Leading the Alternative World Order

Reshaping Perspectives and Catalyzing Diplomatic Evolution

Friday, September 29, 2023


Subscribe to our Newsletter

- Gain full access to our premium content

- Never miss a story with active notifications

- Exclusive stories right into your inbox

WorldAsiaTurkish Refugee Debate: Political Showdown and Uncertain Futures

Turkish Refugee Debate: Political Showdown and Uncertain Futures

Unraveling the Complexities: Turkish Elections, Syrian Refugees, and the Battle over Refugee Policies

The refugee dossier stands as a paramount agenda on the electoral platform, fervently exploited by contenders in their quest for additional votes. Meanwhile, the refugee population remains entrenched in a state of anguish, their hopes hanging in the balance, regardless of the victorious party.

A paradigm shift in Turkish policy concerning refugees looms ahead.

In light of the mounting campaigns against refugees within Turkey, experts firmly assert an impending transformation in the nation’s approach towards this vulnerable demographic.

Engaging in a conversation with Arabic Media, the connoisseur of Turkish affairs, Muhammad Ghiath Sahloul, posits that the plight of Syrian refugees has been subject to multifarious factors:

The Turkish elections have reached an acrimonious climax, with Erdogan and Kılıçdaroğlu, for the first time, vying head-to-head in a runoff. The refugee predicament weighs heavily on both contenders, as Erdogan aspires to repatriate nearly a million individuals to northern Syria, erecting a defensive line akin to a buffer zone housing 250,000 homes. This move aims to counter Kurdish aspirations of statehood and preempt terrorist attacks. On the other hand, Kılıçdaroğlu, representing the center-left, as well as Umit Özdağ and the extreme right Sinan Öğan, expelled from the MHP, harbor unwavering determination to facilitate the refugees’ return. Consequently, Turkish politics and the current government are engaging in discussions with Syria, under the condition that repatriation takes place under the supervision of the Syrian government.

The Syrian refugee conundrum in Turkey

The number of Syrian refugees in Turkey currently stands at approximately 3,380,000, a decline from the initial figure of 4 million, with 600,000 having already returned to northern Syria. Erdogan’s electoral agenda primarily revolves around his accomplishments in heavy and military industries, power generation, and infrastructure, diverting focus from developmental concerns to the pressing refugee issue. This matter has been a source of tension within Turkish society, resulting in instances of violence and targeted attacks against refugees. Provocative speeches, inciting animosity towards refugees, compel Syrians to reconsider their options, contemplating a return to their homeland or seeking alternatives outside Europe.

Escalating hostility towards refugees

In response, Taha al-Ghazi, a dedicated activist advocating for refugee rights in Turkey, elucidates the pivotal role the refugee issue assumes in the elections:

Leading up to the first round of Turkish elections on May 14, hate speech directed at refugees, particularly Syrians, intensified. Opposition figures such as Umit Ozdag, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, and Meral Aksener actively promoted anti-refugee sentiments. The Syrian refugee card became an electoral tool and, concurrently, a strategic instrument in Turkey’s domestic and foreign policy. Opposition parties exploited the refugee card as a means to criticize the Turkish government, which, in turn, employed the same narrative to confront the European Union. Regrettably, the hate speech propagated by the opposition has resulted in the loss of innocent lives, exemplified by the instigation of the tragic incident involving three young men in Izmir, as well as the murder of Nayef al-Nayef in Istanbul. The Turkish government has not pursued accountability or trials for those who engage in hate speech and racial discrimination. Consequently, the perpetrators continue to persist in their vitriolic behavior towards refugees. Following the conclusion of the first round of elections, hate speech against Syrians reached unprecedented levels, with billboards and advertisements calling for the expulsion of Syrian refugees from Turkey plastered across public spaces, streets, and even school walls. Hate speech has permeated various facets of community life, engendering anxiety among refugee families about their future, particularly in light of the promises made by both the government and the opposition to repatriate them. The return of refugees has emerged as a central aspect of the opposition’s electoral pledges, while the government maintains its plans and programs to send back nearly a million Syrians to northern Syria. Consequently, the refugee community fears that regardless of who assumes power after the election period, both factions will fulfill their promises at their expense. In the foreseeable future, we apprehend an increase in deportation cases affecting Syrian families, potentially inducing them to contemplate a return to their war-torn homeland.

An uncertain fate lies ahead

Expounding further during the interview with Arabic Media, Taha Al-Ghazi, the advocate for refugee rights, asserts:

The future appears obscure for Syrian refugees in Turkey. The rising prominence of far-right nationalist ideologies within Turkish political circles, particularly with the explicit support of figures like Umit Ozdag, a staunch proponent of this ideology, endorsing the opposition coalition of the nation, and Sinan Ogan, aligned with the Justice and Development Coalition, known for its extreme-right nationalist rhetoric. The Syrian refugee population is understandably anxious about the ensuing implications. It is worth noting that the intensification of far-right nationalist discourse is not exclusive to Turkey but has also proliferated in France, Britain, and Italy. These dynamics have prompted Syrian refugees to prioritize seeking asylum in Europe over contemplating any notions or programs concerning their future in Turkey.

Deportation: An impractical proposition

Meanwhile, Hussein Al-Zoubi, a distinguished writer and analyst, rebuts the notion of expelling refugees and Kilicdaroglu’s rhetoric regarding the expulsion of ten million refugees from the country, citing various compelling reasons:

The complex realm of international politics exerts significant influence on this matter, with the United States staunchly opposing the forcible deportation of refugees without a viable political solution in Syria. Furthermore, refugees serve as a vital economic force, offering inexpensive labor compared to their Turkish counterparts. Consequently, Turkish business owners find this state of affairs beneficial and are unlikely to support such drastic measures. The proposition to deport refugees to northern Syria, an area under the control of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), further complicates matters. Racist campaigns, though employed during electoral campaigns in Turkey, should not be mistaken as a pervasive sentiment among the populace. Consequently, the proposals presented within electoral programs are unlikely to come to fruition.

Stay informed with the Latest World News Today , available on The Eastern Herald.

For the latest updates and news follow The Eastern Herald on Google News, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. To show your support click here.


Muzaffar Ahmad Noori Bajwa
Muzaffar Ahmad Noori Bajwa
Editor-in-chief of The Eastern Herald, Political & Foreign Relations Strategist.

Public Reaction

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.