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From Bella Hadid to Islam Makhachev: Celebrities lead calls for earthquake relief

Many athletes and entertainers are using their platforms to drive donations with some directly participating in aid efforts
Islam Makhachev called on UFC fans to not forget about 'Syria and Turkey' after his successful title defence on Sunday (AAP Image/AP)
Islam Makhachev called on UFC fans to not forget about 'Syria and Turkey' after his successful title defence on Sunday (AAP Image/AP)

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria on 6 February, a number of high-profile figures have used their platforms to call for donations to help those affected.

In one notable instance, the Dagestani-Russian UFC champion Islam Makhachev called for help for the affected countries after his lightweight championship defence against featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski.

"Please don't forget about Syria and Turkey," he said after his win by unanimous decision in Perth, Australia, on Sunday.

In making the call, he joined a diverse group of influencers, athletes, and entertainers who are trying to keep the disaster in the public consciousness as rescue workers and authorities continue to deal with the humanitarian crisis.

The earthquakes in southern Turkey caused widespread destruction, flattening entire neighbourhoods and districts, including in northern Syria, and claimed the lives of over 40,000 people. 

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While survivors continue to be pulled from under the debris, hopes that more lives will be saved are fading fast.

Thousands of volunteers, including specialist rescue teams from around the world, have flocked to the affected areas to offer their help. 

The estimated cost of the disaster in Turkey is expected to exceed $84 billion as authorities are tasked with repairing damage and rehousing those who have been displaced.

Here Middle East Eye looks at just some of the celebrities who have joined the calls for help:

Maher Zain

Swedish-Lebanese singer Maher Zain has travelled to Kahramanmaras province in Turkey to help with aid distribution.

The artist who has more than 6.4 million followers on Instagram and 1.7 million followers on Twitter has posted regular video updates from the region, calling upon his fans to donate what they can to help.

"I am trying to convey the destruction here, but it is impossible for me to show it to the camera,” he said in one social media post. 

"It’s a devastating fact, everyone has seen it, but seeing it firsthand on the ground is so much different. Like I’m trying on my social media to get a perspective that can translate what we are seeing here, but it’s very hard."

Bella Hadid 

With over 57.4 million followers, supermodel Bella Hadid has also been using her platform to spread awareness about the devastating earthquakes. 

The 26-year-old Palestinian-American model has posted regular updates and linked her followers to donation drop-off locations near them.

In the caption to one of her posts, she wrote: "My heart is so heavy for these incredible countries (and) people; I am finding more I can do in the near future. But for now, I will leave you with some trusted organisations. I love you."

Hadid shared her call for donations on her platform of more than 57 million people
Hadid shared her call for donations on her platform with more than 57 million people (AFP)

Hadid highlighted her support for the Karam Foundation and Turkish Philanthropy Funds, as well as Unicef, the Syria Civil Defence/White Helmets, the Syrian-American Medical Association, the International Medical Association, and UNHCR.

The model is well-known for her advocacy for the Middle East and the Palestinian cause

Mesut Ozil 

German-Turkish football star Mesut Ozil joined a team of volunteers from Basaksehir FC in Turkey packaging aid to send to the survivors of the earthquake.

The former Real Madrid attacker took to Twitter to share a hopeful message: "Together we can achieve anything in difficult times." 

Others in the global football community have sent out messages of support to the victims of the earthquake disaster.

Translation: Together, we can achieve anything in difficult times

World Cup winner Lionel Messi, England captain Harry Kane, and Cristiano Ronaldo, amongst others, also took to social media to express their sympathy for the victims, with some donating the proceeds of auctioned football shirts to a relief fund.

The football world also paid tribute to Turkish goalkeeper Eyup Turkaslan who lost his life in the earthquake.

Engin Altan Duzyatan

Turkish actor Engin Altan Duzyatan has been using his global fanbase to draw attention to the plight of earthquake victims.

The Dirilis: Ertugrul star shared a "how to donate' infographic on Instagram with a plea for assistance to his 5.3 million followers. 

"To followers, fans, and friends of Turkiye, living abroad. Turkiye is going through difficult times… There are no words to explain the devastation.”

Duzyatan stars in one of the world's most popular Turkish dramas, 'Ertugrul' (TRT)

"It's time, I know it's time to stand up,” he said in another post. "Our eyes, ears, and hearts are (with those) under the rubble. All of humanity across the world is one for our earthquake zones."

Duzyatan also announced that he was directly participating in the relief efforts: “The conditions on the field are difficult, the experiences are very heavy, our losses are very high. We are waiting for miracles at every moment, we will not lose our hope.”

Burak 'Czn Burak' Ozdemir

A normally jovial figure, Turkish chef Burak "Czn Burak" Ozdemir has shared numerous clips in Turkish calling on his 45 million Instagram fans to help the relief efforts in any way they can.

Ozdemir comes from Hatay province, one of the areas most affected by the 6 February earthquake, and is directly participating in food distribution there.

Photos he shared on Instagram show him at food kitchens with survivors and rescue workers.

“We are doing our best in a coordinated manner with my friends. Thanks to everyone who contributed according to the need,” the chef said on Instagram on Sunday.

Ozdemir's restaurants specialise in cuisine from Hatay and he has branches of his CZN Burak restaurant across Istanbul, the UAE, and Tajikistan.

Islam Makhachev 

Islam Makhachev, a UFC fighter, and the current lightweight champion, made a heartfelt plea for help on Sunday after his recent headliner title defence against Alexander Volkanovski. 

In the post-fight interview, Makhachev took the opportunity to express his solidarity with the victims of the earthquakes.

Makhachev is the currently ranked the second best pound for pound UFC fighter (AFP)
Makhachev is currently ranked as the second best pound-for-pound UFC fighter (AFP)

"Please guys, don't forget about Turkey and Syria. We are with you guys," the Dagestani fighter said.

The mixed martial artist has also called for donations on his Instagram page.

Hasan Piker (HasanAbi)

Turkish-American Twitch streamer Hasan Piker raised over $1m in a fundraiser for the victims of the earthquake.

Piker, one of Twitch's most popular content creators, had over 1.5 million views during a nine-hour live broadcast that covered the earthquakes.

The former journalist who was born in New Jersey to a Turkish family and grew up in Turkey covers news and politics on the streaming platform.

He revealed during his livestream that he had experienced the 1999 earthquake in Istanbul as a child.

“I know how fucking devastating that shit is. I wanted to raise funds for it,” Piker said. He donated $25,000 himself towards the aid efforts.

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