February 7, 2023
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Earthquake hits Middle East, no thoughts and prayers

More than 400 people died in a 7.3 magnitude earthquake that hit Iran and Iraq on Nov. 12. More than 7,000 people have been injured. Eight smaller earthquakes and tremors hit the region the next day, not giving victims much room to breathe.

Although it did make the front page of the New York Times online edition, and CNN covered the earthquake as the “deadliest of 2017,” there has been no massive outcry of support for the earthquake’s victims on social media by politicians or dominant public figures.

The silence to what could essentially be the deadliest earthquake of 2017 speaks volumes about how we have either become indifferent to tragedy — which I don’t think is the case here — or merely another example of what natural disasters society should care about are cherry-picked based on whose lives are valued more than others.

As soon as the earthquake in Mexico happened in September, there were significant waves of support for the victims of the quake both in collective mourning and in financial and material means intended to help.

As of yet, there has been no semblance of grief for the lost lives. The only #PrayForIran or #PrayforIraq hashtags I’ve seen have been from friends who are from the respective countries and have been affected by the earthquakes themselves.

In the last years, anything that happens in the Middle East is only hard-hitting news if it involved a terror attack and the loss of white lives.

It is not as if people are not aware the earthquake happened; it is more that people simply do not care that it happened at all. It is as if, because it happened on the other side of the globe, in predominantly Muslim countries, it is irrelevant, another headline that may or may not have popped up on our phone, a lost hashtag. It is pure indifference to the loss of Muslim lives.

The fact that the earthquake happened in a predominantly Kurdish area might also have to do with the fact that there is a lack of outrage. Kurds are at the fringes of Muslim life and culture, and when a minority within a minority suffers, who would listen?

Then again, if the West did not mind taking Muslim lives themselves, it should not come as a surprise that there is no mourning of victims in the face of a natural disaster.

Isabella Grullón Paz can be reached at igrullon@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @isagp23