On Monday, February 6, two massive (7.8 and 7.5 magnitude) earthquakes hit the region between Syria and Turkey, killing at least 36,000 people and injuring thousands more. This natural disaster, a phenomenon common to the region, is a tragedy of immense proportions. Its consequences, however, are a condemnation of the insane, violent, and exploitative system of war and oppression that rules in the region. If people had stable lives, good housing, and lived in peace, nowhere near as many people would have lost their lives as a consequence of this natural disaster.
This isn’t the first time an earthquake has struck the region. In 1999, an earthquake located near the city of Izmit killed over 17,000 people. The Turkish government acknowledged that drastic measures were needed to create earthquake-safe housing, but in subsequent decades, this has been completely ignored. Evacuation areas and shelters were sold off and converted into condos and high-rises for the profits of developers. As if the tragedy of 1999 wasn’t warning enough, at the end of 2022, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck, damaging thousands of buildings, but luckily resulting in very few casualties. The warning was obviously not enough for the Turkish government as only one in ten buildings currently meet the Turkish government’s own standards for earthquake safety.
On the Syrian side of the border, thousands of people were killed in the earthquake. Meanwhile, the Syrian civil war, though it is less intense than in past years, still rages. Four million people in the area were displaced and in need of food and housing assistance before the earthquake happened. The Northwest, where the worst of the earthquake was felt, is one of the key strongholds of rebel groups and therefore a major site of conflict. International aid, which people rely on, is usually delivered from Turkey, but with the devastation caused by the earthquake, this was severely disrupted.
Human beings should not live in such circumstances. On the Turkish side of the border, in the name of profit, developers placed people in danger, and the consequences have been deadly. On the Syrian side, a horrible war, driven by the dictatorship of Bashar Al-Assad, and stoked by international manipulation from the U.S. and Russia, has put ordinary people in an impossibly precarious situation even before this deadly earthquake. The system of profiteering and war, operating all over the world, and devastating the Middle East, is the real killer. The deadly consequences of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria stand as a condemnation of this inhuman system.