500 arrested in Türkiye after two days of attacks on Syrian refugees

500 arrested in Türkiye after two days of attacks on Syrian refugees

Nearly 500 people have been arrested in Turkey in two days for taking part in and encouraging riots that have rocked major cities in the east of the country since Sunday night and targeted the Syrian refugee community in the region.

For years, xenophobia against Syrians and Afghans in Turkey has been fueled by the country’s severe inflationary crisis – inflation has reached 75% year-on-year – and the hostile rhetoric of the opposition to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turkish opposition, led by the social-democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP), has turned the refugee issue into a spearhead against Erdogan, whose policy in the early years of the Syrian civil war was one of open arms.

The latest violence began on Sunday in the city of Kayseri: Local media reported that a Syrian man from the area assaulted a 5-year-old girl in a public bath. The local government added hours later that the girl who was abused was also Syrian.

But the announcement came too late, and the flame had already been ignited: Kayseri I and other major Turkish cities such as Konya, Antioch and Antalya witnessed riots and attacks against Syrian refugees. The attackers, who were Turkish nationalists, assaulted the refugees and burned homes, shops and cars belonging to Syrian citizens.

“Dear citizens: Let us not fall into provocations; let us act with moderation. No one can commit crimes by attacking people and public places. Our state is strong. Those who participate in conspiracies against our state will receive the punishment they deserve,” Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said yesterday.

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The Turkish government is dealing with the issue of Syrian refugees in Turkey on a fine line: Erdogan governs in coalition with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party, whose youth groups are, in many cases, the most active on the streets.

“It doesn’t matter who they are: burning houses and streets is unacceptable. Turkey is a state of law and order. Our security forces continue their fight against all crimes,” the Turkish president said.

However, tensions are rising, and in response to the attacks on Turkey, Syrians in northern Syria – in areas occupied by Turkey – have attacked Turkish soldiers and burned Turkish flags.

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