Earthquake in Turkey and Syria

At the time of writing, 20,000 people have died as a result of earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. By the time of publication, it has surpassed 40,000. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake would devastate any region. But in impoverished southern Turkey and northern Syria, the latter already reeling from a decades-long war that the West has conveniently forgotten, the consequences will be much more dire. 

This school prides itself on its international nature. Exactly a year ago, we demonstrated this. Assemblies, donation drives, fundraisers – it was all hands on deck for Ukraine. And it should have been. This time, though, while civilians were dying under rubble, screaming for help – we were silent. My sentiment is not new. Last May, Inacio, in year 13, detailed ISL’s hypocrisy when dealing with international crises. Clearly, nothing has changed. 

Donations and assemblies aside, not one of my teachers has since mentioned the earthquake. When the victims are middle-eastern, we do not care. How can we call our school truly international? How can we go from Instagram posts, high-school assemblies, PTA donation drives to pin-drop silence? When headlines in newspapers read ‘Devastating Earthquake’, we panicked. When ‘in Turkey and Syria’ followed, we relaxed. 

There is no end to the horror. Babies born under the rubble. Parents digging for their children with their bare hands. Survivors rescued, only to die from the cold. 40,000 have died, but more do not need to. Donations and awareness cannot stop a war – but they can save Turkish and Syrian lives. There are active humanitarian groups on the ground – Turkish Red Crescent, AFAD, Syria Regional Forum. And ISL’s community has the money. We can spend 90 Francs on Spring Ball tickets, but a simple discussion on saving lives is too much. 

Turkish students had to approach school leadership for permission to speak in assembly, frustrated by the lack of support. One assembly is not enough. It is not enough simply because we have the ability to do more – and we are choosing to ignore it. We cannot ignore this any longer. After ISL’s hypocrisy was pointed out last year, there was enough opportunity to reflect and improve. Silence in spite of a horrific disaster demonstrates our selective humanity. When will ISL’s community, particularly those with power to enact change, realize their hypocrisy? 

ISL is not alone in its inaction. The international community has been slow to respond – promising ‘continued support’ without evidence of tangible action. 

This has been the most destructive natural disaster of this century in the region. If we continue to do nothing, people will continue to die, and we will continue to be responsible.

As Western media unabashedly declared last year, it is ‘very emotional to see Europeans with blue eyes and blonde hair get killed every day’. It seems as though ISL shares this sentiment. When will we realise that people with brown hair and brown eyes are people too? When will our selective humanitarianism end? For Turkey and Syria’s sake, it needs to be now.