February 6, 2023 • 11:17 am ET
Experts react: How the world should respond to the devastating earthquake in Turkey
A 7.8-magnitude earthquake in southeastern Turkey on Monday, followed by a large aftershock, killed thousands and caused widespread devastation in both Turkey and Syria. As locals pick up the pieces and aid groups rush in, how can the international community help? What will the impact be for a region already reeling from a decade-long war and refugee crisis? Our experts on Turkey and the wider region deliver the answers.
This post will be updated as news develops and more reactions come in.
Borzou Daragahi: The widespread damage is a sign of corruption and incompetence
Rich Outzen: With global help needed to rescue trapped people, regional tensions could ease
Eser Özdil: Aid contributions will help build diplomatic ties
The widespread damage is a sign of corruption and incompetence
If one building collapses in a known earthquake zone, it is a tragedy. If dozens across several major cities collapse, that is evidence of systematic corruption and incompetence, and perhaps even criminal negligence on the part of developers and building inspectors under the authority of elected officials. Turkey vowed to implement changes to its building practices following the tragic 1999 Kocaeli province earthquake that left seventeen thousand dead. It instituted new construction rules and implemented mandatory earthquake insurance for all buildings. Architects and urban planners have been warning for years that both developers and inspectors had gotten lax with the rules, and that an avoidable tragedy was inevitable. This is an issue that cuts across Turkey’s partisan divide. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is beholden to the developers, while opposition leader and Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu is a former developer himself. The entire process of rapid construction and the developer class profiting from it need much greater public scrutiny ahead of the May 14, 2023 elections.
—Borzou Daragahi is a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Programs and an Istanbul-based journalist writing for the Independent.
With global help needed to rescue trapped people, regional tensions could ease
These devastating earthquakes have killed at least two thousand people and injured over eight thousand according to Monday’s reporting, with totals likely to rise. Turkey, unfortunately, has experience with severe earthquakes and has sophisticated emergency-response mechanisms. Yet there will be a need for technical assistance from neighbors and allies for time-sensitive tasks such as extricating people trapped under damaged and collapsed buildings. Azerbaijan, Israel, many European countries, and others have offered the rapid deployment of teams for this sort of work. It is worth remembering that millions of Syrian refugees live in southern Turkey, and there is a role for European donors as well as the Turkish government to help Syrians who live alongside Turkish neighbors in the affected area, but also across the border in northern Syria, which has also seen widespread destruction.
Sympathetic and supportive messages from across the region, including Athens, remind us that tragedies can also create a sense of solidarity in times of crisis. There may be some softening of heretofore tense regional relations in the aftermath and during the recovery process.
—Rich Outzen is a geopolitical consultant and nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council IN TURKEY with thirty-two years of government service both in uniform and as a civilian. Follow him on Twitter @RichOutzen.
Aid contributions will help build diplomatic ties
Turkey is once again faced with the devastating effects of an earthquake, this time epicentered on Kahramanmaraş, in the southeastern region of the country. The earthquake also affected highly populated cities including Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Antakya, Adana, and Malatya. It is cold in the region at the moment, and all kinds of humanitarian aid are needed. Although Turkey has extensive experience in dealing with similar natural disasters, any support from other countries will make a difference in the field. History has shown us many times that a common struggle in natural disasters such as earthquakes can make positive contributions to the development of relations between countries. I think that countries that show solidarity with Turkey will also improve their bilateral relations.
—Eser Özdil is a nonresident fellow with the Atlantic Council IN TURKEY and the founder and managing director of GLOCAL Group Consulting, Investment, and Trade.