Nova Scotians mourn dead, stranded loved ones in Syria and Turkey
Nihal Ciplak and Muzaffer Deveci will be working like any other day at their Halifax restaurant Turkish Delight – but they’re heartbroken.
They lost a sister, a sister-in-law and a niece in the earthquakes in Turkey last week. The remains of her relatives were found in the rubble of residential houses in İskenderu, Hatay province.
“It took a lot of strain on our family. Just death after death after death,” Deveci tearfully said during an interview with CBC.
She said the family lost three other members to other causes earlier this year.
Several Nova Scotians from the Syrian and Turkish communities have either lost relatives to the devastating earthquakes or live in fear of hearing news of the death of a loved one. The death toll from the two earthquakes exceeded 40,000 on Tuesday.
Deveci said her surviving relatives faced health complications after being rescued from the rubble.
“They’re still having such bad symptoms that they’re just crushed by all the stuff and things they’ve been breathing in,” she said.
She said her relatives there had no electricity and could not buy food.
“There is nothing for them as far as food is concerned”, Deveci.
“We just feel so helpless.”
The Turkish Society of Nova Scotia raises funds for a local Turkish charity that provides food, shelter and medical care to those in need.
Burcu Kaptan, the society’s president, said most Nova Scotians of Turkish descent are first-generation immigrants, so overseas tragedy is striking close to home.
“Everyone knows someone who has lost their life or knows people who have lost their home.”
The group helped coordinate the search for Samar Zora, a 33-year-old Halifax woman who was living in Antakya, Turkey, when the earthquake struck.
Her brothers flew to Turkey to find her. After an arduous journey, their remains were found in the rubble of their building on Tuesday.
Pregnant and homeless
Mohammad Alouch is concerned for his sister Noor Alouch, who is eight months pregnant and stranded with her husband and two young children in Gaziantep, Turkey.
Mohammad and his family immigrated to Chester, NS in 2019 as Syrian refugees. The Canadian government approved Noor’s immigration papers a year ago, but has not yet processed them.
Now she is homeless and in urgent need of medical care.
“It makes everyone sad because her health is not good and the baby is not good and she needs surgery and we don’t know how that will go,” Mohammad said.
He said his aunts and uncles also lost their homes in the earthquakes.
“For the past week, they haven’t been able to shower or have hot food or anything,” Mohammad said.
Local lawyers say the best way to support relief efforts is to send money.
The Ummah Masjid and Community Center in Halifax has raised more than $87,000 in just a few days. Imam Abdullah Yousri says the money will go to charities in Turkey and Syria to buy medical supplies, food and emergency shelter.
As money flows to support efforts abroad, Yousri said people here at home also need support.
“We have one parishioner, she lost her sister and the whole family, her husband and three children in this earthquake,” Yousri said.
“We gathered at the mosque to pray and express our condolences to the family.”
Based in Antigonish, NS, Peace by Chocolate is donating 100 percent of its profits from the sale of a selection of products to the Canadian Red Cross, which is raising up to $10 million for quake victims.
The tragedy struck close to home for business owner Tareq Hadhad, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 2016 as a Syrian refugee. He said he lost friends to the earthquakes.
Hadhad encourages local businesses to fundraise or donate to relief efforts where possible.
“Even before the earthquake, I was contacting relief efforts every day to help refugees living in the northern part of Syria and those living under $1 a day and living in extreme poverty,” he said. “So now, with the earthquake, I think our efforts really need to ramp up faster than anything else.”
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