Syrian refugees face new threats as Turkey votes in runoff

ISTANBUL —  Within the cell sport “Zafer Tourism,” gamers catapult Syrian refugees scurrying into Turkey onto vans to take them again from the place they got here. “Shield your borders. Don’t allow them to move,” says an outline on the Google Play retailer.The sport, whose title refers to an anti-migrant marketing campaign by the Turkish far-right Zafer (Victory) Occasion, was launched by Turkish writer Gacrux Sport Studio in September however has since gained consideration amid the tight election tussle between longtime Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Sunday’s runoff is more and more targeted on the destiny of the roughly 3.7 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. The primary spherical noticed Erdogan get 49.4% of the votes whereas Kilicdaroglu acquired 44.96%; a 3rd contender, Sinan Ogan, a hard-right determine who has made sending refugees again a central theme of his marketing campaign, made a surprisingly robust exhibiting with 5.17%. Now, the 2 remaining sides spend the times to the runoff courting ultranationalist voters they hope will give them the push to victory. Erdogan waves to supporters throughout a marketing campaign rally in Istanbul on Might 22. (Khalil Hamra / Related Press) For populist Erdogan, 69, this has meant a swap from terming calls to repatriate Syrians as inhumane and opposite to Islamic values to a press release on CNN Turk on Tuesday emphasizing that his authorities had already despatched again greater than half 1,000,000 Syrians, with extra to comply with.For the soft-spoken Kilicdaroglu, 74 — he was billed as Turkey’s Gandhi — it has meant changing his nice-guy picture with a sharp-elbowed persona meant to reveal how robust he might be on migrants. “We are going to by no means, ever make Turkey a warehouse of refugees,” Kilicdaroglu mentioned in a marketing campaign speech Tuesday in Hatay, the earthquake-hit province on Turkey’s southern border with Syria, including that individuals ought to act earlier than “refugees take over the nation.”That adopted a Twitter marketing campaign video launched Saturday wherein he mentioned, “As if 10 million Syrians aren’t sufficient, will you let 10-20 million extra come?” (Earlier than the primary spherical, he had mentioned the variety of Syrians within the nation was 3.7 million.) Kilicdaroglu greets supporters throughout a rally in Ankara, the Turkish capital, on Might 12. (Ali Unal / Related Press) Kilicdaroglu additionally vowed to repatriate Syrians as quickly as he’s elected — it’s unclear if it might be on a voluntary foundation — and renegotiate a 2016 take care of the European Union wherein it paid Turkey billions of euros to thwart refugees from reaching European shores. His marketing campaign posters, in the meantime, announce, “Syrians will go!”“There was a radical change in Kilicdaroglu’s tone,” mentioned Halil Nalcaoglu, a communications professor at Istanbul’s Bilgi College.“He ran a optimistic marketing campaign within the first spherical, however it simply didn’t work. Refugees wasn’t the principle agenda, however it has grow to be so due to stress from totally different circles, which suggests he has to promote the concept that he might be very harsh on refugee coverage,” he mentioned. Omar Kadkoy, an knowledgeable on migration on the Ankara-based assume tank Tepav, mentioned the opposition had anticipated the nation’s financial woes to have had extra of an affect on voters.“If you fail as a politician to persuade potential voters from throughout the political spectrum with your personal program — which targeted on human rights and financial points — then it’s important to resort to this populist discourse,” he mentioned.The techniques seem to have had a minimum of some impact. On Wednesday, Kilicdaroglu gained the endorsement of Zafer Occasion head Umit Ozdag, a hard-right determine who places refugee figures at 13 million and has funded movies that characterize the migrant inflow as a “silent invasion” that may make Turks a minority. On the identical time, third-place finisher Ogan — who had conditioned his endorsement on a extra stringent coverage in opposition to refugees and Kurdish teams he counts as terrorists — got here out in help of Erdogan this week. It’s unclear what he requested of Erdogan, who’s extensively anticipated to win the runoff, in return for the endorsement, however the resonance of the anti-refugee rhetoric with eligible voters, almost 90% of whom participated within the first spherical, has not gone unnoticed.Erdogan, whereas altering positions himself, has taken specific goal at Kilicdaroglu’s about-face.“If you wish to outline the lie, it’s important to take a look at Kilicdaroglu. On what foundation do you say this 10 million [refugees]? He’s making an attempt to save lots of the day with hate speech,” Erdogan mentioned. Syrians wait to cross into Syria from Turkey on the Cilvegozu border gate, close to Antakya, Turkey, on Feb. 21. (Unal Cam / Related Press) When Syria first descended into civil struggle in 2011, thousands and thousands fled the violence to neighboring international locations together with Lebanon and Jordan. However it was Turkey that took the lion’s share of refugees, granting privileges — the fitting to work, entry to training and healthcare, amongst others — that have been denied to them in different host nations. Turkey, beneath Erdogan, additionally supported Syrian insurgent fighters, permitting them to make use of Turkish border cities as provide depots and staging grounds for assault on Syrian authorities forces. Erdogan additionally insisted Syrian President Bashar Assad needed to step down. However because the Syrian civil struggle stretched on and Assad — with Iranian and Russian assist — remained in energy, the welcome soured. An ongoing financial disaster that started in 2018 has bred resentment in opposition to Syrians. Inflation peaked at 80%, although it has since fallen to barely greater than half that determine general, and consultants say it stays within the triple digits in massive city facilities. Then got here the devastating earthquakes in February. Although Assad has clung to energy, Syria stays fragmented, and a collection of U.S., EU and United Nations sanctions are nonetheless in place that stop rebuilding. He has additionally conditioned any talks concerning repatriating refugees from Turkey on Ankara pulling its forces from Syria’s north. For a lot of like Ziyad, a 25-year-old from the Syrian capital, Damascus, the concept of being deported to Syria is untenable.“I’ve a piece allow. A license. All from the Turkish authorities, and I’m 100% authorized,” he mentioned. Ziyad first got here to Turkey eight years in the past and now works in an electronics retailer in Istanbul’s Fatih district, a neighborhood with one of many metropolis’s largest Syrian communities. He gave solely his first title to keep away from reprisals.“Day by day, you see policemen right here stopping individuals at random, asking them for paperwork,” he mentioned. “They picked up a man yesterday from his the barbershop he owns. If they believe any wrongdoing, they take you to a deportation heart; 12 hours later you might be in Syria.”That just about occurred to the household of Lujain, 30, a girl from Damascus who got here to Turkey in 2011 and acquired citizenship after college research there. Her household runs a hair transplant clinic, and a consumer had forgotten his passport, so her father supplied to take the person again to his resort to get his paperwork. However when police stopped the automotive, the officers accused her father of smuggling refugees. They despatched him to a holding heart and it took two legal professionals, $9,000 and greater than every week in detention for him to be launched. Even so, the deportation order nonetheless stands, that means he might be kicked overseas at any second.“I attempt to consider nothing will occur to us right here, that if I don’t hurt anybody then nobody will hurt me. However on the identical time, my father tried to do a small favor for somebody and now now we have this difficulty, so on this nation that you just’re by no means, ever safe, that something can occur,” Lujain mentioned.The opposition has vowed to look into citizenship recipients like Lujain — elevating the specter of Syrians like her shedding their Turkish passport.“For me, if I lose my papers, I’ll determine it out, however my dad and mom are previous and now we have nobody left in Syria,” she mentioned. “We already had one nationality that misplaced worth. Now this one might as effectively.”