02/09/2023, 11.14
Send to a friend

Diyarbakir, the wounds of the Kurds amid quake drama

by Dario Salvi

An AsiaNews source testifies to "mutual aid" and "mutual support" in the earthquake drama. A restaurant offers free food, public schools and companies open their doors to welcome the displaced. As in the past, however, flaws seem to be emerging in the government's relief machine. Alarm also from Unesco for World Heritage sites in danger.

Milan (AsiaNews) - "What we need is solidarity in the hearts of people, what we need is mutual help, mutual support. One example among many? A restaurant that offers free food, a hot meal without asking for anything in return [pictured]." 

These are the words of  Güzide (who asks to be quoted by name only), an AsiaNews source in Diyarbakir, a Kurdish-majority area in the south-east of Turkey also badly hit by the  February 6 earthquake.

"Some public schools, various companies and non-governmental organisations," she continues, "have opened the doors of their premises to the displaced, offering shelter. The situation is starting to get really tough, it is very cold and it is impossible to stay outdoors for many hours." 

"In the city, several buildings have collapsed," says Güzide, who is active in the field of communication, "and many people have died, others are still trapped" in the rubble of houses. At this stage there are many needs: "People," she continues, "urgently need tents, shelter, and also food. In fact they need everything", from blankets to clothes, because 'they have lost their homes with everything inside."

Then there is the human side of the tragedy, represented by the loss of 'family members, relatives, friends. What matters now is that they can find a place to stay and help', then psychological support and the reconstruction of the urban and social fabric will have to be thought about.

In the meantime, the toll of the earthquake, which has so far claimed more than 16,000 victims, continues to worsen, while others are still buried in the rubble in Turkey and Syria.

Yesterday, Ankara had imposed heavy restrictions on the web, especially Twitter, in the same hours that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was visiting some of the affected areas. Blockades were lifted in the morning today, after a wave of protests raised by oppositions, intellectuals and activists who pointed out that social networks are a precious tool in the work of rescuers and aid coordination.

During the inspections, Erdogan himself admitted delays and problems, but also added that it was impossible to foresee such a catastrophe. Words that look ahead to the elections on 14 May - also confirmed in the areas under a state of emergency - in which the leader and the government are gambling their political future and many balances could change in Turkey and the Middle East.

Meanwhile, in Diyarbakir and throughout the Kurdish-majority region, theatre of repressions and offensives in the past to quell ethnic tensions with the excuse of terrorism and independence (read Pkk), there is the risk of witnessing scenes already seen.

A kind of abandonment by the central authorities and the aid machine that turns into a 'do-it-yourself' machine that unites firefighters and ordinary citizens, without the teams of disaster experts and means essential for rescue and recovery operations.

The destruction is widespread in this city of 250,000 inhabitants, almost 200 km from the epicentre of the earthquake, and many accuse the institutions of widespread corruption, which is said to have amplified - starting with the buildings constructed without taking anti-seismic criteria into account - the tragedy.

These abuses and corruption have been institutionalised under Erdogan, while rumours of Turkish air force attacks against Kurdish Ypg targets in Syria also during the earthquake abound. 

"For now, we do not see many government bodies operating in the area," underlines the AsiaNews source, but "there are several NGOs that have set up a crisis table and try to help when contacted and in case of need."

"These realities," she continues, "are trying to provide first aid and, despite the emergency, are doing a good job. There are political tensions in the area,' Güzide concludes, "but what we have to talk about now is how to help people, how to be supportive, how to find a warm meal and a safe place. About restaurants that offer food and places that open their doors to provide shelter." 

Finally, in addition to the loss of human lives, the heavy toll of architectural and cultural damage is also worrying. Unesco experts are sounding the alarm over the 'collapse of several buildings' at the Diyarbakir Fortress, a recognised World Heritage site, and the damage to the nearby Hevsel Gardens.

The entire area was an important centre in Roman times, then Byzantine, Islamic and finally Ottoman, and today is difficult to reach because of its isolation and broken communication routes. Other heritage sites at risk include the Göbekli Tepe ('sacred ruins' in Kurdish), an archaeological site 18 km north of the town of Şanlıurfa, and the Nemrut Dağı with its giant statues.

Send to a friend
Printable version
See also
Msgr. Bizzeti: Antioch is a post-atomic city. Earthquake and migrants, a global response needed
27/02/2023 11:46
Bishop Bizzeti: Antioch, the earthquake marked 'the end of an era'
15/03/2023 12:20
Earthquake: Ankara risks losing up to 1% of GDP
16/02/2023 12:26
Jesuit Provincial: from war to earthquake, Aleppo a 'traumatised' city
17/02/2023 11:22
Earthquake in Turkey, Bishop Bizzeti: in Iskenderun cathedral collapsed, 'total disaster'
06/02/2023 11:45


Subscribe to Asia News updates or change your preferences

Subscribe now
“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”