A total of 82 women’s organizations published a joint statement on Monday criticizing the rising anti-migrant sentiment in Turkey, saying they supported migrants and stood against xenophobia, the Bianet news website reported.
The women’s organizations said they condemned all kinds of discrimination and were especially against hate speech directed at migrants and refugees.
“We are seeing videos being circulated on social media trying to provoke people against migrants,” they said. “The aim of these videos is to target communities of migrants and create social tension.”
According to the statement migrants had become scapegoats for the country’s socio-economic problems. “The Turkish public is angry about economic and social problems. However, it is the government, and not migrants, that is responsible for the current problems,” it said.
In the past few weeks videos of migrants stalking and disturbing women on the streets of Istanbul were disseminated on social media and by various news outlets. The videos caused a public uproar as large numbers of women claimed they no longer felt safe in the city.
Many people said migrants from such countries as Afghanistan and Pakistan were not culturally compatible with Turks and life in Turkey and posed a threat to women.
The statement emphasized that migration was a human right and that many people had to relocate due to war, famine and other disasters. It was up to the government to develop policies for the better integration of newcomers and to ensure social cohesion.
It added that female and LGBT migrants were even more discriminated against and were often subjected to sexual harassment, violence and exploitation.
“Many politicians are trying to portray all migrant men as potential rapists and sexual harassers,” the statement said. “Their aim is not to protect women from harm but to use this narrative as a reason to incite hatred of migrants and to use it as an excuse to deport them.”
The statement said this was hypocrisy that furthered endangered women and the LGBT community.
In a previous statement women’s organizations said the authorities were quick to accuse migrant men of sexual harassment and gender-based violence while they turned a blind eye to harassment committed by locals.
The organizations said migrants were used as scapegoats but that local men were often granted impunity when it came to sexual harassment cases.
Turkey hosts the world’s largest number of refugees, 3.7 million from Syria granted temporary protection status and over 400,000 refugees and migrants from Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries.
However, according to MEP Tineke Strik, Turkey cannot be considered a safe country for migrants and asylum seekers because it is not bound by the refugee convention when it comes to non-European refugees.
Hate crimes against refugees and migrants, who are blamed for many of Turkey’s social and economic ills, have been escalating in the country in recent years.
Turkish media including pro-government and opposition outlets fuel and exploit the flames of hatred against people who fled their countries and sought refuge in Turkey.