811. Turkey & Syria Earthquake Appeal / What is happening in Iran? (Articles & Vocabulary)

An episode about two (unconnected) situations, 1) the very recent earthquake in Turkey & Syria which has left many people in urgent need of help, 2) the humanitarian crisis in Iran. During the episode I read from various articles and explain some vocabulary.


Consider donating to the Disasters Emergency Committee to help people affected by the earthquake https://www.dec.org.uk/appeal/turkey-syria-earthquake-appeal

Time codes

  • 0:00:00 Introduction / Episode Context
  • 0:12:43 Earthquake in Turkey & Syria
  • 0:33:00 The Situation in Iran
  • 0:55:58 Vocabulary from BBC article + more reading

Episode Transcript


Welcome to the podcast. I hope you’re doing well today and that you’ve been enjoying my recent episodes.

Here is another new one, published very soon after the last one.

Just in case you don’t know, this is a podcast for learners of English and it is here to provide some regular listening practice and generally to help improve my listeners’ English in various ways. 

I have a fairly large audience around the world, which I have built up over the nearly 14 years I have been doing this podcast and in my episodes I talk about pretty much anything. 

Often it’s funny stuff. Sometimes I tell short stories. I do episodes about British life and culture. I talk to guests. I teach vocabulary, grammar & pronunciation, give general advice and motivation for learning English, and every now and then I talk about what’s going on in the news including some serious stories which I just feel compelled to talk about. 

I usually stick to events related to the UK, but there are times when I talk about other places too, and this episode is one of those times. 

As you can see, the episode is called Turkey & Syria Earthquake Appeal / What is happening in Iran? (Articles & Vocabulary).

Basically, this episode is about those two situations. 

I want to say that I’m doing this to provide information in order to give support to ordinary people who are suffering as a result of what has happened, and what is happening, in both situations. 

The basic details of these two, separate, situations are these:

Early on Monday morning (Monday 6 February 2023)  an area near the border between Turkey and Syria was hit by several massive earthquakes. Buildings have been turned to rubble, at present nearly 12,000 people have been killed and many more have been left homeless and are having to survive without infrastructure, without a great deal of resources and in very cold conditions.

Another situation, completely separate from that is that in Iran, for months and months now, there have been huge struggles between protesters and the government / police. The protesters have been demonstrating in order to stand up for their human rights and freedoms, especially the rights of women. The response of the government has been to crack down on those protests using a great deal of force and to try to control information around the situation, including putting restrictions on internet use. Women in particular are fighting to maintain their basic human rights, and their efforts to defend them have been met with strict and crushing treatment from the authorities. What I just said is based on a few reports I’ve read and also quite a lot of emails which I’ve received from podcast listeners in Iran.

I’ll say again that these two situations are not connected, but I am going to talk about them both in this episode. The earthquake in the first half and then the situation in Iran in the second half.

The first situation – the earthquake, is the result of a natural disaster of course, but there are political elements to it too, which I might not go into. 

The second situation, in Iran, is clearly more political and therefore potentially more problematic for me to talk about but in any case I am just going to report what other people are saying about this situation, and I am doing that mainly because I have been asked, a lot of times, to do so by my listeners in Iran. 

I don’t always respond to requests like that, because, well, I might talk about that later in the episode. So I don’t necessarily respond to requests to talk about such serious issues in other places, but for this episode I am deciding to do it. 

This doesn’t mean I will always talk about things like this, or that I will always respond to other similar requests, or change the overall focus of my podcast towards these kinds of issues. 

But here it is, I am going to talk about it here and I want to show support to my listeners. I’m not completely sure, honestly, what I can do regarding the situation in Iran (although I will mention some things later), but I can at least raise awareness and I suppose that can help, and if my moral support gives anyone even a small boost, then good.

In the case of the earthquake, there are more direct things we can do, chiefly in terms of donating money to charities who can provide direct aid and assistance. I’ll mention those specific charities in a bit.

So I’m talking about two situations in this long episode. I do hope you listen to the whole thing. 

I realise that for most of you, learning English is the goal. Of course, this whole episode is presented in English and there is a transcript for most of what I am saying here so you can check that transcript and use it for practising your English in the usual ways. Perhaps you can notice the specific language I am using to to talk about and describe these serious events and issues here.

Also, I will be going into some specific vocabulary explanations in the second part of this episode – when I read through some articles.

OK, so I hope you keep listening and stick around for the whole thing, but it’s up to you of course.

Forgive me for all my talking here before getting to the main points. I mean – forgive me for not jumping straight to the real substance of this episode, and for going on a bit here at the start. 

I hope you understand my reasons for saying all this stuff at the beginning. I feel it’s a little tricky to just jump from my normal episodes (which are about things like toilets, music, or language learning) to topics as serious, specific and current as these. 

