Islington earthquake vigil speaks of loss, trauma and support

A vigil for the catastrophic earthquakes in Turkey and Syria took place at Islington Town Hall on Monday

By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

A woman stands at an outdoor podium, with solemn people standing behind
Council leader Kaya Comer-Schwartz at the earthquake vigil. Photo: Julia Gregory / LDRS

“The trauma and the suffering can’t be undone, but we can help them,” a community leader told a vigil marking two weeks since the catastrophic earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.

Enes Susan from the Muslim Welfare House on Seven Sisters Road said communities face a big challenge supporting survivors after the deadly earthquakes.

He was one of the speakers at a vigil on Islington town hall steps attended by children bearing Turkish flags and community leaders who are involved in fund-raising and care for the bereaved.

They include IMECE, the women’s centre on Newington Green Road which works with Turkish, Kurdish and Turkish-Cypriot women and refugees and is providing support to the community.

The vigil marked two weeks after the devastating earthquakes and as people were gathering news came of further quake measuring 6.4 struck at the Turkish city of Antakya near the Syrian border.

Cllr Ilkay Cinko-Oner, who is Kurdish told the gathering: “I have no words. I can’t express how I feel.”

She urged residents to get support if they needed it.

Others spoke of friends who have lost 30 family members after the earthquakes “shattered homes to the ground” and devastated communities.

Walid Saffour from the Finsbury Park Mosque said sanctions have delayed the rescue efforts in Syria.

He lost a relative in the disaster and described how a bereaved friend lost 25 members of his family.

“It is very good to see sympathy in others, but what we need is help and help is not coming in North Syria,” he said.

“They need food, they need shelter, they need water. They have lost everything.”

North Islington MP Jeremy Corbyn said the government needs to help people desperate to see family or bring them here.

“When people are going through a disaster you don’t ignore them, you don’t forget them

An Islington mother who attended the vigil spoke of her concerns for family in the city of Adiyaman in Turkey who are all living in tents after the earthquakes.

Many of the buildings in the city were flattened, making thousands of people like Canan’s family homeless.

She said the vigil was important “because we see they pray with us.

“I was very shocked when it happened.”

A dozen of her family, including her parents are living in tents in the cold of the Turkish winter.

She is keeping in touch with her family via What’s App and said life camping is difficult for survivors, with challenges such as sanitation and dealing with the trauma of what happened.

Council leader Kaya Comer-Schwartz told the gathering: “We are here for you. We are here to support you.

We know the pain and grief goes on much longer than months, it goes on for decades.”

Thrive London has resources to help the Turkish and Syrian community in London who are suffering.

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