A small girl, about eight-nine years old approached the windshield of the car at the corner less than 100 meters away from Door Number 5 of the Presidential Palace. That is the door used for visiting dignitaries and the media, and in a way after the main gate, which is generally used by the president and Protocol A, is the second most important gate of the presidential compound. She had a dark skin, but she was so dirty that she became even darker. A placard she was carrying revealed the bitter reality: “I am a Syrian refugee … I escaped tyranny, took shelter here … I am desperate, need food.
Help me!” What was her name? Is it important? She was just one of those desperate “guests” on Turkish streets. Is it not a very bad joke to refuse to describe these desperate people as refugees and the thousands in camps erected at the border areas with Syria? They are “guests” because the Turkish state does not accept refugees from the east. Appalling.
On the other corner of the presidential compound, at the junction toward the plush Oran district on the one hand and the even more luxurious Zirvekent compound on the other, passels of people are harassing passing cars every day. They are in the road, trying to attract the attention of the people in passing cars. Some are “selling” tissue paper, some are “selling” bottled water, some are trying to get “bahsish” (gratuity) in exchange of dirtying the windshield with a greasy piece of cloth, while some are just begging. The other night, there was a knock on the door. To my surprise, I discovered that we now started to have Ramadan drummers, knocking on doors and demanding “bahsish.” Did not we have sufficient agony with the Turkish ones waking us from deep sleep at such early hours of the night and have started to have “imported” drummers?
They are all desperate and abundant at every corner of not only Ankara, but all Turkish cities. People are fed up. Xenophobia is spreading fast. Every day there are stories about dark men eating, drinking at restaurants and refusing to pay the bill saying, “We are Erdoğan’s guests.” Well, the prime minister might have invited them to take shelter in Turkey, but if they start harassing everyday life in the country, should not their host do something to make things better both for his citizens and for his “guests?” Already in international reports, Turkey is cited as the country with the highest number of refugees, even if Turkey refuses to grant that status to its “compulsory guests.” It is a “secret” known by everyone that these “guests” are going to stay, and in increased numbers unfortunately, irrespective what happens back in Syria or tomorrow, Iraq. Already there is talk about the number of “guests” exceeding 1.5 million people, including the “unregistered ones.”
Çankaya Palace is busy. The outgoing president is packing to leave for a “retired life” in Istanbul, or perhaps to return to active party politics. The man primarily responsible for the plight of the thousands of young Syrian boys and girls on Turkish streets is rather happy at his palace in Damascus. The man who helped this war become even bloodier is running for presidency, while the other guy obsessed with strategic depths, but plunged Turkey into a shallow swamp is waiting on the sidelines, hoping to fill in the vacated Prime Ministry and ruling party leadership. Once out of the bottle, however, xenophobia is a very dangerous condition, the end product of which cannot be estimated. Now passing by, the people in the cars are refusing, or some are helping, the Syrian – and sometimes Turkish ones posing as if they are Syrian – beggars. Some drivers are reacting very angrily; some are even scorning and yelling at these people.
Turkey might have a very heavy agenda. People might prefer to talk all the time about the coming presidential elections, the chances of success of any of the three candidates, and what might happen in the ruling party the day after. That’s quite normal, but the plight of the Syrian refugees on Turkish streets, the security risks they pose and the risks of rising xenophobia may land Turkey in the not-so-distant future are very important issues as well.
What will happen if somehow violence starts?