The winning of Angela Merkel’s party, the refugee-friendly party, in the German parliamentary elections was not enough to reassure the Syrian refugees for Merkel’s victory corresponded to the far-right Alternative Party’s acquisition of seats in the parliament for the first time after World War II. This condition relates directly to Syrian refugees in Germany, but it is definitely not confined to the host country’s borders, especially with the decreasing warmth towards refugees in the different countries that welcomed them at the beginning of the Syrian revolution, both on a popular and a political level.
“I have been a refugee in Germany for three and a half years. Today, I perceive a clear difference in the way the street treats us and accept us as refugees compared to the beginning of my stay here,” says Mrs. Bayan, 31 years old, a Syrian refugee living in Germany with her husband and son.
Bayan proposes an example of the decreasing warmth towards refugees and German people’s waning desire to make contact with them. She says that “Since my stay in this town, two years ago, we have arranged weekly meetings in the public library to give refugee women the chance to meet with women from the city to increase the integration’s rate, to practice the language, and to exchange our knowledge of handicrafts, such as knitting and embroidery. In the beginning, many German women used to show the desire to help refugee families, financially and emotionally speaking, to welcome them and to teach them the language; today, only one or two women attend the meeting”.
Mrs. Bayan points to her serious attempts to integrate into the new society, saying that “I do my best to integrate myself and my son in the surrounding. I take him to a German kindergarten to keep him in touch with the people of the country where he will be growing up and help him learn the language spontaneously; I also try to make conversations with the mothers there. I am careful to greet them on their holidays and to respect their customs and traditions, which help them to accept me. Still, I keep thinking that I am the one who is buying their kindness through distributing sweets on our holidays and by being gentle and trying to be closer to them. Under such a condition, their warmth is unreliable for there is no good in a kindness that is factitious” in a reference to Al-Shafi’i’s line of poetry “If the purity of friendliness is not natural/there is no good in a kindness that is factitious”.
Go Back to your Country
“I get hurt when I perceive racism in the behavior and the way others talk. Sometimes racism is a look of contempt or even a cruel treatment or a failure in meeting your needs in a supermarket or an institution. Sometimes it takes the shape of harsh verbal statements or violence,” says Bayan, sad and upset, “what hurts me the most is thinking that my son will be growing up in a society that considers him as inferior. Last week, I was walking in the streets of the town with my child when I saw a big signboard with Arabic writing. I walked toward it to find that it said, ‘Go Back to your Country'”.
A Different Perspective
Despite his stay in Turkey, the experience of Mr. Abu Hisham, 60 years old, does not differ from Bayan’s experience, whether in terms of exposure to some forms of racism or the different ways of treatment, he got from the time he arrived in Turkey to the moment. “When we first came to Turkey, people really liked to help, and those who offered to rent a house to a Syrian would treat him as a guest and a brother. Others opened their houses without asking to be paid at the end of the month, proud to have hosted Muslim brothers displaced by injustice”.
Today, the situation is different; a large proportion of Turkish people would not want to rent their properties to Syrians. Abu Hisham added saying that “Some of the blame must be placed on a few Syrians who misused this generosity and did not appreciate hospitality, but, in general, the matter has to do with the changing views of the Turkish mainstream, in addition to the increasing number of Syrians and the country’s deteriorating economy and security”.
“We don’t want Syrians in our Building”
Abu Hisham proposes an example of the decreasing warmth towards Syrians, which manifested in the difficulty with which he rented his last house, he says, “My son got a university scholarship in Ankara, and we decided to move there to avoid paying the rent of an additional house, to reduce expenses, and to keep our family together. However, we did not expect the magnitude of the difficulties we would suffer while searching for a house. After an extensive search and going from one office to the other, a house owner agreed and we wrote the contract. We spent the first night in the house. In the morning, about 8:00, we were surprised by angry knocks on the door. When I opened the door, one of the building residents attacked me and started yelling at us, ‘get out of our building. We do not want Syrians among us'”.
Choking on his words, he stops for a while, and then continues to say, “I did not face such a situation in my life. The neighbor was angry and uttered many bad words against us. We were helpless. I did not know how to respond to him. I was amazed at the ugliness of the situation, his anger and my helplessness. I only closed the door in his face and called the house owner. All he did was apologizing and taking me in his car to find another house forced by the neighbor’s refusal to have us among them”.
“You are Stealing our Opportunities”
Despite the difficulties they are facing in the countries of asylum, Syrians have been able to achieve scientific and professional success, which should have helped them be accepted by others, but sometimes their achievements take them to the opposite side, refusal. Concerning this, Mrs. Nour, a 25 years old resident of Turkey, said that “Unfortunately, if Turks perceive a poor Syrian asking for help, they say that Syrians are dependent on Turkey and that they are distorting the beauty of its streets. However, if they see a Syrian who is successful and financially sufficient, they say that he or she are stealing their opportunities of work and education. Therefore, our frustration has become a burden and our success a theft. How Syrians are supposed to be so they would not be accused?”
Mrs. Noor admits that she tries so hard to hide her Syrian nationality from her surrounding, saying that “With my Turkish style of hijab and proper language, I try to be like others to avoid the preconceived ideas which Turkish people might have against Syrians. I am not ashamed of my nationality, but I try to overcome people’s potential racism, especially in hospitals and government departments to conduct my transactions without being hindered by employees or seeing them frowning and complaining, and impeding my affair saying that there is a problem with the system”.
A Fragile Friendship
Noor received a scholarship to study computer engineering at a Turkish university, a grant from an EU-funded program, but this did not stop the comments she received that Syrians in Turkey are better treated than the Turkish people. “Every success we make as Syrians is questionable, as if our success has been achieved on the account of Turkish people’s failure. As a whole, these factors make it hard to create strong friendships between the Turkish and Syrian people.”
Noor gives an account in which she describes the way some Turkish people perceive Syrians’ success and the fragile relationship they have, she says that “In addition to studying, I work as a freelancer on the internet; my husband also works for an Arab company based in Turkey. Thankfully, our financial situation is good. I invited my Turkish colleagues to my home one day; I noticed their puzzled looks at our good way of living, as if Syrians have to live in the open air to deserve to be refugees. I was not surprised that two of them ended their relation with me after the visit”.
Numbers Change Politics
-After dozens of years without representatives in the parliament, Alternative for Germany party won 94 out of 709 seats in the German Parliament as the third largest German party. The party is known for its opposition to receiving refugees. The party’s vice-president said that he was elected “to address migration issues relentlessly”.
The US President, Donald Trump, has decided to reduce the number of refugees to be received by the United States next year to a maximum of 45,000, which is the lowest number in 37 years.
-Although the number of parliamentary seats of the opposition People’s Democratic Party in Turkey has only increased a little in years, the sharpness of its leader’s, Kılıçdaroğlu, statements represent those who refuse to have Syrians in the country. In his last statement, in the city of Yozgat last August, he declared that “We want all Syrians to go back to their country,” months after his statement announcing that all Syrians should be gathered in the camps exclusively and should have all their movements watched.