What It Means To Be Syrian In Turkey?

Monday 11 October 202109:01 pm
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

ماذا يعني أن تكون سورياً في تركيا؟

“Our building is clean, furnished, quiet, and free of any Syrians…”

This sentence may seem ludicrous to some, and strange to others, but the truth, you may come across something of the sort on adverts for housing in Entebbe, Istanbul, Urfa (Şanlıurfa), or any other city in Turkey.

Being Syrian in Turkey means that you’re an unwelcome guest. Literally, a heavy guest in the eyes of almost everyone, starting with the baker who asks you in the morning whether you are Syrian when he notices your accent - he’ll sell you bread either way, but he’ll decide whether to sell it to you with a smile, or with a look of resentment and disapproval - all the way to the president himself, who’s using the refugee crisis as a bargaining card with the European Union, and the opposition which publicly considers expelling Syrians out of the country as the leading item on its electoral program.

Do you know what it means to study, work, graduate, dream, and get married in a country where everyone in it wishes you are gone? It is true that racism exists in varying degrees in most countries of the world, but what’s unique to the racism Syrians face in Turkey every day, is that it is open, explicit, offensive and “justified”.

Do you know what it means to study, work, graduate, dream, and get married in a country where everyone wishes you are gone?

Blatant Identity

Some Turks believe that Syrians have not successfully concealed their “blatant identity”; they speak Turkish with a very clear accent, laugh at a rate higher than that of the average Turkish citizen, stay up too late and work for lower wages. Whereas others believe that Syrians deserve this treatment, because they live their lives normally; they get married and have weddings, birthdays, and engagement parties, even though their country is at war, or simply because they are not Turks, and never will be, even if they get citizenship, because the Turkish race is a “sophisticated and distinguished” race. And the fact that they “have temporarily acquired the privilege of living with such a superior people” on the same land, is in itself the best privilege that one could ask for, far better than other privileges such as being treated equally, as citizens.

Do you know what it means for your suffering to be a card used for partisan propaganda? To see your tears and blood traded in  speeches where petty politicians talk of plans to send you back home if they win elections?

Let us step away from the theoretical and analytical frameworks of the phenomenon of racism, and talk about how deeply it has penetrated the day-to-day details of the lives of Syrians in Turkey. These details which perhaps Syrians themselves no longer notice, I notice whenever I find myself forced to justify that I am not Syrian in order to make some things easier for myself, like doing paperwork or, at times, just to get a nicer reaction at times. I found myself involuntarily considering being non-Syrian, a privilege that gets me out of the prejudices that plague Syrians like a curse. I began to wonder why no human rights organizations or civil society activists seek to change such societal behavior or address its causes? But I discovered that the issue has social, political, and historical backgrounds, which would take a long time to explain and do not concern me directly as much as their impact on how difficult it is to achieve any change.

Fragile Land

How can long-term change take place in a society that fully believes that the presence of Syrians in Turkey is a temporary one, even for those who have obtained citizenship, Turkey is a fragile and soft land, and for most Syrians as well, because their presence in it is contingent on volatile political scores, and on disputes between the government and the opposition… Do you know what it means for your suffering and displacement to be a cheap card used for partisan propaganda? To see your tears, and blood, being bought and sold right in front of you, at every opportunity a speech is given where a petty politician talks of the great rosy plan to just simply send you back home if he wins the election? Do you know how difficult it is for everything to remind you that you are a stranger, an outsider threatened with deportation, while you try so hard to build yourself some solid ground to stand upon in your exile?

In fact, receiving refugees and providing them with the basic necessities of life is not sufficient, if it is not accompanied by a sincere will to integrate them into society and issue deterrent laws to address all the manifestations of racism

The worst thing about this is that they are fully convinced that you have the option to return to your peaceful and quiet homeland, to live in stability and tranquility, but you choose - of your own free will as a refugee - to stay, simply because you want to. Those with racist notions are not convinced that Syrians do not even have the luxury of choice, and the truth is that the facts are clear and obvious to those who want to see them, but bias towards the racist side and promoting such misconceptions is easier for those who publicly - or implicitly - adopt the theory of their national or ethnic superiority, because it simply gives them an inner feeling of satisfaction and justification for all their actions and racist attitudes.

In fact, receiving refugees and providing them with the basic necessities of life is not an adequate effort, if it is not accompanied by a real and sincere will to integrate them into society and issue deterrent laws to address all the manifestations of racism that they may face, and most importantly remove them from all political biddings, and actually treat them like citizens with equal citizenship, which is what Syrians in Turkey lack right now.


*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Raseef22

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