Hundreds of survivors gather below Adiyaman’s clock tower. The town’s clock became an iconic symbol of the earthquake, as its watch hands were left frozen at 4:17am for days. [Mustafa Kara Ali/Al Jazeera]Published On 7 Feb 20247 Feb 2024
Adiyaman, Turkiye – The clock tower standing above the rubble and debris, frozen in time with its watch hands stopped at 4:17am, had become a symbol of Adiyaman’s destruction. But a year later, it is finally ticking again as usual.
On the first anniversary of a double-fold earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people and left three million people displaced in Syria and Turkey, hundreds have gathered beneath Adiyaman’s clock tower – a point of reference for the city – just a few minutes before 4am.
Survivors left flowers and observed a few moments of silence to mourn Adiyaman’s 8,387 victims, making it the third most affected province in Turkey after Hatay and Kahramanmaras.
After an early morning spent sitting around fires warming up this cold day and recalling their traumatic memories from last year, at 7am attendees headed together to plant 100 trees, a symbol of rebirth after so much death and destruction. “We thought it was important to honour our dead, but also celebrate all those who’ve given their helping hands over the past year,” says Berfin Kilic, a native of Sanliurfa, another province of the earthquake zone.
Kilic decided to move to Adiyaman a year ago to help. As her city was spared major destruction, unlike elsewhere in the region, she started volunteering for Dayanisma Insanlari, a civil society organisation coordinating humanitarian aid cooperation in the disaster area, including food distribution to survivors in tented settlements.
She and a few other volunteers helped organise this commemoration, followed by a distribution of warm meals to survivors across the city, just like they did a year ago today.
“Even though we have lived through a year that included pain, loss and solidarity, we have seen that we grow stronger together and give hope to each other,” says Mehmet Yilmaz, another volunteer, as he helps distribute the meals.
Nejla Arslan, 30, a geography teacher and one of Adiyaman’s survivors, explains she immediately escaped the city on the morning of February 6 and found refuge at her brother’s apartment in Ankara, the capital.
“I still try to be far from my city as much as possible,” she says, adding that she only returned for a few days just in time for the memorial function.
Kilic says that the tragedy sparked widespread solidarity across Adiyaman, where rescue and aid came slower than in other areas, pushing locals to support each other as they could through grassroots citizen initiatives like Dayanisma Insanlari.
“That gives me hope,” Kilic says smiling, as still a year later thousands of people in this Kurdish-majority city are living in temporary shelters, making them reliant on the kindness of others.
A large sign displaying 4:17am, the exact time of the tragic moment, stands in front of a funeral wreath for the victims. Attendants have left letters to their lost loved ones, as well as flowers. [Mustafa Kara Ali/Al Jazeera]Participants chant and shout, demanding justice for their families, as they march and approach the gathering point under the clock tower. [Mustafa Kara Ali/Al Jazeera]A moment of prayer to mourn the more than 50,000 victims of the Turkey-Syria earthquake. [Mustafa Kara Ali/Al Jazeera]A survivor cries in desperation, holding the photo of her lost loved one, while being consoled by a relative and volunteers from Dayanisma Insanlari Dernegi, a civil society organisation coordinating humanitarian aid cooperation in the disaster area. [Mustafa Kara Ali/Al Jazeera]Survivors holding ‘4:17am’ placards gather for a candlelight vigil in Adiyaman’s main square and leave flowers while observing a moment of silence to honour the victims. [Mustafa Kara Ali/Al Jazeera]An empty poster for people to write their memories, names of lost loved ones and thoughts, is displayed in Adiyaman’s main square. [Mustafa Kara Ali/Al Jazeera]Hundreds of survivors and volunteers gather near Adiyaman’s clock tower to remember the more than 8,000 victims of the earthquake in the city, the third hardest-hit province by the two-fold earthquakes on February 6, 2024. [Mustafa Kara Ali/Al Jazeera]In Adiyaman, where 1,200 buildings collapsed on February 6, 2023, reconstruction is slow, with many buildings still bearing the scars of the two-folded earthquake and leaving many still displaced in temporary shelters a year on from the tragedy. [Mustafa Kara Ali/Al Jazeera]Dayanisma Insanlari Dernegi volunteers plant trees at 7am, after wrapping up the memorial ceremony, as a way to celebrate hope and rebirth on this land after so much death and destruction. Black and white balloons indicate where trees will be planted. [Mustafa Kara Ali/Al Jazeera]Mehmet Yilmaz, one of the heads of Dayanisma Insanlari Dernegi, stands where 100 trees were planted at 7am. The land is a very powerful element in this strongly agricultural city, where most of its residents are originally from nearby villages, deeply affected by the quakes. [Mustafa Kara Ali/Al Jazeera]Candles extinguished after a night of commemoration stand on the ground beside posters saying ‘Our common cause’. The memorial to remember the thousands of victims was particularly heartfelt in Adiyaman, one of the worst-hit provinces, where the tragedy created stronger bonds. [Mustafa Kara Ali/Al Jazeera]Volunteers from Dayanisma Insanlari Dernegi plant trees as a symbolic gesture of rebirth. [Mustafa Kara Ali/Al Jazeera]In Adiyaman, where rescue and aid operations were slower than any other province, local solidarity efforts gave life to grassroot initiatives to allow survivors help each other more efficiently. [Mustafa Kara Ali/Al Jazeera]Berfin Kilic, third from the right on the first row, moved from Sanliurfa to Adiyaman a year ago to volunteer at Dayanisma Insanlari. [Mustafa Kara Ali/Al Jazeera]