Egyptian community in Turkey unite to support each other following the devastating earthquake

Syrian quake survivors stay at tents following 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude earthquakes centered in Turkiye's Kahramanmaras, in Salqin district of Idlib, Syri
4 min read
10 February, 2023

A year ago, Asmaa Muhammad, a 48-year-old woman, and her son travelled to Turkey from Egypt to study mechanical engineering at a university in Konya.

They reside in a rural village, where Asmaa stays updated on current events, despite being unable to interact with the locals due to language barriers. Her son takes care of their needs by purchasing groceries and medicine, as Asmaa finds it challenging to leave their apartment.

Asmaa wishes to offer her home as a haven for those impacted by the earthquake, but much to Asmaa's frustration, she is unable to do so due to restrictions from her landlord. 

Map of Turkey-Syria earthquake

Turkish authorities reportedly called for citizens whose homes were destroyed in the earthquake to evacuate, seek shelter in mosques, playgrounds, and student housing, and convert suspended schools and universities into shelters for those affected. However, Asmaa predicts that the population will be displaced from affected areas to unaffected ones.

Asmaa praised the support shown by Egyptians for each other and those affected by the earthquake, regardless of their nationality. Egyptians have been volunteering to examine and treat victims, participating in rescue efforts, and providing necessities such as blankets and food.

Asmaa described the strong bond among Egyptians, sharing a personal story about an Egyptian woman whose house was damaged and was taken in by a friend.

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Nawal Abdeen, a 19-year-old from the Menoufia governorate in Egypt, recently relocated to Turkey to study physiotherapy and Turkish at Kutahya University. Despite not being in one of the cities affected by the earthquake, she closely monitors the events. 

According to Nawal, the Egyptian community has been supporting those affected by the earthquake through blood donation drives and assisting impacted students. In addition, the Egyptians provide material and logistical support and transport those in need to Istanbul, which is farther from the earthquake's epicentre.

People wait to donate blood at a makeshift centre set up to aid victims
People wait to donate blood at a makeshift centre set up to aid victims [photo credit: Sohad Elkhodary/Hybrid Intelligence]

Nawal reported that the Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education had informed students to support those affected by the earthquake. The ministry is also monitoring the situation for scholarship students and offering assistance to those who wish to return to Egypt.

Hassan Ali, an Egyptian lawyer residing in Istanbul, has announced the launch of a donation campaign through the Egyptians Gathering Group in Turkey. The campaign aims to collect donations from Egyptians to assist those affected by the earthquake and is being carried out through bank accounts. Hundreds of Egyptians have already participated in blood donation drives to support those affected by the earthquake.

An Egyptian flyer calling for donation efforts
An Egyptian flyer pleading for urgent donation efforts [photo credit: Sohad Elkhodary/Hybrid Intelligence]

Angie Ali, an Egyptian student residing in Turkey, told The New Arab, "The Egyptian Union intervened and returned the Egyptian students stranded in Hatay and took us to a safe place away from Gaziantep. The Union team also arrived in Malatya, one of the provinces in eastern Anatolia, with aid."

International aid 

Doctors Without Borders, represented by Salwa Abu Chakra, Director of Media at the Regional Office in Lebanon, has contacted the earthquake victims in Syria and Turkey. Despite the personal challenges faced by the organisation, its Syrian colleagues have assisted and cared for hours and a mobile clinic has been launched in Idlib Governorate, as well as support for ambulances to transport patients needing emergency care.

Doctors Without Borders' teams immediately responded to the disaster based on an emergency response plan, providing emergency and trauma kits to hospitals in Idlib and Aleppo. The capacity of medical facilities was also increased by adding tents, a dressing point, and support from senior team members.

Salwa Abu Chakra, Director of Media at the Lebanon branch of Doctors Without Borders, recently spoke to The New Arab, shedding light on their efforts to assist those impacted by the earthquake in Syria and Turkey. MSF's Syrian colleagues have tirelessly provided care to the affected populations despite their difficulties.

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Salwa says their response was immediate and carried out following their emergency response plan. The organisation provided emergency and trauma kits to hospitals in Idlib and Aleppo and increased the presence of senior members of their teams. MSF is committed to providing critical aid to those in need during this difficult time.

Sohad Elkhodary is a freelance journalist and award winner of ICFJ's Pamela Howard Forum for Global Crisis Coverage.