Turkish mobs angered by homicide attack Syrian and Afghan refugees

Clashes in the capital, Ankara, led to 76 arrests

Borzou Daragahi
Istanbul
Thursday 12 August 2021 14:53
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<p>A Turkish riot police member stands guard at a check point on a road which leads to a neighbourhood where many Syrian refugees have houses and shops</p>

A Turkish riot police member stands guard at a check point on a road which leads to a neighbourhood where many Syrian refugees have houses and shops

Fiery riots in the Turkish capital pitting Turks against Syrian and other refugees led to damaged shops and homes and scores of arrests, local media reported.

The unrest in the Altindag district of central Ankara began late Tuesday after the alleged stabbing of an 18-year-old Turkish man in a park by a youth described as a Syrian refugee.

The purported homicide led to the forming of mobs chanting anti-Syrian slogans and attacking the apartment buildings, shops and vehicles of suspected Syrian and Afghan refugees with stones on both Tuesday and Wednesday night.

Video footage of the unrest was widely distributed on social media.  There were reports of looting and allegations that suspected migrants were pulled off buses by angry Turks. Among those injured was an 11-year-old Syrian girl who was treated in a hospital for bloody wounds to her head

At least 76 people connected with the unrest were arrested.

Facing intense economic challenges, Turks across the political spectrum have grown increasingly hostile to the refugees and migrants who wind up in Turkey from the rest of the Middle East and elsewhere.

On Turkish-langauge Twitter, hashtags translating into “We don’t want Afghans,” and “I don’t want refugees in my country” were trending.

While many of the Syrians, Afghans, Iranians and Iraqis who arrive in Turkey hope to use it as a stopping point to get into other parts of Europe, millions end up staying in the country and attempting to eke out a living.

Altindag, where the unrest took place, is a mostly low-income district that since 2011 has drawn waves of Syrian migrants escaping the war in Syria. Some rented shops or began working as craftsmen and carpenters in the local furniture industry, undercutting skilled Turkish counterparts.

Syrians and Afghans account for at least 15 per cent of the 360,000 people living in Altindag.

The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also encourages foreigners with means to purchase homes or businesses as a way to obtain residency and a path toward citizenship.

But the influx of foreigners has rankled many Turks, who fear another impending influx of Afghan migrants escaping the war in their country between the Kabul government and the resurgent Taliban.

Turkey is building a wall along its borders with Iran and Iraq to prevent smugglers from bringing in migrants. Mr Erdogan said in an interview on Wednesday that additional troops were also being deployed along borders to prevent illegal crossings.

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