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Jennifer Radlinsky, Gabriel Helupka, Dan Flanagan, Sophia Ritscher, Jayde Dorland, Megan Khalife EUCOM, Emergency Management, Health, and Hazards (EMH2), Behavior and Leadership, and Counter Threat Strategic Communications Teams

Radhika Ramalinga Venkatachalam, Senior Editor; Jennifer Loy, Chief Editor

May 23, 2023

Map of Earthquakes in Turkey from 1900-2023[1]

Geographical Area | South Eastern Europe

Countries Affected | Turkey

On February 6, 2023, two earthquakes of 7.8 and 7.5 magnitudes struck southern Turkey,[2] one of the world’s most seismically active regions,[3] in the epicenter of Kahramanmaras Province and its neighboring provinces, resulting in thousands of ongoing aftershocks in the following weeks.[4] The two large-scale earthquakes caused an estimated $34.2 billion in structural damage as of February 27, equivalent to four percent of Turkey’s 2021 GDP,[5] leading to an economic downturn.[6] The earthquakes affecting nearly 16 million residents,[7] caused over 50,000 deaths and left millions homeless.[8] The political consequences of major natural disasters will very likely have substantial domestic and geopolitical impacts for decades. Three months later, the Turkish presidential election concluded with a campaign accusing the government of a slow response to the increasing humanitarian crisis caused by the earthquakes.[9] The spread of disinformation related to the earthquake likely polarized the Turkish electorate, very likely in an attempt to influence the electoral success of the leading candidates.[10] Slow earthquake response will almost certainly disproportionately affect remote areas, likely slowing their recovery process and creating an exploitive opportunity for terrorist organizations to launch destabilization efforts that hinder recovery efforts in southern Turkey.

Security Risk Level:

Areas of High Security Concern: The citizens of Turkey will almost certainly remain at risk of death or injury from the high number of earthquakes in the area, with the Turkish government unlikely able to provide sustainable long-term support and resources to the survivors. Corruption and mismanagement will almost certainly hamper the recovery efforts with the resulting humanitarian crisis very likely drawing renewed criticisms of President Recep Tayyip Edogan's re-election, likely increasing the demand for legislative change and accountability in the earthquake’s aftermath. Social uncertainty stemming from the earthquakes will likely increase governmental instability post-election, likely prompting anti-government protests from the opposition that have a roughly even chance of turning violent. A volatile political period will very likely destabilize the region, leading to increased government distrust. The PKK will likely use the delayed long-term recovery efforts as an opportunity to destabilize the region, likely attempting to mobilize support in southern Turkey through propaganda. The PKK will likely exploit global media coverage to generate support for its cause and to launch future attacks, likely sympathizing with victims, supporting local recovery efforts, and channeling anger over alleged corruption and suffering from slow governmental relief measures.

Current Claims: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan; Turkey; Turkish citizens; Turkish government; the ruling political party of Turkey Justice and Development Party (AKP); Turkish Ministry of Finance and Treasury; Turkish intelligence agency National Intelligence Organization (MIT); Turkish Armed Forces (TSK); Turkish government agency Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD); Turkey’s employment agency Iskur; Syria; Greece; Greek government; Armenia; Austria; Britain; Germany; Iraq; Libya; Ukraine; Russia; EU; NATO; International humanitarian aid organization United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Humanitarian non-governmental organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF); The World Bank Group (WBG); Terrorist organization the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)

Current Conflicts: Turkey, located in the highly active North Anatolian and East Anatolian fault zones, experiences frequent high-magnitude earthquakes and aftershocks, leading to repeated humanitarian crises and devastation.[11] In October 2022, Turkey imposed legislation against the spread of disinformation, curtailing free speech and media,[12] polarizing the Turkish electorate, and viewing Erdoǧan’s control over social media as a tool to influence his 2023 electoral success.[13] Turkey’s current macroeconomic policies and high commodity prices have contributed to hyperinflation making the country prone to economic shocks and increased instability.[14]

