Turkey earthquake strikes ethnically divided region


Survivors gather around a collapsed building in Ercis, near the eastern Turkish city of Van. (Osman Orsal/Reuters)

After a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Turkey on Sunday, the Associated Press reports that people have rushed to help one another in eastern Turkey.

It’s a dramatic shift from the news coming out of Turkey last week.

“Just last week, around 80 people were killed in the conflict in Turkey. Now, a tragic moment for solidarity as quake areas are ethnically mixed,” Zeynep Tufekci, a Turkish-born University of North Carolina professor, wrote on Twitter.

The quake struck a region near where Turkey has been fighting with Kurdish rebels since 1984. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people in the country’s Kurdish-dominated southeast. On Saturday, airstrikes killed at least 35 Kurdish rebels along the border of Iraq and Turkey, the AP reports.

Amid that tension, the earthquake struck. Although some might hope for the ethnic differences to disappear in the face of tragedy, the quake does not seem to have quelled the racial tensions.

Turkish journalist Erhan Çelik crowd-sourced housing on Twitter for people who lost their homes in the earthquake. He said he received some 16,000 offers of help, the Guardian reports.

But in the outpouring of goodwill, he also managed to rile up some Turkish Twitter users when he tweeted well wishes in Kurdish. “It is very sad that the tweet I posted in the early morning caused discontent. While one side shows such fantastic solidarity, the racists are on the other.”

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