A pair of earthquakes measuring 7.8 and 7.5, respectively, on the Richter scale killed more than 5,000 people in southeast Turkey and northern Syria on February 6 and caused significant damage not only to residential and commercial structures but to the countries’ heritage sites.
Chief among them is the Gaziantep Castle, which sits atop a hill in southeastern Turkey and is considered one of the country’s best-preserved citadels. Dating to the second millennium BCE, when the Hittite Empire was in power, the stone edifice was originally built as a watchtower. The structure was built out by the Romans in the second and third centuries CE and further expanded under Byzantine rule in the fifth century. In 2022, it was made the site of the Gaziantep Defense and Heroism Panoramic Museum, hosting art and relics connected to the Turkish War of Independence, which took place between 1919 and 1923. Photographs show a number of the castle’s twelve towers to have been destroyed, along with a nearby retaining wall. The castle’s surrounding iron railings are said to be scattered about.
Also heavily damaged in the temblors was the neighboring Şirvani Mosque. The dome and eastern wall of the seventeenth-century structure are said to have partially collapsed. In the southern Turkish city of Iskenderun, the Cathedral of the Annunciation was almost completely destroyed. Built between 1858–71, the Catholic church was reconstructed in 1901 following a blaze. In Malatya, the Yeni Camii (New Mosque), dating to the nineteenth century, was totaled. UNESCO additionally reported that Diyarbakır Fortress, built by the Romans in 297 CE and subsequently much expanded, was partly destroyed. The fortress is a World Heritage Site. UNESCO noted that it is looking into reports that three other World Heritage Sites were ruined.
In Syria, the minaret of Kobani’s Grand Mosque was revealed by the North Press Agency to have been harmed. In a statement partially reprinted in Al Jazeera, Syria’s Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums confirmed that “parts of the Ottoman mill inside the citadel” of Aleppo collapsed, while “sections of the northeastern defensive walls have cracked and fallen.” As well, portions of the dome of the minaret of the Ayyubid mosque inside the citadel crumbled, and the entrance to the fort, “including the entrance to the Mamluk tower,” sustained damage. The Aleppo Citadel is one of the largest and oldest castles in the world.