Major Capital Industries: Construction; building materials and equipment; builders/general contractors; infrastructure; emergency management services; healthcare; medical supplies; hospitals and nursing homes; media; internet; agriculture; religious organizations/clergy; human rights; women’s issues; civil servants/public officials; schools/education; waste management and remediation services

Potential Industry Concerns: Turkey’s location in an active seismic zone will almost certainly encourage developers to retrofit their structures to withstand earthquakes, likely posing high financial costs, with some businesses unlikely to invest in the extra costs and risk potential future damage. The Turkish government will very likely enforce stricter building regulations for earthquake resilience to prevent further criticism of its response and continue to evaluate builders long-term in impacted areas, likely detaining or imposing fines on them for noncompliance with government standards. The failure to deliver timely and substantial humanitarian aid to affected persons will almost certainly influence AFAD to evaluate its operations following the earthquake, very likely reforming its crisis response and availability of vital resources to mitigate future mishandling. The destruction of hospitals and clinics will almost certainly create “healthcare deserts,” very likely forcing residents in remote areas to travel for care or not receive any, likely leading to long-term complications or death. Delayed information gaps in the media will likely continue to complicate recovery efforts by depriving individuals in need of resources and access to crucial facts and information, very likely prolonging emergency service response and increasing health risks.

Areas of Caution:

  • Geopolitical: Relations between Greece and Turkey remain tense over natural resources and contested territory in the Aegean Sea; but both countries engage in what is referred to as “earthquake diplomacy,” when one is affected by an earthquake, the other aids in relief efforts.[15] Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias was the first European dignitary to visit Turkey after the earthquakes, agreeing with his counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, that neither nation should wait for natural disasters to improve relations between Greece and Turkey.[16] Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis noted a reduction in Turkish aggression and de-escalation due to the Greek response.[17] Armenia, which has not had formal diplomatic relations with Turkey since 1993, provided aid and a rescue team to Turkey.[18] Considering Turkey's geographic location and NATO membership, it exploits its position as a regional geopolitical power to play both sides of the Ukrainian conflict.[19] Indicating its ability to navigate both sides, Russia and Ukraine committed rescue personnel to aid recovery efforts immediately after the earthquakes.[20]

  • Political: In the earthquake-devastated regions of southern Turkey, outrage over the loss of life was expected to influence the results of the May 14, 2023 elections in favor of the Turkish opposition.[21] Due to Erdoǧan's popularity in the affected provinces and a high level of support for his party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), it won in ten out of 11 impacted provinces, dominating the first-round results.[22] Initially, critics and earthquake survivors blamed Erdoǧan’s administration for the loss of lives due to the slow response rate and lax enforcement of building codes.[23] Erdoǧan attempted to respond to citizens’ concerns by ordering the arrest of collapsed buildings’ developers, detaining over 113 suspects, and launching investigations into approximately 24,921 collapsed buildings.[24] Later, many people expressed gratitude for the government’s support and security services.[25] Voter turnout remained high in the 11 earthquake-affected provinces, with analysts suggesting that Erdoǧan’s commitment to reconstruction had appeased voters in the AKP strongholds.[26]

May 28, 2023 Turkish Presidential Election Second Round[27]

Provinces Impacted by the February 6 Earthquakes[28]

  • Military: TSK could not mobilize its forces immediately after the earthquake without orders from civilian officials.[29] This stems from a 2010 directive Erdoǧan signed that curtailed the military’s influence by revoking its autonomous ability to conduct domestic operations without civilian approval during emergencies.[30] Most Turkish troops inactive in combat zones like Syria, Iraq, and Libya are assigned to border security and deployed to Turkey’s southern border with Syria to address terrorist threats from the PKK.[31] This limited the availability of troops for rapid deployment in disaster zones within the first 72 hours due to poor planning and coordination.[32] This is a contradiction from the 1999 7.4 magnitude earthquake, where TSK was crucial to recovery efforts because of its ability to rapidly mobilize approximately 65,000 personnel within the first 48 hours to lead the search, rescue, evacuation, and relocation efforts and install field hospitals, tent cities, mobile kitchens.[33] In 2023, only about 7,500 personnel were deployed to the disaster zones, making it a fraction compared to the 1999 earthquake in Turkey.[34] The first 48 hours of a disaster are crucial to saving lives and conducting recovery operations; a failure to allocate a significant role to the military compared to previous disasters left recovery efforts without efficient coordination efforts, and rapid mobilization capabilities, hindering the effectiveness of early recovery operations.[35]

