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Turkish nationals accuse Syrians of looting damaged shops as earthquake rekindles past grievances

In Turkey, a Muslim-majority country, Syrian refugees have been accused of exploiting earthquake as damaged shops and commercial establishments are being looted in the aftermath of the natural disaster.

The recent earthquake in Turkey and Syria has not only brought disaster in its wake but has also spawned resentment among certain Turks towards the millions of Syrian refugees in the country, who are being blamed by some for looting in the midst of the chaos and devastation.

In Turkey, a Muslim-majority country, xenophobia against Syrians has been on the rise, especially in the aftermath of the earthquake, as the Turks picking up their lives from the rubble have blamed Syrian refugees of ransacking them and exploiting the natural disaster to carry out their loot.

In earthquake-affected towns and cities, some Turks have accused Syrians of stealing from damaged shops and homes, a report published on Reuters said. On Twitter, there has been a trend of anti-Syrian slogans such as “We don’t want Syrians,” “Immigrants should be deported,” and “No longer welcome.”

Syrian earthquake victims sheltered in emergency camps were reportedly kicked out of the shelter homes, while a Syrian man who established a shelter in the city of Mersin exclusively for his compatriots, experienced racist insults amid the plundering witnessed by Turks. 

The accusations nevertheless expose the mirage of the ummah that Muslim countries, including Turkey and Syria, often hanker to in their bid to mobilise the Muslim world. 

A Syrian man, who preferred not to be named, lamented that they stopped visiting rescue sites due to being yelled at and shoved around when others heard them speaking Arabic. He further mentioned that people continuously accuse them of looting to create discord.

The official death toll resulting from the earthquake in Turkey and Syria has surpassed 37,000, and it is expected to increase as the likelihood of finding additional survivors dwindles.

Several areas have experienced delays of several days in providing food and emergency shelter to hundreds of thousands of displaced persons. In addition, there have been reports of looting, and some foreign aid teams suspended their work temporarily due to a worsening security situation, according to residents and aid workers.

The Justice Minister of Turkey announced the law enforcement officials had arrested 48 people for looting without saying where they were from. President Tayyip Erdogan has pledged to deal sternly with looters.

Notably, tensions have been on the rise between Syria and Turkey, two neighbouring countries with Muslim majority, ever since the civil war broke out in Syria in 2011. Turkey has welcomed almost 4 million Syrian refugees and provided them with a home. The majority of these refugees are located near the Syrian border in the south of the country. In the city of Gaziantep, which was severely impacted by the earthquake, approximately 500,000 Syrians reside, making up 25% of the population.

Although resentment towards Syrians is not a new phenomenon, the earthquake has exacerbated existing tensions. The latent grievances underscore the differences that exist between countries in the Arab world, even though they put up the charade of unity under the banner of Islam.

Even as Turkey continues to face acute economic distress, it has spent over $40 billion in the past decade to accommodate Syrian refugees. Some Turkish people regard Syrians as low-cost labour who have taken over jobs and used services, and the subject of Syrian refugees was anticipated to be a crucial issue in this year’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

Social media platforms have been yet another forums where anti-Syrian sentiments are actively fuelled.

“Quake survivors are welcome to stay in my Ankara home for a year, on condition that they are not Syrian,” read one of the many tweets offering conditional help to quake victims. 

Mustafa Ali, a former Syrian opposition politician, is operating an impromptu shelter in Mersin that accommodates roughly 250 Syrians. He reported that he reached an agreement with local authorities to keep them separated from shelters intended for displaced Turkish citizens.

He stated that the differences in culture, way of life, and language could potentially resolve many of these issues due to the separation.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
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