Alleged Double Standards in Humanitarian Aid After the Earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria

Alleged Double Standards in Humanitarian Aid After the Earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria


Bilge Ece Zeyrek

Middle East and Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence

The twin earthquakes that took place in Türkiye, also affecting Syria, on February 6 caused the death of more than 50 thousand in both countries and left hundreds of thousands homeless. [1] The international community rallied to provide humanitarian aid, with many countries and organizations sending rescue teams to assist earthquake victims.  While the two countries healed their wounds, the aid and support gathered by the international community was engraved in memory as an example of international solidarity. The natural disaster was not overlooked in the UNHRC 52nd regular session.

The fifty-second regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) will take place from February 27 to March 31, 2023, in Geneva, Switzerland. In its opening session, Muhammadou M. O. Kah, representing Gambia at the United Nations Office in Geneva, requested a moment of silence to honor the victims of the recent earthquake. He urged the Council to pay their respects to those who passed away and express their unity with the affected communities. As a sign of respect, the Council observed a minute of silence. [2] Afterwards, the opening session continued with its regular agenda.

Speaking at the High-Segment meeting, the dignitaries of Türkiye and Syria displayed different attitudes regarding international humanitarian aid to their countries after the earthquake. The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Director for EU Affairs of the Republic of Türkiye reiterated Türkiye’s gratitude to the international community for their solidarity and support in response to the disaster and highlighted the importance of international solidarity. [3] He also emphasized the emergency humanitarian assistance policy Türkiye employs in countries in need of humanitarian aid due to reasons such as natural disasters, war or poverty. [4]

Unlike the Turkish Deputy Minister, the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates took a different stance on international solidarity and humanitarian aid and criticized the politicization of aid in response to the recent earthquake in his speech. He called out countries that claimed to advocate for human rights but failed to take action after the disaster, noting that the earthquake's impact was worsened by the Western blockade and unilateral sanctions against Syria. [5] 

This issue of there having been a difference between the international humanitarian aid received by Türkiye and that received by Syria has sparked many debates. In addition to those who called on international NGOs not to be hesitant in providing humanitarian aid to Syria, [6] there have also been those who viewed this stance of the West as a systematic double standard against Syria. [7] According to Human Rights Watch, the UN Security Council-mandated cross border aid mechanism fell short of meeting humanitarian needs in northwest Syria. [8] The situation of Syrians struggling with the economic and humanitarian crisis has worsened after the disasters, and it remains to be seen whether the international community will take more responsibility in helping those in need of urgent humanitarian aid.

Sources and Further Reading

[1] More than 850,000 Syrian, Turkish children displaced by earthquakes. (2023, March 6). UN News.

[2] United Nations Human Rights Council opens fifty-second regular session and holds a minute of silence for the victims of the earthquake in Türkiye and Syria. (2023, February 27).

[3] United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). (2023, February 27). Türkiye, High-Level Segment - 3rd Meeting, 52nd Regular Session.

[4] More information on Turkish Emergency Humanitarian Assistance

[5] United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). (2023, March 2). Syrian Arab Republic, High-Level Segment - 9th Meeting, 52nd Regular Session.

[6] Ekzayez, A. (2023, February 7). Turkey - Syria earthquake: Are Syrian victims being overlooked? Middle East Eye.

[7] Magnier, E. J. (2023, February 10). Turkey - Syria earthquake: Aid gap reveals western double standards. Middle East Eye.

[8] Northwest Syria: Aid Delays Deadly for Quake Survivors. (2023, February 15). HRW.