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Central Asia in turmoil after Middle East earthquake

The earthquake that shook southern Turkey and northern Syria did not leave the Central Asian governments and their people indifferent. Networks were quickly organized to support the affected areas, particularly Turkey, which is close to most Central Asian countries. In the wake of the humanitarian catastrophe, diplomatic rapprochement between the Central Asian states and the Turkish government was strengthened. Nevertheless, many questions remain unanswered: What will become of the economic partnerships between Central Asia and Turkey? Will countries question their policies on urban development in earthquake-prone areas? Deciphering a strong resonance earthquake in Central Asia.

As of Feb. 14, the death toll from the Feb. 6 earthquake disaster in Turkey and Syria exceeded 37,000, Reuters reports . The earthquake in East Anatolia with a magnitude of 7.7 triggered ground collapses and the collapse of numerous buildings and shook the whole world.

Central Asia is showing solidarity with the victims, especially Turkey. The strong support from the Central Asian states is based, among other things, on the fact that they are part of the Organization of the Turkic States together with Turkey , which, in addition to Azerbaijan, also includes Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. Each Central Asian president personally traveled to Istanbul in the days after the disaster to offer condolences to the Turkish people, as reported by Kyrgyzstan’s AkiPress agency .

Although humanitarian aid has also been provided to Syria, notably from Kazakhstan, which will send 50 tons of aid to the Syrian government , solidarity with Turkey has been greater as ties between it and the Central Asian republics are very close.

Humanitarian aid provided immediately

In light of the humanitarian emergency the Kahramanmaraş region is facing, the Government of Kazakhstan has allocated US$1 million (€929,336) in Istanbul . Humanitarian aid in the form of volunteers is also organized by the Kazakh embassy in Turkey, TengriNews reports .

For its part, Kyrgyzstan announced that it would send a group of 60 doctors to Turkey to treat the injured, 24.kg reports . Two planes are currently being prepared to be sent to Turkey to help earthquake victims. In addition, according to the press service of the presidential administration, 100 yurts, about 20 isolated military tents and a mobile hospital tent will be sent from the Kyrgyz side.

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170 tons of aid were also sent to Turkey from Uzbekistan, both by the government and by Uzbekistans themselves, as reported by Turkey’s Anadolu News Agency . 100 helpers and doctors have already been sent to the Turkish disaster region, explained Radio Ozodlik .

For its part, Turkmenistan sent a plane with a rescue team, including ten doctors. Even Tajikistan, which does not belong to the Organization of the Turkic States and has weaker ties to Turkey, sent around 50 rescue workers to the country – the first time since independence, Anadolu reports .

People of Central Asian origin as an important community in Turkey

One of the reasons for the strong support for Turkey is that many Central Asians live and work in Turkey. So far, according to Gazeta.uz, one Uzbekistani citizen has died in the earthquake, as have two citizens from Kazakhstan, while several are still missing, TengriNews explained . Kazakhstan’s Emergencies Ministry also evacuated 22 Kyrgyzstan from Turkey, writes Current Time .

Dissident media outlet Turkmen News reported that 4 Turkmen citizens died under the rubble of collapsed buildings in Turkey. On February 9, the head of the Halk Maslakhaty , former President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov , admitted that the victims included citizens of Turkmenistan, but did not specify the number of victims.

Citizens from Central Asia have been living in Turkey for many years. According to the Statistics Institute of Turkey , 91,218 Turkmenistan, 36,510 Uzbekistan, 23,645 Kazakhstan and 18,017 Kyrgyzstan citizens were living in Turkey in 2020.

Concern about projects with Turkey

The catastrophe for the Central Asian partner countries has burned itself into people’s minds. Since the war in Ukraine, Turkey has presented itself as an alternative to diversifying Central Asia’s economic and diplomatic partners, The Diplomat explained in October last year. Although Turkey does not share borders with countries in the region, it is emerging as one of the most important trading partners, notes an analytical article by Cabar Asia . Trade with Turkey is also beneficial for Central Asia as its market is growing.

Read also on Novastan: Security policy: Turkey expands its influence in Central Asia

The earthquake in Turkey caused severe damage to rail and road infrastructure and airport runways. However, since the damage was in the south of the country, the roads and supply chains serving Central Asia should not be affected, Uzbekistan’s Spot noted.

The housing policy in Central Asia is clearly being questioned

The seismological institutes of the Central Asian countries have repeatedly emphasized that buildings in Central Asia are built in such a way that they would withstand earthquakes up to magnitude 9, in the case of Almaty even up to magnitude 10, Radio Free Europe explains .

In Soviet times, buildings were tested before construction to withstand the seismic shocks common in the region. In 1887 in Almaty , then Verny, and in 1966 in Tashkent, violent earthquakes almost completely destroyed the two cities.

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Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan also have areas of high seismic activity, and Turkmenistan is said to have been hit by an earthquake on February 6 without further information being released by the Turkmen authorities, Turkmen News reports .

The authorities of Uzbekistan are becoming concerned about these risks. Without mentioning the earthquake in the Anatolian Plate, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev announced on February 8 that construction in Tashkent would be halted until a new development plan was in place. In fact, in the capital of Uzbekistan, even without an earthquake, the question of building safety arises. An example of this is a building in Tashkent that split in two, Kun.uz reported on February 11. The earthquakes in Turkey and Syria therefore sound like a warning to politicians in Central Asia.

Source : novastan.org