  • Economic: Before the earthquake, Turkey's economy already faced various issues, including high unemployment, currency depreciation, and record-high inflation.[36] The Turkish Ministry of Finance and Treasury published a damage report in March, estimating the earthquake will cost the Turkish economy $130.6 billion, about nine percent of the expected 2023 national income.[37] A WBG rapid damage assessment estimates that the recovery and reconstruction costs will be significantly higher, with earthquake-related economic disruptions anticipated to add to the overall costs of GDP losses, possibly doubling the initial estimate.[38] Of the total damages, 53% ($18 billion) are related to residential buildings, 28% ($9.7 billion) to non-residential buildings (hospitals, schools, public buildings, and private sector buildings), and 19% ($6.4 billion) to infrastructure (roads, power, and water supply).[39]

  • Social: Inadequate preparedness for earthquakes and frequent aftershocks have led to an uneven government response, leaving some areas without resources to maintain a daily standard of living.[40] National recovery efforts were briefly focused in some provinces like Kahramanmaras, leaving others in a state of minimal response and need of humanitarian aid.[41] Three months after the earthquakes, 3.7 million children continue living in terrible conditions, with nearly 1.9 million experiencing interrupted education as schools were used as temporary shelters, emphasizing the urgent need for immediate humanitarian relief.[42] The religious and world heritage sites in Antakya city, which has historical significance as an early seat of Christianity and an important site in the Roman Empire, suffered substantial damage from the earthquake and their aftershocks.[43] Only a small number of the city’s original vibrant population, encompassing Alawites, Alevis, Armenians, Christians, Jewish people, and recent Syrian conflict refugees, remain in the surrounding areas as the earthquake resulted in forced displacements.[44] Significant damage impacted the Church of Saint Peter, the oldest Christian church in the world, and Habib-I Nejjar Mosque, a commonly visited mosque by Muslims before their pilgrimage to Mecca, affecting local and global followers of Islam.[45] Reports of gender-based violence and harassment in displacement camps built after the earthquake are also increasing due to overcrowding and lack of privacy.[46]

  • Emergency Management: When the earthquake struck, those impacted contacted AFAD without success,[47] leading residents of the affected areas to criticize AFAD for the ineffective response.[48] An internal AFAD report after a November 2022 tremor noted the organization’s insufficient vehicles, resources, personnel, and poor coordination efforts.[49] AFAD’s failure to provide a critical humanitarian response increased Turkish citizens’ use of Twitter to share information on collapsed buildings and locations of people needing rescue, a move the Turkish government restricted.[50] The social media platform was blocked for 12 hours on February 8, causing criticism against Erdoǧan’s government; officials defended the action, saying it was an effort to combat disinformation.[51] Rubble and remains of burnt and damaged buildings across the affected area contain lead, asbestos, and other hazardous materials, increasing immediate and long-term health risks to citizens and humanitarian workers.[52] In at least one instance, Austrian and German rescuers ceased operations in Hatay province as unspecified groups fought one another.[53]

  • Infrastructure: Damage to critical infrastructure after the earthquake, such as damaged roads and unusability of airports, hampered response efforts, and government officials agreed about the lack of preparedness.[54] Rural areas in Turkey continue to face road damage and rock falls in mountainous regions, while roads in urban areas are blocked by collapsed buildings, requiring the establishment of makeshift roads to deliver humanitarian aid.[55] The operational capacity of the bridges across southeast Turkey is limited, with two completely collapsed and eight severely damaged.[56] The earthquake tremors significantly damaged water and wastewater treatment plants, severely impacting and rendering their operations impossible until reparations are complete.[57] Turkey’s agriculture infrastructure also suffered following the earthquake, hindering the country’s crop management and harvesting activities.[58] Experts had warned for years that several buildings impacted by the earthquake were unsafe;[59] The WBG estimates that retrofitting structures for earthquake resistance costs around $465 billion, with about only four percent currently retrofitted.[60] A 2019 video showed Erdoğan listing his achievements in office, including allowing contractors to ignore building safety regulations in the city of Kahramanmaras, which was close to the earthquake epicenter.[61]

