The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has reported that a staggering number of over 950 Syrians, including innocent women and children, have been subjected to forced deportation from Turkey since the start of July.
This crackdown on Syrian refugees had already begun last year, but it has reached unprecedented levels of intensity following the victory of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May's polarizing presidential elections.
It is important to note that these elections were conducted amidst a disturbing surge in xenophobia and discrimination against Syrian refugees, with both candidates vowing to implement mass deportations. The situation is deeply concerning and requires urgent attention and intervention from the international community to ensure that the fundamental human rights of all individuals are respected and protected.
Turkish President Erdogan has promised to "voluntarily" return around one million Syrian refugees to the north of the country. This comes after opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu vowed to deport all Syrian refugees from Turkey. Erdogan stated that his government is making progress in its plan, with the construction of 100,000-150,000 briquette houses in northern Syria.
In recent times, Syrian refugees have been facing the brunt of Turkey's economic crisis, which has resulted in a significant decrease in the purchasing power of Turks. The combination of skyrocketing inflation and rapid depreciation of the Turkish lira has led to a situation where the refugees are being increasingly scapegoated for the country's economic woes. The refugees are being accused of draining Turkey's resources and held responsible for various issues ranging from sexual harassment to looting following February's deadly earthquake.
The situation has become so dire that Taha al-Ghazi, a political analyst and rights activist, has expressed his disappointment at the punitive measures taken by Ankara. However, he also noted that such actions were not entirely surprising given the current state of affairs.
It is imperative to acknowledge that these refugees are escaping from the ravages of war in Syria, where they have endured insurmountable adversities and oppression. They are seeking sanctuary in Turkey, yearning for a more auspicious existence and prospect. It would be unjustifiable to hold them accountable for circumstances over which they have no power.
Hence, it is imperative that Turkey embraces a more empathetic stance towards these refugees. Rather than regarding them as hindrances or encumbrances on society, endeavors ought to be made to assimilate them into the community and furnish them with avenues to reconstruct their lives. This will not solely redound upon the refugees but also augment Turkey's comprehensive progression and advancement as a nation. As per UN statistics, Turkey currently accommodates approximately four million refugees, of which 3.6 million are compelledly uprooted from Syria.
The Syrian refugee crisis continues to be a pressing issue for Turkey, with over 500,000 Syrians registered as living in Istanbul alone. Other cities such as Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, and Hatay have also taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees. These individuals are issued with temporary protection cards, or kimliks, which allow them to stay in Turkey until their home country is deemed safe or they voluntarily return.
However, recent deportations have sparked controversy and criticism from advocates like Ghazi who claim that they violated the UN's 1951 Refugee Convention. The situation in both government-controlled and rebel-held areas of Syria remains dangerous and unstable despite a temporary lull in fighting.
The deportations come at a time when there are efforts across the Middle East to restore diplomatic relations with Damascus to pre-2011 levels. It remains to be seen how this will impact the already precarious situation for Syrian refugees in Turkey and beyond. Despite these challenges, it's crucial that we continue to prioritize the safety and well-being of those impacted by the ongoing crisis.
Although Erdogan had previously labeled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a "murderer," he has recently demonstrated a newfound openness to the idea of holding a peace-focused summit with him. This represents a significant shift in attitude towards Assad, indicating that Erdogan may be willing to explore diplomatic solutions to the ongoing conflict in Syria. Despite their past differences, it seems that both leaders are now acknowledging the importance of dialogue and cooperation in achieving lasting peace and stability in the region. It remains to be seen whether this potential summit will come to fruition, but it is certainly an encouraging development for those who have been hoping for progress towards resolution of the Syrian conflict.