Fatima Alzahra Shin believes that her neighbors attacked her and her child in Istanbul because they are Syrian.
A Turkish woman approached Shon, a 32-year-old Aleppo refugee, and asked what she was doing in her country. Shon responded, “Who are they to say that to you?” The situation escalated quickly.
Shon recalled that a man entered the apartment of the Turkish woman half-dressed and threatened to “cut Shon and her family into pieces.” Shon was hit and shouted at by another neighbor, a female. She was then forced down a flight stairs by the group. Shon stated that Amr, her 10-year-old boy, attempted to intervene but was also beaten.
Shon stated that she is certain about the motivation behind the aggression, namely “Racism.”
Turkey was once open to refugees fleeing Syria’s long-running conflict. They were also shown compassion and sympathy for their fellow Muslims. As the number of refugees fleeing Syria increased over the last decade, attitudes began to change.
Turkey’s economic problems are fueling anti-immigrant sentiment. Many Turks are angry at Turkey’s 5 million foreign residents.
An angry mob of Syrians vandalized homes and businesses in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, in August after a Turkish teenager was fatally stabbed.
Turkey is home to the largest number of refugees in the world, but many experts believe that it has been a costly decision. Selim Sazak is a visiting international security researcher at Bilkent Universität in Ankara, and advises officials from the opposition IYI Party. He compared the arrival so many refugees to “absorbing a foreign state that is ethnically, cultured, or linguistically different.”
Sazak stated that everyone believed it would be temporary. “I believe it’s only recently that the Turkish people have realized that these people aren’t going back. They have just recently come to terms with the fact that they must become friends, neighbors, and economic competitors with this foreign population.
Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees, acknowledged during a recent trip to Turkey that there had been social tensions in Turkey due to the large number of refugees. He called on “donor countries” and other international organizations to assist Turkey more.
Unreceptive public sentiment has been heightened by the possibility of an influx of refugees after the Taliban tookover of Afghanistan. Videos purporting that young Afghan men were being smuggled into Turkey by Iran-based smugglers caused outrage among the public and led to calls to protect the borders of the country.
According to the government, there are approximately 300,000 Afghans living in Turkey. Some of them hope to continue their journeys towards Europe.
Recep Tayyip Turkey Erdogan, a long-supporter of an open-door policy towards refugees, has recently acknowledged the “unease” of the public and pledged not to make Turkey a “warehouse” for migrants. Erdogan’s government has sent troops to Turkey’s border with Iran’s eastern frontier to stop the flow of Afghans. They are also speeding up construction of a border barrier.
Even though Turkey’s next general elections are two years away, immigration is expected to be a major campaign topic. Turkey’s main opposition party, Republican People’s Party (or CHP), and the nationalist IYI Party both promised to create conditions that allow Syrian refugees’ return. Foreigners pay waste collection fees to encourage them to leave.
After the anti-Syrian violence at the Altindag District of Ankara last week, Umit Ozdag a right-wing politician, who just formed his anti-immigrant party in Ankara, visited the area with a suitcase and said that it was time for refugees to “start packing.”
August 11, 2011, was the day that a Turkish teenager was attacked and killed by a group of young Syrians. People chanted anti-immigrant slogans and took to the streets to vandalize shops owned by Syrians and throw rocks at refugee homes.
A 30-year-old Syrian woman and her four children, who requested not to be identified out of fear of reprisals, claimed that an attacker entered their bathroom and forced the door open. According to the woman, the incident traumatized her 5-year old daughter. She now has difficulty sleeping at night.
Some shops remain closed in the area, and there are still traces of the disturbance visible on the metal shutters. To prevent the chaos from returning, police have deployed multiple vehicles as well as a water cannon to the streets.
Syrians are accused of not being able to integrate in Turkey. Turkey has a complicated relationship with the Arab world that dates back to the Ottoman Empire. Although majority Muslims are similar to neighboring Arab nations, Turks can trace their roots to nomadic warriors in central Asia. Turkish is a language other than Arabic.
Kerem Pasaoglu is a Turkish pastry shop owner who said that he would like Syrians to return to their homeland and was bothered by the fact that signs in Turkish are being used in some shops on his street.
He said, “Just as we had said that we were getting used to Syrians and they would leave, now we find it very difficult for the Afghans to come to us.”
This month, Turkey’s foreign minister stated that Turkey was working with UN refugee agency to ensure safe return of Syrians to their homeland.
Although security has improved in many areas of Syria following a decade of war and civil unrest, reports continue to show that forced conscription, indiscriminate arrests, and forced disappearances are still being reported. Amnesty International reported earlier this month that some Syrian refugees returned home to be subject to torture, disappearance, and detention by Syrian security forces. This proves that any return to Syria is dangerous.
Shon claimed that Istanbul police showed little sympathy for her reporting the neighbor’s attack. She claimed that officers kept her at the station for several hours while her male neighbor, who threatened and beat Shon, was able leave after a brief statement.
Shon fled Aleppo after 2012’s battleground war between rebel fighters and Syrian government forces. According to her, the father of her children died trying to reach Europe. She now wonders if Turkey is right for her and her kids.
“I am concerned about my children’s future. She said that although I do my best to support them, they are struggling with a lot of mental issues and she doesn’t know how to help them. “I don’t have the power anymore. I am very tired.