  • Health: Turkey’s health infrastructure sustained heavy damage, including physical locations like hospitals and clinics in the cities and temporary sites delivering care to individuals in remote areas or displacement camps.[62] Areas rendered unsafe complicated life-saving care delivery and increased the risk of contracting secondary infections from unsterile conditions.[63] Rising temperatures are causing displacement camps in Hatay and Adıyaman to experience increases in flies and biting insects, indicating a need for mosquito nets to prevent the risk of epidemics.[64] The displacement camp in Kahramanmaras reports a rise in drug usage among displaced persons, emphasizing the requirement for mental health support and intervention.[65] Ensuring necessary sanitation in displacement camps is an ongoing effort, as areas without suitable waste management facilities are present.[66]

  • Development: The EU committed seven billion euros to reconstruction efforts in Turkey.[67] The UNDP provided Iskur with dormitory-style containers to replace employees’ lost offices and homes; the donation allows a continuation of the agency’s activities to provide employment services to the affected individuals.[68] The UNDP has also launched a $1.9 million earthquake response program with Britain, which commits to providing vocational training courses to earthquake survivors.[69] UNICEF will support government plans to guarantee continued childhood education in affected areas by providing educational materials and constructing tents and prefabricated classrooms.[70]

Predictive Analysis:

  • Who: Turkish citizens will almost certainly face continuous hardship as they attempt to recover from the major earthquakes, subsequent aftershocks, and tremors, very likely requiring additional resources from AFAD and other humanitarian organizations. Erdoğan will very likely increase governmental presence within impacted areas to attempt to rebuild his reputation among citizens following a lack of votes in the southern region, likely increasing humanitarian efforts to boost approval. Turkish politicians will almost certainly call for an internal review of the building construction process, very likely to ensure compliance with the government's building regulations. The PKK will likely attempt to capitalize on the instability created following the February earthquakes and the recent presidential election, with a roughly even chance of planning large-scale attacks in Turkey, posing additional threats to citizens’ health and infrastructure. Increased PKK-led attacks will very likely intensify Turkey’s current internal displacement, almost certainly stretching resources in other provinces less affected by seismic activity.

  • What: Turkey’s location in the North and East Anatolian fault zones almost certainly predisposes the country’s susceptibility to further earthquakes, with a roughly even chance of causing mass disaster across the region. Continued earthquakes and aftershocks will very likely challenge recovery efforts, likely increasing threats of injury and fatalities among citizens. Changes in weather patterns as disaster-recovery efforts continue will very likely introduce new challenges to humanitarian organizations, almost certainly resulting in new health threats that require extra resources. The unpredictability of long-term earthquake consequences will likely create an opportunity for misleading media posts to hinder recovery efforts, very likely causing individuals and relief organizations to misdirect aid or victims' reunification efforts based on disinformation. The PKK will likely increase its presence in Turkey, with a roughly even chance of coordinating attacks across the country that pose significant risks and damage to life and critical infrastructure.

  • Why: Political instability will likely delay rebuilding efforts as the government focuses on the economy, very likely to settle concerns regarding the current cost of living crisis across the country. The inability to receive timely and accurate information in the earthquake’s aftermath likely hampered the identification of basic needs and delayed the rapid deployment of resources to the hardest-hit areas. Economic problems exacerbated by the earthquake’s destruction of businesses and homes will likely cause sluggish economic growth, very likely prolonging the recovery period.

  • When: The security threat caused by political instability congruent with potentially violent protest and retaliation by dissatisfied Turkish citizens will likely be ongoing and has a roughly even chance of escalating. The ongoing threat to citizens' health and well-being will almost certainly remain an immediate threat, very likely continuing for the foreseeable future as Turkish authorities and humanitarian organizations attempt to rebuild housing and critical infrastructure. Health threats have a roughly even chance of deteriorating if Turkey is subjected to further high-magnitude earthquakes, very likely prolonging the disaster-response timeframe. Destabilization threats from the PKK will likely persist and are likely to accelerate after Erdoğan’s re-election to disrupt confidence in his government.

