Istanbul: an Arab dissident haven in Turkey - The Economist

Dissidents across the Arab world are flocking to Istanbul, Turkey’s old imperial city which ruled their lands until 1918, the Economist reported on Thursday.

Outcasts from regimes that crushed the Arab spring gather in Istanbul’s cafés and discuss plans for returning to their homelands, the Economist said. 

Istanbul may host some 1.2 million Arabs, including over 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, the Economist said.

“A former presidential candidate from Egypt is there, along with Kuwaiti MPs stripped of their citizenship and a crop of former ministers from Yemen. Dozens of Arab websites, satellite-TV stations and think-tanks relay grievances back home. Istanbul’s Arab Media Association now counts 850 journalists as members,” the Economist said. 

Arabs in Turkey may get a Turkish passport after five years of residency, or immediately if they bring in at least $250,000. 

“There they treat us like slaves,” a Lebanese education consultant who took a pay cut to move from Dubai to Istanbul said to the Economist. “Here we belong.”

Turkey’s political system, which is criticised for its flawed democracy in the West, makes the country more attractive for Arabs, as Turkey is a “paragon” compared to Arab regimes, the Economist said. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s continuing support to Arab uprisings in 2011 also make Turkey a haven for dissidents from the Arab world.