Turkish opposition targets Syrians to reach presidency
The opposition representative in the run-off campaign of the Turkish presidential elections, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, focused on promises to deport Syrian refugees as soon as he came to power, using false information.
Kilicdaroglu represents six Turkish political parties in one coalition, supported by other parties, in the face of the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who advanced in the first round of the elections but did not obtain a majority of 50% +1 to assume the presidency.
The run-off is scheduled for May 28.
The opposition presidential candidate, on May 20, posted a video recording on his Twitter account and attached it to the phrase “This is no longer an election, it is a referendum,” calling on young people to vote for him.
The propaganda recording centered on the Syrian refugees residing in Turkey, indicating that they number ten million and that 20 million more may come if the youth do not vote for Kilicdaroglu.
According to official figures in Turkey, the number of Syrians residing under the Temporary Protection Law (Kimlik), according to the latest statistics issued by the Turkish Immigration Presidency through its official website, is 3,388,698 Syrians.
The video published by the presidential candidate, who was dubbed by Western media as “Turkish Mahatma Gandhi” as a representative of democracy and human rights in Turkey, is the second since the elections moved to the second round.
The first recording was more aggressive, as Kilicdaroglu pledged to deport all Syrians from his country as soon as he came to power.
Kilicdaroglu added, “The looting will begin, and the cities will be under the control of refugees, the mafia, and gangs, and young girls will not be able to walk the streets on their own if they remain in power,” referring to Erdogan.
Hate speech hangs on streets
On Saturday, the first billboard bearing the image of the Turkish opposition candidate was hung in Taksim Square in Istanbul, the square which is considered one of the most famous areas for being a tourist destination, and Arabs are among its most frequent visitors. Kilicdaroglu called on the Turks to choose whether the Syrians would leave.
Syrian and Turkish activists circulated pictures of the banner hanging in Taksim Square, attacking the opposition candidate because of the racist election project he is proposing.
İlk defa projesiz bir parti görüyorum CHP
Taksim İstanbul belediyesinin astığı reklam panoları. Suriyeliler gidecek demiş bay keMAL görüyorsunuz işte bunların tek projeleri ırkçılık suriye ve islam düşmanlığı soğan, patates.
Bu kadar elde var sıfır varın gerisini siz bilin pic.twitter.com/dPw6LG6V91
— AsiyeAKCANIZ (@ZEYN532353971) May 20, 2023
The racist speech attached to Kilicdaroglu’s banner in Taksim Square was responded to by a Turkish organization concerned with refugee rights by publishing pictures that read, “Refugees will stay, Kilicdaroglu will leave.”
The racist political discourse towards groups of residents in Turkey, most notably the Arabs and Kurds, has always been present during the previous years and elections, and it has always been reflected in the Turkish street’s view of refugees and foreigners in general.
The reflection of this discourse was evident in the repeated cases of attacks against Syrian refugees in Turkish cities, including what amounted to murders, which did not find their way to impartial courts, despite the passage of years since their occurrence.
“Astronomical” refugees number
The number of Syrian refugees around the world has exceeded 6.6 million refugees outside Syria, and 6.7 million internally displaced persons, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
More than one million of them reside in the EU countries, including more than 600,000 refugees in Germany, in addition to more than one million in Lebanon, while Jordan says that it hosts about 700,000 Syrians, while the Gulf countries claim that 2 million Syrians reside on their lands and millions others reside in Egypt, according to official statistics.
According to the estimates of the regime’s Central Bureau of Statistics, the population in the Syrian territories reached 24.42 million at the beginning of 2017.
According to a study prepared by the Jusoor Center for Studies, the supposed total population of Syria until 2021 amounted to 26,285,000 people, but those who remained in Syria until the beginning of 2021 numbered 16,475,000.
According to the Data Commons website, which provides data for different countries, the population of Syria is about 18 million people.
Losing first round affected opposition’s campaign
The racist rhetoric towards the Syrians has recently returned to its peak after being absent from the politics of the Turkish opposition since the start of the electoral campaigns.
Kilicdaroglu described the Syrians, during his previous election campaigns, as “brothers,” speaking of their return to their country “voluntarily” within two years after creating suitable conditions for them.
At the time, he repeated that he would fulfill his promise regarding the refugees “without practicing any racism, by meeting all the needs of the Syrians and ensuring the safety of their lives and property, with funding from the European Union and the contribution of Turkish contractors.”
The latest reflections of the racist discourse on the Turkish street appeared on May 18, during a street interview conducted by a Turkish YouTuber, as one of the program’s guests spoke about the existence of nationalities other than Turkish in the country, describing them in racist terms.
What does Erdogan say?
During a video interview with CNN on Friday, May 19, Erdogan said that the opposition is calling for a comprehensive deportation of Syrian refugees from Turkey, noting that the current government encourages the return of about a million Syrians to their country “after preparing the infrastructure for them there.”
This was preceded by the Turkish president’s speech during his answer to the questions of young people at the Presidential Complex on May 11, “Someone said when I come to power, I will send them back to their country, and I will not give these people the opportunity to live in Turkey. I personally do not support this opinion, and this would be unfair.”
He added, “Some of them obtained Turkish citizenship and succeeded in passing the designated exams, including a doctor, an engineer, and a lawyer. Is it reasonable to expel these people because they are refugees after they came to Turkey?”
In May 2022, the Turkish president announced the preparation of a project that guarantees the return of one million Syrian refugees to northwestern Syria, which is reflected in the construction of 100,000 brick houses in 13 Syrian points, in the cities of Jarablus, al-Bab, Tal Abyad, and Ras al-Ain, in cooperation with the local councils.
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