Rising xenophobia: Attack highlights Turkish anger at foreigners

Family and friends say goodbye as Syrian refugee voluntarily board buses returning to neighbouring Syria on August 6, 2019 in the Esenyurt district of Istanbul. (AFP)
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Updated 05 February 2020

Rising xenophobia: Attack highlights Turkish anger at foreigners

  • Syrian refugees, who receive free education and health services, have been blamed for rising unemployment, public unrest and erosion of traditional values, as well as inflated rental prices

ISTANBUL: Rising xenophobia and discrimination against Syrian refugees in Turkey has been highlighted after an attack on an Egyptian stunt double in Istanbul.
Abdelbari Mancy, a stunt double in several Turkish TV series, was violently beaten on a bus after a man mistook him for a Syrian refugee.
The attack has raised concerns about the safety of foreigners, especially Arab nationals, in Turkey — and shows how Syrian refugees are increasingly scapegoats for the country’s economic woes.
“This isn’t the first time an Arab has been attacked for being thought to be a Syrian and it isn’t gender-specific. The recent attack on Mancy, however, shows that the tolerance of some Turks has run out,” Omar Kadkoy, a Syrian-origin researcher on refugee integration at Ankara-based think tank TEPAV, told Arab News.
Mancy, who describes himself as the first and only Egyptian stuntman in Turkey, has lived in Istanbul for two years and is fluent in Turkish. He has acted in well-known Turkish series such as “The Protector,” “Payitaht” and “Fighter.”
The actor, whose nose and arm were broken after he was punched, was with his sister, sister-in-law and three-month-old niece during the attack. Both women were also hit during the attack.
Mancy was treated at a hospital on the European side of Istanbul. He filed a complaint against the attacker at a police station.
Almost 4 million Syrian refugees live in Turkey. However, public opinion has turned against them as their numbers have steadily increased due to the civil war in regions close to the Turkish border.
Syrian refugees, who receive free education and health services, have been blamed for rising unemployment, public unrest and erosion of traditional values, as well as inflated rental prices.

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Almost 4 million Syrian refugees live in Turkey. However, public opinion has turned against them as their numbers have steadily increased due to the civil war in regions close to the border.

For Kadkoy, the root causes of such attacks are multifaceted.
“Syrians are considered as the Pandora box for economic woes. In addition, political decisions to enforce the law, particularly in Istanbul to relocate undocumented Syrians or send the ones with IDs issued from elsewhere to the provinces of registration, amplify further the negative perception of Syrians,” he said.
The Istanbul Political Research Center recently released a research report, “Insecurity of Youth in Turkey: The Perception of Labor, Subsistence and Life,” which revealed that unemployed young people mostly blame Syrian refugees for the problems they face in accessing jobs.
“Turks are constantly reminded that Syrians will eventually return. This was evident in the initial portrayal of Syrians as guests and as an outcome of the military interventions. Thus there is difficulty in accepting Syrians becoming a permanent part of Turkish society,” Kadkoy said.
There are, however, some hopeful signs, although rare. Mahmoud Othman, a 22-year-old Syrian refugee, recently saved a Turkish couple from the debris of an earthquake that hit Turkey’s eastern Elazig province. He was hailed as a hero for his bravery, and has helped to change the stereotypes that many locals have of foreigners.
For Kadkoy, the existing integration policies in Turkey do not have the capacity to change the current perception of Syrians.
“Additionally, there is no political will to inject actual integration policies. Therefore, the media bears a great responsibility in shedding light on Syrians’ contributions, especially the ones of an economic nature. A starting point would be the Syrian entrepreneurs who have invested 3.9 billion Turkish liras to establish almost 14,000 companies and created job opportunities,” he said.


US allows Jerusalem-born citizens to put Israel on passports

Updated 6 min 50 sec ago

US allows Jerusalem-born citizens to put Israel on passports

  • Jerusalem-born Americans will be able to specify either Israel or Jerusalem as their place of birth on passports and official documents
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the new passport policy was in keeping with the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

JERUSALEM: The United States will allow Americans born in disputed Jerusalem to list Israel as their place of birth on passports and other documents, according to a new policy announced Thursday.

The move came a day after the United States amended science accords signed with Israel to apply to institutions in the occupied West Bank. The changes, enacted days before the US election, appeared to be aimed at shoring up the support of evangelical Christians and other Israel backers.

President Donald Trump’s administration broke with decades of US policy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017 and later moving the embassy there from Tel Aviv, where most other countries maintain their missions.

Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war along with the West Bank, territories the Palestinians seek as part of their future state. Israel considers the entire city its capital while the Palestinians want their own capital in east Jerusalem.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that the new passport policy was in keeping with the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Jerusalem-born Americans will be able to specify either “Israel” or “Jerusalem” as their place of birth on passports and official documents.

Those who do not specify their place of birth will be listed as having been born in Jerusalem.

Trump released a plan to resolve the Middle East conflict in January that was rejected by the Palestinians.

The administration has succeeded, however, in improving ties between Israel and other Arab nations. In recent weeks the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan have agreed to normalize relations with Israel, giving Trump a string of foreign policy achievements ahead of the vote.

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper visited Israel on Thursday and met with top Israeli officials.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who visited Washington last week, said he was “deeply appreciative of our dialogue, which has ensured that Israel now has the tools it needs to contend with destabilizing forces in the region.”