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Anti-Syrian Racism post Istanbul Municipality election re-run | Unknown numbers of refugee children missing | The changing nature of the Syria-Turkey border |

News & Reports

Anti-Syrian Racism post Istanbul Municipality election re-run

The anti-Syrian discourse which was prevalent during the municipality elections, and legitimated by the language which political authorities used has intensified in the aftermath of the results. CHP mayors in several Turkish municipalities publicly used anti-Syrian rhetoric during their campaign bids. The mayor of the town of Kemalpasa in western Turkey, Ridvan Karakayli, said on TV, “We will get rid of Syrians. There is peace in Syria, so what are they doing here? There are shops with signboards with the Syrian language [a reference to Arabic] near our party [building]. I will remove them. They will be taken away from here.”

A BBC Türkçe Report made in the immediate aftermath of the renewed Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality election questioned voters in the Fatih district of Istanbul, usually AKP majority, about their thoughts on the election result. CHP candidate Imamoğlu took overall victory and also a surprise slight majority of the votes in Fatih district. According to the reportage, Fatih voters believed Imamoğlu succeeded for two reasons – the non-return of Syrians and the over-authorisation of Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak.

Syrians living in the Istanbul neighbouhood of Küçükçekmece were lynched after false claims were made that an underage Syrian boy verbally harassed a Turkish underage girl. Syrian shops were damaged, some lootings reported and police intervened with water cannons and tear gas. According to the police, reports of the child abuse were false. The Governorship said: “It is a matter of misunderstanding. The parents of the girl didn’t file any complaints. Further investigation will continue.”

Meanwhile a new hashtag, #SuriyelilerDefoluyor, which was translated as “Syrians Fuck off” but more accurately means “Syrians are getting the hell out of here” has been trending on Twitter, used over 14,500 times since the Istanbul election re-run. People have been using the hashtag for different purposes, some in the expectation that CHP may force them to return to Syria.

Such heightened and violent racism against Syrians is legitimated by the various political powers. One of the repercussions of this racism is that it creates subjective affirmations of identity that are fragmented and unable to directly challenge their structures of oppression. Instead of solidarity being formed along class lines, the rationale for political collectivity is eroded.

While pro-government media outlets continue to report on the large numbers of Syrians returning home (a total of a total of 79,886 in the first six months of 2019 according to pro-government outlet YeniSafak), working to create assumptions that Syria is safe, other reports continue to emerge in contradiction to this impression. A new NPR radio report has added to a number of reports into the treatment of Syrians upon their return to Syria, with claims that they’re being detained, imprisoned and tortured. The report quotes researcher Elizabeth Tsurkov as describing returning Syrians who have been detained by the regime from all over the country – “They’re former activists, former members of local councils, doctors who worked in opposition-run hospitals. And they are sometimes commanders of rebels who have gone through reconciliation with the regime.”

Number of refugee children missing

An Evrensel report has raised awareness to the unknown plight of thousands of refugee children, whose whereabouts are unclear. The report highlights that there is no statistical data available about the numbers of children who have gone missing for the last eight years.

While figures in Turkey are unknown, they can be judged to be very high considering the high number of recorded (not to mention unrecorded) disappearances in EU countries (Leyla Şahin Usta, AKP’s Vice President for Human Rights, told reporters: “More than 96,000 refugee children have disappeared in EU countries since 2015).

The report references a police raid in Küçükçekmece, a district in Istanbul, last year in which refugee children were being found to be exploited for begging and tortured if they did not fulfill a quote of 100TL per day.

The article questions research and information about the number of unaccompanied refugee children in Turkey, the kind of abuse they’ve suffered, the number of child labourers and child work deaths.


Syria-Turkey Border crossings

A writer from Syrian Al Jumhuriya has written of the act of traversing the Syria-Turkey border, and the role of smugglers, over the years as it has shifted from an open-door to a sealed fortress in which over 400 Syrians have been killed in the act of trying to cross in recent years.

“Syrians’ recollections of these borders, which separate the “civilized” world from the most dangerous country on earth, will remain among the most important parts of their collective memory since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution, when they lived through days the likes of which they could never previously have imagined. Borders in general will remain a highly contentious issue, as they’ve always been, ever since their delineation first separated families, relatives, and whole communities around the world, with no consideration for the ties being severed, or for the wishes, liberties, and right to movement of the humans affected.”