In 1999, a massive earthquake shook Izmit, a city of some twelve million people, 18,000 people died, and many hundreds more were trapped beneath collapsed buildings. Only three months later, a smaller quake caused another nine hundred deaths in Duzce, a densely populated region in Turkey. While these quakes were exceptionally devastating, smaller quakes routinely shake towns and cities across the country. Nasuh Mahruki’s response to this reality was to build a network of locally based volunteer search and rescue teams while promoting volunteerism, leadership, and civic initiative. Mahruki’s founded the organization AKUT: a network that trains citizens throughout the country in skills such as first-aid and trauma care; and helps volunteers organize into disciplined teams.
He pushes his volunteers toward the realization that ordinary people can and must take ownership of their own safety in crisis situations. By focusing on safety, an issue that is critical to men and women of all backgrounds, Nasuh positions himself to make a broad change in public conceptions about the roles of citizens. He works with national and local governments to carry out successful rescues and teaches the public to be informed citizens, able and willing to come to their neighbor’s aid in time of need.