In Turkey / Türkiye

HDP co-chair calls for referendum on Turkish citizenship to Syrians

Dogan News Agency, in Hurriyet Daily News, July 12, 2016

Selahattin Demirtaş (Anadalou Agency photo)

Selahattin Demirtaş (Anadalou Agency photo)

ANKARA –Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtas has called on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to hold a referendum on his suggestion to grant citizenship to Syrian migrants, arguing that such a plan would only “ignite further racism” against Syrians in Turkey, who number up to three million.

“They are using Syrians as a tool of domestic politics. First of all, the president has no such jurisdiction to decide on this by himself. But if he trusts himself so much, then OK let’s take it to referendum,” said Demirtas.

“Without convincing the people and by only fueling the racist, chauvinistic wave against our Syrian brothers by fueling nationalism, you cannot solve this issue,” he added, saying racism will be triggered more when people are told that Syrians would be granted citizenship due to inequality, poverty, and unemployment in Turkey.

Demirtas also warned that there are concerns in Turkey’s east about the “geographic annotation” of migrants, and he slammed plans to grant state Housing Administration of Turkey (TOKI) homes to Syrians becoming Turkish citizens, saying such a move would not be based on any existing law.

“He [Erdogan] is saying ‘there are lawyers and doctors among them.’ So he is personally going to select which migrants to take too,” added Demirtas.

Hostility toward Syrians grows after deadly fight in central Turkey

Dogan News Agency, in Hurriyet Daily News, July 12, 2016

KONYA – Tensions are running high in the Beysehir district of the Central Anatolian province of Konya, where a young Turkish man and a Syrian man were recently killed in a street fight, as local residents, including the slain Turkish teen’s family, demand the Syrians living in the area leave.

Two people were killed and another three were wounded in a fight between Syrians and Turks which erupted over the kicking of a stray dog late on July 9 in Beysehir. The fight was reportedly started after Mehmet Bayraktar, 18, saw four Syrians kicking a stray dog and warned them not to do so.

A number of local Beysehir residents, including Bayraktar’s parents, have shown their anger since the deadly incident, voicing that they no longer wanted Syrians in their town.

The police have taken wide security measures since the incident, with riot control vehicles with water cannons, known as TOMAs, and some 400 police officers dispatched to the town as a precaution.

Speaking after the killing of their son, the Bayraktar family demanded measures be taken to prevent similar killings. “Our pain is huge. We have lost our son for nothing. As people of Beysehir, we have done whatever was required to meet the Syrians’ needs. But it is out in the open what they have done. Now we want measures to be taken against Syrians and for them to leave the district. Because we have suffered, do not let others suffer as well. It is not clear what the Syrians will do,” said Bayraktar’s grandfather, Mehmet Bayraktar.

Meanwhile some of the 900 Syrians living in the town have already left after their homes were allegedly stoned following the deadly fight.

Mustafa Sevimli, whose shop was below an apartment that was stoned by an angry crowd, said Syrians had been welcomed in the town but now they were posing a threat. “Now we are concerned. We do not want them to be here anymore. Syrians have come here as guests and we want them to act as guests. We will then show our hospitality. But if they do craziness, the people of Beysehir won’t stand behind them. Until now, the people of Beysehir embraced them with love,” said Sevimli.

Another shopkeeper in the same building, Ömer Duran, said the state had to find solutions to the problem. “They have used our love for mean purposes. The state should give the necessary punishment, because if people get involved in this [situation], things would get out of hand. [The Syrian] people who live in this building have gathered on the top floor. The landlord also wants to take them out. Now, we, as the shopkeepers are being affected,” said Duran.

Meanwhile, the interrogation of some 15 people, including eight Syrians who were detained after the incident, was ongoing while the body of Syrian Ibrahim El Ali, who was killed in the fight, was still in a morgue and it will be buried in a public cemetery if no one shows up to claim it.

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