Photos: Emotional moments as UAE faithful come together to pray for earthquake victims in Turkey, Syria

Tears were shed as they remembered those who perished in the catastrophe while others fervently offered a prayer for those yet to be found


SM Ayaz Zakir

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Photos by Shihab
Photos by Shihab

Published: Fri 10 Feb 2023, 6:03 PM

Last updated: Fri 10 Feb 2023, 7:08 PM

Today's Friday prayers in the UAE are different. Some of the faithful wept, while others couldn't hide their anxiety.

Led by imams at every mosque in the country, residents offered absentee funeral prayers for the victims of the catastrophic earthquake in Turkey and Syria. As soon as the usual Juma ended, the imams stood again, folded their hands, and performed the prayer, with the congregation following every step.

Syrian expat Asim, who attended the prayers at the Yakub Masjid in Deira, couldn't help but remember how his heart palpitated when he learnt that some of his relatives were among those trapped under the rubble in Turkey.

"Thank God they were eventually rescued. However, a few of the people we know couldn't be found yet. There were also some who were confirmed dead. I offered today's prayers for them," Asim told Khaleej Times.

Arqam Mehmath, who came with Asim, was overwhelmed but he huge crowd of people who turned up for the prayers.

"We had already offered absentia prayers in our home for the last two days. However, it was just incredible to see thousands of residents praying all at once for Turkey and Syria," added Mehmath.

Four days after the disaster, hope that many more survivors will be found is running out. The death toll in both Turkey and Syria had already crossed 21,000 on Friday. The 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit the border region between the two countries, an area home to more than 13.5 million people. With morgues and cemeteries overwhelmed, bodies lay wrapped in blankets, rugs and tarps in the streets of some cities.

The absentee prayers were held in the UAE, following a directive issued by the President, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed.

Firas Abu Hamdan, a sales executive, said he didn't know about the special prayers when he came for Juma.

“I was about to leave, when the Imam started another prayer, so I asked the person next to me about what was happening. The moment he told me about the absentia prayer, I started to weep and joined the congregation,” said the Syrian national.

“I always thought of praying for the deceased, but I never got the chance. Finally, I got to pray for them with many others in the congregation,” Firas said.

Another Syrian national Bilal, a Sharjah resident, said it felt like the whole world came together for his countrymen and those hit by the tragedy in Turkey.

"May this situation never come for anyone. The absentia prayer touched our hearts, and I saw many people asking Allah for absolution for the departed soul in the devastation,” said Bilal.

“May Allah Accept the prayers of thousands of people who prayed for the two countries," he added.

Stories of rescues continued to provide hope that some people still trapped might be found alive. A crying newborn still connected by the umbilical cord to her deceased mother was rescued Monday in Syria. In Turkey's Kahramanmaras, rescuers pulled a 3-year-old boy from the rubble, and rescuers sent by the Israeli military saved a 2-year-old boy.

Global relief has been pouring into Turkey and Syria after Monday's disaster. The UAE has so far sent 22 aid planes, airlifting 640 tonnes of supplies for the victims in both countries. The country had also sent rescue teams and set up field hospitals.

While mobilising relief efforts, major humanitarian organisations have launched appeals for urgent donations. Here are some ways to donate.


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