Presidential election marathon in Turkey | Syrian refugees fall victim to competition between regime and opposition
In a statement to Babala TV channel, the chairperson of the Turkish Young Party, Cem Uzan has announced that he will cancel the Turkish citizenship, which had been granted to many Syrian refugees, cancel residency cards and encourage them to return to their country through offering them financial incentives, in the case that he wins the incoming presidential election. Uzan has said, “we will give 4,000 USD to every Syrian family of four members. In this way, we will spur them to go back to their country.”
On the other hand, the leader of the most major opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu had vowed to repatriate Syrian refugees in Turkey as a part of a plan designed to repatriate them to Syria in no more two years, after reaching a reconciliation with the Syrian regime.
Furthermore, the founder and chairman of the Victory Party, Umit Ozdag has launched a grand campaign to collect signatures of Turkish citizens in order to expel Syrian refugees from Turkey, disregarding the international warnings against the serious and unwelcome repercussions of such move.
The cause of Syrian refugees in Turkey has been used by both Turkish regime and opposition as a bargaining chip, where the Turkish opposition has exploited the crisis to ensure a victory in the incoming presidential term, while Erdogan has used the issue to exert pressure on European powers to get financial support.
There are nearly 3,700,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey, mostly live in major cities. These refugees are concerned about forcible repatriation in light of the dramatic change of Turkey’s stance regarding the diplomatic relations and rapprochement between Ankara and Damascus. Recently, Ankara has expressed readiness to normalise relations with Al-Assad’s regime, while Erdogan had announced about a plan for a voluntary return of one million and a half Syrian civilians from Turkey to Syria. At the same time, Turkish opposition has vowed to bring back all Syrian refugees to Syria, in the case it win the presidential elections.
Turkish reports have clarified that the number of Syrian refugees, who have recently left Turkey to Europe, has approximated 25,000 Syrian civilians, 10,000 of whom have left Turkey under the EU policy of resettlement, while 15,000 have sneaked into European countries with the help of smugglers.
These reports have explained that the Syrian refugees’ willingness to leave Turkey is attributed to the escalating racist rhetoric and campaigns by Turkish individuals and opposition parties, as well as the restrictions imposed on residency and the current economic hardship. Many Syrian refugees in Turkey have complained of the mistreatment, escalating racist rhetoric and stoking anti-refugee sentiment by opposition parties and politicians who seek for achieving gains during the election marathon.
In an exclusive SOHR interview with the head of the executive body of the National Democratic Front, Shams Al-Din Hamu sees that Turkey started to exploit the Syrian crisis since the onset of Revolution and the regime’s use of extreme violence against the peaceful protestors, referring to the fact that it adopted the policy of the “open borders” for the Syrians who fled the scourges of the war with the aim of blackmailing the European Union and force it to offer financial support to Ankara, under the pretext of “protecting refugees.” In addition, the Turkish government then allowed private capital flow to Turkey, as well as the transport of machineries and laboratories to Turkey. Meanwhile, state media described Syrian people as “brothers” of Turkish people and that the Turks and the Syrians are one nation in two countries, and it promoted slogans describing Syrian refugees as “guests” and that Turkey never allowed UN to call them “refugees,” according to Mr. Shams Al-Din.
Shams Al-Din Hamu says, “for ten years, Ankara has proved that it has used the cause of Syrian refugees as a bargaining chip to exert pressure on the international community. Turkey had blackmailed European countries by threatening to open its border for refugees to flow to Europe, before it received billions of US dollars to support and take care of Syrian refugees in Turkish territory. However, the government provided no support to Syrians. Today, Ankara threatens to repatriate Syrian refugees, risking their safety and lives by sending them to areas dominated by the regime’s oppressing intelligence service and Shabiha or areas controlled by terrorist organisations and factions affiliated with Turkey, instead of caring about their financial and legal situations.”
Shams Al-Din Hamu has added, “the Turkish regime has entered several bargain deals with the United Nations and European Union at the expense of Syrians. Today, the Turkish opposition use the same card to serve its narrow interests, and it sacrifices Syrians for the serve the election agenda. Erdogan and his team’s unchanged goals are manifested in not abandoning power and eliminating the Kurdish nation.”