Sean Ali Stone

Refugees and Turkey on the Sixth Anniversary of Syrian War

“We did not come to the realization of our responsibilities towards refugees until after the body of little Aylan washed ashore, just as our Western friends did.”

The above-cited words of the Turkish Republic’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr. Süleyman Soylu, probably best summarizes Turkey’s stand on the refugee issue. Since April 2011, Turkey has been welcoming the refugees fleeing Syria, which has now basically become an international arena for war, with the utmost hospitality. According to the numbers Soylu provided, Turkey is currently harboring 3,552,000 Syrian refugees. With their families slaughtered, and their houses, hometowns and country lying in ruin, these people escaped imminent death from the bombs that rain down upon them and have taken refuge in a nation that welcomed them unconditionally with open arms.

While accepting refugees into the country, the Turkish Government took all the necessary precautions against various terrorist elements, yet did not impose any conditions regarding the arrival and sheltering of our Syrian brothers and sisters: not once did it stop to consider whether the state could afford it or not. On the eve of the second year of the civil war, the Turkish Government anticipated that the situation in Syria would only worsen, yet never imposed any restrictions on the number of the refugees to be accepted. Millions of dollars were spent to build of one refugee camp after the other, and educational and social services were provided to the refugees while many were not even aware of these developments. During this process, Turkey encountered many difficulties as well. The following is a statement issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs on the matter: “According to data provided by AFAD, during the Syrian crisis, Turkey’s total expenditure for the refugees -including that of public institutions, NGOs and the Turkish people- amounts to 25 billion dollars. While carrying out all this work, Turkey continued to struggle against terrorism; against the PKK, the PYD, FETO and DAESH. Turkey went through multiple elections, coup attempts, all the while being subjected to economic operations.” As can be seen, however, none of these attempts to weaken Turkey were able to prevent us from providing shelter to Syrians.

The total number of Syrian refugees accepted by EU countries is 866,831. The number of Syrians hosted by Turkey, on the other hand, is 3.3 times that. As for the immigrants who seek entry to Europe, their tragic situation has been evident to all, particularly since last year. The actions of coastal security units seeking to sink refugee boats, the countries that have built barbed-wire barriers or walls along their borders, and the human traffickers who murder refugees by leaving them to be asphyxiated inside truck depots are not forgotten. The outlook may seem bright for some of the refugees who have been “accepted” into Europe; yet in certain countries, some refugees have been forced to shower in –10ºC weather with cold water, some have had their money, tents and blankets confiscated, while some have been left for dead on the streets in extremely frigid temperatures. According to data, 89.2% of asylum-seekers in a European country have suffered police brutality. The roots of this grave situation lie in the bitter fact that, in many regions and for many people, refugees are not regarded as human, but a redundancy that deserves to die. (We hold our refugee brothers and sisters in higher regard.)

Without a doubt, Turkey has been doing all these things with a conscientious awareness and a humanitarian sentiment, without expecting support or praise from anyone. The fact that there has been no change in Turkey’s immigrant policy since 2011, despite the massive expenditures and adverse provocations in this regard, is the most important manifestation of Turkey’s stance. But lately, there have been various concurrent accusations made against our Syrian brothers and sisters. These provocative statements are mostly lead by major media outlets, certain media personalities chosen to such end, and the ubiquitous Internet troll accounts specifically tasked with stirring up social media. Employed as instruments of instigation among the public, these figures are part of a small group tasked exclusively for this very purpose.

The provocations aimed at Syrians are a newly-introduced leg of the ever-failing attempts, which started with the Gezi Incidents and continued with the failed coup attempt of July 15. According to the data provided by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, compared to the overall rate of public order crimes in Turkey between 2014 and 2017, Syrians were only involved in such incidents at an annual average rate of 1.32%, and a significant portion of these incidents arise from internal disputes among Syrians themselves. Moreover, despite the rise in the Syrian population, in 2017 there has been a 5% drop in the number of crimes involving Syrians compared to the first six months of last year. Yet, for some reason, the date that provocations unanimously began curiously coincides with the date immediately after the last Eid al-Fitr. It is quite obvious that these accusing efforts through propaganda, which begin in a period when crime rates are already in sharp decline, are designed for specific purposes.

One thing is certain: despite all the provocations and challenges, the Turkish Government will continue to accept fellow Syrians into our country and strive to provide them with the best means possible. Hopefully, our Syrian brothers and sisters who are in our country will be granted Turkish citizenship as soon as possible and become a permanent part of our nation.

Adnan Oktar's piece in The Peninsula Qatar (Qatar) 

2017-09-12 21:02:31

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