In order not to feel sadder next summer
Two years ago (July 31, 2012), in this column, I shared a letter sent from Hatay by my dear friend Ayşe Erdem. While guiding a group of Swiss journalists, she was reporting changes that had begun in the city with the emigration of refugees from Syria. Her letter, which calmly warned us about the upcoming trauma, ended with this sentence: “I feel like we are going to feel sadder in this city next summer.” Unfortunately, Ayşe was right.
After Gaziantep, Hatay, Şanlıurfa and Adana, there have been recent attacks against Syrian immigrants in Istanbul. I would say, “The only thing we needed was xenophobia,” but we have already have intolerance for everyone, but ourselves as an official ideology. Thankfully we do not lack any theoretical meaning on this subject!
There have also been some reactions against these immigrants in Ankara, Konya, İzmir and many other cities that I do not remember. Rumors such as, “They abused that girl,” “They beat our children,” “They stole” and “They did not pay their rent,” were more than enough to incite people to take action against Syrian immigrants. When the accustomed faults of a society or system reappeared under the guise of a “stranger,” the “sensible” groups preferred to lynch them. Approaching 1.5 million, according to official figures, Syrian refugees have become resented by almost all of the social classes.
It was the right move for Turkey to open its doors to Syrians, as the country where they were born and raised in and in which they had once lived peacefully was in turmoil—where death was as common as a papercut.
Let’s leave the truthful, yet still unproven comments such as “both supplying arms to a war and playing the kind neighbor” behind.
Turkey did the right thing in a wrong way. Turkey let the subject of the number of the refugees lag behind. It was thought that this number would be limited to 100,000, but it has reached 1.5 million.
Saying, “Don’t cause harm, they are your brothers” in mosques and counseling people to “stay calm” on TV shows and official meetings does not prevent reactionary pressure that may evolve into racism.
Solutions such as “Transportation to camps outside Turkey, but supported by Turkey” have no legal basis internationally and might cause more problems.
I do not think that last week’s “sobriety” call by Beşir Atalay will have any effect. I do not have any perfect answer to the question of what should be done. But it is evident that both what has been done and what has not been done are totally wrong. Sentences such as Atalay’s “These attacks are local attacks,” accomplish nothing but rekindle the tension.
A society polarized to the point of infighting can’t handle this kind of chauvinistic racism. I wish wisdom and thoughtfulness to everyone. Like Ayşe said, “I hope we don’t feel sadder next summer.”