  • How: Repeated, intense earthquakes will almost certainly exacerbate the humanitarian crisis by hindering the delivery of essential resources, very likely prolonging recovery and rebuilding of critical infrastructure. Disaster preparedness will unlikely be an administrative priority, very likely increasing citizens’ distrust in government. Growing distrust will likely further destabilize the government, likely leading to increased discontent over unmet needs and the potential for social unrest. Terrorist organizations will likely continue exploiting social and political challenges to widen their influence in the region, taking advantage of displacement to provide shelter and negative sentiments of survivors toward the governments’ response.

Given Turkey’s predisposition to seismic incidents, it is very likely that the country will experience significant earthquakes in the future with severe destructive consequences. The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) recommends the Turkish government collaborates with builders and other professionals in Turkey's construction industry to enforce a strict adherence to building codes to increase earthquake resilience. To prevent future delays in crisis response, CTG recommends that AFAD re-evaluates its operational strategies to improve resource allocation and response time. Turkey should prioritize the reconstruction of hospitals and other health infrastructure to prevent long-term health consequences and mitigate citizens’ inaccessibility to critical care. CTG also recommends that Turkish authorities investigate and take adequate measures to curb the spread of disinformation surrounding the February earthquakes to prevent social media misuse during future large-scale catastrophic events.

CTG recommends the Turkish government’s collaboration with social media companies to distribute media literacy campaigns to mitigate misinformation’s impact during future events and crises. CTG recommends the Turkish government refrain from blocking citizens’ access to social media sites in the event of future crises to mitigate disruption in relief efforts. Instead, the government should allocate resources to streamline communications across all platforms to counter disinformation in real time. Turkish citizens should become familiar with the key signs of misleading news and information and practice fact-checking when using the internet and viewing other forms of media to prevent the influence of potentially harmful actions or opinions. To protect citizens from further security threats, CTG recommends the Turkish government and MIT increase their monitoring of PKK and its known and suspected members’ movements and activities. CTG recommends social media companies enhance early detection algorithms to detect widespread disinformation on crises and cross-reference it against news reporting to flag misleading content. Social media companies should decrease financial incentives tied to verified accounts to discourage the creation of disinformation.

CTG works to detect, deter, and defeat terrorism and will continue to monitor this situation for future developments. CTG’s Worldwide Analysis of Threats, Crimes, and Hazards (W.A.T.C.H) Officers will monitor Turkey for future earthquakes and aftershocks. In collaboration with EMH2, EUCOM, CTSC, and Behavior and Leadership, CTG will analyze new information on developments for the political situation, disinformation regarding the events, and geopolitical impacts of further hazards. Our teams will remain on high alert, providing information via Flash Alerts or Imminent Warning Reports.


[3] Why was the Turkey-Syria earthquake so deadly?,, February 2023,

[5] Earthquake Damage in Türkiye Estimated to Exceed $34 billion: World Bank Disaster Assessment Report, World Bank, February 2023,

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid

[9] “Erdogan again? Amid rubble of Turkey's quake, voters demand to be heard”, Reuters, May 2023,

[10] How Turkey’s Erdoğan uses social media to cling onto power, Politico, May 2023,

[11] Why was the Turkey-Syria earthquake so deadly?,, February 2023,

[12] Disinformation adds dark note to pivotal Turkish election, France 24, May 2023,

[13] How Turkey’s Erdoğan uses social media to cling onto power, Politico, May 2023,

[14] “OECD Economic Surveys Türkiye: Executive Summary,” Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, February 2023,

[15] Earthquake diplomacy: Greek foreign minister visits Turkey, AP, February 2023,

[16] Greek Foreign Minister Visits Quake-Hit Turkey, Promises More Aid, EU Support, Voice of America, February 2023,

