Türkiye: Solidarity is in unions’ DNA

published 24 February 2023 updated 18 October 2023

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and strong aftershocks that hit Southern Türkiye and Northern Syria on 6th February 2023, Education International (EI) has launched an urgent action appeal to respond to the impacts of this disaster and support its Turkish affiliate Eğitim Sen in its efforts to help affected educators, students and population.

According to latest estimates, the death toll in Türkiye stands at over 39,600, with some 264,000 apartments destroyed and many people still missing in the country's worst modern disaster. The scale of the catastrophe will not be known to its full extent, as the affected region includes many unregistered refugees.

Relying on its local affiliates’ experience in the region, EI supported humanitarian action in the first weeks after the tragedy struck, bringing immediate emergency relief to help union member victims, as well as recovery aid in a second phase (such as livelihood and psychological support and relocation).

On February 22nd, Eğitim Sen’s Osman Işçi visited EI and provided a first account of the losses for teachers and union members.

Solidarity from the global labour movement has been astounding, he reported, and union members were assisted financially, and other forms of support. Eğitim Sen was able to set up a lifeline for communities in need of support and hosted displaced people in facilities. In the first hours after the disaster, Eğitim Sen delivered emergency aid: food, water, blankets, tents, and containers to serve as shelters. The solidarity aid EI sent contributed to this emergency humanitarian aid. The union also organised the relocation of families who had lost their homes.

The government closed the whole national education system for two weeks, Işçi added. This resulted in children throughout Türkiye being constantly exposed to the tragedy unfolding. Eğitim Sen expressed concerns about children’s mental health due to what they have had to endure.

In the affected region, hundreds of schools have been destroyed, and trade union offices must also be rebuilt.

In the EI Urgent Action Appeal sent on 9 February, EI General Secretary David Edwards stressed that “EI stands in solidarity with our members affected by this catastrophe. An initial EI financial contribution has been earmarked. Our thoughts and condolences go out to the families of those who have tragically passed, are recovering from injuries, or have lost their homes.”

EI also provided direct financial assistance to its new member in Northern Syria. Four local union branches of this union have been destroyed and the union leaders are assessing their members' immediate needs.

EI therefore invites member organisations to support their sister organisations in Türkiye and Syria by contributing to the EI Solidarity Fund.