Via Aysecan Terzioglu in Anthropology of the Contemporary Middle East and Central Eurasia 4(2): 34-47 – This article discusses the ways in which discriminatory political, social and cultural discourses and practices against the Syrian forced migrants affect the health of Syrians in Turkey. It also contends that though these discourses and practices stem from the current political environment, they are also related to complex and problematic interactions between Turkey and Arab countries in the past, particularly the clash between Arab and Turkish nationalisms.
In Turkey, this conflictual past has contributed to the creation of a negative image of Arabs as ignorant, backward and fanatic Islamists, especially among Turkish modernists who argue that, in social and political terms, Turkey’s ‘true place’ is in secular, modern Europe. Arab nationalists also view the Ottoman Empire as the colonizers who dominated their societies for centuries and persecuted Arab culture. The attempts of the Justice and Development Party (JDP, AKP in Turkish) government to be one of the main actors in Middle Eastern politics are largely interpreted in the same colonizing vein. How do these negative images and discriminatory discourses affect the lives of Turks and Syrians, who now have to live together in the same country and the same neighbourhoods? What kinds of conflicts arise from this necessity of living together and how can these conflicts be solved? I provide a number of possible answers to these questions, and address the problems stemming from a contextual asymmetry between hegemony, represented by the well-educated doctors and nurses, and subalternity, represented by the Syrian migrants in Turkey.