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Locals of Türkiye’s quake-hit Antakya vow to resurrect 2,500-year-old city

Hatay is the southernmost province of Türkiye, and is one of the 11 hit by last month’s earthquakes. 

It is home to several civilisations and religions, and locals are working to revive its rich culture despite the challenges and damage suffered.

The 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude earthquakes killed more than 46,100 people in Türkiye and affected over 13 million in 11 provinces, including Adana, Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kahramanmaras, Kilis, Malatya, Osmaniye, Sanliurfa, and Elazig.

Once known to be the world’s first illuminated street, Kurtulus street in Hatay is now plunged into darkness at night.

The province is also known to be one of the most religiously diverse places in the country. Before collapsing, mosques, chapels, and synagogues were neighbours in the region, just like their congregation before they had to flee.

Mehmet Serkan Sincan, an antiques dealer in the region, has made an effort to go back to his normal routine.

The artisan, despite all challenges, puts on his best face to cheer his people and play music on the streets.

‘Antakya has fallen six times’: Türkiye antiques seller vows to stay put

‘We will not leave’

“This is actually our routine. This is how our shop was in our normal life. As you can see, this is the music room. Unfortunately, many records were broken, … cassettes, radios, auditorium gramophones,” he said.

” I am from the artisan culture and the ahi (13th-century traders and craftworkers in Anatolia). I come in the morning, say Bismillah (In the name of God), and start cleaning the street and inside the shop. I pour a coffee and then turn on my music. Sometimes we start the day with (Islam’s holy book) Quran, and sometimes with music. So, music is indispensable in our shop,” he added.

Sincan called on his fellow artisan friends to come back so that he can hand over the place to them and rest a little. “They should also shoulder some responsibility,” he said.

Hakan Yavuz, a coffee shop manager, whose shop collapsed in the earthquakes, said he lost half of the people he knew in the disasters and that many of the workplaces and houses were destroyed.

“We are in this city and we will not leave. Historical buildings need to be rebuilt without ruining their essence. The state should do this. Otherwise, Antakya will not hold any importance. A 2,500-year-old city has to stand up again. People will come back.”

“The people of this place cannot leave this land. They love this city, they will return to their hometown. We will bandage our wounds and get up again. I absolutely believe that. We are not leaving, we are not leaving this place,” he said.

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