The tradition of applying a humanitarian approach has made Turkey the world's largest refugee hosting country with millions of Syrian guests, Emine Erdogan said in remarks delivered to a conference in Washington D.C. on the Syrian Refugee Crisis.
"Our languages, religions, ethnicities may be different but being a human is our common ground and is above all," she said. "Therefore, we share our neighborhoods and cities with our 3 million Syrian guests."
The Mediterranean Sea, considered the sea of civilizations for its thousands of years of existence in the Middle East and Europe, has become the "sea of deaths", Erdogan said as she criticized the international community for not adequately responding to the throngs of refugees fleeing Syria that has been destroyed by five years of war and resulted in an enormous loss of life.
"Due to the selfish policies of those who wanted not to discomfort themselves, thousands of people have died," she said.
Those who have remained silent in the face of the Syrian catastrophe, according to Erdogan, would do the same in future crises when the rights of others, including women and children, were violated.
"All claims of being developed or civilized are invalid if our conscience is not more effective than bullets, tanks or rockets," she said, as she urged the U.S. to remember it’s history of opening its borders to immigrants and, she asked that it create an area for Syrian refugees to live in the best of conditions.
The U.S. announced that it would accept 10,000 Syrian refugees during fiscal year 2016, but has so far allowed just 200 to enter the country.
She contrasted Turkey’s response to the refugee crisis to that of the U.S.
"We don't name them refugees, but guests," she said.
"As part of the open door policy, 3 million refugees shelter in Turkey without any religious, linguistic or racial discrimination."
"We not only open our doors to these people who came to our borders, but also our hearts," she added.
Using as an example of the southern Turkish town of Kilis that borders Syria, the first lady said the refugee population there was currently higher than the local population.
"Kilis is a town which is shown as a nominee for the Nobel prize," she said, adding that winning the prize is irrelevant because the cities and towns in Turkey have already won hearts.
The first lady took time to address turmoil on her own soil by commenting on terror attacks by the PKK that has martyred more than 300 Turkish security personnel since last year.
Any terror group that aims to ruin the territorial integrity and harm the brotherhood between different ethnic groups in Turkey will never succeed in their goals, she said.
"The source of terror is the same, conducted by 'dark souls' regardless of where it came from or whom it targeted," Erdogan said, referring to attacks in Brussels last week.
Also addressing the conference was the head of Turkey’s prime ministry disaster and emergency office who said his country has spent more than $10 billion on its Syrian 'guests' in the past five years, compared to the $500 million in total funds provided by the entire international community.
Fuat Oktay said Turkey purposely refers to Syrian refugees as 'guests' in order to send a message to the Syrian people that its neighbor is ready to share its food and shelter with them.
Oktay issued a warning to the U.S., as an effective world leader, to take a more realistic approach to the refugee crisis, otherwise, "it's the people who pay the cost," he said.
Following the conference, the daughter of famed black civil rights leader Malcolm X told Anadolu Agency that Turkey’s first lady is "an international role model for all women an even for young men.”
She also had praise for Turkey’s approach to the refugee crisis.
"To open up the doors of Turkey for those in Syria and anyone around the world because of recognizing the respect for human dignity, is extremely applaudable," Ilyasah Shabazz said.
"If the whole world could take that same stance then it would be a better place for all children," she added.