Members of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Disaster Assistance Response Team unload cargo at Incirlik Air Base, Türkiye, February 8. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Joshua T. Crossman)

Türkiye quakes: The spirit of solidarity should continue

In the aftermath of the twin quakes in Türkiye, we see that some states are trying to help beyond their capacities, while others are a little below par

After the huge earthquake disaster in the southern part of the country, the Turkish state has officially demanded international assistance for the first time in its history. More than a hundred countries have offered different kinds of aid.

When we analyze the countries that have sent support to Türkiye, we can easily see that the motives that drive these countries are not the same. While some countries really wanted to contribute to Türkiye to rescue its citizens from the earthquake debris, others have expressed their sympathy toward the Turkish state and its people.

In this article, I want to further analyze the reactions of other states to the disaster by dividing the countries that offered help to Türkiye into three categories.

The first category of states, such as Azerbaijan and Qatar, have mobilized their resources to help Türkiye. For instance, in Azerbaijan, the state institutions have sent different types of assistance to the disaster region. The largest search and rescue team (720 people) came from Baku. Azerbaijani TVs televised the developments for days.

The Azerbaijani people organized large aid campaigns. A tent city comprising 750 tents and a field hospital was established by the neighboring country. In addition, over 1,500 tons of aid of different kinds were collected and sent to Türkiye. The people of Azerbaijan have really shared the grief of the Turkish people.

Similarly, the State of Qatar has sent different kinds of assistance. Besides an effective search and rescue team, while Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, has sent an important amount of financial aid from his personal account, the Qatari Red Crescent and the Qatar Foundation have sent it on the behalf of their institutions. Doha has also promised to send 10,000 container houses and established a 3,000-person field hospital. Furthermore, Qatar has sent 40 planes to Türkiye to carry national and international assistance to the field.

Similar to Azerbaijan and Qatar, many other Muslim states such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia have sent different kinds of assistance. In all these states, not only state institutions but also people of these countries mobilized and collected a huge amount of aid for the earthquake victims.

Many small states such as Mauritania, Palestine, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Yemen and Lebanon with limited capacities mobilized to lessen the grief of the Turkish people.

This was an aid campaign for the land of mercy, Türkiye, which has been trying to help many states and peoples throughout the world. Even the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar mobilized to send assistance to Türkiye just to show their solidarity and to share their sorrow.

Friends in need, friends indeed

The second group of states such as GreeceIsrael and Armenia has offerred considerable help to Türkiye. Naturally, the first reason and reaction were humanitarian-based. However, these states tried to benefit from the earthquake atmosphere and have taken initiatives to improve their respective relations with Ankara.

Although Türkiye’s relations with these three countries are at different levels, compared with the pre-disaster period, the expectation to further improve their relations with Türkiye through earthquake diplomacy has increased.

The third category of states is those that did not meet expectations. Unfortunately, many powerful, advanced and rich Western countries, which are also Türkiye’s allies, can be put into this category. Similar to the second group of states, these countries could consider the earthquake disaster as a chance to change the political discourse toward Türkiye. These countries sent search and rescue teams to Türkiye after the earthquake and collected aid for the Turkish people. However, although they have the capacity to do much more, they have been content with the limited efforts just mentioned. Their overall response remained below par as compared to their previous reactions.

For instance, compared with the United States’ reaction to the earthquake in Türkiye 1999, the reaction of the present American government wasn’t as strong as the previous one. In 1999, then-U.S. President Bill Clinton visited the earthquake area in his five-day official visit to Türkiye. This year, Washington offered assistance and reiterated its commitment to helping Türkiye in the disaster’s aftermath, but this time it was U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken who came to visit Türkiye instead of the incumbent president Joe Biden. The earthquake was mainly discussed from a political perspective rather than with a human approach. The Western media published many analyses focusing on the impact of the disaster on Turkish domestic politics.

We, the people of Türkiye, appreciate any help and thank all states who make any kind of contribution to the Turkish state and its people. However, in such hard and difficult times, although it is voluntary, one expects much more from the allies and friendly countries to make significant contributions to the recovery process in the disaster region. Unfortunately, while some states have overstretched their capacities, some others restricted their help. We hope that at least the image of Türkiye can be improved since it is not the time to focus on realpolitik but on moral values and solidarity.

[Daily Sabah, February 22 2023]

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