Our hearts are heavy and shattered over the devastating earthquake that has struck Syria and Turkey. As the death toll continues to climb 36,000 and counting, the images are simply numbing. We, like many of you, our dear followers and customers, are struggling to cope and move on with our daily lives.
What some of you may not know is that Marwa and I are Syrian Americans who have direct family members that live in Syria and Turkey. To be more specific, our family is originally from Aleppo, Syria. As the war intensified in Syria, our family members in Aleppo one by one lost their homes due to the airstrikes. This led to them being displaced inside of Aleppo or having to leave to other Syrian cities and countries. More than ten years later, and with the ongoing Syrian crisis, our family is now scattered across Aleppo, Al Bab, Idlib, Latakia, Manbij, Antakya (Turkey) , Gaziantep (Turkey), and Marash (Turkey). All of the cities I just listed were within 100km of the epicenter and greatly affected by the aftermath.
In the last few days, we heard first hand accounts from our family across all of these cities about the destruction and loss of lives they saw. Death and destruction are not strangers to many of my relatives, but they all seemed to share one sentiment: that this devastation and loss was far greater than anything they have ever been faced with. We received horrifying videos from them of their homes leveled in Marash, Gaziantep, Latakia and Antakya. Others in Aleppo shared the destruction and collapsed walls that deemed their homes unsafe and led them to sleep in tents, mosques, or crowded in homes with several other families. They currently have no way to access food as they are left homeless and without work, and many of them are now even cut off from water and electricity (an already precious resource for them).
Perhaps the most horrifying account of the earthquake came from my first cousin, a refugee in Marash (Kahramanmaras), Turkey. By the miracle of God, she and her 6 week old infant, husband, and mother and father in law merely escaped their building only to be in the middle of their street watching the buildings around them collapse. She shared that in the building next door lived other refugee families she became friends with. For a few days after the earthquake, she could hear their cries for help. By the third day, after no help came to them, the voices subsided and they no longer could hear them. No one came “ma hadda eja” . This one sentence will forever be etched in my memory.
How do we even begin to understand the continued loss our loved ones are facing? How can we begin to help them and others affected by this tragedy? Each day feels more numbing than the one before. As we all desperately seek ways to send help their way, we’re faced with multiple roadblocks due to existing political issues as well as limits on currency for direct payment. Survivor's guilt continues to settle in for us and is even more intensified as we must find ways to move on and care for our families, and run our business, VELA.
And with this letter from a very vulnerable place, and with hearts so heavy, we share that we know it is our duty to continue to serve all of you. Marwa and I have decided that part of the proceeds for this month will go towards our trusted partner, Islamic Relief, in their aid of the victims in Syria and Turkey.
We plead with all of our followers to please also continue to give generously to other organizations on the ground - all of which are doing incredible work of heroes throughout both countries. No amount is too little. There is a long and difficult road to recovery, but together and with the help of Allah, we will slowly rebuild all that was lost. Thank you for being a part of a community who cares deeply about important worldwide issues. And thank you for trusting us.
Ya Allah, continue to send mercy to the people of Turkey and Syria for you alone are the most Merciful.
Love from a broken heart,