Earthquake Mission in Türkiye: A massive earthquake struck Türkiye and Syria on February 6, leaving tens of thousands dead and millions homeless. Milwaukee Independent was invited by a team of American doctors and clergy to document conditions in the hardest hit parts of Türkiye a month later, embedded with the Turkish Red Crescent, Türk Kizilay. This special series offers a snapshot of the situation in Adiyaman and Antakya in images, with stories from first responders and survivors of the unfolding natural disaster.

Istanbul is a place where antiquity and modernity intersect. With a history spanning over 2,500 years, Istanbul has been a center of commerce, culture, and politics for multiple empires, including the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman. In early March, Milwaukee Independent was able to spend a short time exploring Türkiye’s largest city, before embedding with Türk Kizilay, the Turkish Red Crescent, on an assignment to document the earthquake aftermath.

History is visible in Istanbul’s architecture, from the ancient Roman walls to the Ottoman mosques and palaces. It has been a hub of trade because of its strategic location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, making it the perfect port for merchants.

Istanbul has always been a melting pot of cultures and civilizations, with travelers from all over the world passing through the city, contributing to its rich cultural heritage. The city has also been the site of major historical events, including the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453.

The conquest of Constantinople marked signaled the end of the Byzantine Empire and the beginning of the Ottoman Empire. The impact of that event can be seen in the city today, with many Ottoman monuments and landmarks still standing.

Istanbul is also the home of Hagia Sophia, one of the most iconic and historically significant buildings in the world. Originally built as a Christian cathedral in the 6th century, it has since served as a mosque and a museum. It was recently converted back to a place of worship.

As one of the most important architectural and artistic achievements of the Byzantine Empire, Hagia Sophia’s massive dome, intricate mosaics, and impressive architecture all attest to the wealth and power of the Byzantine Empire at its peak.

The construction of Hagia Sophia began in the year 532 AD under the orders of Emperor Justinian I, who sought to build a grand cathedral that would rival the great churches of Rome. It was the largest church in the world for almost a thousand years.

After the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople in 1453, the building was converted into a mosque and underwent several renovations to accommodate Islamic worship. The Ottomans added minarets and Islamic calligraphy to the building, which transformed it into a symbol of Islamic power and identity.

In 1935, Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum by the newly formed Republic of Türkiye, with the aim of preserving its cultural and historical significance. In July 2020, Hagia Sophia was converted back into a mosque by the Turkish government.

Throughout its history, Istanbul has faced numerous challenges, including devastating fires, earthquakes, and wars. Despite these problems, Istanbul remained resilient and has continued to grow and evolve. As a result, the city has undergone numerous transformations over the years, with new neighborhoods, buildings, and infrastructure being built alongside ancient landmarks and historical sites.

Istanbul remains a bustling metropolis with a vibrant culture and economy, attracting millions of visitors each year. The city’s history stands as an important part of its identity and character, serving as a reminder of its enduring legacy.

A massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck parts of Türkiye and Syria on February 6. The Milwaukee public is encouraged to make donations to Türk Kizilay, the Turkish Red Crescent, in support of their vital crisis relief work.

Lee Matz

Lee Matz