After the Earthquake: Impacts of the Natural Disaster Within War-Torn AANES Territories

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The earthquake that hit the regions of southern Turkey and north-west Syria in the early morning of February 6th 2023 with a magnitude of 7.8 was the strongest in the region since 1939. The epicenter was the city of Pazarcık, Turkey. While the affected area was mainly southern Turkey and north-west Syria, the earthquake was felt as far as Egypt, Georgia and Greece. The encompassing official death toll of the disaster increased till the end of April to almost 60,000 and is estimated to be significantly too low.

The natural disaster collided with a situation already characterized by devastating living conditions in Afrin and Shehba, Syria. Afrin has been occupied by Turkey and controlled by Turkey’s proxy force, the so-called Syrian National Army (SNA), since Turkey invaded the region in 2018, while the Shehba region is governed by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) and forms a part of the geographic and political entity of North and East Syria (NES). It faces a severe economic siege imposed by the Government of Syria (GoS) and is at the same time challenged with hosting several thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs), who fled the war in Afrin when Turkey invaded in 2018.

After the earthquakes, as this report will document, no sufficient amount of humanitarian aid reached the affected areas in northern Syria within the first 72 hours after the earthquake, which is a crucial time frame for deploying search and rescue operations. Furthermore there was widespread blocking of humanitarian aid, military attacks on NES by Turkey, and theft of humanitarian relief supplies by the occupying Turkish proxy militias.

City of Jinderes, Afrin canton, February 2023

City of Jinderes, Afrin canton, February 2023

Alongside the apathy of the international community, the situation after the earthquake was a continuation of, and in the case of seizing humanitarian aid an extension of, the previous human rights abuses conducted by Turkey and its proxy SNA forces. The report concludes that the people living in Shehba and occupied Afrin are widely affected by what can be characterized as “weaponizing“ of humanitarian aid and furthermore focuses on the post-earthquake challenges for the region.