Syrians affected by earthquake meet King Charles at Trafalgar Square

Monarch became visibly emotional while visiting the temporary community centre in the heart of London

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King Charles on Tuesday visited a pop-up support centre in London for Syrians who have been affected by the earthquake.

The king toured Syria’s House, a community tent that will be open until Friday in Trafalgar Square, and met five people who have lost loved ones in the tragedy.

Syrians can visit the house to pay their respects to lost relatives and organise vigils, which its founders hope will help raise awareness of the continuing humanitarian disaster in the country.

Hundreds of well-wishers had gathered around Trafalgar Square to witness King Charles's arrival.

Inside the centre, he greeted small groups of Syrians one by one and was offered traditional Syrian bitter coffee and dates.

Among those he met was Salah Al Asmar, a Syrian architect who works with the White Helmets civil defence group and has been in the UK for two years.

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He lost his parents, brother, sister-in-law and nephew in the earthquake in Antakya, Turkey, after they were stuck under the rubble for seven days.

“I am very thankful to His Majesty for his support,” Mr Al Asmar said. “I hope the Syrian people appreciate him standing with us.

“We are thanking the king and the British people for supporting the Syrian people during this crisis.

“For seven days, my family were under the rubble. There was no rescue team. No one could support them in this moment. I haven’t been able to sleep for days.

“This is not like a normal emergency situation. We need proper support from the UK government and the UN.

“I think 52 convoys have reached Syria. It is basic aid and there have been no heavy vehicles to find people under the rubble.”

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Yazan Douedari, who was invited to the event through friends, said: “It was very nice to know that the king was here to support the Syrian people.

“People need to shed light on the disaster. It is hard to compare disasters but it is one of the massive disasters, and it has been after 13 years of conflict.

“The king was showing his support and was saying, ‘I can’t imagine how hard it has been for you.' He said, ‘It is terrible.' I saw that he was emotionally affected.

“It means a lot that he came here and is here to support the Syrian people, the victims and their families.

“It means a lot to the Syrian people and community to feel supported by the king.”

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King Charles met Bafta-winning Syrian filmmaker Waad Al Kateab, who produced and narrated the 2019 documentary film For Sama and co-founded the campaign group Action for Sama.

He also met the group's co-founder, Hamza Al Kateab, the centre’s founder, Ayman Asfari, and teacher and activist Afraa Hashem.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who attended after granting approval for the tent to be in Trafalgar Square, said that King Charles's visit “speaks volumes” about him.

“It was heart-breaking,” Mr Khan said of the visit. “Some of the stories will never leave you.

“It is really important for those that were here to have the king showing solidarity and shining a spotlight on this important issue.”

King Charles shook hands with well-wishers, including children who had lined the streets, before he left Trafalgar Square.

The king and Queen Consort Camilla made a donation to the Disasters Emergency Committee’s “Turkey-Syria Earthquake Appeal” last week, which has so far raised £60 million ($73m).

The UK government matched £5m of public donations to the DEC’s appeal through its UK Aid Match scheme.

Updated: February 15, 2023, 8:24 AM