The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

Anti-Syrian racism in Turkey | Young Syrian man stabbed to death in front of workplace in Istanbul

A young Syrian refugee from Homs province died after being stabbed by a Turkish person, in front of his workplace in Taksim district in Istanbul, Turkey. This comes eight days after A young Syrian man was shot dead by thieves who tried to rob his house in Istanbul’s Esenler neighbourhood, Turkey.

The young man is from Hafserjah village in the western countryside of Idlib.

This comes in the light of the escalating rhetoric of racism and hatred against Syrian refugees in Turkey and nearly a week after a Syrian woman was attacked in Gaziantep city.

On June 5, SOHR activists published a report about the voluntary return project of Turkey, as follows

As racist and hate speech campaigns against Syrian refugees fuelled by some Turkish officials, while threats of forcible deportation of Syrians to northern Syria are on the rise, Syrian refugees have flowed from Turkey to several European countries, seeking security, and stability and better life. Such mass exodus comes after Syrian refugees have been disappointed with the Turkish government which attempts to circumvent its pledges to protect them, especially since the recent stance of Turkish authorities and most of the Turkish citizens completely contravenes the warm welcome to Syrian refugees at the beginning of the crisis.


The tightened security grip by Turkish authorities over the past years has failed to curb the flow of Syrian refugees to nearby countries by land, by sea and by air whether via official ways or with the help of smugglers with Greece being the most prominent destination for refugees fleeing from Turkey.


According to SOHR statistics, there were 300 to 500 attempts by refugees to flee to Greece whether by sea, by land or air.


Commenting on the smuggling operations, costs of such trips and reasons prompting Syrian refugees to leave Turkey, a man known by his initials as B. A. working in the smuggling business told SOHR, “most individuals immigrating from Turkey are young people, both males and females, as they seek to find a better future, especially after the decisions made by the Turkish government, which have restricted the refugees’ freedom and clamped down on them greatly. These people have chosen to escape, risking their safety and lives. On most occasions, these refugees have not remained in Greece, where many continue their way to other countries, such as Hungary and Bulgaria, with the aim to reach Germany in order to stay there. Others head to different countries according to their potential, while some head to specific countries where their relatives and friends live. The illegal routes of smuggling to European countries are confined to land and the sea, while the cost of the trip is varying and depends on the level of strict security measures by Turkish authorities. In general, refugees face great challenges to get out of Turkey, and on many occasions, they need to try several times until a single group can get the appropriate chance to escape.”


Clarifying the cost of smuggling trips, the man says, “every refugee is required to pay 3,500 to 4,500 USD. It is a relatively large sum of money for a single refugee, but it is distributed to several individuals facilitating the smuggling operations of refugees whether by sea or by land. The money is paid after refugees arrive safely in Greece or any other country. Despite the high cost of such trips, there is a noticeable willingness by Syrian refugees to escape from Turkey. Finding good job opportunities and benefiting from services provided by the European union to refugees are the most prominent reasons motivating refugees to leave Turkey, especially since the Turkish government has turned its back on refugees in its territory due to their large number and started to impose unjust strict measures preventing them from moving comfortably from a city to another. Most of those who prefer to leave for European Union countries, such as Greece, Germany and France, do not think of returning again to Turkey or Syria, and they decide to start a new better life, as living in Turkey is not comfortable for them any more. Recently, Syrian refugees have been exposed to racist acts and crimes, bullying and mistreatment by most of the Turkish people. Immigration of Syrian refugees from Turkey escalates, and tens of people communicate with me on a daily basis to help them sneak out to other countries. I expect that more refugees will turn to immigration from Turkey in the case that Turkey passed the potential decision deporting Syrian refugees to north Syria and resettling them in camps lack basic livelihood.”


