“Esra Sezgin and her family have been waiting desperately for news of their relatives in Turkey after the powerful earthquake that rocked the south of the country on Monday.
“We feel complete helplessness,” Melbourne-based Sezgin said. “We’re surrendering to the reality of it all. My mother is in constant contact with my family in Adana [and] we await news of when and how they will be rescued.”
Thousands have been confirmed dead in Turkey and Syria after Monday’s devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake. On Wednesday the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said four Australians were confirmed missing.
Albanese pledged $10m in humanitarian aid and announced a team of 72 Australian defence force personnel would assist local authorities, saying boots would be on the ground in Turkey by the end of the week.
But for now, the wait for information on loved ones is a nightmare for Sezgin and her family.
“Most of my family there were affected – including my uncle and my aunty’s grandchildren who are currently under the rubble, presumably dead,” she said.
“We were able to get in contact with two of my aunties, both old-aged, who fled to their village homes. My auntie should be recovering from an operation she recently had, [but] she [was] forced to flee.
“Some of our relatives are assisting the search and rescue team in finding the bodies of my relatives. There are many others who we couldn’t get in contact with at all.”
She said some of her family were spending the nights in makeshift shelters, in sports halls, schools or even in their cars. Many residents are “reliving the horror” of the 1995 and 1998 earthquakes, she said.
The World Health Organization estimates about 23 million people, including 1.4 million children, are likely to be affected by the quake.
In Australia local groups and aid organisations have snapped into action.
A range of local and international Islamic charities, including Muslim Aid and Islamic Relief, as well as local Muslim organisations and mosques, have set up fundraisers or campaigns to help victims.
Volunteers in Melbourne have organised a container that has been shipped to Turkey filled with sleeping bags, blankets and tents, organised and donated by members of the Muslim community.
“Locals are gathering to donate and send aid – it’s very heartwarming,” Sezgin said.
Sumeyye Cetinkiran, a nurse and social media influencer in Melbourne, has been active in encouraging her followers to donate towards aid campaigns and said she was not surprised at the extent of the mobilisation.
“Its amazing, everyone is doing something within their means,” she said.
“We have different community members doing fundraising campaigns, almost every mosque in Victoria has been partnered up with an aid organisation of some sort and are campaigning or fundraising.
“We’ve also seen business owners step up, offering their sales for the whole month of February for the fundraising campaigns across the community.”
Cetinkiran said the outpouring of support was being largely driven by two factors, the first being the breadth of the devastation and the second their Islamic faith.
“I feel overwhelmed, I think people are trying to make sense of the breadth of what has happened.” she said. “We are united with things that may hurt our neighbours, and this is part of my belief and faith. In Islam, we need to take care of those around us.
“I think people are trying to support each other, it’s also time sensitive, it’s something that is happening now and we can’t delay our response.”
“I am not surprised, I am proud of my community. We all come together in times of difficulty.”
Cetinkiran has put together her own fundraising campaign called the 30 Minutes for 30 Days Movement Challenge, which she hopes will inspire people to “move so their emotions move” and to donate to charity.
“It’s aimed at getting people moving, and supporting our community as they try and support our families overseas” she said.
Sheikh Abdurrahman Asaroglu is the imam at Gallipoli Mosque in Auburn in Sydney’s west, one of the largest Turkish mosques in Australia, and says the extent of the impact on people in the local area was still unknown.
“We already know people who have loved ones who have been affected, and many have left for Turkey already, to try and support their families,” he said.
“But we have been coordinating with Turkish emergency services and the official aid agency, Red Crescent, we have distributed their account details and organised to have our congregation send as much as they can.
“We want the money to reach the people most affected, we are trying to reach out to the wider Australian community as well.”
Asaroglu said he was proud to witness people come together in these times of need, and that he was proud of “our place here in the community in Australia”.
“We feel the wider Muslim community, and the wider Australian community, has supported us in this time, with many calling us and offering condolences,” he said.
‘It’s a human thing, the pain is the same everywhere, doesn’t have ethnicity or shape, once you have the pain, you have the pain.’”
To learn more and donate, visit irusa.org.“