Apr 17 2019

Turks’ resentment against Syrians directed at municipalities - DW

Turkish people, angry at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s policies and overwhelmed by an economic crisis, direct their resentment towards Syrian refugees and expect solutions from municipalities, Deutsche Welle Turkish said on Wednesday.

Tanju Özcan, of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), elected as the new mayor of the northwestern province of Bolu, announced his decision last week to cut all municipal aid to Syrian refugees. 

Özcan’s move rekindled debate over nearly four million Syrians living in the country. Opposition parties say the Syrian presence is a result of Erdoğan’s foreign policy. Humanitarian aid provided to Syrians particularly angers many, as misleading information circulates on social media. 

There are 11,918 foreign nationals living in Bolu, but only 2,739 of them are Syrians, DW said. 

“They bring their ways of life here. I am disturbed with them shouting when talking,” said Meral Gerede, a sweet shop owner, said of the Syrians. 

“Our soldiers are fighting in Syria, they are here eating our money and living much better than me,” said her brother Ali Palazoğlu. He said Syrians received a monthly allowance of 1,600 lira ($279) and a food aid of 930 lira ($162), which he told DW he had heard from other people. 

According to official figures provided by the Bolu governor’s office to DW, only 3,009 people in the province benefit from monthly aid of 120 lira ($21), while 33 families are eligible to receive monthly conditional aid of 600 lira ($104) provided by the United Nations Food Programme. 

Nihal Eminoğlu, an academic who prepared a report on the economic participation of Syrian refugees in Turkey, told DW the decisions to cut aid to Syrians in effect amounted to discrimination. “This situation may lead to various results that can harm the society’s peace. Municipalities that hope to receive votes and appreciation from voters reacting to Syrians, are creating medium and long term risks,” she said. 

According to Murat Erdoğan, the head of Migration and Integration Studies Centre of the Turkish-German University, the CHP should avoid populism. “They should stop seeing President Erdoğan in every Syrian and should handle the issue in a right and individual based approach and in accordance with the universal ideological lines of social democrats,” he said.

Didem Danış, a sociologist at Galatasaray University, said reactions to the economic crisis were directed at the refugees as they were the weakest, and those reactions were directed at local governments whose budgets were limited and whose aid to Syrians was nearly non-existent.  “When the lack of correct information channels are coupled with the economic crisis, the municipalities are faced with reactions,” she said.