Photo Courtesy of Michelle Melo


Mason stands in solidarity with its Syrian and Turkish students.


On Feb. 6, 2023, a vigil was held for the earthquake in Syria and Turkey by Mason University Life. This vigil was held in support of the impacted students and in remembrance of those whose lives were lost. According to the Associated Press, this earthquake was the “deadliest disaster in modern history” and has taken the lives of over 38,000 people in Syria and Turkey. At this vigil, students and faculty from both Mason and beyond gathered as one group in solidarity, demonstrating and speaking to the importance of the event.

Rose Pascarell, Vice President for University Life, gave a speech at the vigil where they affirmed the Mason community’s support for the Syrian and Turkish students and acknowledgment of the tragedy. Pascarell spoke on behalf of the President and the Provost to let the audience know that this is our community. “And it’s just so clear to me that in these moments we rely on our beloved community for support, for listening, to cry with, to grieve with, but we also rely on our community to give us courage and determination.” 

The support at the vigil was not only from the Mason community but also students at different universities. Senior Nuran Cicek is a Turkish student from Virginia Commonwealth University who came to Mason for the vigil and is traveling to provide incentives for donations to other universities. Her project provides art from Turkish students to anyone who donates a minimum of $10 to the Turkish Student Association GoFundMe or her organization. 

The funding will go to non-government organizations providing onsite aid. “We are in contact with VTech TSA as well as Rutgers, Loyola and some colleges in Canada.” Nuran Said. “100% of the profit goes to relief funding … any donation they give to us will go to the Turkish AHBAP organization and the Turkish AKUT Search & Rescue Association. Those are non-government organizations onsite right now helping people with shelter, food, and medical aid.”

The impact of this earthquake has had an impact on campus. It brought students from different universities to Mason and it commanded the attention of the Mason executive team. There is one student who is looking to use this visibility to do more.

Junior Berke Kizilcan is a Turkish student who spoke at the vigil and is also the President of the Brazilian Student Association. Kizilcan has helped raise over $400 in donations for relief and has created a flier which is in the Johnson Center to promote awareness. 

Kizilcan spoke about why he believes action is needed and what he hopes to see from Mason students. “I think as humans we just can’t stand and watch, we need actions… whenever help is needed I am just ready to be the volunteer, the first person whoever, it actually doesn’t matter because if we are all working for the same purpose, we can make it happen,” said Kizilcan.

“This is a human problem… My summon to all the people of George Mason is to help us in any way, this can be in donation, prayer-wise, collecting items. I just need to make sure we get enough help and we need to feel the people of George Mason behind us if we want to get this thing done.”

The vigil was a time for remembrance and a  place for support, but students are now trying to take action to provide help and relief. Students like Kizilcan have called upon everyone to help however they can.