Student Seeking Help for Earthquake Victims in Native Turkey
By Brian Hiro
Seemingly every time Ali Turanli checks his Instagram feed this week, a fresh nightmare awaits him.
One moment, it will be someone from his native Turkey posting footage from an abrupt funeral that wasn’t supposed to happen. The next, it will be a person transmitting a digital cry for help to assist in finding a family member or friend who’s lost in the rubble of a collapsed building.
“It’s terrifying,” Turanli said. “And it’s nonstop.”
Turanli, a second-year political science major at Cal State San Marcos, has been watching from afar in horror as grim dispatches come in from Turkey and Syria, where a magnitude 7.8 earthquake on Monday has killed more than 20,000 people and caused catastrophic destruction throughout the region.
As soon as he learned about the earthquake, he reached out to his parents and other family members in Istanbul, who were not directly affected since the epicenter was hundreds of miles away. Then he began thinking about ways that he could aid the country where he was born and raised.
“It's a very unstable region,” he said. “The people who live in these villages, they don't have any place to go. A lot of private companies and business owners are doing their part; horse track owners are opening their tracks for people to sleep in.
“There's a lot of help coming in. But there's always need for more.”
Turanli is one of two Turkish students currently enrolled at CSUSM (the other is Necmiye Yildirim, a graduate student in kinesiology). His family moved from Turkey to Maryland when he was a junior in high school after his mother, a molecular biology professor, took a sabbatical at the National Institutes of Health.
Around the same time that Turanli enrolled at CSUSM in 2021, his parents returned to Istanbul with his younger sister, who’s now 9. His mother heads the molecular biology department at a private college there, and his father is a civil engineer who’s working a job in Romania. Turanli’s younger brother attends college in Florida.
Though his family escaped danger, Turanli said friends of friends died in the earthquake and that the cousin of his local martial arts coach lost nearly his entire family, leaving behind only a 6-year-old.
“It’s just horrible,” Turanli said. “It’s not even a situation where money or shelter can help. This kid doesn’t have parents anymore.”
The unfolding disaster, Turanli said, calls to mind some of the frightening lessons he has learned in political science classes that touch on global crises.
“After a big earthquake like this, an economic crisis is normal,” he said. “But we already have an economic crisis in Turkey, and now an earthquake has happened. I don’t know what will come of this. I don’t know if the government will be able to pull the country out of it.”
Turanli is asking members of the CSUSM community to make a donation to the International Rescue Committee, which has more than a thousand staff on the ground in Turkey and Syria.
“Five dollars is 100 Turkish lira, and that can buy a little kid shoes and a jacket, or food for at least four days,” he said. “In a situation like this, even the smallest donation counts.”
Brian Hiro, Communications Specialist
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