‘All gone’: Queen’s students affected by earthquake in Turkey and Syria

Queen’s offers supports, student organizations raise money

Image supplied by: Supplied by Selim Dag
Selim Dag

Scrolling through Instagram, Selim Dag, ArtSci ’24, came across a photo of his hometown of Adana, Turkey. In the photograph, his town was destroyed.

Thinking to himself, he thought, “What the hell? This is a joke, right?”

Dag immediately rang his father, who lives in Adana. His father picked up FaceTime rushing down from the 24th floor of his building. The building collapsed while Dag was on the phone.

“The first few hours, I lost my senses. I was punching the walls […] I just burst out crying and couldn’t take it,” Dag told The Journal in an interview.

He called people who knew his father, and over the next hour, he learned both his father and grandmother in Turkey survived the earthquake uninjured.

“They were assuring me everything is fine,” he said. “I couldn’t sleep that day. At the same time, I was really happy my father and my grandmother got out safe.”

Dag spent the night reaching out to childhood friends, most of whom he hasn’t seen since he left Turkey around four years ago. Weeks after the earthquake, he learned 12 friends died.

“The city I was born in, the people I was born with are all gone. It won’t be back for maybe another decade. It won’t be the same […] it’s your hometown and your people.”

Around 60,000 people have died in the earthquake so far, Dag said. Many people froze to death in the cold after being trapped under rubble.

“It was just messed up. The fact that I couldn’t do anything about it was stressing [me] out even more,” Dag said.

Many of the buildings in Turkey—especially those made by private companies—are poorly built, according to Dag. When the government comes to inspect buildings, they’re easily bribed to give out permits.

 Dag’s hometown, Adana, before and after the earthquake.  Supplied by Selim Dag

“The government should implement more strategic inspections. They should have a checklist, and they shouldn’t just let people get by for the sake of money,” he said.

Sending donations—money, clothes, and food—to the Turkish consulate is one way to help. Bigger universities and cities are acting through student clubs and organizations. They’re all sending money, food, and clothes to Turkey.

There’s not a large Turkish community at Queen’s or in Kingston, according to Turkish student Beliz Berge, ArtSci ’24.

According to Berge, increasing awareness is one of the biggest supports non-Turkish people have provided. The number of posts and donations on social media from influencers and her peers has left her pleasantly surprised.

Hearing about the crisis from abroad was the most challenging part for her.

“Being so far away you feel a sense of isolation. You’re not [directly] impacted, but you still want to know everything that happened,” Berge said in an interview with The Journal.

Berge’s family in Turkey was not affected by the earthquake, but she knows others affected and had friends pass away.

“As the death toll increased, I kept getting more sad […] I’m just angry—almost at a loss for words,” she said.

When Berge first saw photos of the earthquake on social media, it upset her. She said receiving support from her close circle and the University was helpful.

According to Berge, students at Queen’s have discussed starting a Turkish club to raise money for earthquake relief.

“For [Turkey] to properly solve everything, it’s probably going to take a couple of years,” Berge said. “The government has done pretty much nothing to help the Turkish citizens affected.”

Syria and Turkey have been supported by various NGOs through one fund, Berge said.

Student organizations, such as Queen’s International Affairs Association (QIAA), have been raising money for earthquake relief. QIAA’s Vice-President of Development Sandra Assaf, ArtSci ’24, told The Journal they sold stickers in the ARC during International Development Week in early February.

The initiative was spearheaded by Elif Işil Gökçek, ArtSci ’24, who suggested selling more stickers in coming weeks. Assaf said students can help by educating themselves and donating.

“It is important for students to learn more about what is going on in the world so they can understand their role in the world, what they can do to help and support others,” Assaf said.

Principal Patrick Deane stands in “solidarity” with those affected by the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, according to a statement from the University on Feb. 15.

“The magnitude of the disaster is very clear, but it remains difficult for many of us properly to absorb,” Deane said in the statement.

“The Red Cross and Red Crescent are leading many of the humanitarian efforts in the region and the university encourages those able to provide support through that organization.”

Queens University International Centre (QUIC) emailed Turkish and Syrian students offering academic consideration, advising, and support on Feb. 7.

“The news this week of the tragic earthquake and widespread damage across Turkey and Syria was devasting to hear. Our thoughts are with you and your loved ones at home,” the email from Daralyn Auld, academic advisor for international students, said.

The email highlighted emergency bursaries and funding from the Faith and Spiritual Life and the Ban Righ Centre.

“Please don’t hesitate to reach out for help,” Auld said.

With files from Asbah Ahmad


Disaster, earthquake, Humanitarian, Queen's, relief, Syria, Turkey

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