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Turkey marks Eid al-Fitr holiday amid grief, longing for earthquake victims

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The three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday began on Friday for Muslims around the world with the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, but the joy that comes with Eid has been replaced this year with grief for more than 50,000 people lost in recent earthquakes in Turkey.

Turkey is still trying to recover from the trauma caused by the two powerful earthquakes, a magnitude 7.8 and a magnitude 7.6, which hit the country’s south and southeast on Feb. 6, claiming at least 50,500 lives. The temblor caused huge devastation across more than a dozen provinces as well as parts of Syria.

Entire families perished in the thousands of buildings that were flattened in the first quake, which struck when people were still sleeping and had no chance to flee their homes.

Relatives and remaining family members of the earthquake victims flocked to cemeteries in the early hours of the Eid to say prayers and be with their loved ones. They laid flowers and gifts around the graves as well as toys for the child victims of the earthquakes.

Most of the victims were hastily buried in mass graves without a funeral ceremony, which led to further suffering and pain for their loved ones.

This year’s Eid was also different for the survivors of the earthquakes since they no longer have homes where they can welcome their guests, set up big tables and enjoy the holiday, among the traditions of Eid. Most of them live in tents or container housing in the earthquake zone and say have still difficulty meeting their basic needs for shelter, water and food.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which was harshly criticized for its poor response to the tragedy, and pro-government media outlets present a rosy picture about the difficulties the victims have been experiencing for more than two months.

Meanwhile, main opposition leader and presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who was in Adıyaman on Friday, one of the hardest-hit provinces, paid a visit to a cemetery in the city to share the pain of the people there and read prayers.

As the crowd was praying, a man in the crowd began shouting, saying why is Kılıçdaroğlu reading the Surah al-Fatiha, the first surah of the Quran, when he does not even know how to read it.

Many described the incident as an attack on Kılıçdaroğlu’s Alevi identity.

Turkey is a majority Sunni country, with some in the conservative and religious population viewing Alevis as apostates. Alevis follow a heterodox Islamic tradition that separates them from Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Some view it as a cultural identity as much as a religious faith.

Kılıçdaroğlu said in a tweet that he understands the pain and suffering of the people there and that he was not offended by the incident, which gained him appreciation for his tolerance.

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