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Azerbaijanis killed in Turkey quake ‘could have survived if border was open’

17 February 2023
Four Azerbaijani students who were killed in the earthquake in Turkey. Image via Azertag.

An Azerbaijani studying in Turkey has claimed that four other students who died in the Turkey–Syria earthquake would have been at home in Azerbaijan when the quake struck, had the country’s land borders not still been closed ‘due to COVID-19’.

In a post on Facebook on Wednesday, Ibrahim Ibrahimov, a student at the Malatya Inonu University, blamed both the ongoing border closure and the ‘outragous’ prices of the country’s national carrier for their deaths.

On 14 February, the bodies of Nazarzade Gunduz, Guliyev Samir, Valiyev Shahin,  and Ismayilli Humam, who were all studying in Malatya, were pulled from under the rubble.

‘It was already a semester break at the university’, Ibrahimov said. ‘Three weeks ago, two friends and I returned to Baku for vacation. Normally, we all returned to Azerbaijan during the winter holidays. However, the closure of land borders and the outrageous prices of [Azerbaijan Airlines] prevented those children from coming to their native country on vacation.’

‘All those students were the hope of a family. But those hopes are gone. We have no hope anymore.’

‘We had wonderful memories over four years. But life gave us these things. Sleep in the light, friends’, Ibrahimov said.

Azerbaijan closed its borders in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and has since failed to reopen them while continuing to cite the pandemic.


Ibrahimov’s post led to renewed anger at the Azerbaijani Government’s insistence on keeping the borders closed.

Giyas Ibrahim, an Azerbaijani political activist and former political prisoner, said there was ‘no logical explanation for the closure of the land borders, only that the government enjoys using its power.’

Bahruz Samadov, a political scientist and peace activist, also criticised the government’s continued closure of the border.

‘Azerbaijan is the only country in the world with a closed land border’, he said. Adding that the Azerbaijani authorities had now ‘closed the borders of Karabakh Armenians as well’, referring to the 2-month blockade of the Lachin Corridor.

On 6 February, a 7.7-magnitude earthquake followed 9 hours later by a 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck southeastern Turkey and northern Syria, leaving thousands dead.

So far, the number of Azerbaijani citizens confirmed dead in the earthquakes in Turkey has reached 10.

The remains of the four students were collected by their relatives from the Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku on 16 February and later buried.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that since 6 February, 513 Azerbaijani citizens and their close family members from other countries had been evacuated from the earthquake area to Azerbaijan.

Read in Georgian on On.ge.
Read in Russian on SOVA.News.