Aid to Earthquake
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Raising Funds for Earthquake Victims with Art

An Interview with Zeynep Parlak of the Westchester Turkish Moms Group, who is collecting/purchasing desperately needed items for the families who survived the devastating earthquake.

Zeynep Parlak & Andrew Vitelli shopping for goods for Turkiye earthquake relief efforts

1.  How have you been impacted by the latest earthquake in Turkiye?

I have lost many friends during the latest earthquake in Turkiye. To ease my own pain and to help earthquake survivors, I am fundraising for the Westchester Turkish Moms Group, which is accepting donations here. 

Donate to Westchester Turkish American Moms's Fundraiser

I grew up in Turkiye. In 1999, when I was 11 years old, I survived a similarly devastating 7.6 magnitude earthquake that struck the Kocaeli Province of Turkiye, destroying my village and my apartment. 

While I was able to move in with my grandparents in a nearby village, many of my friends and neighbors spent months living in tent cities. I first hand know how difficult it is to survive an earthquake. It is crucial that the earthquake survivors of the affected region are able to get the help they need as soon as possible, particularly given below-freezing temperatures.

For these reasons, I am also collaborating with Cem Ustuner, the owner of Pinelo Art Gallery in Istanbul, who is holding an art show titled “Aid to Earthquake” with donated artwork from environmental award-winning Artists Fatma Kadir, Selva Ozelli, Gunsu Saracoglu, and Ilhan Sayin. 

Cem is selling the prints of environmental Artists for $20 after asking individual or institutional buyers to make a tax-deductible $100 donation to the Westchester Turkish Moms Group or the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). 

IFRC has identified the climate crisis as one of the greatest humanitarian threats currently facing communities around the world. Artist Selva Ozelli is a member of the Sisli, Istanbul Women’s arm of IFRC, which is accepting donations at:

IFRC or Disaster Emergency Committee’s Turkey-Syria Earthquake Appeal

2. You mentioned you survived the catastrophic magnitude 7.6 earthquake in 1999, which struck the Kocaeli Province of Turkiye.  What are the environmental factors that cause such strong earthquakes in Turkiye?

The most common natural disaster in Turkiye are earthquakes. According to the Turkiye Earthquake Hazard Map, two significant fault lines – the East Anatolian Fault zone and the North Anatolian Fault zone – crisscross the country and are gradually squeezing the country westward toward the Mediterranean Sea.  

All the while three tectonic plates—the Anatolia, Arabia, and Africa plates—touch and interact with each other rendering nearly all of Turkiye highly seismic and vulnerable to earthquakes. 

Seismologists have used earthquake recording, satellite modeling, and geology to map where the fault zones are and predict that a big earthquake will occur in Turkiye every 100 or 200 years. But it seems they occur more frequently than that. The earthquake I survived in 1999, only 24 years ago, was a catastrophic magnitude 7.6 earthquake causing monumental damage and 18K deaths in the cities of Izmit and Turkiye’s most densely populated city Istanbul. 

When the magnitude 7.7 earthquake hit at 4:17 am in the morning on February 6, 2023, the Arabian tectonic plate was pushing the Anatolian tectonic plate west while many were sleeping in the town of Pazarcık in Kahramanmaraş, southern Turkiye – as snow quietly fell on the frozen and shaking ground. 

It was the largest earthquake to hit Turkiye in over 80 years since the 7.8 Earthquake that devastated  Erzincan in 1939, leaving 33K dead. The first quake was followed by a magnitude 6.7 aftershock 11 minutes later, with another monster temblor measuring 7.5 in magnitude, striking about nine hours later that devastated Elbistan, a town about 50 miles from the initial quake, sending buildings not built to withstand large earthquakes, weakened by the earlier shocks to total collapse. These earthquakes were shallow (10-17 km below the surface) and had major impacts along a 190 km by 25 km area.   

There is actually some evidence that supports the idea that global warming can affect seismic activity under the Earth's surface. 2022 was the 8th consecutive year (2015-2022) that annual global temperatures have reached at least 1°C above pre-industrial levels, according to all datasets compiled by WMO. 

These were the eight warmest consecutive years on record. Intense global warming can accelerate the melting of glaciers, which can change the distribution of weight across the Earth's crust, and result in "glacial isostatic adjustment" by driving changes in plate tectonics, putting stress on fault lines which result in earthquakes.

The earthquake devastated the environment based on physical factors such as the shaking, soil liquefaction, landslides, fissures, surface ruptures, deep chasms, fires, massive coastal tides, and tsunami warnings because of the high magnitude, intensity, duration of the earthquakes with thousands of powerful aftershocks. 

