Turkey earthquake: A Canadian family says embassy let them down after sister killed

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Turkey earthquake: Nova Scotia brothers criticize response from Canadian embassy in Ankara
WATCH: Turkey earthquake — Nova Scotia brothers criticize response from Canadian embassy in Ankara – Feb 22, 2023

The family of a Halifax woman who was killed in the devastating earthquakes in Turkey earlier this month says they had no help from the Canadian embassy in the capital of Ankara during their desperate attempts to find her.

Saad and Muthana Zora flew to the city of Antakya to search for their missing sister, Samar Zora, after the Feb. 6 magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck the southern Turkish city near Syria’s border.

Her body was recovered on Feb. 14.

“The search was extremely stressful and now we’re just figuring out how to navigate our grieving,” Saad Zora said in an interview with Global News.

The Zoras said their ordeal was worsened by what they describe as a lack of action from the government, as the brothers navigated red tape while making arrangements to fly to the quake-hit country to search for their sister.

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“They could have ripped off the band-aid quicker and just said, ‘We cannot help,’ you know, because essentially that’s what happened,” said Saad, speaking from Kuwait.

Samar Zora was conducting her PhD research in Turkey when massive earthquakes took place earlier this month. Photo provided

Samar, a Canadian citizen, was doing her PhD in anthropology from Duke University in the U.S.

She was in Turkey to conduct her research.

Saad said he had provided all his sister’s information, including her address in Antakya, to Global Affairs Canada as well as the Canadian embassy in Ankara.

The lack of urgency in assistance, the constant back and forth and “redirection” only added to their stress, he said.

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Muthana said the Canadian embassy referred him to the website and warned that it was too dangerous to travel to Turkey.

The two brothers went anyway.

Muthana took a flight from Kuwait City, while Saad flew from Halifax.

On their own, they organized an excavation that uncovered their sister’s body buried under the rubble of a collapsed building.

The Zoras now say they hope other Canadians never experience their ordeal.

“In my point of view, they haven’t done nothing – period,” said Muthana. “I mean, all that text messages and the back and forth … with the emails, that’s just a process. But nothing happened.

“I hope no Canadian will ever go through this.”

The Zora brothers flew to Turkey to try to find their sister, Samar, after the Feb. 6 earthquakes. Photo courtesy: Summer Steenberg

In response to Global News questions about the matter, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada said officials’ thoughts are with the family and friends of Samar Zora.

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“Canadian consular officials in Ankara, (Turkey), were in contact with local authorities to gather additional information and provided consular assistance to the family as required. For privacy reasons we are not able to release any further details,” a spokesperson said.

“Global Affairs Canada is committed to providing effective and efficient consular service to Canadians around the world. Each consular case is unique and the assistance we can provide will vary depending on circumstances.”

The government of Canada’s website says international consular services include providing advice and guidance if a person is missing, but each case is different and that events like a natural disaster “may mean we are less able to help you.”

The Zoras, who were born in Kuwait, said they got more help from the Kuwaiti embassy, even though they are not citizens of the Gulf country.

“They made all the arrangements, they arranged our flights, they took care of all the calls,” said Saad.

“It’s just like a world of a difference here.”

Samar’s body was transported last Friday to Kuwait, where their parents reside.

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The family is now raising money for others directly impacted by the earthquakes and to give back to the people in the hard-hit Hatay province.

As of Thursday afternoon, a GoFundMe page had raised more than US$3,500.

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