Right-wing groups hunting Syrian refugees in Turkey

Right-wing groups hunting Syrian refugees in Turkey
Fri Aug 15, 2014 12:52:21

In recent days there have been reports of horrific incidents in the city of Gaziantep in southeast Turkey, where more than 200,000 Syrians are living.

Extreme right-wing groups are hunting Syrians in city streets. When caught, their prey are badly beaten up.

The police have stepped up security measures especially in city neighborhoods where such incidents tend to happen most.

Gaziantep Mayor Fatma Sahin and civil society representatives have been calling for calm and reason.

Most observers say the protests are prompted by increasing rents and unemployment after the arrival of Syrians.

Gaziantep, an industrial city in the southeast that is the hub of most Turkish exports to the Middle East, has been a magnet for thousands of Syrians who fled the war in Syria. Gaziantep always had close family and business contacts with Syria, especially with Aleppo.

According to official records, about 200,000 (but unofficially 300,000) Syrians live in Gaziantep. Rents doubled, then tripled. In the city fringes where minimum wage earners usually live, rents used to be around 150 Turkish lira (about $70) a month. Today they are around 400 Turkish lira (about $185).

None of this justifies the fascist assaults on Syrians in the city. But signs of brewing troubles started about two month ago when social media calls were issued to protest Syrians in the city. Many protest attempts were curtailed by the police before developing into mass public rallies.

The latest escalation began when Turkish citizen Hidir Calar, who lived in the Unaldi neighborhood of the city, asked his Syrian tenant to move out. Calar was stabbed and killed by his tenant, along with other people. The initial tension was controlled by the intervention of police using pepper gas and water cannons.

But the next day around noon, protests erupted again, and people saying they didn’t want Syrians in the Unaldi neighborhood assaulted two Syrians they caught on the street. There were attempts to destroy some of the workplaces owned by Syrians.

The tension spread to other neighborhoods in the evening when groups of people armed with sticks, knives and machetes marched, shouting anti-Syrian slogans.

The number of protesters grew as more people joined along the way.

They attacked Syrians they encountered in the streets and those living in the parks; 13 Syrians were injured, four of them by stabbing, and evacuated to city hospitals.

Groups which were forcefully dispersed by the police regrouped in other streets and continued with their protest marches.

They inflicted major damage on cars with Syrian license plates they saw along the way. Some Syrian vehicles were set on fire but they were put out by compassionate local residents. Police detained 17 people accused of provoking the protesters and deployed armored police units in the most tense streets.

The next morning the city tried to clear the traces of violence by removing the damaged vehicles. Local residents did not want to talk to reporters while the Syrians who were living in the parks were seen moving away.

The police stepped up their presence not only in the tense areas, but also in other locations where Syrians live in large numbers and in the city center, including the parks where homeless Syrians spend the night.

Security forces discreetly removed from their homes Syrian families they felt were targeted by the protesters and resettled them at hostels and guest houses of official organizations, with plans to send them on to tent and container camps in the vicinity.

BA/BA

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