Columbians Rally to Support Victims of the Turkey, Syria Earthquakes, Share Insights on the Catastrophe

The vast loss of life, harm, and displacement from the earthquakes and aftershocks in Turkey and Syria are hard to comprehend, but Columbians are gathering support for those impacted. 

Kelly Moffitt-Hawasly
February 12, 2023

As the death toll climbs past 33,000 people in Turkey and Syria after a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake and resulting aftershocks in the region earlier this week, the impact of the disaster has reached nearly all corners of the world. Columbia University is no exception, as we learned of the deaths of alumni Berkhan Eminsoy (GSAPP'20) and Burak Firik (SEAS'18) who were in Turkey during the earthquakes. At Columbia News, we send our deepest condolences to Eminsoy and Firik's family and friends, and all other victims.

"The devastation and loss of life stemming from the earthquakes in southern Turkey and Syria are staggering and horrific," wrote President Bollinger earlier this week. "Columbia has many ties to the region, including students, faculty, and staff with deep roots in the area and a Global Center in Istanbul. On behalf of the entire University community, I send my profound condolences to all those affected by this devastating tragedy."

Columbia Global Centers IstanbulColumbia University Irving Medical Center, Barnard College, and Columbia Engineering also shared words of support.

Even at this point, it is hard to fully understand the vast number of people killed, harmed, or displaced during this catastrophe, and as details emerge over the coming days and months, our hearts are with those impacted and those whose loved ones have been impacted. There are student mental health services available across all Columbia campuses, for those who are looking for help during this time. 

In the wake of the tragedy, Columbians have sprung into action, spearheaded by the Columbia Turkish Student Association, among others, who have been gathering supplies to send to Turkish and Syrian survivors. Their efforts continue through the weekend at tables in Lerner Hall on Columbia's campus and Altschul Atrium on Barnard's campus. You can find a list of what they are collecting here. 

Earlier this week, Turkish and Syrian students organized a vigil to commemorate the lives lost. And Barnard College has compiled a list of places to donate to help people who are impacted.

Neurological Sciences Professor Caghan Kizil, himself a survivor of the 1999 İzmit earthquake in Turkey, has also started a fundraiser through the Research Institute on Turkey, which was co-founded by Eylem Delikanli (GSAS'17). The fundraising campaign was created o support recovery efforts by galvanizing the academic community.

Support from Columbia alumni include an earthquake relief fund created by Turkish Philanthropy Funds, a New York City-based organization  dedicated to Turkish and Turkish-American communities whose cofounders include Ozlenen Kalav (BUS’93), Erinch Ozada (BUS’84), Haluk Soykan (BUS’92), and Haldun Tashman (BUS’68).

Columbia faculty and staff are also offering insight into the underpinnings of the earthquakes and aftershocks through blog posts and news articles, including this piece from Andrew Revkin at the Columbia Climate School and Lamont Research Professor Michael Steckler on NPR

As we learn more over the coming days, we will share updated links to news articles and methods of support. If there are any other Columbian efforts we should know about, please email [email protected]