- The earthquake that has occurred in the two countries has claimed nearly 42000 lives
- Turkish singer Haluk Levent publicly called on MASAK, the country’s financial authority, to allow crypto donations to help the country with relief efforts
- Crypto donations to Turkey have totalled over $4.5 million.
On February 6, 2023, the Kahramanmaras earthquake struck parts of Turkey and Syria. To date, the earthquake has claimed nearly 42000 lives. Most of these casualties are in southern Turkey, which reported at least 36817 people dead, while parts of northern Syria report 5800 deaths. In a time of turmoil, cryptocurrency has proven to be an unlikely hero for the people of Turkey. Crypto donations to the country have totalled over $4.5 million.
Turkey is not a crypto fan
Turkish authorities have always been hostile to cryptocurrencies. Article 32 of Turkey’s Central Bank Regulation prohibits direct or indirect payments with cryptocurrencies. In October 2022, Turkey seized $40 million worth of cryptocurrencies as part of a criminal investigation. According to authorities, 46 suspects were arrested in connection with an illegal betting ring.
Turning the tide of crypto
Turkish singer Haluk Levent publicly called on MASAK, the country’s financial authority, to allow crypto donations to help the country with relief efforts following the massive earthquake. The country is earthquake-prone, having already been hit by two other earthquakes in October 2020 and November 2022 before the current one. To put it in perspective, the current earthquake is the ninth that Turkey has experienced in the last ten years.
Fortunately for Turkey, MASAK heeded the calls of Levent and others and quickly approved three cryptocurrency wallets to receive donations for Turkish relief efforts. These wallets belong to Levent. Allowing Levent to accept donations for a week, and the response was overwhelming. Levent posts the crypto wallets’ contributions and expenses on his Twitter account.
Not the first time crypto has helped Turkey
In October 2020, a powerful earthquake struck the western province of Izmir in Turkey, causing many casualties and leaving many people homeless. Various relief efforts were launched to help the earthquake victims after the disaster. Istanbul-based blockchain and cryptocurrency company BtcTurk launched one of the notable relief campaigns. BtcTurk launched a fundraising campaign to collect funds from the public in the form of cryptocurrency to support the earthquake victims.
The company used its platform to accept donations in Bitcoin, Ethereum, XRP, Litecoin and Tether, which were then converted into Turkish lira and donated to the Turkish Red Crescent, a humanitarian organization, to support relief efforts in the affected areas. This campaign was a success, and BtcTurk raised significant sums in cryptocurrency. The use of cryptocurrencies for charity is becoming increasingly popular as they provide a transparent and efficient way to transfer funds and allow individuals to donate without a traditional banking system.
Crypto comes together
Ripple (XRP) has committed to donating $1 million to earthquake relief efforts in Turkey and Syria. The $1 million will be provided in the form of a $250,000 donation and a 2:1 match of public donations up to a value of $750,000.
In addition, the Tezos Foundation has also donated 50000 Tezos (XTZ) (approximately US$55,000) for earthquake relief.
Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin donated 99 Ether ( ETH ) (about US$165 000) to Ahbap Yardim, an NGO that supports earthquake victims. Etherscan recorded the transaction, which shows the movement of funds from Buterin’s address Vitalik.eth.
Crypto donations are, all in all, small compared to other donation channels. In comparison, the UK Disaster Emergency Committee has raised over 60 million pounds sterling. And many other collections exist around the world. Cryptocurrency’s integration into the mainstream must continue. There is something to consider for the African continent and its leadership here. MASAK in Turkey did an about-face and allowed donations to Levent’s wallets in a time of need. While This may not mean an immediate turnaround for Turkey it is useful for authorities to see the good in crypto.