The first signs of sending refugees back?
A headline in the July 5 edition of daily Hürriyet drew my attention.
Let’s go back to the beginning of the week. There had been incidents in Istanbul and Ankara involving Syrian refugees. The atmosphere was very tense.
First of all, on this day, Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak said the following: “We should not forget that these people are in Turkey temporarily, that Turkey has been hosting them according to its traditions, and that Turkey has been making a huge sacrifice.”
Who do you think these words were directed at?
Clearly they were directed at people in Turkey angry about Syrians. What was Kaynak saying to try to calm them down? “Don’t worry, they are not permanent. They are only here temporarily.”
This was actually the first time we had ever heard this from a government official in Turkey.
Then, one day later, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım personally declared the following: “Whoever commits a crime will find themselves sent across the border.”
Who do you think these words are directed at? They are not for the ears of Syrian refugees; these words are for the ears of angry Turks. He was telling them that they should not worry or make any problems out of the issue, as anyone involved in any negative incident would be deported.
So it seems the government has recognized the Syrian refugee problem for the first time in four years. That is how I am interpreting these two declarations that came one after the other.
They are effectively voicing variations of the policy of main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu before the April referendum. “We will help Syrian refugees return to their countries,” he said.
Of course, the final decision on the issue will be made by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He is a politician and he is aware that these deep, unsettled currents are coming from all sections of society, including the neighborhoods that support the government.
It will of course be very difficult to solve this refugee issue of almost four million. This issue cannot be solved with passionate speeches at rallies or written in newspaper columns that sound nice to your ears. A solution cannot lie in rallies or slogans.
But you would be mistaken to stigmatize a person with a background in sociology who says honestly that “the refugees will be a problem” as “racist.” If you do not listen to the voices coming from the street, if you do not lend an ear and continue with automatic rhetoric, then you would be making a mistake.
You also cannot proceed by scolding or accusing the opposition whenever negative incidents occur in the capital of the country, in towns and in neighborhoods.
You will not be able to understand which segments of society this deep current is going to explode in if you do not make a realistic analysis of the situation.
What is this figure?
The official number of Syrian refugees in Turkey, as declared by the Interior Ministry on Feb. 15, 2017, is 3.55 million.
I would guess that the unofficial number of Syrian refugees in Turkey is over 4 million.
Here is another figure: $25 billion. This is the figure declared by ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Deputy Chair Öznur Çalık on March 23, 2017. Thawt is the amount of money we have spent so far on the refugees.
What is behind these figures?
These are the numbers on the balance sheet that emerged from the dream our foreign policy once had, which calculated that the Muslim Brotherhood would be in power in Damascus within three months and we would be praying together in the Umayyad Mosque.