However, the environmental damage from the earthquake was magnified by human factors because the newest apartment blocks were built with substandard building materials that crumbled to dust with people trapped under the rubble in a highly populated area. This exposed the fragility of urban infrastructures in at least ten large cities in Turkiye and the gas transmission lines in the Hatay province, which were hampered by construction that wasn’t earthquake safe because of chronic corruption and weak implementation of the building codes. 

The final death toll from this massive earthquake impacting an area in Turkiye that hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees worldwide is likely to place it among the worst natural disasters that have been witnessed in the world. 

Currently, millions of earthquake survivors depend on humanitarian assistance and are already facing harsh winter weather, spreading disease, and continuously shaking the ground with high-magnitude new earthquakes and new aftershocks day after day, polluting the air with dust from collapsing buildings and releasing underground gases which will likely impact the climate over vast periods of geological time.  

3.  Tell us more about the “Aid to Earthquake Art Show” 

Art for sale in "Aid to Earthquake"
Art for sale in "Aid to Earthquake" - Selva Ozelli

I want to help the earthquake survivors in any which way I can. When I found out that Cem’s whole family died in the Antakya earthquake, I felt so sad and immediately wanted to collaborate with him.   

Cem, via his “Aid for Earthquake Art Show” held at Pinelo Art Gallery, is selling prominent environmental Artists art work for $20 after buyers make a tax-deductible $100 donation to either IFRC or the Westchester Turkish Moms Group. He is availing for purchase of the original oil paintings of these Artists via a similar arrangement as well.

Cem told me that 

“any individual or institution that purchased the Artists art work at “Aid to Earthquake Art Show” for $20 after making a tax-deductible donation of $100 to either IFRC, the Disaster Emergency Committee’s Turkey-Syria Earthquake Appeal, or the Westchester Turkish Moms Group would be making a good investment because the art show features work of prominent environmental artist such as --Fatma Kadir, Selva Ozelli, Gunsu Saracoglu, Ilhan Sayin --whose work has been awarded and cataloged by the United Nations.” 

Cem explained to me that 

“These Artists have been creating works to highlight the climate warming issue and its impact on the environment with their art projects and exhibitions, as well as global artistic activism that never stopped even during the COVID-19 pandemic. They exhibited their multiple award-winning art shows globally at museums, Culture Ministries, London, New York, and Auckland Climate Week events, and various United Nations conferences, including the UNEP’s 50th Conference and the Conference of the Parties (COP26, 27), where the international negotiating forum of delegates from politics, science, business, and NGOs agreed on global measures to address mitigation of climate change1.” 

He added that “these Artists have been making history in the environmental art area, which for the first time is being studied and cataloged by the world’s oldest largest art university Berlin University of the Arts, as part of the project titled “Climate Summit Art. Art and Political Event, 1972 – 2022”

The project examines climate summit art as a corpus, with the objective of deriving specific aspects and developments that are characteristic of the developments in the relationship between art, environment, global warming, politics, society, and the economy. At the end of the project, a full list will be published as a catalog, and these Artists' work will be included in this catalog. 

Here is the contact information for Cem, who can be reached on his Website, Facebook, and Instagram, as well as the following address:

Cem Ustuner, Owner of Pinelo Art Gallery
Pinelo Art Gallery
Address:  Ergenekon, 4 2 16, Halaskargazi Cd., 34373 Şişli/İstanbul
Phone:  90 212 249 78 71
WhatsApp:  90 533 470 2865

4.  Anything else you would like to add?

Donations for the earthquake are piling up. We are just local moms in Westchester. Our major aim is to just bring the community together in friendship, raising awareness of our environment for the next generations and developing a stronger sense of community.

Please help us in any way you can by making tax-deductible donations to IFRC, the Disaster Emergency Committee’s Turkey-Syria Earthquake Appeal or the Westchester Turkish Moms Group or by purchasing art at the “Aid to Earthquake Art Show” at Pinelo Art Gallery.

1IPCC, 2014: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Edenhofer, O. et al. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.
By Selva Ozelli, Esq., CPA.

Selva Ozelli Esq, CPA is a legal and finance executive with diversified experience dealing with highly complex issues in the field of international taxation and related matters within the banking, securities, Fintech, alternative and traditional investment funds. Her first of its kind legal analyses involving tax laws, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), blockchain technology, solar technology and the environment and have been published in journals, books and by the OECD. Her writings have been translated into 15 languages.

Selva Ozelli
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