Murder of 3 Syrian men in alleged hate crime sparks public outcry


The death of three Syrian men who were killed on November 16 in an alleged hate crime in Turkey’s Izmir province has caused an outcry among human rights activists and opposition deputies.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) , a UK-based information office that documents human rights abuses in Syria, a Turkish man named Kemal Korkmaz allegedly poured gasoline over the Syrians while they were asleep and set them on fire on November 16. Once they realized what was happening, the men tried to escape but were unsuccessful.

The three Syrians were identified as Mamoun al-Nabhan, 23; Ahmed al-Ali, 21; and Muhammed el-Bish, 17. SOHR said there had been no prior dispute between the Syrian men and the perpetrator.

Korkmaz worked at the same construction site as the Syrians and had reportedly told a coworker a day before that he hated Syrians and was thinking of killing them. He had said he would set the Syrians’ room on fire.

After hearing about the fire, Korkmaz’s colleagues notified the police, and he was detained a few days after the incident.

During a press conference at the Turkish Parliament Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a deputy from the Peoples’ Democratic Party, demanded to know why authorities had remained silent about the incident for a month. “This should be the only thing we are talking about,” he said. “Why was this atrocity not made public earlier?”

Gergerlioğlu said it was terrible that the three Syrians had been burned to death. “The hatred towards refugees and migrants has come to a point where they are being set on fire,” he said.

Journalist Melis Alphan pointed out on Twitter that millions of people in Turkey had anti-migrant sentiments. “We know millions do not want the Syrians here, but this is just too much,” she said. “Have we lost all our humanity that we are not even talking about the terrible murder of three Syrians?”

At a press meeting on Wednesday, the Human Rights Association (İHD) said the incident was a hate crime. Representatives from the İHD’s Izmir branch said they had contacted the victims’ families and would support them in their demand for justice.

“The authorities will make it seem that this murder was committed by a mentally unstable individual. However, it was quite obviously a hate crime, and we will make sure a thorough investigation is conducted,” said the İHD.

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.

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-migrant sentiment has also been expressed by opposition politicians. Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has promised to send Syrians back home if his party comes to power.

In August a group of locals attacked Syrian refugees, their houses, workplaces and cars in Ankara’s Altındağ district, chanting anti-Syrian and fascist slogans. 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.

Syrian refugee Abdulkadir Davud, 21, was shot dead on August 18, 2020 in what appeared to be a hate crime in the Zeytinburnu district of İstanbul. On September 13, 2020 16-year-old Syrian Eymen Hammami was stabbed to death in another alleged hate crime in the Black Sea city of Samsun.

According to the latest figures provided by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on November 22, Turkey is home to a total of 4,038,857 refugees from around the world. Speaking to parliament’s Planning and Budget Committee, Soylu said 3,731,028 of these were Syrian refugees who are residing in Turkey under temporary protection status. The number of refugees with international protection status is 307,829.

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