Mass Aggression against Syrian community in Esenyurt, Istanbul

A fight between two groups quickly turned into a mass assault on the Syrian community in the Esenyurt District of Istanbul on 9 February. A mass crowd chanted xenophobic slogans on the streets where many Syrians live and own small shops. Despite the extensive aggression and damage to Syrian shops, no measures were taken against Turkish citizens, while three Syrians were arrested. In their published report on the incident, IHD (Human Rights Association) pointed to the temporary protection status of Syrians as accelerating their insecure position, and called on authorities to take the necessary measures to stop future racist aggression.

On the evening of 9 February, a fight erupted between a group of Turkish citizens and Syrians for an unknown reason, which rapidly turned into a mass assault against Syrians and Syrian-owned shops in the neighborhood of Esenyurt, Istanbul.

Some sources say that the fight was started by a group of young men from Sinop (a province in northern Turkey) who interfered with a Syrian wedding, and that a young person was stabbed. Crowds armed with batons and knives later gathered in the streets and tried to attack Syrians, using the chants “This is Turkey, not Syria!” and “allahuakbar”.

The police used water canisters and riot teams to disperse the crowd on the streets and later declared a curfew at the main square.

While it was reported on social media that several people were wounded and killed, Esenyurt district governorship later declared that the “three citizens who have been injured were discharged from hospital, and three Syrians were arrested”.

On 13 February, IHD (Human Rights Association) commission against Racism and Discrimination published a report on the aggression. The report emphasised that a small fight had evolved into extensive aggression against both Syrian individuals and Syrian shops that were not related to the immediate incident, as well as racist slogans and insults shouted by the crowds, demonstrating the racist aspect of the aggression. They suggest that the resulting impunity and arrests which only targeted Syrians, sets the ground for further possible racist attacks.

The IHD report demands that the authorities impose serious sanctions against the groups involved in racist aggression, and that the necessary adjustments are made by laws. It also condemns the temporary protection status given to Syrians as both providing a basis for racist attacks and for deterring Syrians to denounce or publicly discuss such assaults.