Last Monday, two earthquakes struck the Ghazi Antep and Kahramanmaras provinces in south and southeast Turkey. Since the earthquake on Monday, 312 aftershocks have been recorded in the region. Sirwan Mansouri, a journalist based in the Middle East, reported: “A large number of people including women and children have been rescued alive from the rubble.” As of now, at least 12,873 people – and some counts are much higher – have perished and 62,937 have been injured in Turkey alone.
According to Mansouri, “50,818 tents have been set up in the region to accommodate earthquake victims. 96,670 rescue personnel are working in the region. The destruction of roads and streets due to the severity of the earthquake and the cold weather has made the work of the rescue teams much more difficult.”
Fuad Oktay, the Vice President of Turkey, told reporters: “More than 8,000 victims have been rescued from the rubble so far. 2,769 rescue forces from 65 countries have been dispatched to the earthquake affected area. 70 countries have offered help so far.” So far, Azerbaijan has sent more rescuers than any other country, followed by Israel.
Following the massive earthquake, the Azerbaijani Diaspora has been doing its utmost to support earthquake victims. Aziz, one of the main Azerbaijani Jewish organizations in the State of Israel, has been encouraging their members to donate to the Azerbaijani Diaspora Fund set up to help Turkish earthquake victims. Lev Spivak, the President of Aziz, also sent a letter of condolences to the Turkish Ambassador.
In the letter, Spivak writes: “On behalf of many thousands of immigrants from Azerbaijan in Israel, we bring you deep condolences in connection with the earthquake that took place in early February in the cities of Turkey. We are very sorry that Turkey suffered huge losses as a result of the earthquake. The victims of this terrible tragedy were thousands of people, among whom were many old people and children.”
According to him, “Thousands of people died. Tens of thousands were left homeless. We sympathize with the grief of the Turkish people and are proud that Israel and Azerbaijan were among the first countries to support the fraternal Turkish people. We believe that Turkey is a great country and will be able to overcome this terrible tragedy, overcome all hardships and move forward towards progress. We wish the Turkish people strength, patience and a bright future.”
Saadat Sukurova Israelov, the head of Kanal 24, an Azerbaijani Israeli channel, wrote on her Facebook page: “Feeling your pain deeply, I wish mercy from God to those who passed away, healing to the wounded and patience to the people of Turkey.” She has also been calling upon people to donate to help the people of Turkey.
The author of this article, the CEO of the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy, an organization dedicated to promoting the Azerbaijani-Israeli friendship and strong relations between the Jewish and Turkic world, has decided to donate all of her late husband’s winter clothes to help Turkish earthquake victims.
She similarly wrote a letter to the Turkish Ambassador, stressing: “On behalf of the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy, an organization dedicated to promoting friendly relations between Israel and the Turkic world, I would like to offer my condolences for the two massive earthquakes that struck southern Turkey earlier in the week, which were followed by 312 aftershocks being recorded in the region.”
“The Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy is extremely dismayed by the loss of life and the devastation of property. We extend our condolences to the families of the victims, as well as to the people and government of Turkey. We wish the wounded a speedy recovery. We express our solidarity with Turkey and our prayers are with the victims and the families.”
“It is really tragic that entire cities were leveled to the ground, killing thousands of innocent people as they slept in their homes,” she noted. “As of now, at least 12,873 people have perished and 62,937 have been injured, with the number of fatalities continuing to rise. So many others are suffering from hunger, thirst, and the winter cold, as they remain trapped underneath the rubble of what used to be their homes. At least 10,000 buildings were completely destroyed.”
She stressed: “This situation is very tragic for not just the Turkish people but for all of humanity. Turkey is an amazing country with a rich civilization, with history dating back thousands of years. The country is full of so much amazing natural beauty, archeological sites, beautiful places of worship, amazing restaurants and cafes, and so many other attractions, which has always made Turkey a favorite place for Israelis to visit.”
In conclusion, she told the Turkish Ambassador: “For this to happen to such a wonderful country that has so much to offer the world is so heart-breaking. I hope and pray that Turkey will be able to recover from this massive disaster, which has harmed so many innocent men, women and children, and caused massive destruction to the nation’s infrastructure, as entire cities were literally leveled to the ground. However, I have faith in the Turkish people that they will be able to rebuild and recover from this grave earthquake, and to make Turkey great once again. My organization stands in solidarity with Turkey as they face this grave humanitarian disaster.”
The Portland-based Partners for World Health, the Azerbaijani Society of Maine, the Free Range Market in Medford, and many others in America, Israel and across the globe are donating to help Turkey. Tarlan Ahmadov, the head of the Azerbaijani Society of Maine, noted: “I call on behalf of our society to collect donations; winter clothes, winter gear, etc. I will be delivering this stuff to Boston, where the Azerbaijani Diaspora is delivering stuff. All of this will go to Turkey. We have been promoting different links and funds. So many of our friends are contributing to our cause. Companies are actually matching our donations. The first person who brought a donation to my home was a Jewish person. This made me so happy.”
According to him, “I am over-receiving so many texts and emails. So many people are collecting. I got calls from Greeks, Somalis, everywhere. I was in a business meeting. Someone approached me and said he was happy to hear my voice, calling on people to donate. I am so happy with my initiatives. They are telling me that there are local Azerbaijanis in Dubai putting together a lot of donations. There are many communities that are really supportive. People are very shaken from seeing this. Humanity does not have any borders.”
Rachel Avraham is the CEO of the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy and an Israel-based journalist. She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media.”