Investigation launched into 61 people following attacks on Syrians, their properties in Ankara

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation into 61 people following attacks last week on Syrian refugees, their houses, workplaces and cars in Ankara’s Altındağ district, the Kronos news website reported.

According to a statement issued by the office, Turkish prosecutors are investigating 35 individuals for their role in the attacks and 26 social media users who shared “provocative” posts.

Anti-refugee protesters attacked houses, shops and cars owned by Syrians in Ankara’s Altındağ district last Tuesday and Wednesday following reports that a Syrian refugee stabbed two Turkish men in a fight.

Images on social media showed dozens of angry people throwing rocks at homes, smashing shops and cars and burning merchandise looted from shops believed to belong to Syrian refugees.

Speaking to Eray Görgülü of the T24 news website, Musa Güvercin, a Turkish resident of the neighborhood, said number of incidents between Syrians and Turks had increased in the recent past, especially in parks, but no precautions were taken by the police. Most of his customers are Syrian, and his sales dropped drastically after the violent protests.

“The protests started as a result of the murder. There were no problems in the beginning,” Güvercin said. “But after mobs from outside the neighborhood started coming, they stoned the homes and workplaces, and some looted the shops.”

Taxi drivers speaking to T24 on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal confirmed Güvercin’s account. “People were right to protest, but it wasn’t right at all to stone homes,” they said. “We think the second group that came to the neighborhood from outside came to provoke people and loot.”

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.

In March a Syrian refugee was assaulted by a group of streetcleaners in southern Antalya province. The man was beaten and his motorcycle was crushed with a garbage truck and set on fire.

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.

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