A certain amount of let’s say “tonal reframing” is necessary here, in order to make the transition from my normal content to these serious topics a bit more palatable, I suppose. So please forgive what you might consider to be padding, rambling or waffling here, in the form of yet another long introduction.

Originally this episode was only supposed to be about the situation in Iran. I started planning to talk about Iran ages ago – in December actually, during the Christmas holidays and I was finally about to record and publish it very soon, but then the terrible earthquake in Turkey/Syria happened just a few days ago (I am recording this on 9 February 2023 and the earthquake struck on Monday 6 February) and I feel like I also had to talk about that, but I didn’t want to put off talking about Iran any longer so I just decided to talk about both situations in this one single episode. As I said, I hope you listen to the entire thing.

I feel that it wouldn’t be right to make an episode like this, talking about a humanitarian crisis and just skip over the earthquake without mentioning it.

I have quite a big backlog of episodes in a queue, including ones which I recorded weeks ago and I really want to get them published, but I’m putting them on hold at this moment in order to publish this episode. 

One of my aims here is to use this opportunity to ask you to consider giving to charities which can provide aid to the people affected by the earthquakes, first of all. I’ll mention some charities who we can donate to in a few moments. 

OK. So, first some details about the earthquake, and then a couple of articles about the situation in Iran, with vocabulary explanations. 

This will probably end up being really long. If you’re watching on YouTube you will see some chapter markers to help you navigate the episode. If you’re listening to the audio podcast, those chapter timecodes will be included in the show notes and on my website.

Earthquake in Turkey/Syria

First let’s talk about the earthquake which happened in Turkey and Syria just a few days ago. 

The very basic facts are that several devastating earthquakes have killed thousands of people in Turkey and Syria. Hundreds of buildings have been destroyed. Survivors are facing freezing conditions and need urgent aid. 

The epicentre of the earthquake was in an area more or less on the border between Turkey and Syria and so that’s the worst affected place, but also this earthquake has affected other neighbouring areas and countries too.

If you’re interested in helping out those people in need by supporting charities, a good place to go for more information is the Disasters Emergency Committe https://www.dec.org.uk/ 

Sometimes it’s difficult to know who to trust when it comes to giving to a charity but the established ones with experience of providing aid on the ground are usually the better ones. 

This organisation, The Disasters Emergency Committe is an association of 15 genuine, registered and experienced charities that can help people suffering in situations like the aftermath of this earthquake. You can find them at https://www.dec.org.uk/ and it is possible to donate to them there.

The D.E.C. are also involved in raising money and providing resources and help for people affected by crises in various places. On their website they list the Turkey/Syria earthquake, but also the terrible floods in Pakistan which have left millions of people in urgent need of help to survive, and the humanitarian crisis which has happened due to the conflict in Ukraine – the focus there is on helping millions of people who are left to survive in freezing temperatures without heating or electricity.

There will be other crises in other places too (notably there is the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen), and UNICEF have an appeal to help refugees affected by that on their website as well. Link here.

Back to the emergency in Turkey and Syria, here is what the Disasters Emergency Committe website says about that, and this is a chance to look at the situation in a little bit more detail. 


Also this BBC article https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-64540696 

Again, consider donating to https://www.dec.org.uk/ if you would like to offer your support.

The Situation in Iran

I don’t know if you are aware but there there is a humanitarian crisis happening in Iran. According to Amnesty International, “Hundreds of protesters are being killed, tortured, and ill-treated for peacefully protesting for women’s rights.”

For months and months, people have been asking me to use my podcast as a platform to talk about this situation. 

I did mention it a couple of times on the podcast last year, at the end of a couple of episodes in the audio versions when I often will ramble a bit at the end of episodes and just give my thoughts on what I’ve been doing, and perhaps respond to some comments from listeners. 

That’s what I often do at the end of my audio episodes, but not everyone listens to the end of my audio episodes and so I suppose not a lot of people heard those comments (they were mainly just words of support for people in Iran and other places where things are tough).  

Now I’m going to talk about it in more detail, read from some articles and explain some related vocabulary.

My aim for this is just to talk about what’s going on in order to give support to people who are struggling and also just to raise awareness of the situation. 


I find that whenever I talk about something serious like this, especially when it involves another country (not my own) it seems to invite criticism from people. 

Obviously this is a very serious story. I should say that I have not been to Iran and I have not seen things first-hand, but my impression is, from what I have read and from emails which I have received from listeners in Iran (and quite a few people have got in touch with me in various ways), my understanding is that this situation is horrendous and people are suffering. 

