We the undersigned—a group of current and former TIMEP fellows—come together to mourn the lives lost in the Turkey-Syria earthquake and to call for forward-thinking and responsive international leadership in the days, weeks, and months to come.
On February 6, 2023, a powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 struck southern Turkey and Syria, with many aftershocks and at least one additional earthquake in the hours and days that followed. Estimates currently place the death toll at over 46,000 people, with significant numbers still believed to be under the rubble. The disaster has caused a major humanitarian crisis, with millions of people displaced and in urgent need of shelter, food, and medical assistance. Particularly in northwest Syria, the earthquake has devastated an already-vulnerable population that has been bombarded by the Assad regime and its Russian ally for over one decade, seen its infrastructure and hospitals collapse as a result, and been displaced on multiple occasions from their homes.
Compounding the situation even further, years of Russian and Chinese veto at the United Nations Security Council and failure by states to offer alternative aid delivery solutions left only one UN-sanctioned border crossing present for aid delivery following the quake—a crossing that was not initially functioning following earthquake damage to surrounding roads. Though some aid was delivered through Damascus, the Assad regime has a history of siphoning aid delivered to Syria through Damascus and tightly controlling what makes it to the northern part of the country. As a result, northwest Syria was rendered entirely without earthquake assistance until more than four days following the quake. The White Helmets, Syria’s civil defense, were left to conduct search-and-rescue efforts on their own, and locally-based humanitarian organizations on-the-ground were among the only able to respond.
In the time since, two additional border crossings have been temporarily opened and some assistance has been committed, though severe discrepancies in the response remain. The UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Giffiths has noted: “We have so far failed the people in north-west Syria. They rightly feel abandoned.”
As advocates, researchers, journalists, lawyers, and practitioners in and from the MENA region who are committed to policy solutions that center the people of the MENA region, we call on the international community, including states, UN agencies, and international organizations, to: