Turkish social media users express outrage over mob attack on Syrians in Istanbul

Turkish social media users expressed outrage over a mob attacking the properties of Syrian refugees in İstanbul’s Esenyurt district yesterday evening with the hashtag “We stand with refugees in solidarity against fascism” (FaşizmeKarşıGöçmenlerleyiz).

Images shared on social media show the mob throwing rocks at stores and entering through broken windows, shouting, “This is Turkey.”

Freelance journalist Maaz İbrahimoğlu said on Twitter that the incident occurred after a Turkish man asked for a cigarette from a Syrian who said he didn’t smoke. Enraged, the Turk chased the Syrian into a store. The Turk then rallied a group of his friends, who started attacking stores.

“I talked to some Syrians in the neighborhood who said they were very afraid and were considering not working tomorrow,” İbrahimoğlu said.

The İstanbul Governor’s Office issued a statement on Monday saying a group of nearly 40 people had attacked the properties of Syrians following a dispute between two men. After a police investigation seven people, including four minors, had been detained and the police were looking for the rest of the perpetrators.

This is not the first time a “cigarette dispute” has broken out in Esenyurt. Two Syrians were stopped in the street by a Turk for cigarettes on June 28, 2019. When they said they didn’t have any, the Turkish man shot at them three times and fled the scene. The two Syrians were injured as a result and hospitalized.

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 2021 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.

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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