New York, NY, May 19, 2023 ... ADL’s Task Force on Middle East Minorities released the following statement calling on the United States to strengthen efforts toward helping earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria:
Four months since a devasting earthquake, caused immense death and destruction across Turkey and Syria, Anti-Defamation League’s Task Force on Middle East Minorities calls on the United States to strengthen efforts toward helping victims of the February 2023 disaster. Close to 18 million people in Turkey and Syria have been impacted by the disaster, with over 55,000 dead and nearly 130,000 injured. Millions have been displaced from their homes, with over 10 million in need of urgent aid. This catastrophe has had a particular impact on the region’s ethnic and religious minorities, and has put the stability of many of these communities at risk. Many faith communities in the region who have lived side by side with majority Muslim communities for generations are concerned they will cease to exist as a result of the earthquake.
In Turkey, the ancient city of Antioch, modernly known as Antakya, well known for its diverse faith communities was severely affected by the earthquake, and has received minimal aid from the Turkish government. Survivors have been further victimized in the aftermath of the earthquake having limited access to shelter, water, food, and medical aid. Antakya’s small Jewish community was particularly hit hard by the earthquake, and all survivors, along with their ancient Torah, were relocated to Istanbul. The region’s Christian community fears that the earthquake may be the end of their existence. Rebuilding these communities and their heritage will take a massive undertaking and robust funding, and it is unclear if regional governments will support these efforts.
In light of these concerns, we urge USAID to continue robust assistance to the region, but especially for minority communities who are in dire need of aid in the form of shelter, heating fuel, food, water, education and health care. It has been almost four months since the devastating earthquakes and yet humanitarian aid to the affected regions remains inadequate. This is particularly the case for the region’s at-risk minority communities, which have had much less access to government relief efforts and aid.
In Turkey, we urge USAID to earmark funds for supporting the revival of minority communities, including through rebuilding of residences, community centers, and aiding the return of displaced community members. Additionally, temporary residences in the form of heavy tents or containers are urgently needed for the vulnerable minorities to provide immediate services to their communities. In Syria, we encourage USAID to increase direct humanitarian assistance within Syria to those affected by the earthquakes and encourage other countries and aid organizations globally to do so as well. Direct funds for groups such as the White Helmets and other credible local NGOs, is vital to ensure the proper and effective delivery of rescue, medical, and humanitarian assistance to effected regions.
We appreciate USAID’s efforts in providing help to the region in the immediate aftermath of the earthquakes. However, we urge Congress to more robustly support USAID’s efforts to provide support to all communities affected by this disaster. The people of Turkey and Syria are still in a precarious situation and we must do all we can to help them successfully recover from this disaster, we urge USAID and its international partners to continue its work but prioritize working directly with local partners to scale up humanitarian and stabilization assistance thus contributing to local partners ability to advance long-term stabilization in the region.