Millions of Syrians who have taken refuge in Turkey from the violence that has raged in their country since the start of the civil war in 2011 now face growing hostility from their Turkish hosts amid a sharp economic downturn exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Smoldering resentment over an estimated 3.7 million Syrian refugees turned violent in the Turkish capital of Ankara on Wednesday evening as hundreds of locals chanting insults swarmed the working-class suburb of Altindag and fled are launched in a wave of vandalism, overturning cars, smashing windows and looting shops believed to be Syrians.
At least 76 people have been arrested in connection with the rampage, which was sparked by the death of 18-year-old Turk, Emirhan Yalcin. The teenager was stabbed in a brawl between Syrian refugees in Altindag, a stronghold of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Turkey has long been praised for hosting so many Syrians, making it the largest refugee host country in the world. Refugees make up 5% of its population of around 83 million.
Turkish patience is starting to run out amid rising unemployment, soaring inflation and the general feeling that the country is being overrun, mostly by Syrians, even as Turkish forces occupy much of Syria and are accused of being invaders by the Syrian regime. âThe educated go to Europe and we end up with the rubbish – savages spreading their legs wide, nosing their noses and talking loudly with an army of children on public transport. We have become a minority in our own country, âcomplained Serap Ozturk, a pro-secular housewife from Istanbul’s Goztepe neighborhood.
Ozturk says she votes for the main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP). Scenting the mood of the public, the party has cynically played in recent months on public fears of squeezing Erdogan and the AKP. CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu has vowed that once in power he will send the Syrians home within two years.
Presidential spokesman Omer Celik targeted Kilicdaroglu on Thursday. âCompetition is of course necessary in politics. But hate speech that divides and polarizes can never be interpreted as competition, âCelik tweeted. He added that Turkish security forces were in full control of the situation and that the Yalcin killers had been apprehended. Celik urged the public ânot to succumb to provocations aimed at our national unityâ.
Ankara police said people who allegedly helped fuel violence against Syrians through social media were among those detained.
Many Turks said they felt shame and horror when they saw hatred pouring out on the Syrians. Turks shared photos of a Syrian boy who was injured by the crowd.
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– A V. Leyla KELEÅ (@avleylakeles) August 11, 2021
“Let’s not give in to inhumane ideologies like racism and fascism,” tweeted a user who goes by the handle @Enveryan in a typical comment.
Others backed down, insisting that they are not against refugees but against “uncontrolled migration”.
Syrians are fearful and some believe their attackers are motivated by greed. An unidentified Syrian speaking to left-wing online news portal Sol Haber was filmed in the middle of the wreck from his house in Altindag, saying, âI’m going to have to leave because they said they would come back. They will come back to steal.
– soL Haber (@solhaberportali) August 12, 2021
Yildiray Ogur, columnist for the conservative newspaper slightly opposing Karar deplored the fate of the Syrians, tweeting: “He opened a store, learned Turkish, supports his family, pays taxes.” â¦ Why do you want this man to return to his country. Why is he held responsible for the crime of a murderer? There is only one name for this baseless malaise: racism.
Political scientist Nezih Onur Kuru, who studies public sentiment towards Syrian refugees, noted that anti-Syrian violence in Altindag, home to large numbers of unqualified and impoverished Syrians, is “neither new nor surprising.”
Places like Altindag, which have sprung up on the outskirts of major cities, also attract a constant flow of unemployed Turks from the countryside, making it a powder keg. Kuru said he had recorded 246 separate incidents of violence against Syrian refugees since 2011.
At first, the government’s use of the term âguestsâ resonated favorably with the Turkish public, but over time, when it became clear that many Syrian guests are here to stay, attitudes have shifted. hardened. Kuru’s research suggests that no more than a quarter of Syrian refugees say they want to return.
Erdogan’s sporadic reminders that Turkey has spent up to $ 50 billion on them and the occasional hint that they might get Turkish citizenship have not helped.
Nor is the EU’s perceived treatment of Turkey as an enclosure for Syrians and other refugees the EU doesn’t want on its own soil. Since 2016, the European bloc has given Turkey billions of dollars to help support Syrian refugees.
They are now joined by a growing number of Afghans as they flee Taliban forces. Between 500 and 1,500 Afghans slip into Turkey daily via Iran. These numbers are expected to rise as the Taliban continue to seize large swathes of territory from government forces. The Taliban claimed to have ripped off Kandahar and Herat, the second and third cities respectively, Thursday.
Now, âBrussels has a plan to bribe Turkey to remove Afghan refugees from Europe. Estimates show there is a risk of 500,000 or one million Afghan refugees [coming]”Kilicdaroglu said on July 25. Austrian Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz gave credit to his request, telling German newspaper Bild on July 26 that Turkey was a” more suitable place “to receive Afghans than Germany, Austria or Sweden.
Erdogan rejected the claims in an interview with private broadcaster CNNTurk on Wednesday, claiming that Turkey was not a “roadside hostel” for illegal migrants and that reports of the influx of Afghans were exaggerated and that more than a half -million foreign nationals were prevented from entering the country illegally last year. Ankara has announced that it will build a 295 kilometers (183 miles) long wall along the Iranian border to prevent human trafficking and other illegal activities.