‘I want to give back:’ Turkey native, WSU professor spread awareness about earthquake victims in Middle East


Courtesy of Selim Nuraydin

On the ground photo of Antakya, Turkey, after Feb. 6 earthquake.

Jens Kreinath, a Wichita State anthropology professor, spent many summers researching in Antakya, Turkey, where a devastating earthquake hit the country on Feb. 6.

Since then, the earthquake, which hit Syria as well, has impacted the lives of 20 million people, with over 50,000 dead.

Kreinath, in hopes of spreading awareness, held his third event at Wichita State on Feb. 24. He spoke of the cultural history — what he deemed  the “soul of the city” — that has been lost as a result of the earthquake and its aftershocks 

In Turkey, as well as Syria, the damage is ongoing as aftershocks continue to shake the area. 

More than 100 aftershocks have hit the area, and seismologists said the number could reach 1000.

“I don’t want to look away from their pain,” Kreinath said. “They are strong … but (their pain is) how we can relate to them”

Selim Nuraydin, an Antakya native, witnessed much of the devastation firsthand.

According to Nuraydin, Antakya’s mayor, 800,000 people have left, and 700,000 have stayed. 

Nuraydin said that people who are still living in Antakya either live in tents or containers now, while others have left the city to stay with relatives. Some cities like Mersin, Ankara and Istanbul are taking in those displaced as well. 

Kreinath said that with the earthquake, many places of worship have been lost. 

“Cultural heritage that is destroyed,” Kreinath said.

Kreinath said that in Antakya, a lot of religious overlap existed, with Muslim, Jewish and Christian people all intermingled. Kreinath said Christians would sometimes pray in the mosques with Muslim people; Jewish and Christian communities would fast during Ramadan for solidarity; and Muslims would celebrate Christmas with Christians. 

“They lived the dream of religious coexistence,” Kreinath said.

Following the devastation, Kreinath said he worries about the future of this religious mingling.

To help the ongoing effort in the Middle East, Kreinath said he recommends donating to organizations, like International Rescue Committee, Turkey Mozaik Foundation.

Kreinath said if anyone has information about setting up a donation to aid the impacted area to contact him at [email protected]

“They gave me so much and I want to give back,” Kreinath said. “Whatever I can do.”