EFFECTS OF DEVASTATING EARTHQUAKES ON SYRIAN LGBTQIA+ letter

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On 6 February, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake centered in Gaziantep, Turkey heavily impacted Southern Turkey and Northern Syria, killing over 47,000 people and injuring thousands. This has since been followed by 6.4 and 5.8-magnitude earthquakes on 20 February in areas that were already severely destroyed. With Guardians of Equality Movement (GEM) operating from Gaziantep and remotely in Syria, our beneficiaries and team have been highly affected by these earthquakes and considerable aftershocks. The earthquakes have had a devastating effect and, as previous crises have shown, those most impacted are the socially and economically marginalized, including Syrian LGBTQIA+. Syrian LGBTQIA+ individuals are at a higher risk of being captured, tortured, and killed due to a lack of security. Sexual minorities, especially refugees, suffer from increased discrimination due to their sexual orientation, asylum status, and exposure to multiple displacements.

Learn more on our Info Sheet

International aid and rescue teams are working tirelessly on the ground, however, there is an additional risk for LGBTQIA+ individuals to be discriminated against in terms of aid and rescue efforts. Access to services is minimized for LGBTQIA+ individuals due to fear of discrimination from aid distributors. Following these earthquakes, LGBTQIA+ individuals whose sexual identities have been exposed are at a higher risk of being captured, tortured, and killed due to a lack of security. This is also the case for LGBTQIA+ activists and supporters working on the ground, including our GEM team.

GEM’s Emergency Response

GEM is working to deliver the emergency response to Syrian LGBTQIA+ victims, activists, and their families through urgent cash assistance for those in need of evacuation, temporary accommodation, and essential services. Following the most recent earthquakes on 20 February, this emergency response is now desperately needed with there being an added strain on already stretched aid resources. Due to the extensive area affected by the earthquakes, cash assistance provides the most accessible aid to all regardless of location and addresses the individual needs of beneficiaries based on their varied circumstances. 

GEM also plans to deliver long-term services in mental health and psycho-social support (MHPSS), particularly PTSD, trauma, and bereavement therapy. Such traumatic experiences will have detrimental effects on the mental health and well-being of victims and survivors, especially those who have had adverse experiences prior to these events. Therefore GEM is working to build and acquire funding for MHPSS and other long-term response services specialized for LGBTQIA+ needs and sensitivity.

Support Our Partners

We are working alongside our partners and staff to provide emergency support to our beneficiaries, staff, and their families. We are open to accepting new beneficiaries to include in our emergency response through our intake form. 

We are currently partnered with Choose Love, who is funding our emergency response, as well as ILGA Asia whowe are building a fundraising campaign to be launched in the coming days. Colleagues from Care International have kindly put together a fundraiser for us in the meantime while we wait for our campaign to go live.

GEM remains open to building new partnerships with organizations and groups to respond to the Syrian LGBTQIA+ community. Organizations and groups interested in assisting us during this critical time can contact our Head of Development who is coordinating emergency response efforts: jennifer.b@guardiansgem.org 

For those who wish to help us in our fundraising efforts please contact info@guardiansgem.org and ask for a fundraising pack. 

About GEM

Guardians of Equality Movement (GEM) is the first Human Rights organization focused wholly on the Syrian LGBTQIA+ context. The organization operates in Turkey and remotely across Syria and the Syrian Diaspora. GEM works to engage other organizations and the public on awareness around LGBTQIA+ issues at the social and political levels through advocacy and protection services to prevent the harm and persecution of Syrian LGBTQIA+ communities.