Tensions Rise as Devastating Quake Strikes the Middle East

Foreign humanitarian aid efforts assist as an unprecedentedly strong earthquake decimates Turkey and Syria. With the death toll rising to unbelievable figures, dissatisfaction with the governmental handling of the situation is voiced.

Last week, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Turkey and Syria, and the death toll has been rising rapidly, reaching almost 35,000. This has been one of the most devastating earthquakes in recent history, with the most notable earthquake last year being a 6.1 magnitude quake in Afghanistan reporting significantly fewer casualties at only about 1,100. 

This earthquake on Monday has prompted a manic response, with people being pulled from the rubble hourly, and rates of homelessness on the rise in the midst of the biting cold of a harsh winter. Despite the severity of this tragedy and its consequences, the Turkish and Syrian governments have been moving rather slowly in their efforts to assist due to the political and religious tensions that have permeated the region for decades. Many are dissatisfied with these rescue efforts, or lack thereof, and the time is ticking to find survivors buried in the remains of infrastructure that has fallen. 

“I can’t believe how much damage the earthquake in Turkey and Syria has caused to civilians…and their own government isn’t notorious for being that helpful either,” said junior Tony Xiong.

Turkish earthquake leaves cities in shambles as the death toll reaches over 30,000 (Credit: DNAIndia).

The Syrian government has had approval issues with sending aid to opposition-controlled territories, and civilians affected have felt abandoned by their own government in the process. No borders were planned to be opened bar one that linked Syria to Turkey in the north, and according to sources from inside Syrian-opposed territory claimed that aid from government-controlled Syria would not be condoned and rescue efforts would be accepted from Turkey. 

These tensions have done nothing but exacerbate the casualties and adverse effects that the earthquake has left in the region, and the popular response has expressed massive dissatisfaction with the response time of their government. The United Nations has been attempting to send aid to the area as time passes, but political tensions have impeded these efforts.

“Erdogan’s and the Syrian Interim Government’s mismanagement of the situation at hand have likely been the main issue that compounded the effect of said natural disaster. The Syrian Arab Republic has also proved to be inept at handling the situation,” said sophomore Todd Eng.

Civilians buried under the rubble of the earthquake are left without basic necessities (Credit: ummid.com).

The Turkish government has not been completely unresponsive, however, as they have attempted to detain contractors who built buildings that fell during the quake to hold them accountable for the lives lost due to their incompetent planning, at least as far as the Turkish government states. This is not as effective as it may seem, as many express that this mass detention has been used as a scapegoat for governmental incompetence and the slow procession of aid from the Turkish government in an attempt to seem proactive. 

This does not end the lack of aid efforts the government has demonstrated, as many feel that the aid response has been slow and ineffective, and have even felt that the government has been overlooking certain groups of people. Many suspect that minorities such as the Alevis of Antakya are being neglected by the government in their aid efforts as they do not tend to vote for the current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but this has not been confirmed officially. Erdogan has acknowledged the shortcomings of the governmental response but has publicly stated that the claims of lack of assistance from governmental institutions such as the military is “lies, fake slander.”

Turkish President Erdogan comments on the dissatisfaction of civilians from the slow response to the Turkish earthquake (Credit: news.sky.com)

Despite this lack of domestic humanitarian aid, foreign aid has been plentiful. India has dispatched a National Disaster Response Force, Russia has sent several rescue aircrafts to assist Turkey, the United States has directed several relief agencies to help the rescue efforts in the region, and NATO, Israel, China, and many others have pledged their support to Turkey and Syria in their efforts to help the affected civilians. Even Turkey’s well-known archrival, Greece, has mobilized aid suppliers to help with the earthquake response as soon as possible.

“…From my understanding, there has been an earthquake affecting both Syria and Turkey and killing close to 30,000 people…All these families’ homes and lives have been destroyed… [without] basic necessities such as water, food, and shelter…we can always help the situation,” said senior Doron Sedaghat.

From all around the world, this earthquake response has been able to attract not only sympathy, but active aid responses to help people across oceans to survive this natural disaster. This aid will continue to grow, and officials hope that as many people can be recovered from the aftermath of this devastating event as possible.