Anti-Syrian sentiment reaches dangerous levels
About 1,000 people marched through the city of Kahramanmaraş in southern Turkey on Sunday, demanding that Syrian refugees in the city center be sent back, which some see as evidence of increasing tension between locals and the Syrians who have fled their war-torn country.
During Monday’s events, one police officer and two protesters were injured when riot police intervened to disperse the crowd. Kahramanmaraş Police Chief Ümit Yaşar Adalar used a loudspeaker to tell the protestors to go home, but tensions rose when the group refused to leave. The protesters also violently shook a family vehicle with a Syrian license plate, in what the Turkish media described as a lynching attempt. However, nobody was hurt and the car drove away with only shattered headlights.
According to official figures, there are 1 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, only 300,000 of whom reside in camps. Many say the actual figures for those living outside refugee camps might be higher. With no opportunity to find work, some of them can become involved in crime. The problem is most noticeable in the southeastern cities of Gaziantep, Hatay, Şanlıurfa and Kahrmanmaraş, which host a significant number of Syrian refugees.
Last week, similar protests took place in Gaziantep, where crowds held a sit-in protest at Democracy Square and called on Mayor Fatma Şahin to resign. A spokesperson for the protesters said Syrians were causing housing and employment problems, adding that the refugees had “morality issues.” Other cities, including Şanlurfa, Hatay and Kilis had previously seen similar protests