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After the earthquake: Life-saving response by the Turkish and Syrian diaspora

17 March 2023

On February 6th, two devastating earthquakes hit Turkey and Syria affecting regions which are home to around 23 million people including 1.4 million children.

In the wake of this disaster, humanitarian organizations have mobilized to provide health, hygiene, food and shelter support to face the outcomes of the natural disaster. The extremely cold temperatures make humanitarian assistance essential.

The Turkish diaspora: life-saving and fast response!

Made up of over 6.5 million individuals, the Turkish diaspora is highly organized in Europe and North America and they immediately stepped into action. Turkish networks globally have been launching emergency appeals to raise funds for aid materials and winter supplies to deliver to the people most in need.

Turkish American Cultural Alliance, a Turkish diaspora organization in the U.S., quickly began collecting clothes, emergency tents, blankets, portable restrooms, lavatories, heaters and generators to ship and distribute to the affected population in Turkey.

With volunteers quickly mobilizing to collect donations, they have so far been able to send ten trucks of humanitarian relief items. They also launched a fundraising campaign by organizing live-events to raise funds, such as the Earthquake Relief Concert.

The American-Turkish Association of Washington DC (ATADC), a non-profit, all-volunteer organization founded in 1965, is raising funds for quake victims. The organization has a strong network in place that allowed to provide a fast response.

Within a week, ATADC has raised more than 207.000 USD as part of a larger effort by the umbrella organization Turkish Philanthropy Funds (they collectively raised more than 7.3 million USD so far). Through their close connection with local NGOs in Turkey and Turkish Airlines, they are able to coordinate shipment and distribution on the ground effectively. The donations were used to provide shelter, food, and medical assistance to thousands of victims.

The association also works through the diplomatic channels to direct attention to the crisis and secure future aid for the region's recovery efforts.

"In the long term, shelter is what’s most needed, because there are so many people who have just lost everything. (ATADC, 2023)"

Millî Görüş organization, the one of the most influential Turkish movements in Germany is also providing relief services in the affected areas.

Hasene President Bekir Altaş went from Germany to the earthquake zone with a team to coordinate the distribution of aid to the earthquake victims. The organization donated one million Euros in aid at the first stage. Besides, five trucks filled with aid materials moved to the region. Hasene's mobile soup kitchens and mobile bakeries are located in the area to meet the most basic needs of people. 

Due to their religious background, they also organized funeral prayers for those who lost their lives and to collect aid.


Syrian diaspora: emergency response limited by politicization of aid

Syrian migrants are among the largest diaspora communities worldwide, due to the protracted conflict in the country. 12 years of complex humanitarian crisis, displacement and pain left 14.6 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in 2022, an increase of 1.2 million from 2021 (UNOCHA, 2022).

As Northwest Syria is the main remaining opposition-held area in Syria, the support following the earthquake was relatively limited, compared to the degree of mobilization witnessed just across the border in Turkey. This left thousands of Syrians, who have been suffering already over the past 12 years of this conflict in an unimaginable void. 

The American Relief Coalition for Syria (ARCS), a coalition of Syrian diaspora-led humanitarian organizations that provides multi-sector relief inside of Syria, plays a central role on advocating for humanitarian services.

The organization is a vocal actors in advocating for the challenge of humanitarian access in providing a response. They also promote fundraising opportunities helping other organizations to collect monetary donations. For instance, they advocated for the organization "Rahma worldwide", collecting more than 1 million dollars. 


SOS SYRIE is a Syrian diaspora organization based in France. It is a humanitarian, non-governmental, apolitical association, whose objective is to implement any humanitarian action in order to provide medical, food, material and financial aid to victims in Syria or elsewhere, regardless of their ethnic or religious affiliation. Following the earthquake, they have collected food and non-food items, as well as monetary donations.

However, they also focus on advocacy and engage in discussions about challenges they face in delivering food and medicine to the region. Due to logistical restrictions, it becomes really difficult to getting relief items, trucks and supplies into the earthquake affected zone.

As an alternative, they have carried out fundraising campaigns in order to send monetary aid to their affiliated associations on the ground.

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