A Year Has Passed: the natural disaster wound is still open

How UntoldStories Responded to the February 2023 Earthquake

06 February 2024

Today marks the first anniversary of the earthquake disaster that primarily struck areas in southern Turkey and northern Syria. A whole year has passed since the earthquake, claiming the lives of tens of thousands of Syrians and Turks, and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. 

The earthquake, which devastated entire regions, has left psychological traumas that will accompany the residents of those areas for a long time.

Like all Syrians, we at UntoldStories were profoundly affected by the earthquake. In the broader context of enduring bombardments, displacement, battles, and death that befell our country, the earthquake came to add more destruction. 

On a professional level, one of our major projects in the past year, where we were training a new generation of female journalists residing in northeast and northwest Syria in collaboration with our partners in the Syrian Female Journalists Network, was impacted. Most of our collaborators in this project, in northern Syria, saw their homes destroyed. Other collaborators in northern Syria and southern Turkey lost their homes, equipment and family members. On a personal level, we were deeply affected by the events that hit our families, friends, and loved ones with whom we have personal relationships.

We were taken aback by the earthquake, the scale of this natural disaster, and the widespread devastation it caused, along with the increasing numbers of fatalities, injuries, and missing persons. We were struck by the magnitude of this disaster, closely associated with human factors, such as the lack of earthquake prevention culture despite the region's persistent seismic risks, as well as issues like corruption in material selection during construction, and other factors that could have mitigated the impact of this earthquake.

In this context, after observing the hardships faced by our friends and colleagues, we decided that the priority was to help them with small financial amounts that might assist them in the disaster. 

We initiated two open letters, one directed at journalists in northern Syria, inquiring about their needs, and another addressed to our friends, supporters, and backers to assist journalists in northern Syria.

Through a fundraising campaign, we collected from individuals and various institutions a total amount of 16,813.75 euros, which we distributed to more than 35 journalists over the past year.

A special thanks goes to our friends at Raseef22 who, in turn, launched a fundraising campaign to support us. The donations they collected amounted to 3,643.73 euros. We also received donations from numerous individuals and institutions, including SumSum UG and reelink media.

We must also thank the Euro-Mediterranean Foundation of Support to Human Rights Defenders, which provided us with a grant of ten thousand euros to support our network of journalists inside Syria.

We eventually launched an ongoing dossier, titled "The Earthquake," in collaboration with the French platform OrientXXI and with the support of the European Endowment for Democracy (EED). 

Within the dossier, we examined the repercussions of the earthquake on various aspects of life, collaborating with several writers and the artist Dima Nachawi. Articles from the dossier were published on SyriaUntold and in our magazine UntoldMag—launched last year— in both Arabic and English. 

In one of the initial articles within the dossier, Roger Asfar wrote about the layers of new poverty that struck Syrian society after the earthquake. 

Joseph Daher examined the socio-economic ramifications of the earthquake. 

Kamal Shahin addressed the repercussions of the earthquake in the Qardaha region and its countryside. In another piece, he explored the rise of social actors in the Syrian coast

Assaad Al-Achi highlighted the vibrant solidarity between Syrians, emphasizing the exchange of calls among residents in areas beyond the regime's control to gather donations for the White Helmets and the Molham Volunteer Team—both groups dedicated to relief and humanitarian aid in regions beyond the regime's control. 

Sultan Jalabi's piece focused on the regime's suppression of civil response to the earthquake, specifically concentrating on events in the first five days post-earthquake and the subsequent response initiated by Syrian civil society.

Mohamed Katoub discussed the emergency international humanitarian response in Syria over the twelve years preceding the earthquake. He examined its impact on the humanitarian response to the earthquake catastrophe, shedding light on the role of humanitarian aid mechanisms. 

Alaa Rashidi explored artistic expressions about the earthquake, from the continuity of political tragedy to the intertwined body with the rubble.

Hassan Arfeh contributed his testimony reflecting on the moment of the earthquake and the enduring psychological effects and scars left by the disaster. 

Stefania d’Ignoti offered insights into the earthquake’s impact on the mental health of children

Dima Marrawi presented a narrative analysis of the fragile civil, population, and urban structure in Syria.

Matthieu Rey addressed the ancient and modern dynamics of political failure in confronting disasters, and Sindyana Gamila explored the environmental effects of the earthquake in Syria.

At UntoldStories, we continue our efforts, producing new materials that discuss and analyze the aftermath and repercussions of the earthquake on our country and its residents. We collectively aspire to a safer future for our country— a future with more freedom, dignity, justice, in which natural disasters can be handled differently and those in charge to be held accountable. 

After a year since the earthquake disaster, our collaborators have regained a sense of safety and have contributed to various journalistic materials that we are gradually publishing. 

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Illustation by Dima Nechawi Graphic Design by Hesham Asaad