Syrian refugee Abdulkadir Davud (21) was shot dead on Sunday in what appears to be a hate crime in the Zeytinburnu district of İstanbul, the Evrensel daily reported.
According to Ahmed Uzun, a friend of Davud’s, six Syrian refugees residing in İstanbul went to the seaside yesterday and while waiting at a bus stop to return home they were insulted by a man shouting from the window of his home.
Uzun said the man started swearing at them and wouldn’t stop. They asked him, “Why are you swearing at us? What did we do to you?” but the man continued swearing and yelled “F… off, you Syrians!”
The man then went inside the house. His wife appeared on the balcony and warned them, “Run away, he is drunk, and he went to get his gun.” They started running and heard three gunshots. Uzun said: “When we went back, we found Abdulkadir in a pool of blood. He was hit by two of the bullets. He was probably dead when the ambulance arrived.”
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 Soner Çağaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington, D.C.- based think tank The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, emerging opinion leaders with large online followings have been especially important in normalizing anti-Syrian attitudes.
Çağaptay mentions Sinan Oğan, a former deputy and a dismissed member of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) who boasts over a million Twitter followers, as an example. In a tweet, Oğan claimed that Syrian and Afghan refugees rape women and boys and that “chopping” off heads was a part of Syrian culture. The tweet received over ten thousand likes and retweets.
Gays El Khatip, Abdulkadir Davud’s brother-in-law, said Abdulkadir’s father died in Syria and that he was living in İstanbul with his mother and six sisters. “He ironed clothes for five years. Then he started a lighting accessories business. His mother keeps crying. We want justice; let the murderer get the punishment he deserves.”
According to Uzun, after the incident police came to the crime scene and told them the suspect had run away. “We escaped from the civil war and came here, but Abdulkadir was killed here. As his family and friends, we want justice,” he said.
A report by the Hrant Dink Foundation cites Syrian refugees as one of the top three groups targeted by hate speech in the Turkish media. Yılmaz Özdil, a columnist popular with supporters of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), alleged in his column that Syrians were forming gangs, setting up illegal businesses and invading İstanbul and forcing Turks to move out of their neighborhoods.
According to Çağaptay, accounts owned by public figures or anonymous individuals frequently spread false stories about Syrians harassing, raping and even murdering Turkish citizens. As a result, there have been various campaigns on Turkish social media where users shared posts with such hashtags as #ülkemdesuriyeliistemiyorum (I don’t want Syrians in my country) and #SuriyelilerDefoluyor (Syrians get out).
According to Turkish Presidency spokesman İbrahim Kalın, the Turkish government wants to ensure that “the Syrian refugees return to their homes voluntarily and safely.” Yet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan often uses Syrian refugees in Turkey as a bargaining chip with the European Union. In a speech on October 10, 2019, Erdoğan said, “We will open the gates and send 3.6 million refugees your way,” if European countries labelled the country’s military incursion in Syria as an occupation.
In February, after an airstrike in Syria’s Idlib province killed at least 33 Turkish soldiers, Turkey opened its borders with Greece and Bulgaria and transported refugees to its border cities by buses. Thousands of men, women and children set off for the border with Greece, attempting to leave Turkey but met with barbed-wire fences and security forces.