In this part of this episode, in a moment, I’m just going to read a couple of online articles about the situation. These are things reported by people who, as far as I know, have done their best to find out what’s actually happening, and I’ll use those articles as texts for learning English. 

I’ll read them to you and then highlight some vocabulary for you.

Before we do that, let me give just a few more of my personal comments about doing this episode. This will just be a couple of minutes. Then we’ll read the articles and look at vocabulary.

This episode is a bit late 

These protests and clashes have been going on for months and months and of course there is a lot of history here. I am a bit late to the topic. I’m recording this in February 2023.

I did try, several times, to record an episode about this last year but I stopped myself. I just ended up feeling a bit crushed by the seriousness of the situation. Sorry. I’m no expert and I wouldn’t want to get anything wrong.
Some people might not understand how I feel. Imagine standing up in front of a big crowd full of thousands and thousands of people from all around the world and talking about this to them, publicly. How would you feel? You might feel a bit nervous about it. Me too.

However, my personal doubts and reservations about doing this are relatively small concerns really, especially compared to the seriousness of this situation and what other people are experiencing just because they want to live their lives with a bit of freedom. 

If you disagree with what I’m saying or doing in this episode for whatever reason, please do write a comment under this episode in polite language, in a diplomatic way and back it up with some evidence of some kind, or at least develop your argument coherently and clearly rather than just expressing an opinion very quickly. 

Honestly, I don’t know who will disagree with what I am doing. In my experience when I talk about serious things in other countries there are always some people who take offense to it for one reason or another. I want to say that I am not criticising another country – rather, I am showing support. I am not making any statements about religion and I am not making a statement about what needs to be done here, on an international diplomatic level, by other countries or anything. 

This is a very sensitive situation, both within the country and in terms of international relations. 

But anyway, if you disagree with this for whatever reason and you suddenly feel compelled to write something in response, please take a moment to stop and consider carefully what you are writing before you do it.

It’s easy to be triggered and write something quickly, but I would like people to give considered, reasonable and respectful responses only please.

If you feel I have missed something, put it in the comment section. If you feel I’m not getting the full picture, put it in the comment section. Also, if you agree with the way I’m describing things and you want to add other comments, feel free.

Let me now try to put my personal doubts to one side and focus instead on just showing support for LEPsters (and non-LEPsters of course) in Iran who are suffering, and to give a bit of podcast-time to what is happening. 

Articles & Vocabulary

I have found several articles about what’s happening. The first is from the BBC (and I do want to show that this situation is being reported by the BBC – maybe not on their prime time evening news TV show, but they are reporting it on their website), another article is from Al-Jazeera and there are some threads I found on Reddit too, with some video footage probably recorded on mobile phones, which I will not be showing by the way. 

I’ll read each article, maybe give some comments, and then I’ll summarise a selection of vocabulary from each one.

BBC summary (Iran: A Really Simple Guide to the Protests)

I know the BBC gets criticised by everyone on all sides, often for different reasons, but let’s just read this and see what it says.

Read the article


Some vocabulary extracts

  1. People have been protesting across Iran for almost six weeks, defying a deadly crackdown by security forces.
    • To defy = to refuse to obey
    • A crackdown = when police/government use a lot of force to punish people who are breaking the law
  1. a 22-year-old woman [was] arrested by morality police in Tehran on 13 September for allegedly violating Iran’s strict rules requiring women to cover their hair
    • Allegedly = people say this is true but it hasn’t been proven in court yet
    • To violate rules = to break rules
  1. [They] beat her head with a baton  (beat – beat – beaten)
    • A baton = a weapon used by police, like a stick
  1. the protests have swelled, with demands from more freedoms to an overthrow of the state.
    • To swell = to get larger
    • Demands = what people want
    • An overthrow = when the government are/is removed by force
  1. Videos have shown them defiantly   setting their headscarves on fire and cutting their hair

    • Defiantly = strongly showing that they will not obey
    • To set something on fire = to make something burn with fire
  1. In an unprecedented show of support, schoolgirls have also been demonstrating in playgrounds and on the streets.
    • Unprecedented = never happened before
  1. Men and teenage boys have also participated in large numbers and backed the women’s demands.
    • To back someone/something = to support someone/something

One woman

Some women /wimin/

  1. Authorities have played down the protests and tried to suppress them with force.

    • To play something down = to say that they’re not as serious as people think
    • To suppress something = to control it and keep it down, prevent it from rising
    • Force = physical actions, violence
  1. Ayatollah Khamenei has accused the United States and Israel, Iran’s arch-enemies, of orchestrating “riots” – dismissed by critics as fabricated.

