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caspian region comes together to aid in earthquake disaster relief efforts

Caspian Region Comes Together to Aid in Earthquake Disaster Relief Efforts

Author: Josephine Freund

Feb 21, 2023

Image source: Shutterstock

On February 6, twin earthquakes with a magnitude of 7.8 struck southeast Türkiye and Syria. The result of these two earthquakes and strong aftershocks were devastating to Turkish and Syrian infrastructure; and with search and rescue missions still underway, the death toll has now surpassed 42,000. Tens of thousands of people are injured, and the devastation has resulted in mass displacement, especially perilous considering the region is currently experiencing freezing temperatures with frequent rain.

Since the destruction occurred, the international community has come together to aid in disaster-relief efforts. Notably, most neighboring countries sent significant aid in the form of supplies or rescue teams. Azerbaijan was the first country to send assistance to Türkiye following the earthquake, and it has continued to support disaster efforts. On February 15, the third convoy of humanitarian aid reached Türkiye, including heaters, 5624 tents, as well as modular homes to aid in the mass displacement caused by the earthquake. Azerbaijani personnel were also active in the search and rescue mission in Türkiye, with Azerbaijani rescuers retrieving 53 people alive and 655 fatalities from the rubble. 

President of Kazkahstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev instructed his government to allocate $1 million to Türkiye. Kazakhstan has so far sent around 175 tons of humanitarian aid to Türkiye, as well as provided humanitarian assistance in the form of rescue teams. The Kazakhstani search and rescue teams have focused their efforts on the Gaziantep and Nurdağı regions and have currently retrieved seven people alive along with 80 fatalities. Furthermore, Kazakhstani doctors have treated over 140 individuals injured in the disaster. Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan have also all sent search and rescue teams to Türkiye, as well as humanitarian aid in the form of medical and logistical aid. Kyrgyzstan provided and installed Kyrgyz-style yurts in Kahramanmaraş, the epicenter of the earthquake, and it set up a single deposit account to raise funds for humanitarian aid. Furthermore, Turkmenistan sent humanitarian aid as well as medical workers. 

The outpouring of support from many of these countries comes as no surprise, since they have shared close cultural affinities for one another, along with having maintained longstanding relationships that have enabled their own citizens to work and live in Türkiye. For this reason, Türkiye has been the location for many diaspora populations emanating from the Caspian Region.

However, perhaps most striking was the response from Armenia that has been traditionally at odds with Türkiye. For the first time in 30 years, the Türkiye-Armenia land border opened so that Armenia could deliver humanitarian aid to Türkiye and Syria. Serdar Kılıç, the Turkish envoy assigned to the Turkish-Armenian relations normalization process, remarked, “I will always remember the generous aid sent by the people of Armenia,” toward the five truckloads worth of aid sent by Armenia. Although the border has been closed again, this was a historic step toward mending relations between the two countries and has breathed life into the peace process, with Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan visiting Türkiye on February 15. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu thanked Armenia for “extending a hand of friendship to our people during these difficult days… We saw how happy Armenian rescuers were when they were able to save [Turkish] lives.”

The earthquake and its aftermath have been devastating to both Türkiye and Syria. Amid the extreme losses and destruction, that have still not been fully understood yet, there have also come to light beacons of hope. This hope can be seen through the efforts of surrounding countries and by the international community. Not only countries of the Caspian Region that already shared close ties with Türkiye and that provided significant aid and assistance, but also countries like Armenia that have more tense historical relationships with Türkiye but put any differences aside to help Türkiye. This common fundamental understanding on a humanitarian level shows that there is so much possibility toward harmony in the region.

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