Middle East

Syrians are desperate for aid after the earthquake | Letters

The horror of the earthquakes that have caused so much death and destruction in Turkey and Syria defies comprehension (Turkey and Syria earthquake death toll passes 21,000 as first aid convoy enters north-west Syria, 9 February). Yet Syrians are left to wonder what they have to do to receive help. Thankfully, Turkey has received massive amounts of assistance from well over 70 countries. It needs it – and more.

But consider being on the Syrian side of the border. It is an emergency on top of an emergency. Syrians were in dire crisis before the earthquakes. As yet, no heavy equipment, international rescue experts, sniffer dogs or fuel have crossed the Turkish border into Syria. That is what is required. In Syrian regime-controlled areas, no institution has the capabilities to handle this disaster, including civil society. What can Syrians expect from a Syrian regime that has shown contempt for civilian life – even bombing hospitals? The Syrian regime has not even declared a state of emergency.

Yet Syrians might have expected the international community, which has piously preached for years about how it supports the Syrian people, to do more. The first UN convoy crossed the border into north-west Syria on Thursday, three days after the quake. Yet this was a regular delivery, not earthquake aid. Aleppo, Lattakia, Jableh – cities under Syrian regime control – were devastated. Around 100,000 people are homeless in Aleppo alone, trying to survive in winter. Emergency aid is needed there too.

Syrians do not want to hear about political obstacles or blame games. They are trying to dig their family members out from the rubble with their hands. They want help, and needed it four days ago.
Chris Doyle
Director, Council for Arab-British Understanding

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s refusal to open the other border crossings so that international aid can reach Syria, and Bashar al-Assad’s insistence that all such aid must be under his control, are war crimes responsible for thousands more deaths and displacements of earthquake victims in the rebel-held and Kurdish enclaves.

Andrew Mitchell, the development minister, must demand that these border crossings are immediately opened. Will he condemn Erdoğan for the closing of crossing points and for his attacks on the Kurds, stop selling him arms, and ensure that aid gets to everyone, irrespective of their politics?
Margaret Owen

Thank you for your editorial honesty in your use of the tragically poignant image of Mesut Hancer, sitting alone in the debris, holding the hand of his dead daughter, Irmak (Photo of Turkish man holding hand of dead daughter underlines earthquake despair, 7 February). Harrowing though such images are to view, photojournalism has a vital role to play in ensuring that the horrifying impact of such disasters is made known across the globe, hopefully helping to generate the appropriate scale of response among governments and citizens of the world alike. A picture does indeed paint a thousand words.
Phil Murray
Linlithgow, West Lothian

In the light of the catastrophic earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, could people starting or perpetuating wars and other conflicts be told to grow up, go home and shut the fuck up, because we have enough to be dealing with?
Mary Gildea
Charlton, London


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