Hate crimes against Syrian refugees have been escalating in Turkey, as three refugee women and a child were severely beaten in the middle of the street in the southeastern city of Antep.
Soyouf Aref, a Palestinian woman from Syria, witnessed the incident unfold and gave her account to the Evrensel daily. She said she saw two cars involved in a minor collision, and one of the drivers, a Turkish man, was very angry. According to Aref, the man stepped out of his car and started insulting the two Syrian women in the other car, who also had a child with them.
The insults quickly escalated into physical violence, at which point Aref stepped out of her car to intervene. “He thought I was Syrian, too, and directed his rage towards me. I was able to hold him off and he went towards the other women again. This time he also started hitting the child.”
Aref said she tried to protect the child, upon which a woman joined the man in the beating. “They did not know each other, she just saw the fight and jumped in. I was trying to stop them, but she told me to back off because I was not Turkish and had no right to intervene.”
Aref claimed she was also beaten and insulted by the woman, who pulled her headscarf off her head and banged her head on the car window. “The police asked me not to talk about the incident in public or on social media. But this is an issue that concerns all refugees and women. We want to live in a safe country.”
Aref said the police did not check the security cameras in the area but that she filed a complaint together with the Syrian women.
She added that this was not only violence against women, but also a hate crime that was rooted in xenophobia. “Soon, Turkey will not be a safe country for refugees or for women,” she said.
This is the second hate crime directed at Syrian refugees reported this week. A 14-year-old Syrian boy, Vail El Mansur, was killed in alleged hate crime in on his way to work on Tuesday.
El Mansur worked for a tailor in Turkey’s central province of Konya. He was confronted by a group of boys who chased him into an alley, where one of them stabbed him. He died of his injuries in the hospital.
Syrian refugees in Turkey have been increasingly targeted by hate speech and hate crimes and are blamed for many of Turkey’s social and economic troubles.
According to the “Hate Speech and Discriminatory Discourse in Media 2019 Report,” published by the Hrant Dink Foundation, Syrian refugees in Turkey were the second most targeted group in the Turkish media, with 760 hate speech items.
The report states they were systematically coded as criminals, murderers and thieves who posed imminent security problems including terrorism. Syrians were also represented in the media as the reason for the current adverse economic situation in Turkey and rising unemployment numbers.
This hate speech has led to serious incidents in the recent past. Syrian refugee Abdulkadir Davud, 21, was shot dead on August 18 in what appears to be a hate crime in the Zeytinburnu district of İstanbul. On September 13, 16-year-old Syrian Eymen Hammami was stabbed to death in another alleged hate crime in the Black Sea city of Samsun.