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Emerson’s Turkish Community Reflects on Aftermath of Earthquake

The devastating earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria was felt by Emerson community members in Turkey and in the United States.

“Everyone in Turkey is affected, even if the earthquake did not psychically affect them. As a country we are traumatized,” said Ela Erbes ’25. “Not having relatives in the area does not make it less painful for us. In Turkey, our culture is rooted in collectivism, not individualism. Their pain is our pain, their hurt is our hurt. In these days we unite as one and help in any way we can.”

 Ela Erbes
Ela Erbes ’25

Erbes was shocked and felt helpless when she first heard the news, but she quickly thought “What can I do to help?”

Ulya Aviral, affiliated faculty member in Visual and Media Arts and Business of Creative Enterprises, was in her hometown of Ankara, Turkey, when the quake hit. She didn’t feel it there as much as those in the epicenter, but she was confused to wake up to the news and text messages from friends asking if she was OK.

“While my immediate family is safe, we lost distant relatives in Hatay and Atakya,” said Aviral. “Three entire families from my aunts’ side were found dead under collapsed buildings, and my parents had many friends in the same region, and we continue to receive bad news every day.”

Aviral is on leave and expects to be back in Boston by the end of the summer.

“My plan for the summer is to make a documentary film about Anatolian women in Turkey, but I am holding off on this project for now because I want to focus on the earthquake’s aftermath and help people in any way I can,” said Aviral.

Ulya Aviral
Ulya Aviral

While the death toll is nearing 38,000 according to The Washington Post, Aviral said there was still hope to find survivors, but rescue teams and organizations working in the Southeast region need immediate help.

Erbes is encouraging anyone, particularly the Emerson community, to donate what they can. Basic items like hygiene products are badly needed, as well as shelter such as tents.

“Donating…could save a life, which is why it is so important for us to donate,” said Erbes.

Talha Emir Doğa,n MA ’22 said the wounds of such large-scale disasters can only be healed when people support each other.

“Syria, as well as Turkey, was affected by the earthquake. The slightest help to be made for these two countries, the most minor step to be taken, will lead to beauties that the history of world civilization will never forget. A small flap of wings to be made will cause many beauties in the places where the current earthquake is taking place,” said Doğan. “Now, what I want the Emerson community to know about the effects of the earthquake is every bit of help and every message of support they will give is vital.”

Talha Emir Doğan
Talha Emir Doğan MA ’22

Erbes asked for empathy from the Emerson community, and also to recognize the tragic aftermath is a very sensitive topic.

“There are many details that are not being shown in the media, the stories we see in the Turkish media are much more devastating,” said Erbes. “From the father who held his dead daughter’s hand in the freezing cold for hours, to the 20-day-old baby who was saved with her dead mother’s hair in her hand, this is the reality we are living in right now, and I hope everyone acknowledges it.”

“So many people are experiencing shock and trauma because of the devastating earthquake,” said Aviral. “So many people lost families and friends or know others who did. I invite our Emerson community to be in solidarity with the people of Turkey and Syria, and offer support. This is the time to be there for one another.” 

For more information on how to help, read a graduate student’s appeal for help for Syria and Turkey.

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