An activist known by his initials as M. A. shared his point of view regarding the phenomenon of the escalating immigration and escape of Syrian refugees from Turkey to other countries, such as Greece, Germany and Belarus. The man has told SOHR, “these countries, which Syrian refugees flee to, respect the rights of refugees, support them and put the reasons behind their escape from their homeland into consideration. Moreover, these countries provide all possible facilitation in order to ensure their stability and turn them into effective members of the new society they have sought asylum. Accordingly, progress achieved by Syrians in these countries on all levels, particularly the living and educational situations, is undeniable. These factors have prompted many Syrian people, especially young Syrians, to decide to flee from Turkey. Turkey has been all along turning the crisis of refugees in its territory into a bargaining chip to gain further support from countries of the European Union or use in various negotiations serving its narrow interests. Moreover, the Turkish government has stopped treating Syrian refugees as guests and refugees who have rights that must be respected. Turkish authorities see that Syrian refugees have become an extra burden, and they seek and attempt to get rid of all Syrians on their land. A part of such attempts is manifested in the unjust and arbitrary decisions made by Turkey against Syrian refugees, the latest of which was the ‘voluntary return.’ Refugees who secured a relatively stable situation for themselves and their families, after beating scores of challenges they faced for years, cannot accept to return to north Syria region. Logically, they would rather search for a better place away from repression in Turkey and protracted conflicts in their homeland.”


The activist adds, “even Turkish citizens of Syrian descent are not treated like Turkish-born citizens, and they are categorised as tenth-class citizens. These refugees have decided to flee from the repression and assaults they have been subjected to because of the latest hate speech and racist campaigns which escalate one day after another. Even young Syrians who have decided to leave Syria have no longer considered Turkey a destination to settle in, and they see it just a ‘stop’ on their way to countries of the European Union.”


The activist has pointed out the importance of immigration for Syrian refugees from Turkey, particularly young people, as they prefer not to further accept the racist treatment by the Turks. After having been forced to leave their homeland, these refugees seek to spend the period of asylum in a country respecting their rights, defending their dignity and helping them to achieve progress at all levels, the scientific and social situations in particular. In addition, they do not want to return to north Syria region which has been turned into a playground for the factions’ conflicts, as well as the deteriorating living conditions, as the activist described.


A 24-year-old man known by his initials as K. S. and now living in a camp in Atma on the Syria-Turkey border, after having been displaced from Sahl Al-Ghab in the western countryside of Hama three years ago, has clarified that after several failed attempts to sneak into Turkey with the help of smugglers, he decided to obtain a “merchant ID” for nearly 2,300 USD. People holding this ID are allowed to legally enter Turkey through Bab Al-Salama crossing. The young man has noted that he decides to continue his way to Germany as soon as he reaches Turkey.


The young man told SOHR “I have decided not to stay in Turkey even for one day. People who are dreaming of enjoying a brilliant future, an appropriate job and a high income in a country respect humanity and dignity should not stay in Turkey. I decided to leave for Germany, as I think that there is a satisfying space of freedom of expression and that I can move freely without being shunned or subjected to racist acts.”


The young man has noted out that he is a professional “content maker,” as well as his experience in advertisement campaigns for both major and recently-established companies, photography, editing and management of initiatives and campaigns of humanitarian assistance. The man cleared out that his work will be restricted in Turkey which monitors every movement by Syrians in its territory and their work. “A Syrian refugee in Turkey can be forcibly deported to Syria for no reason, so I decided to continue my way to Germany,” the man says. He remarked that a large number of Syrian young people desire to leave Turkey and do not feel good there. However, the living conditions of these Syrians, especially those whose families live with them in Turkey, do not allow them to leave. Commenting on the high cost of the journey and the risks which he may face on his way to Europe, the man says, “I can pass all these challenges, as I aim to reach Europe and leave this disastrous situation in north Syria.”


It is worth noting that Turkey, Greece and many other countries have imposed strict measures on their border to curb the flow of more refugees to European Union countries. In 2021, Turkish, Polish, Greek and German authorities have adopted heavy measures to fortifying their border. One example, among many, was the statement by the Polish Minister of Defence on August 23, 2021, who announced that Poland deployed nearly 900 soldiers along its border with Belarus, which is nearly 419 kilometres long, as well as establishing a 2.5-metre-high fence in order to prevent the access of refugees with the help of smugglers.


It is also worth noting that Turkey, which now hosts nearly four million Syrian refugees, was the most prominent destination for Syrian refugees after the outbreak of the Syrian Revolution. At that time Turkish authorities facilitated the entry of Syrians to Turkey, not to mention the warm welcome before it started to impose strict measures on the border with Syria. Moreover, hate speech and racist rhetoric and language against Syrian refugees have recently escalated, where such campaigns are led by opposition parties and officials in the current Turkish government. On the other hand, the project of “voluntary return” and establishment of the so-called “safe zone” announced a few weeks ago by the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan have exacerbated the tragedy of Syrian refugees in Turkey further, as they are now concerned about forcible deportation.