Sexual assault rumours turned Turks against Syrian refugees in Istanbul

Some Turkish citizens attacked Syrian refugees in Istanbul after it was said a little girl was harassed by some Syrians which was later falsified by the police, news site Duvar reported late Saturday. 

The incident took place in Istanbul's Küçükçekme district, one of the refugee settlements of the city. A crowd gathered in front of a police station in İkitelli neighbourhood after rumours saying some Syrian refugees were taken into custody for assaulting a Turkish child.

The group attacked Syrians living in the neighbourhood and looted Syrian workplaces, Duvar said, and the attack quickly turned into a lynch attempt against the refugees.

Police refuted sexual assault allegations and said a 12-year-old Syrian asked over another 12-year-old and said "come, come" from his home's window, according to Duvar. There were no physical contacts, the police said.

Police dispersed the crowd with tear gas and water cannons and detained some attackers, Duvar said.

After the incident, several social media users posted solidarity messages for the Syrian refugees by using the hashtag #suriyelileryalnızdeğildir - Syrians are not alone -  which became a  top trend topic on Twitter in Turkey. 

The racist attacks against Syrian refugees in Turkey have intensely accelerated, according to rights groups. 

Turkey is home to a reported 3.8 million Syrian refugees, having implemented an open doors policy since the beginning of the conflict in the neighbouring country in 2011.

More than 70 percent of Turkish people believe Syrian refugees are taking their jobs and two-thirds think Syrians are responsible for increasing the crime rate, according to a poll conducted by Istanbul Bilgi University’s Centre for Migration Research in 2018.