What Can Web3 Do for Turkey and Syria?

It’s difficult to frame the scale of the devastation and loss of human life that has taken place in southern Turkey and northern Syria in the last week. The numbers only do so much to convey the gravity of the disaster; on February 6, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck near the Turkish city of Gaziantep at 4:17 in the morning, instantly leveling buildings and killing thousands across dozens of municipalities. As people began to sift through the rubble to rescue family members in the bitter Anatolian winter air, a second quake hit, nearly as strong as the first, registering at 7.5 on the Richter scale. 

The combined quakes left nearly 40,000 people dead. Hundreds of thousands more are either homeless or injured, left to navigate immense trauma, a lack of basic resources, and sluggish and corrupt governmental institutions and figureheads that, by all credible accounts, have only made the situation worse.

But amidst the absolute calamity that has befallen Turkey and Syria are inspiring moments of the resolve and solidarity of the human spirit. Web3 has stepped up in a big way, with dozens of platforms, artists, and charities opening up wallet addresses and releasing open editions to raise awareness and get crucial funds to humanitarian groups in the region. In the process, they’ve raised millions of dollars in a show of the blockchain’s ability to help people in need and be a force for good in the world. 

Turkish heritage artists lead the charge

AI artist Refik Anadol has long been considered one of Turkey’s biggest artistic talents and Web3 proponents. In the aftermath of the earthquakes, Anadol took to Twitter to share a wallet address for those looking to donate to vetted organizations with a track record of providing relief. Anadol announced that any funds raised would be split equally between AHBAP, a Turkish charity foundation that provides disaster relief, and AFAD, the Turkish government’s Ministry of Interior Disaster and Emergency Management. The wallet has collected nearly 52 ETH ($82,000) so far. 

On February 7, Murat Pak (commonly known in Web3 circles as Pak) released an open edition NFT called Cause #1, which has raised just shy of 40 ETH ($63,000) for AHBAP. Pak has personally donated over 100 ETH ($166,000) to the organization. Fundraising efforts have been hugely successful alongside calls from others in the space (including Animoca Brands Chairman Yat Siu) to donate to these groups, with AHBAP’s wallet addresses containing $4.5 million in various crypto tokens at its peak.

Web3 platforms and figureheads pledge and donate millions

On February 6, Jack Butcher announced the open edition mint of Humanity Check, with proceeds going directly to Doctors Without Borders via The Giving Block. This philanthropic platform helps charities set up Web3 donation infrastructure. Humanity Check has raised over 82 ETH ($130,000) so far. 

Humanity Check

For on the ground crisis relief in Turkey and Syria.

All funds to Doctors without Borders via The Giving Block.https://t.co/lfouRILE6b pic.twitter.com/wQAlwXk4Bz

— @jackbutcher (@jackbutcher) February 6, 2023

Crypto exchanges have responded to the crisis in a big way, with Bitfinex partnering with stablecoin issuer Tether and Keet and Synonym to pledge five million Turkish lira ($265,000) toward relief efforts. On February 7, Web3 exchange giant Binance announced it would donate $100 to every BNB user it identified as living in the regions affected by the disaster. By using Proof of Address records completed before February 6, the exchange says it can identify users in 10 cities where the earthquake has had the most significant impact, with Kahramanmaraş, Diyabakır, Adana, Gaziantep, and Hatay being among the most notable and hard-hit. 

Binance founder Changpeng Zhao tweeted that the total donations reaching users in Turkey and Syria would amount to an estimated $5 million. The exchange has also launched a public donations address that accepts BTC, ETH, BNB, BUSD, and XRP tokens and has raised just over $73,000 for the fund.  

And the donations and pledges simply kept coming. Smart contracts platform Avalanche announced on February 7 that it had also donated one million dollars in AVAX tokens via The Avalanche Foundation, and crypto mogul and Tron blockchain and token founder Justin Sun likewise pledged one million dollars in TRX from the Huobi Global exchange.

Web3 is doing good in the world

While Web3 may have a bruised reputation from frequent scams and shady dealings that undermine its potential, the world of Defi, crypto, and NFTs can (and often do) make the world a better place. Utilizing the blockchain for humanitarian and social causes is nothing new. Platforms like The Giving Block and Endaoment have been helping organizations outside of Web3’s walls set up donation pages so that crypto enthusiasts can easily give directly to the charities they know and love. 

Web3’s response to this tragedy is cause for the appreciation of what blockchain-based communities can be when they’re at their best. Some have already expressed pride with how that community has responded to this crisis, with artist and former Mastercard Web3 Lead Satvik Sethi even saying that he’s never seen charity fundraising so direct and efficient as he has in the Web3 sphere. So evident was crypto’s potential to help ease people’s suffering in this disaster that beloved Turkish singer Haluk Levent — the founder and head of AHBAP — was able to gain approval from the generally tech-phobic Turkish government to circumvent the country’s ban on cryptocurrency for legal transactions and open up three wallet addresses for a week to help raise funds. 

Even leaving out the plethora of smaller-scale fundraising efforts that are still ongoing, the Web3 community has successfully raised over $12 million in humanitarian relief in the last week for hundreds of thousands of people who desperately need it. That’s not nothing, and every Web3 advocate and critic would do well to recognize that fact. Trying to predict the future of the blockchain has its merit, but like so many other things, the answer might be more obvious than it appears: Web3’s future is whatever we decide we want it to be. 

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