks.
Locally produced crude amounts to about 3 million tons a year, roughly one-sixth of Turkey's needs.
Despite the crushing bill and the fact that the country has one of the lowest per capital energy consumptions in the world. Turkey cannot even afford to meet its modest oil requirements of some 1 million tons a month. According to Demirel, only about a third of that amount could be imported in November and no more than two-thirds in December.
While Turkey has large coal deposits and hydroelectric reserves, there is a dearth of electricity and coal, brought to a crisis point by years of inefficiency and bad planning. The 1979 electricity shortfall will be 3.5 billion kilowatt hours and coat 5.5 millin tons.
"The situation is less than heartening," says Esat Kiratlioslu, the minister of energy and natural resources, making one of the understatements of the year.
Outside, Ankara, which probably has the foulest air in the world, is situated in a basin in the vast Anatolian plateau, trapped during the winter months under black coal smoke issuing from homes lucky enough to have fuel.
The office secretary is typing in her cloves. She complains that her sister, suffering from a skin disease, is unable to obtain the medicine that her doctors require to operate on her. Hospitals are running out of medicine because there is no cash to import it.
Perhaps she is lucky. Most hospitals are able to heat only children's wards and some have stopped operating.
"You don't want to cure somebody of appendicitis and kill him of pneumonia," a surgeon remarks.
A glance at the newspapers heightens the gloom.
Many plants, including Goodyear, have halted operations because of the fuel oil shortage. City buses are fewer because diesel oil is scarce. Ferries running on coal were taken out of mothballs to shuttle between the European and Asian shores of Istanbul. Primary schools may be shut down for four days a week because they cannot be heated.A university is considering closing its doors until summer.
Regular power cuts may be raised to 10 hours a day. In eastern Turkey villagers were caught drilling into a pipeline to pinch oil.
"Turkey has never been like this," bemoans an editorial.
ON THE WAY to a restaurant, trying to breathe as little as possible of the polluted air, I run into an acquaintance. He has had two hemorrhoid operations without anesthesia, he claims, because the hospital was without drugs.
The waiter apologizes for the lukewarm soup. The city gas is weak and bottled gas difficult to get.
The list of shortages and unobtainables is long. Many medicines, toilet paper, light bulbs and coffee are virtually unavailable. Other items like tea or olive oil are in erratic supply.Iron and steel, for instance, are available only on the black market.
Many items suddenly disappear as they are hoarded by black marketeers who have never had it so good -- the black market racket is swifly becoming as big as the regular market.
Inflation is running at 80 percent per year. An estimated 2 or 3 million of Turkey's 45 million people are without jobs and more are being laid off daily. Starved of imports, industry is operating much below capacity. Investments have slowed down. There is a chronic, oil-induced balance of payments problem and a foreign debt of $13 billion.
More relentless than the cold is political terrorism, which has brought the country close to anarchy despite martial law.
Growing discontent in the slums, racial and sectarian differences, clashes between the extreme left and right have reached proportions that may precipitate, in the words of a Cabinet minister, "a coup or civil war if we don't do something quickly."