President Nechirvan Barzani arrived in Turkey on February 14 to visit the victims of the deadly earthquake in the region and to express his condolences and the sympathies of the people of Kurdistan after a massive quake devastated parts of Turkey and Syria. The President was welcomed at Gaziantep airport by the Governor of Borsa, the administer of the Gaziantep governorate.
Following his visit to the headquarters of the Turkey’s Disaster Management Authority (AFAD), the President spoke to reporters. The following is a readout of his remarks:
“I thank the Governor and the Deputy Governor for the explanation and details they provided. I would like to say that our presence here is for us to express our condolences and sympathies to the people of Turkey and the victims. On behalf of President Masoud Barzani and the people of Kurdistan, we extend our condolences to all the families who have lost their loved ones and wish their wounded a speedy recovery.
“What I want to say is that in all the difficult and unpleasant situations that have happened to us in the past, we have always seen Turkey as our supporter. In very difficult situations, the people and government of Turkey have always stood with us and helped us. Because of the tragedy that has happened here, there are mournings in every home in Iraqi Kurdistan and in many places all preplanned festivities have been canceled to express solidarity with the people of Turkey.
“We have tried to do what we can in the Kurdistan Region and we will continue to do so. I would like to thank all the institutions of the Kurdistan Regional Government and the private sector for their assistance. I would like to thank the Barzani Charity Foundation and Mr. Musa Ahmad for being here with us.
“We wanted to express our solidarity with the people of Turkey with the limited resources we have. I am sure that these tragic circumstances will pass. I am also sure that the government and the President of Turkey are serious about the recovery process. Turkey is a great country and will certainly overcome this crisis with pride. Please accept our condolences once again and may God help us.”
The President then visited a camp hosting survivors of the earthquake in Nurdag town of Gaziantep province, which is one of the worst affected areas, and was welcomed by the governors of Merdin and Şırnak. In a meeting with the two governors, who act as coordinators of regional affairs, they discussed the latest situation in the region and the process of relief and assistance efforts to the victims.
The President also visited the affected areas in the town of Islahiya and met with the crisis center there. He then visited the Kurdistan Regional Government’s relief team that has been stationed there since the beginning of the disaster to help the victims. The President had the following comments there:
“Today we have come to convey our condolences to the people and government of Turkey. Your pain is our pain, your disease is our disease. When we needed help, the government and people of Turkey always opened their doors. We have come here today to show our loyalty and sympathy. We also convey President Masoud Barzani’s message of condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones and we wish the injured a speedy recovery. We are sure that Turkey will overcome this great tragedy. Under a wise leadership and a strong government, God willing, this disaster will pass.”
The President also said: “On this occasion, I would like to thank the Barzani Charity Foundation and Mr. Musa Ahmad for coming to the camp of the Barzani Charity Foundation, which coordinates the aid sent from the Kurdistan Region, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Interior and Civil Defense, the private sector companies, and the Iraqi Red Crescent Society. Today I have come to tell them that you have made us proud and we warmly congratulate you all. May God help you and I wish you success.
“We consider what we are doing here as our duty. We are brothers. You have helped us in difficult times and opened your doors to us. Today we must do what we can. People in Sulaimani, Duhok, Erbil, Halabja and everywhere in Kurdistan are sad and their hearts are with Turkey. Our people’s hearts are with you and may God give you comfort and peace. God willing, this tragedy will pass.
“We will do what we can for both Turkey and Syria. We thank the Kurdistan Regional Government agencies in Zakho, Duhok and Erbil and the Barzani Charity Foundation. Their organization and discipline was the main reason for this preparation. We are Turkey’s neighbors and we are saddened by the tragedy that happened here, and what they have done, they have done it with all their hearts.
“This is a humanitarian issue. We are all brothers, whether Turks or Kurds, regardless of religion and faith. When there is brotherhood, you should help us in times of trouble and we should help you when you need us. Our cooperation is brotherly cooperation.”