Turkey investigates social media posts on possible refugee riots similar to France

In this file photo, police officers stand guard as they protect firefighters responding to garbage set on fire during protests on June 30, 2023 in Saint-Pierre des Corps, France, three days after a 17-year-old man was killed by police in Nanterre, a western suburb of Paris. GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP

Turkish prosectors are investigating social media messages posted by Turkish politicians, journalists and commentators discussing the possibility of a refugee riot in the country similar to recent protests taking place in France, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Demirören news agency (DHA) reported.

France has experienced a series of protests in response to the killing of Nahel Merzouk, a 17-year-old of Algerian heritage who was shot and killed by a police officer in Nanterre last week.

The incident has sparked renewed discussions about policing in France’s marginalized neighborhoods and raised concerns about the potential influence of race in Nahel’s death.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin on Saturday said that more than 2,000 people had been detained since the protests began on Tuesday and many of them are minors.

According to a report by CNN, 45 police officers and gendarmes were injured overnight, while 74 buildings including 26 police and gendarmerie stations were damaged and 577 vehicles set on fire as the unrest continued with another night of protests on Saturday.

DHA said on Sunday the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has initiated an investigation into social media posts arguing that developments similar to those in France could also take place in Turkey, which hosts the largest refugee population in the world.

Turkey emerged as the leading host country for refugees worldwide, with a population of nearly 3.6 million individuals seeking shelter, according to the latest global trends report released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) last month.

The office has issued a written statement regarding the investigation, stating that it has been initiated to identify social media accounts that share posts containing “provocative and manipulative content, which create misleading, false, and incorrect perceptions, as well as incite hatred and hostility, with the intention of disrupting public order and peace.”

Ömer Çelik, spokesperson for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), noted in a series of tweets that they “condemn” such posts.

“Comparing Turkey’s humanitarian-based migration policy to France’s colonial policies and racist violence is an irresponsible and ill-intentioned approach,” Çelik said.

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