“Our fault is that we are Syrians”.. Refugees live in fear after the attacks in Kayseri, Turkey

Official statements that placed the first spark within the framework of “allegations” were not enough to prevent the attacks that targeted the properties of Syrian refugees in the Turkish province of Kayseri.

Although it stopped after midnight on Monday, its effects remained present in the minds of many, as some of them told Alhurra, according to the photos published by media outlets and journalists at dawn.

The attacks resulted in refugees’ cars being burned and their shops being smashed, in incidents similar to those that occurred in the Altındağ neighborhood of the capital, Ankara, in August 2021.

As it was gradually escalating, police forces entered the line, and then the authorities arrested 67 people, according to what the Turkish Interior Minister, Ali Yerlikaya, announced via his account on the social networking site “X”.

Many video recordings documented the acts of destruction, smashing and burning, and others were filmed by Syrians themselves. The most famous of these was the one in which one of them filmed his car burning while he repeated: “Your only sin is that you are Syrian. I have wasted my life on this car and they burned it. What can I say?”

How did the story begin?

The attacks, carried out by Turkish citizens, began after a video clip spread on social media, with its publishers claiming that it “documents a Syrian man harassing a Turkish girl in a public facility in the Turkish city of Kayseri.”

Despite the statement issued by the Kayseri Governorate after that, in which it was stated that the man was Syrian and had been arrested, and that the girl was Syrian and had been transferred to one of the protection centers affiliated with the Ministry of Family, the attacks against Syrians did not stop.

On the contrary, it escalated to the point of burning shops, overturning cars, smashing them and burning them, along with motorcycles.

“Racism” against Arab tourists in Türkiye.. Systematic phenomenon or individual incidents?

This summer, there has been a wide spread of video clips circulated by social media users showing racist verbal and physical attacks against some Arab tourists in Turkey, which has led a large group of activists to launch electronic campaigns to boycott tourism in the “Anatolian land,” considering that what is happening is a systematic phenomenon against their own people, while others insist that these incidents are nothing more than individual incidents that could occur anywhere in the world.


Samar, a Syrian refugee living in the Danaşment Gazi neighborhood, where most of the attacks and riots were concentrated, spoke to Alhurra about the difficult night she and her family lived through, saying: “Cars, burned livelihood, and broken shops… this is a summary of what we lived through.”

She added that she is committed to staying in her home, like most Syrians in Kayseri, noting fears of a recurrence of what happened on Monday night, especially with news circulating about the possibility of this happening.

Police teams continue security measures by conducting patrols in the area, according to media outlets, including the pro-government newspaper Sabah.

Interior Minister Yerli Kaya said they had immediately launched an investigation, and that what happened was “illegal and in a manner that does not conform to our humanitarian values,” referring to “the damage to homes, workplaces and vehicles of Syrian citizens.”

The minister, after confirming the arrest of 67 people, said that “the crowds gathered dispersed after 2:00 a.m. on Monday,” adding: “It is unacceptable for our people to harm the environment without regard for public order, security and human rights.”

He continued: “We cannot allow xenophobia, which is not in our faith, nor in our civilized values, nor in the record of our sacred nation.”

For his part, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, “One of the reasons for the unfortunate events caused by a small group in Kayseri yesterday is the toxic rhetoric of the opposition.”

He continued: “We expect efforts from the wise people in the opposition to prevent scenes that revive bad memories of old Turkey.”

How did politicians react?

But in response to the Interior Minister’s statement, Turkish politicians posted a series of tweets on the social networking site “X”, in which they called for “the necessity of returning refugees”, on the basis that they “pose a national security problem and a national problem”.

Observers and journalists considered that the statements of these politicians “increase the flames of attacks and tension even more.”

The number of Syrian refugees in Turkey exceeds 3 million, and in Kayseri alone, more than 82 thousand reside, according to data provided by the Turkish Immigration Presidency.

“We have warned the government many times to avoid the situation that happened in Kayseri today. We said that the refugee issue poses an existential threat to the national security of the future of Turkey and the Turkish nation,” opposition Good Party leader Musavat Dervisoglu tweeted.

“The Kayseri events revealed the extent of the anger caused by the AKP’s refugee/illegal policy,” added the leader of the anti-refugee Victory Party, Ümit Özdağ.

“Even in a city like Kayseri, which is nationalistic and conservative, and where the AKP is strong, the accumulation of anger like this is not a good sign,” he continued.

In contrast, Turkish parliamentarian Sevda Karaca considered, via “X”, that “the racist policies against refugees and immigrants that have been raised throughout the country in recent days, especially in Antep, sparked the events that took place last night in Kayseri.”

“It is irresponsible to pave the way for the masses, who are completely impoverished, deprived of a future, and left alone with violence and injustice, to become killers of the ‘weakest links’ instead of sticking with them,” she said.

“Syrians are in fear”

According to Syrian Samar, the attacks on Syrian property have “digged deep tunnels of fear” not only for residents of Kayseri, but for all refugees living in Turkey.

She explained that “fear has become a constant presence in every detail of their lives.”

It is not known whether those affected will receive any compensation. One of the associations concerned with the situation of Syrians in Kayseri indicated that this “may be possible if the official numbers are contacted.”

Anadolu Agency reported that the Kayseri Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation into the incident, and 9 people from the suspect’s and victim’s families have been sent to a deportation center.

In addition, police are investigating people who shared “provocative posts” on social media, and a court in Kayseri has imposed a ban on broadcasting the incident that took place on Sunday evening.

“Scapegoat”

For years, Syrian refugees have often been used as a “scapegoat” for the country’s economic problems, including high inflation and a falling value of the Turkish lira, according to Syrian human rights activists, Turkish journalists, and opposition politicians.

Turkish researcher and journalist Hisham Gunay told Alhurra that there has been “congestion against the Syrians for years.”

Despite the absence of the electoral element, “the intensity of this tension has not ended for several reasons,” he said, considering that “the authorities prefer to sweep the problems arising from this issue under the carpet, without finding a radical solution for them… That is why we see this type of attacks in different cities on an ongoing basis.”

On the other hand, Gunay saw that the statement of the security director in Kayseri indicates that “the Turkish government’s understanding of these problems is very incomplete.”

When that official says, “The child is Syrian, not Turkish,” this indicates a problem, while the statement gives an image of clear marginalization of refugees, which makes the matter even worse,” according to Gunay.

He continued: “Unfortunately, there is a great deal of leniency towards those who make racist statements, whether politicians, academics or journalists… and the result is that the tension will be great.”

He also pointed out that “the slightest rumour spread in any city results in major attacks and dire consequences against Syrians in the country.”

The Turkish government continues to emphasize its goal of returning refugees “dignifiedly” to Syria, and makes this a priority in the process of building dialogue with the Syrian regime.

Before the Kayseri events, Gaziantep province had witnessed a 3-day security campaign targeting Syrians whom the authorities considered “illegal and violators.”

The campaign came as opposition officials were escalating their opposition to the Syrian presence in the country, and at the same time as government officials spoke of their intention to resume dialogue with the Syrian regime, in order to coordinate return operations and “fight terrorism,” in reference to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northeastern Syria.

ظهرت في الأصل على www.alhurra.com

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