Earthquake is a sudden shaking of the ground caused by the passage of seismic waves through Earth’s rocks. Seismic wave, vibration generated by an earthquake, explosion, or similar energetic source and propagated within the Earth or along its surface. On 17 August 1999, a catastrophic magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck Kocaeli Province of Turkiye, causing monumental damage and 18,373 deaths. Named for the quake’s proximity to the north-western city of İzmit, the earthquake is also commonly referred to as the 17 August Earthquake. Another a catastrophic magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck southern cities in Turkiye in 2023. More than 32.000 people have been killed and tens of thousands injured after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Türkiye on Monday.
Earthquake in Türkiye February 2023
On the 6th of February 2023, Türkiye woke up with an earthquake. Thousands of people lost their lives while the earthquake that affected the southeast coast of the country and flattened the cities. In the earthquake with an approximate magnitude of 7.8, not only the houses, but also the 2200-year-old Gaziantep castle from Byzantine time and the first mosque of Anatolia, the Habib-i Najjar Mosque of Mamluk Sultanate in Hatay, were destroyed. The Republic of Türkiye immediately declared a state of emergency in the earthquake zone. Algeria, Pakistan, and Azerbaijan were the first countries to send aid however many of them including Japan, German, Greece, Armenia and Israel also have helped. In this tragedy, one of the countries that sent aid to the earthquake was South Africa. Numerous organisations in South Africa shared their sadness for the earthquake victims in Türkiye.
Historical past between South Africa and Türkiye
Despite the geographical distances, South Africa has a solid historical background with Turkey that dates back to 1850s. The scholars sent by the Ottoman State to educate the local people in South Africa lie in the Tana Baru and Mowbray Cemetery. Today, the Bo-Kaap Museum is in fact the house of one of these Ottoman scholars, Mahmud Fakih Efendi.
South African Muslims have not forgotten this friendship. The records we have reveal that the Muslims of South Africa sent aid to the Turkish army for fighting against the Italian occupation in Libya in 1912. The document in which South African Muslims supported the Ottoman Caliphate by waving the Ottoman flag in Cape Town Mosques during the First World War is situated in the Pretoria National Archive. Rusti Attaullah, the first Coloured pilot of South Africa, went to Istanbul with his brother Fuad Attaullah and fought against the Western powers in the Ottoman army.
After the war, Rusti returned, and later as the head of the South African Muslim Community, he had collected and sent donations to Turkey for the earthquake victims in 1939. When Hajje Musa Adem from Durban died in 1948, he left all his legacy to Turkish Aid Organization, Kızılay. South African Muslims did not remain indifferent to the relations which the Ottoman State started in 1852.
On the 6 February, a major earthquake occurred in Türkiye. The cities of Hatay, Kahramanmaraş, Mersin, Malatya, Adana, Sanliurfa, Adıyaman, Gaziantep, Elazığ and Diyarbakır experienced the earthquake. Not only Türkiye, but the whole world shared the pain of the Turkish nation by offering their condolences. The institutions of the Republic of Türkiye, namely Kızılay and Afad, carried out search and rescue activities in the region. Non-governmental organizations such as Ahbap and Akut also supported large-scale search and rescue efforts.
In South Africa, Gift of the Givers delivered their aid to Turkey through the assistance of Turkish Embassy and Turkish consulate in South Africa. The team went to the earthquake area and established a mobile hospital in Hatay. Imtiaz Solomon is still helping earthquake victims in Turkey with his special team.
Natural disasters such as earthquakes are undoubtedly one of the most terrifying calamities that humanity has faced throughout history. Although they affect people deeply, they are also important in terms of reminding human solidarity.