Grieving Turkish Diaspora Rallies to Support Turkey Earthquake Victims

As they reckon with shocking images on social media and the long wait for news from home, the world’s Turkish diaspora, which includes some 20 million people, has rallied to provide support to one another and send aid to their family members far away.

In Melbourne, Australia, where the Turkish-Australian community exceeds an estimated 300,000 people, dozens of volunteers in the parking lot behind a halal butcher shop packed three shipping containers with cardboard boxes full of new tents, blankets and sleeping bags. The supplies will be flown to Turkey on Thursday morning, and they are expected to arrive at quake-damaged areas within days.

“Everyone here has someone they know out there that’s been affected,” said Kasiye Kuru, one of the organizers of the effort, as her daughter rubbed sunscreen onto her cheeks. A friend who had left Australia to move to Gaziantep, Turkey, close to the epicenter of the quake, had lost her home, she said. “She built that home with so much love and care, but what do you do? She’s alive.”

“There’s been a lot of emotions happening here,” said Bea Tercan, one of the organizers of the equipment drive. “A lot of people crying, a lot of people are feeling the pain, not getting through to their loved ones, which has been devastating. It’s the worst not to be able to hear someone’s voice and not know where they are, whether they’re stuck, whether they’re alive, whether they’re just screaming for help.”

Volunteers secured boxes with tape and packed them full of supplies as children in school uniforms watched.

As a Turkish flag fluttered from one of the shipping containers, people shared accounts of relatives and friends displaced by the quakes and discussed images they had seen on social media and news accounts of the disaster.

“I cried all the way here,” said Kamil Kolay, who had donated 60 new tents and who described seeing footage of a child who had been pulled from the rubble. “He was two months old — it just killed me.”

One man said he was from the city of Kirikhan, Turkey, in Hatay Province, and that he had lost several family members, including a cousin, whose wife and child had also died.

It came as little surprise that the community had been able to come together in such a way, Ms. Tercan said.

“We did this for the bush fires in Australia back in 2019. We got the community together, and we’ve done it again,” she added. “The Turkish community know how to get together when there’s a crisis.”

For Ms. Tercan, seeing footage of people struggling amid the wreckage brought back vivid memories of her experiences as a survivor of the 1999 earthquake in Izmit, Turkey, in which more than 17,000 people died.

“I know what they are living through,” she said. “It’s not something that people expect. You can never imagine it until you live it, and I pray no one lives it.”

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