Turkey sends aid to disaster victims

:: Turkey has provided humanitarian aid following a 7.3-magnitude earthquake on Sunday in neighboring northern Iraq and Iran that killed more than 350 people and injured some 6,000.

Turkish aid agencies, including the Red Crescent and the state-run Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), rushed to offer their assistance and cooperate in search-and-rescue efforts.

The Turkish Red Crescent immediately sent some 3,000 tents, 10,000 blankets, 10,000 beds and 3,000 heaters, in cooperation with its counterparts in Iraq and Iran. AFAD dispatched 5,000 tents, 7,000 blankets, 92 personnel and 11 vehicles. A donation campaign has also been initiated in Turkey by sending an SMS message to 2868.

“This is the day to pull up who has fallen and demonstrate humanity,” tweeted Kerem Kinik, president of the Turkish Red Crescent.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered condolences to the victims of the earthquake.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu pointed to Turkish assistance to the “brotherly victims of the quake.”

On his Twitter account, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) spokesman Safeen Dizayee thanked Turkey for its “quick response and support.”

KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani praised Turkey and Erdogan for contacting the KRG immediately after the quake.

This urgent humanitarian assistance comes despite Ankara having ramped up its criticism of the KRG and threats against it after September’s independence referendum.

Pinar Akpinar, a scholar at the Conflict Resolution and Mediation Stream of the Istanbul Policy Center, said Turkey’s aid initiative is part of its policy of humanitarian diplomacy.

“The earthquake can be an opportunity for Turkey and these countries (Iraq and Iran) to reconcile and find common ground,” Akpinar told Arab News.

“It’s also a reminder that they’re neighbors, and will always need one another in times of crisis. As such, channels of cooperation and collaboration should be kept open at all times.”

Situated on a number of active fault lines, Turkey has significant experience in conducting search-and-rescue operations immediately after earthquakes.

Ali Semin, a Middle East expert at Istanbul-based think tank Bilgesam, said the current assistance comes at a very fragile time in terms of political relations, but it is a concrete example of implementing soft power and humanitarian diplomacy.

“Turkey has no problem with the Kurds, and Ankara doesn’t want to punish Kurdish people in northern Iraq. Our problem is with the KRG politicians,” Semin told Arab News.

“I think Turkey will continue providing humanitarian assistance to wounded quake victims by offering to treat them in Turkish hospitals. Neighbors need each other all the time.”

Barin Kayaoglu, assistant professor of world history at the American University of Iraq in Sulaymaniyah, told Arab News: “Let us hope the quake becomes a catalyst for mending ties between the two neighbors after the recent crisis.”

Kayaoglu said two massive earthquakes in 1999 in Greece and Turkey led to improved bilateral relations after each country sent rescue teams to help the other.

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