    • To orchestrate something = to make something happen, to plan it and to control it (like a conductor with an orchestra)
    • Dismiss = to say something is not important or not true
  • Fabricated = made up, not true, not real, created, lies
  1. The BBC and other independent media are barred from reporting from inside Iran, making it difficult to verify what is claimed by state media
    • Barred from = blocked, not allowed to do something
    • To verify something = to check if it is true/real
  • To claim = to say that something is true
  • State media = media (TV stations, websites, papers, radio) which is owned or controlled by the state (the government)
  1. authorities have disrupted internet and phone services.
    • Authorities = the police, other agencies working for the state, which have power given by the state
  2. Security forces have denied killing peaceful demonstrators, but they have been filmed firing live ammunition on the streets.
    • To deny doing something = to say that they didn’t do it
    • To fire live ammunition = to shoot real bullets from guns

Some vocabulary related to guns and bullets

  • Live ammunition / live rounds

Live = real bullets (not blanks, not rubber bullets)

  • Ammunition (uncountable) = bullets, rockets, mortars, shells →  fired from guns
  • A cartridge / cartridges / a round / rounds = the metal cylinder which contains the projectile (bullet), propellant substance (gunpowder) an ignition device and casing (the bit that holds it all together and which might fall to the floor as it is ejected from the gun)
  • A magazine = a cartridge full of rounds
  • 13. In 2009, millions of people took to the streets after a disputed presidential election

    To take to the streets = to go into the streets probably to protest
  • 14. However, the unrest was limited to major cities and was led by the middle class.

    Unrest = when people go into a public place to demonstrate or riot and everyone is angry in the street
  • 15. Economic hardship  triggered  nationwide protests in 2017 and 2019

    Economic hardship = difficulty, hard times
    To trigger = to cause something to happen
    Nationwide protests = across the whole nation/country
  • 16. Now though, for the first time, protests involve people from all sections of society and age groups, and have spread across dozens of cities and towns.
  • Involve = include
  • Dozens = many, a lot of (a dozen = 12 but “dozens” just means “a lot / a large number”)

A Post on Reddit (Warning – some of the links here contain videos with graphic and violent content)

As you may know, Reddit is a website where website users can have discussions about almost anything. This is user-generated content and there is some citizen journalism here – including direct video evidence from people who, it seems, were actually there (as far as I can tell).

I’m going to read a response from a user called zedlx to a question in the subreddit r/OutOfTheLoop asking what is happening in Iran.

There are links in the text for some of these things. Clicking the links takes us to other bits of media, including some shocking video footage of women being beaten by “police” (although a lot of them seem to be in plain clothes so we don’t really know who these people are), protesters fighting with police and even footage of police shooting live rounds (that’s real bullets) into crowds of protesters. I won’t be showing those videos because they’re far too sensitive, but a quick look at reddit, will show them. Please only do that at your own discretion and your own risk.

That comment on reddit by  zedlx in response to the question “What is happening in Iran?”

A woman died in police custody after she was arrested for not wearing a hijab (head scarf) properly. Many Iranians went on protest by taking off their hijabs and burning them and cutting their hair

[Luke: Taking huge risks because they could be arrested and possibly beaten or worse].

The government responded by sending out the riot police to break up protests. 

Their heavy-handed tactics, indiscriminately beating protesters, shooting into crowds, and so on, caused violence to escalate

Now the government is enacting a communications blackout to prevent videos of the protests from being broadcast. The people have a limited workaround using VPNs and Tor which is how they spread the news and videos of the protests.

Link to the comment


  • In police custody
  • To protest / to go on protest / to demonstrate / a demonstration
  • A riot / to riot / to clash with police/demonstrators
  • Sending out riot police to break up the protests
  • Cause violence to escalate
  • To enact a communications blackout
  • A workaround

Al-Jazeera (a slightly more recent story) 

Note to myself: Just read this out and give some comments on some bits of vocabulary while you read. There isn’t time for a full vocabulary list.

This is a story about a high-profile Iranian actress who has been arrested for supporting part of the protest. 

(The actress Taraneh Alidoosti starred in a film which won an Academy Award a few years ago) 

Al-Jazeera Article Link Here

Final statements 

If you want to help – these organisations are campaigning in various ways 

(read some of the statements from the websites)

Amnesty.org.uk – Iran Appeal

Women for Women International

Vital Voices  – 4 things people can do to show support

Other charities and organisations are available too, of course.

OK, that’s it. 

Thank you for your time listeners. 

Good luck to everyone out there. 

A reminder about the earthquake appeal

Consider donating to the Disasters Emergency Committe to help people suffering from the effects of the recent earthquake https://www.dec.org.uk/appeal/turkey-syria-earthquake-appeal 

Take care, I hope this episode has been useful in some way.

I will speak to you next time. 

But for now, goodbye.