A refugee residing in Turkey changed the name of his store, “Afghan Market,” after Ümit Özdağ, leader of a newly established far-right party, shared pictures of the store on Twitter, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
In a tweet on Monday Özdağ had said, “Afghan Market — owned by a youngster from Afghanistan in the Kırşehir city center.”
Kırşehir merkezde Afgan Market-Sahibi Afganistanlı bir genç pic.twitter.com/K8eCkm1FvN
— Ümit Özdağ (@umitozdag) August 23, 2021
The owner, identified as M.S., said he could not open his store for a couple of days and that the local police took security measures in the area.
Özdağ was harshly criticized for his tweet. Cevheri Güven, a journalist living in exile, said: “There are hundreds of Turkish markets in Germany like this. So what?”
Tarık Toros, another journalist in exile, tweeted: “Not the person who operates that grocery store, but the person who targets him, poses a danger to society! Keep away from him.”
O marketi işleten genç değil..
Bunu paylaşıp hedef gösteren kişi toplum zararlısıdır..! Uzak durun. pic.twitter.com/RwhNr1cujC
— TARIK TOROS (@TarikToros) August 23, 2021
Some users said Özdağ should be held responsible for any hate crimes committed against the store or its owner.
M.S. said he was sorry his store’s photo was shared like that. He said he used to own a market in Afghanistan, too, that he opened the store three months ago and loved Kırşehir.
M.S. added that he hadn’t faced any reactions; yet he changed the store’s name to “Armağan” (gift) to prevent any future incidents.
Özdağ, a former deputy chair of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and a former İYİ (Good) Party İstanbul lawmaker, announced in a tweet that his new party’s name would be the Victory Party (ZP).
Kanıyla Anadolu'nun kapılarını açan, canıyla bu toprakları vatan yapan; Alparslan'dan Mustafa Kemal'e, şehitlerden gazilere, tarihi şan ve şerefle dolu büyük Türk milletinin yeni ZAFER'i doğuyor… pic.twitter.com/mg4wdoOJuu
— Ümit Özdağ (@umitozdag) August 24, 2021
Hate crimes against refugees and migrants, who are blamed for many of Turkey’s social and economic troubles, 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.
Anti-refugee protesters attacked houses, shops and cars owned by Syrians in Ankara’s Altındağ district on August 11-12, following reports that a Syrian refugee stabbed two Turkish men in a fight.
Anti-migrant sentiment has also been expressed by opposition politicians. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), has promised to send Syrians back home if his party comes to power.
Tanju Özcan, the mayor of Bolu province from the CHP, recently said an additional water and solid waste tax 10 times the normal tax would be imposed on refugees living in Bolu.
“We cut their benefits and stopped giving them business licenses to open shops, but they didn’t leave,” he said during a meeting at city hall. “The city council will meet next week, and we will discuss raising their taxes.”
According to UNHCR Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees worldwide. The country is currently home to some 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees along with close to 320,000 persons of concern from other nationalities.