Earthquake affectees in Turkey: slow recovery and elusive stability

A woman and a man walk through the earthquake ruins in Hatay state, southern Turkey - February 12, 2023 - (Getty Images)

A woman and a man walk through the earthquake ruins in Hatay state, southern Turkey - February 12, 2023 - (Getty Images)


Enab Baladi – Ahmed Deeb

“The earthquake will continue to affect us and our lives, even if ten years pass,” the 25-year-old Ahmed Khaledo describes the impact of the earthquake on the lives of Syrian refugees in southern Turkey after it left tens of thousands of victims and damaged hundreds of thousands of homes.

Khaledo and his family of eight chose to live in a tent next to his partially damaged house in Kahramanmaraş, southern Turkey.

Although his house is habitable, according to the assessment of the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), the impact of the earthquake on his family and the fear of his children prevent him from staying in it.

More than two months after the Feb.6 earthquake, many Syrian families and individuals residing in Turkey are still struggling to recover after losing their homes and jobs and to return to the normal life they had before the earthquake.

Under difficult circumstances, many of them face obstacles that slow down their recovery from the effects of the earthquake and increase their suffering.

Unforgettable disaster

Khaledo, who has been a refugee in Turkey for ten years under the Temporary Protection Law, explained to Enab Baladi that when a weak aftershock occurs, everyone goes out into the street for fear of a new catastrophe, recalling the horrors of the earthquake that destroyed every detail of life.

Khaledo preferred to live in a tent next to his house with his family members and said that during the day, they spend their time at home, and at night they sleep in the tent for fear of earthquakes.

He added that despite life’s relative return to normal in the state of Kahramanmaraş, aftershocks prevent many people from returning to their homes, preferring tents and shelters.

Continuing aftershocks in the area left families in constant turmoil, unable to forget the horrors and impact of the earthquake.

The Kandilli Observatory, which specializes in monitoring and studying earthquakes, announced on April 17 that the total number of aftershocks had reached 22,000.

Hoping to recover from the effects of the disaster, the refugee Jumaa Rahal, 25, and his family decided to go to Bursa, where his relatives live, after they survived the earthquake and got out safely from under the rubble of their destroyed house in Antakya, waiting for life to return to normal.

“Every time we hear thunder or a strong sound, we are afraid of its sound, and we think of it as an earthquake.” Rahal described the impact of the earthquake as “difficult to forget” and said that although he left the earthquake zone, its impact did not leave his memory or that of his family.

On February 7, the Turkish Immigration Department canceled travel permission between the Turkish states temporarily for Syrians residing in the affected areas, with the exception of the state of Istanbul, and the refugee’s residence in another state is considered legal for a period of 90 days.

The Immigration Department amended the decision on the 14th of the same month, allowing Syrians to obtain a travel permit for the state of Istanbul for a period of 60 days.

Rahal said he has obtained a 90-day travel permit from the Bursa Immigration Department, which is about to expire.

He explained that they live without stability because of the lack of knowledge of the measures that will be taken against the Syrian-affected people who left the earthquake zone after the expiry of the permit.

Job loss

The earthquake led to a large number of workers losing their jobs and sources of income in the affected areas, and they are now looking for new job opportunities in order to secure their livelihood, trying to recover from the effects of the disaster.

Khaledo lost his job as a home furnishing fitter, a profession he has been practicing for more than six years. He is now working to remove household furniture from damaged homes, which is dangerous and difficult work, according to his description.

In turn, Rahal lost his job in furniture, in which he had worked for more than five years, and was forced to look for a new job in a new city, and he spent more than a month before finding a job in a shipping company.

Rahal described his new job in the shipping company as “very difficult” because he was not used to this type of work, in addition to the long hours.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) revealed the impact of the earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria on employment and called for “urgent support” for those who lost their jobs and livelihoods in Syria and Turkey.

In its report, issued on March 28, the organization said that the earthquake in Turkey left more than 658,000 workers unable to earn a living.

The organization estimates that these affected workers face income losses averaging more than $230 per month each.

Besides the job losses, the ILO’s assessment of Turkey warns of increased risks to occupational safety and health, as well as child labor.

By the end of 2021, the number of those who obtained a work permit in Turkey reached 91,500 Syrians, according to the latest statistics of the Turkish Ministry of Labor.

Earthquake disrupts Eid rituals

Many of the victims of the earthquake that struck ten states in southern Turkey faced difficulties and challenges when they welcomed Eid al-Fitr and during the last month of Ramadan, as a result of the great damage to their properties and homes, which left many Syrians in the region without shelter and property.

The main challenge for the people affected by the earthquake was to prepare for the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, as they needed to obtain many foodstuffs, clothes, and gifts for their children and families, which was a major challenge in light of the difficult living conditions they were suffering from.

“The earthquake canceled all the Eid rituals that the children were eagerly awaiting,” Ahmed Khaledo said.

He added that the Syrians losing their jobs and living in shelters caused rituals and preparations for Eid al-Fitr to be canceled.

While Kahramanmaraş-based Muhammad Deeb, 30, said that every year, days before the Eid holiday, they used to buy all their children new clothes, which gave them joy, but his loss of work due to the earthquake, and the failure to find a job opportunity, prevented his children from living the simplest Eid rituals.

Deeb preferred to live in a shelter center on the outskirts of Kahramanmaraş after the earthquake destroyed his house, and he lost all his possessions.

In addition to the lack of job opportunities in the area, Deeb described the Eid atmosphere in the shelters as “nonexistent” and attributed the reason to the loss of all those living in the shelters of their homes or the loss of their families under the rubble.

The number of earthquake victims rose to 50 thousand and 96 deaths, according to the latest statistics from the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Authority.

The earthquake resulted in the injury of 107,204 people in Turkey, according to what was published by the Turkish Anadolu Agency on March 20.

Some cracked buildings continue to collapse, and some aftershocks hit the southern regions of Turkey more than a month after the earthquake, which was described as the “catastrophe of the century.”

The Minister of Interior, Suleiman Soylu, stated, during a press conference at the Emergency Coordination Center in the state of Malatya, on the 13th of last March, that there were 6,660 foreigners, the majority of whom were Syrians, from the earthquake’s deaths.

The number of Syrian refugees residing in the areas affected by the earthquake is 1.7 million people, while the total number of Syrian refugees in Turkey is about 3.4 million.

In a previous report, Enab Baladi monitored the situation of the Syrians as a result of the earthquake in Turkey, the destinations that the Syrians took or that were imposed on them by the circumstances of the disaster, and the amount of support provided by both the authorities and non-governmental organizations.



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