A Wave of Anti-Syrian Attacks Surge in Turkey Amid Rising Anti-Immigrant Sentiment

Credit: (DHA)

The city of Kayseri, located in central Turkey, has been thrust into a state of tension and unrest following a series of violent attacks on Syrian refugees and their property. These attacks, described as the largest against Syrian refugees in the country, were triggered by the spread of false news accusing a Syrian of molesting a Turkish girl.

The incident began with the circulation of a video clip purportedly showing a young Syrian man harassing a Turkish girl in a public facility. The video sparked widespread anger among local residents. In response, groups of Turkish citizens took to the streets, attacking Syrian refugees, burning their property, and destroying their cars, all while chanting slogans demanding the deportation of Syrians.

However, it was later revealed that the girl involved in the incident was not Turkish but Syrian, as confirmed by Kayseri Province and various news reports. Despite this clarification, the violence against Syrians in Kayseri continued unabated.

Social media pages dedicated to news about Syrians in Kayseri reported that the accused young man suffers from a mental disorder and is the cousin of the girl involved. The incident occurred in a public bathroom at the Saturday market. Kayseri Province released a statement on the matter, saying, “On June 30, 2024, in the Danishment Ghazi region of our state, a Syrian person harassed a young Syrian girl. The accused was arrested by our security units, and the child was placed under protection by the competent authorities.”

Since June 24, the state of Gaziantep in southern Turkey has witnessed an intensified “security campaign” targeting Syrian refugees. The Turkish authorities have set up dozens of checkpoints across the state, conducting large-scale inspections of refugees’ homes and workplaces. More than 60 checkpoints have been deployed in markets, malls, and transportation stations.

Sources told the Turkish-based Syria TV outlet that hundreds of Syrians have been transferred to deportation centers in Gaziantep Province in the first 24 hours. This includes individuals registered who failed to update residential addresses. The sources indicated that the campaign might last more than 10 days and could extend to nearby states such as Mersin and Hatay.

This wave of violence and intensified security measures come amidst increasing anti-refugee sentiment in Turkey. The Turkish opposition has been vocal in blaming Syrian refugees for the country’s economic woes, including high unemployment and inflation rates.

The security campaign in Gaziantep followed an unprecedented joint statement from 41 civil society organizations in the state. The statement warned of the state “sinking” under the influx of Syrian refugees, claiming that life had become unbearable.

Since mid-2023, the deportation of Syrian refugees from Turkey to northern Syria has escalated. Approximately 100 people are deported daily through border crossings. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has affirmed that the country would take additional measures to prevent irregular immigration and assured Turkish citizens that they would notice significant changes soon.

The recent attacks and government deportation campaigns have caused widespread fear among Syrian refugees in Turkey, who already endure challenging living conditions. Just as in Lebanon, Syrians in Turkey are at risk if returned to Syria which is still a conflict zone under threat from Assad, Russian, and Iranian hostility. The future remains uncertain for many as the political and social climate in Turkey continues to grow increasingly hostile toward refugees.


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