On Feb. 6, two catastrophic earthquakes struck Turkey and Syria. The natural disaster resulted in at least 41,232 deaths and at least 114,926 injuries.
In response to the tragedy, several Turkish students arranged a vigil on Friday, Feb. 10 in collaboration with the Interfaith Center. The vigil took place on the steps of Parrish Hall where students sold baklava, Turkish delights, handmade scarves, and other clothing items for donations. All proceeds were sent to Turkish students at UC Berkeley, who matched the amount and sent the money to NGOs in Turkey.
Zeynep Emanet ’24 spoke at the vigil first, outlining the destructive effects of the earthquakes on Turkish and Syrian people.
“The southern part of Turkey houses many of the Syrian refugees, and they have been displaced for a second time. Search and rescue operations are still continuing to help save people,” Emanet said. “We honor the victims of this tragedy and offer our support to their families and friends. We pray for the safety and well-being of those still in danger.”
Emanet also emphasized the importance of monetary aid and publicity in the wake of the tragedy.
“Let us turn our sadness into action,” she said. “It will take years for cities to recover, but you can help. You can help by donating to their cause. The money will be used for search and rescue and recovery efforts,” Emanet urged.
Muslim Student Advisor Umar Rahman agreed with this sentiment, expressing that he has not seen enough publicity for the earthquakes.
“Imagine if major U.S. cities were under rubble … I was flipping through the news channels last night, and nothing. I didn’t hear anything [about the earthquakes]. The situation is really heart-wrenching and we need to do more,” Rahman said.
Mehtap Yercel ’24 shared her thoughts on the gravity of the situation, also highlighting the importance of donations.
“The conversion rate is one [U.S.] dollar to 18 [Turkish] liras, so anything you donate is going to mean so much more in Turkey,” she said.
Yercel also reflected on the experience of being Turkish in the United States during the aftermath of the tragedy.
“It’s saddening to see that there isn’t enough publicity around what’s happening in Turkey and Syria. I can speak for myself when I say there is a sense of guilt involved with being a Turk in America,” she said. “[I am someone] who wasn’t affected by the earthquakes, who is still getting to go to school and wake up every morning in a warm dorm, who gets to eat warm food, who isn’t battered by snow during the day and lives in a tent,” Yercel explained.
The vigil concluded with prayers, a few poems, and a moment of silence for the victims. The Swarthmore community has continued to reflect on and react to the natural disaster in the days following the vigil.
In an interview with The Phoenix following the vigil, Yercel outlined ongoing efforts by Turkish students on campus.
“Currently, we are partnering with i20 [International Student Club] to staff tables at Sharples [the Dining Center] during lunch and dinner to inform students and staff about the earthquakes and collect more donations,” she explained.
Yercel also shared an information sheet, through which community members can educate themselves and take action.
Emanet concluded the vigil by emphasizing the importance of increased recovery efforts in Turkey, despite the sheer number of victims already found.
“While we were setting up the tables, [a friend] said something to me that’s been on my mind. He said, ‘In Turkey, the buildings are starting to smell like dead people’. If you can imagine the [number] of people that are still stuck underneath the buildings … The [current death toll] isn’t everybody, it is the amount of people they have recovered,” she said.