Members of minority groups living in Turkey’s southern provinces that were hit by devastating earthquakes in early February have been exposed to discrimination based on their identity, according to a report by the Minority Rights Group International (MRG).
“The minorities most affected by discrimination following the earthquakes are Alevi communities including Turkish Alevis, Kurdish Alevis and Nusayris, as well as Rom, Dom and Abdals,” the MRG said.
According to the MRG, Sunni Kurds have arguably been less affected by discrimination since the provinces where they mostly live, such as Diyarbakır and Şanlıurfa, were relatively less affected by the earthquakes.
A 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck near the Turkish city of Gaziantep – home to around 2 million people and on the border with Syria – as people were sleeping on February 6 was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that jolted the region in the middle of search and rescue efforts the same day.
“Alevis are among those most exposed to discrimination based on their identity during the post-earthquake period,” the MRG said.
“It is really difficult to be an Alevi in this country. Alevi citizens living close to the city centres were not subjected to discrimination because their identities were not well known, but citizens living in Alevi villages felt this very intensely,” Celal Fırat, president of the Federation of Alevi Associations, told the MRG.
According to relief organizations, the impact of the earthquakes will be felt for months and years to come.
Around 2.7 million people remain internally displaced in the country. Shelter, water sanitation facilities, healthcare, protection (including mental health and psychosocial support) and continuity of learning remain priority needs, according to UNICEF Turkey.
The damage in Turkey alone could amount to over $100 billion, the UN said and launched a $1 billion funding appeal to support millions of people in Turkey.
The MRG, based in the UK, campaigns worldwide with around 150 partners in over 50 countries to ensure that disadvantaged minorities and indigenous peoples, often the poorest of the poor, can make their voices heard.