[17] Calm after quake: Greek PM says tension with Turkey easing, AP News, March 2023,

[18] Turkey says earthquake diplomacy could help mend Armenia ties, Reuters, February 2023,

[19] How Europe should manage relations with Turkey, Politico, May 2023,

[20] Ukraine, Russia Offer Help After Powerful Earthquake Strikes Turkey, Syria, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, February 2023,

[21] Turkey election results show Erdogan dominating in quake-hit region, Reuters, May 2023,

[22] Ibid

[23] Ibid

[24] Turkey orders arrests over collapsed buildings in earthquake, Reuters, February 2023,

[25] Turkey election results show Erdogan dominating in quake-hit region, The Jerusalem Post, May 2023,

[26] Ibid

[29] 'A crane, for God's sake': Inside the struggles of Turkey's earthquake response, Reuters, February 2023,

[30] Ibid

[31] Why Was Turkey’s Military MIA After the Earthquake?, Foreign Policy, February 2023,

[32] Ibid

[33] Ibid

[34] Ibid

[35] Ibid

[36] European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations: Türkiye, European Commission,

[38] Earthquake Damage in Türkiye Estimated to Exceed $34 billion: World Bank Disaster Assessment Report, The World Bank, February 2023,

[39] Ibid

[40] How Turkey's election is playing out in the earthquake zone, Deutsche Welle, May 2023,

[41] Ibid

[42] Recovering from earthquakes in Syria and Türkiye, UNICEF, May 2023,

[43] Turkey's Antakya is in ruins after the quake, erasing cultural and religious heritage, NPR, February 2023,

[44] Ibid

[45] Religion in ruins: Turkiye's oldest mosque and world's oldest church destroyed by earthquake, Euronews, February 2023,

[46] UN Women Brief on Earthquakes in Türkiye: Impacts and Priorities for Women and Girls, United Nations Women, March 2023,

[47] A crane, for God's sake': Inside the struggles of Turkey's earthquake response, Reuters, February 2023,

[48] In polarized Turkey, political feeling steers earthquake donations, Reuters, February 2023,

[49] A crane, for God's sake': Inside the struggles of Turkey's earthquake response, Reuters, February 2023,

[51] Anger over Turkey's temporary Twitter block during quake rescue, Reuters, February 2023,

[52] Turkey-Earthquake: Emergency Situation Report (10.05.2023), Relief Web, May 2023,

[53] Turkey earthquake: 113 arrest warrants connected to building construction, BBC, February 2023,

[54] Erdogan faces crescendo of criticism over quake response, Reuters, February 2023,

[55] February 6, 2023 Türkiye Earthquakes: Report on Geoscience and Engineering Impacts, Geotechnical Extreme Event Reconnaissance Association, May 2023,

[56] Ibid

[57] Ibid

[58] Türkiye, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, March 2023,

[59] Turkey earthquake: 113 arrest warrants connected to building construction, BBC News, February 2023,

[60] Towards Resilient Housing in Turkey – a Virtual Knowledge Exchange with Japan Housing Finance Agency on Housing Upgrading and Retrofitting for Seismic and Flood Resilience, The World Bank, December 2021,

[61] Videos show Turkey's Erdogan boasted letting builders avoid earthquake codes, NPR, February 2023,

[62] Türkiye Earthquake Response: Humanitarian Action for Children, Relief Web, February 2023,

[63] “An Emerging Health Crisis in Turkey and Syria after the Earthquake Disaster on 6 February 2023: Risk Factors, Prevention and Management of Infectious Diseases”, Healthcare, 2023,

[65] Turkey-Earthquake: Emergency Situation Report (10.05.2023), Relief Web, May 2023,

[66] Ibid

[67] EU-led donors to provide 7 bln euros to help rebuild Turkey after earthquake, Reuters, March 2023,

[68] 100 Days After the Earthquakes: UNDP’s Early Recovery Initiatives in Türkiye, United Nations Development Programme Türkiye, May 2023,

[69] Ibid

[70] Syria and Türkiye: 5 ways UNICEF is supporting children after the earthquakes, UNICEF, February 2023,



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