Syrians should be recognized as refugees: HDP co-chair Demirtaş

Syrians should be recognized as refugees: HDP co-chair Demirtaş

İZMİR – Doğan News Agency
Syrians should be recognized as refugees: HDP co-chair Demirtaş

AA photo

Syrians in Turkey, who are currently identified as “guests” under a temporary protection regime, should be recognized as refugees and be treated accordingly, Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş has said. 

“First of all we should give Syrians the right to be [recognized as] refugees. This right means winning the right to education, healthcare and employment,” Demirtaş told members of his party on July 13 in the Aegean province of İzmir. 

He also said he wanted to “right a wrong” regarding his earlier statements at parliament on July 12, when he called on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to hold a referendum on whether to grant Turkish citizenship to Syrians. 

“I misspoke. This is not an official policy of our party. I committed an injustice to these people [Syrians] when I called for a referendum. Referendums cannot be held on fundamental rights and liberties,” Demirtaş said.

“Anyone who wishes to become a citizen and fulfils the necessary conditions should be able to become a Turkish citizen. Our country is their homeland,” he added, underlining that this was applicable for people from all nationalities including Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis, and Somalis. 

Demirtaş also criticized politicians from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), including Interior Minister Efkan Ala and Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş, for saying that only “qualified and educated” Syrians will be offered citizenship. 

“You cannot cherry pick and say ‘let’s take the good Syrians and send back those who are not qualified,’” he said.

“They say they will ‘choose.’ But first and foremost they are going to choose based on whether [a Syrian] would vote for the AKP. That’s the only concern. It is not about humanitarianism,” Demirtaş said, accusing the government of trying to garner additional votes by selectively granting citizenship. The HDP co-chair also proposed the setting up of a Ministry of Migration to oversee the huge task of coordinating migration to Turkey. 

A lively debate over the possible granting of citizenship to Syrians commenced after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on July 2 that the option is on the table.

“We will give a chance to [acquire] citizenship by helping out these brothers and sisters by monitoring through offices set up by the [Interior] Ministry,” Erdoğan had said.

His statement sparked criticism from opposition parties, which accused him of trying to win political support by “manipulating refugees,” hoping to win support among a new section of the electorate. 

Members of government later spoke up to clarify the plan, saying that only “qualified and well-educated” Syrians with a clean record would be admitted as citizens after an evaluation by the Interior Ministry.

According to some senior officials, the idea followed foreign countries that have offered citizenship to well-educated Syrians while neglecting less-qualified refugees.