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4:17am Earthquake…When Safety Disappears in Seconds

Two days before the earthquake I was very sick, suffering from severe coughing, shortness of breath and a high fever. I was keen to take the medicine on time, but the doses were not enough because doctors usually do not prescribe strong medicines for pregnant women, so the improvement was slow.

The night of the earthquake, Monday, February 6 at 4:17 a.m: My husband is still awake, taking care of me and making sure that my temperature is stable. I was taking my first nap after a tiring night. I woke up quickly, my bed was shaking vigorously, the room was shaking and even the walls of the house were shaking, all these things I realized in a split second. I looked at my husband and made sure that he was carrying our baby, Hamouda.

I wrapped myself in the blanket and hurried to the door of the house, while I could hear the sound of the walls and the ground, and I was shouting in a trembling voice: “The house will fall on us.” I grabbed the house key and tried to open the door, but my first attempts failed. My husband took the key out of my hand quickly and opened the door. Believe me, I had no confidence that we would get out of the house alive, and I was sure at that moment that the house would fall on top of us.

Within a few seconds we were in the street, the ground swaying us, with the voices of the neighbors and their children and the eyes of everyone around us staring, terrified by the horror of the event.  

The ground calmed down for a few seconds, then it shook again. We did not return home immediately. We went to a park near the house, but we could not reach it, because all the people of the area had gathered there. We decided to park our car anywhere far from the buildings and waited until the ground calmed down.


We could not stay at home on Monday, February 6; After severe tremors that left us with terror and fear, we lost our confidence in our home, in which we lived in moments of peace and safety.

Syria Earthquake
Destruction caused by the earthquake. Photo Credit: Ahmed Akacha

During the day, we walked around the city to see the extent of the losses and destruction, and to make sure that we were still okay. At night, we parked our car on the side and tried to steal minutes of sleep to rest our tired bodies, but with the size of my big belly and my fear for my child, I decided the second night after the earthquake to sleep in one of the shelters.

That night was not comfortable at all. The number of people [at the shelter] was large, and we all lay on the ground close to each other. In addition to the great difficulty in entering the toilet, as there was no water, no tissues, no hygiene. I had an obsession with infection or disease, and thus it may affect my pregnancy and my baby that have not yet been born.

On the third day after the earthquake, I decided to leave Gaziantep and go to a place where I would not feel the aftershocks and would make me feel safe and reassured about my little family and my pregnancy. Our journey began to Ankara, and we spent more than twelve hours on the road. It was tiring hours for me and full of severe pain in my lower abdomen and back, and I expected that I would give birth when I arrive. But thank God, we arrived safely.

Away From the Tremors

I entered the hotel room at 4:30 in the morning and fell asleep immediately but woke up two and a half hours later to the voice of my older sister, who was living with my father, mother, and her four children in an area called Kerkhan (in the Turkish state of Hatay, one of the areas that was severely affected by the earthquake). My mind has been preoccupied since the moment of the earthquake. For their safety, we could not communicate well because the communications are in that area.

I was cut off immediately after the devastating earthquake. My thinking was confused, scattered, and divided between fear for myself, my pregnancy, my husband, my child, my family, and my brothers. We were all in the areas hit by the earthquake. I do not know how to describe my feelings after I lived through this great disaster, and I wished that it would be a nightmare from which I would wake up at any moment. But unfortunately, something did happen, and it struck our hearts like a thunderbolt. It stole from me my memories of Antakya and Karkhan and stole my friends whom I met in those areas.

The Search for An Alternative Hospital

During the period when the earthquake occurred, I had finished preparing for my newborn, including clothes, a bed and other equipment that accompanies the arrival of a new child into this life. I also agreed with my doctor on the date of the caesarean section, because I am in a situation that cannot wait for a natural birth to occur. Communicating with the doctor and building a relationship of trust with him is one of the priorities that any pregnant woman thinks of, but with this great event, the earthquake everything came to an end, and I entered a new phase of searching for a new doctor in the state to which I moved. This was one of the hardest things I have faced and the biggest challenge for me.

Since the beginning of my pregnancy, I have wanted to write about this experience; although it is my second pregnancy, it was not normal. Rather, all its stages were special and full of various feelings, and I am now at the beginning of the ninth month, and I have a date to meet my baby girl for whom I have chosen the name "Sofia" at any given moment. In fact, I wanted to tell you that I did not want to be the mother of a second child, and that I was surprised by the result of the home pregnancy test, so that I was sure that the result would be negative, but two “dark lines” appeared, and I had feelings of fear and terror at the idea of being responsible for two children. My son Hamouda is 4 and a half years old, and he’s a new baby. It’s really scary.

I would have liked to tell you about the many circumstances and difficulties that I experienced at every stage, but now that I have lived through the earthquake, I have forgotten them all. The disaster has taken hold of me in all its greatness and might. I wrote this text and I think I have a lot to write, but from the horror of the shock, it seems that the letters have become heavy and cumbersome.

I may give birth at any moment, I do not know, as I am now in my last month, and I hope to meet my daughter in health and safety.

Alaa with her daughter, Sofia
Alaa with her daughter, Sofia. Photo Credit: WND

Alaa is a team member at Women Now for Development, our CRF Partner in Syria. She was evacuated with the rest of the team based in Turkey. Now she is back home. There was a big celebration and hope for her team to see her delivering her baby safely. She named her daughter Sofia. 


Women for Women International has been working with Women Now for Development (WND) since 2020, helping Syrian women to rebuild their lives. After the deadly earthquake on February 6, our colleagues reported that thankfully, their team members were all accounted for and safe. Sadly, many lost family members as well as their homes, left to seek safe shelter amidst freezing weather. 

 We are working with WND to meet the immediate, critical needs of the team severely impacted by this disaster, so they can continue to serve women survivors of the war. 

Learn more about our earthquake response in Syria.