29. March 2023 – ADVOCACY


The devastating earthquake that struck the Turkish-Syrian border region on the night of February 6, 2023, as well as the aftershock the following day, brought death and destruction. On Saturday, February 11, 2023, GermanDream and HÁWAR.help held a commemoration event for the earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, together with people affected, politicians and artists. About 1000 people came together to express their pain and sorrow. In advance, the media had already announced the planned rally.

The event intended to create a space for those affected and those who wanted to show solidarity. Here they were able to share their pain and give each other strength. We also wanted to make it clear that helping and saving lives is of utmost importance, instead of engaging in political infighting.

Listening to the experiences, fears, and needs of those affected and making their stories visible is particularly important. Singer and artist Didem Özek opens the event together with musician Özgür Süelözgen with an emotional song, afterwards telling the audience: “I have not just been grieving for five days. I mourn for the people in Syria, in Iran, in Afghanistan. It feels like it will never stop.”

After a few introductory words from our founder Düzen Tekkal, the event commences with a minute’s silence. Grief is clearly written in the faces of everyone present. Cem Özdemir, MdB (Bündnis 90/DIE GRÜNEN), is the first speaker of the event. The Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture thanks all the helpers and draws attention to the fact that humanitarian aid must not diminish in the long term. The governing mayor of Berlin Franziska Giffey (SPD) also emphasizes how important it is to act now. She assures that the European crisis response mechanism has been activated. Relief teams and equipment have been dispatched, financial aid has already been released. An air bridge is to be set up from Berlin and families affected by the earthquake who have relatives in Germany are also to be temporarily taken in here.

An audience member asks us to come on stage: “For days, we couldn’t reach our family in Turkey. They need support in every way,” Evita Eden tells us. She was born in Gaziantep and has family in Kahramanmaraş. Next to take the stage is director and actor Kida Khodr Ramadan, who himself lost a cousin in the earthquake. He makes clear that the same nightmare that happened to the earthquake victims could happen to any of us. “Where you are born and raised depends on luck and chance.” Bettina Jarasch, Mayor and Senator for the Environment, Mobility, Consumers – and Climate Protection (Bündnis 90/ DIE GRÜNEN), joins the previous speaker in emphasizing that Germany, too, was once in the position of needing help. Due to the reconstruction aid Germany received after the Second World War, it is our responsibility today to help as well, she says.

After her, Kamal Sido, Middle East Consultant of Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker, took the stage. He himself is originally from Afrin (Syria), one of the areas affected by the earthquake. He demands not to forget Syria in the aid efforts. “The border check points to Syria must be opened. Hardly any aid is arriving!”. Kai Wegner, parliamentary group leader of the CDU Berlin in the Berlin House of Representatives, also shows his sympathy. He emphasizes how essential it is not to forget the people from the region in a few days. Janine Wissler, MdB and federal party leader of Die Linke, has seen the nightmarish conditions in the earthquake region with her own eyes. She describes heartbreaking scenes of people suddenly left homeless, forced to leave their destroyed homes in fear for their lives during the freezing night. Her central demand is for the international community to immediately cease all military attacks on the already defenseless people in the earthquake zone. Politician Sebastian Czaja, chairman of the Berlin FDP parliamentary group, joins his predecessors in expressing solidarity. He states, “right now it’s not about politics, it’s about humanity.” Düzen Tekkal cautions that we tend to think in terms of numbers when it comes to disasters, “but behind every number is a human life. Please keep donating! Please continue to watch the developments closely! Show your solidarity with those affected by the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria!” She thanks the audience and helpers that put the event together with us. She also promises that HÁWAR.help will work to ensure that all politicians present keep their promises.

Just like the event begins, so it ends. Düzen Tekkal: “When words no longer suffice, it is art that saves us.” Cemile Dincer and Ufuk Elik conclude by singing the Kurdish song “Xeribe”, which is about the longing for home. Tezcan Tekkal adds the closing words with sadness clearly written on her face. Nevertheless, she tells us how this rally also gives her comfort. She hopes that through the shared solidarity we were able to take away some of the suffering of those present.