Three Turkish gendarmes have been detained for the death of two Syrian refugees who were allegedly killed last week at the Turkey-Syria border, the Bianet news website reported.
According to Bianet, eight Syrians, including 16-year-old Youssef Muhammad Al-Harj, were detained by Turkish soldiers following his crossing into southern Hatay province from Syria on March 11 and severely beaten and forced to drink diesel.
While two Syrians died, the rest of the group suffered severe injuries. Two Syrians are still receiving treatment in an intensive unit in northern Syria.
“The Turkish gendarmerie forced us to drink diesel fuel, and I was severely beaten with electrical cables, bats and iron skewers,” Al-Harj earlier told the Middle East Eye.
He said the gendarmes forced them to take off their clothes, took their phones and broke them, then filmed them before they started beating and “torturing” them.
“I lost consciousness several times. Several times they threw cold water on me so that I could wake up again and [they could] torture me again,” he added.
Xenophobia, hate speech and hate crimes against Syrian refugees are increasing in Turkey as the country prepares for upcoming elections, and politicians from far-right parties have been fueling anti-Syrian sentiment in regions hit by the earthquakes.
Turkish media, including pro-government and opposition outlets, fuel and exploit the flames of hatred against Syrians who fled their countries and sought refuge in Turkey.
Anti-migrant sentiment has also been expressed by opposition politicians, including Ümit Özdağ, leader of the far-right Victory Party (ZP). In January, Özdağ launched a new campaign dubbed “Bus to Damascus” aimed at deporting Syrian refugees from Turkey.
In a propaganda video posted on Twitter by Özdağ, who has been at the forefront of anti-refugee propaganda in Turkey, party supporters were asked to share the names of refugees and to donate to the ZP so that refugees could be put on buses they call “Victory Buses” and deported to Syria.