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Plight of Syrian refugees in Istanbul

“The Treatment of Syrian Refugees in Istanbul is appalling”


An eye-witness shares his observations.

It is well known and internationally acknowledged that Turkey has been hosting very significant numbers of Syrian refugees, pretty much from the outset of the internal conflict that has wreaked havoc throughout the entire country and which has cost around 150,000 lives with millions displaced from their ancestral homelands. It is highly unlikely in a number of cases if some will ever return which means that the children who have been born since the upheavals and displacement, will ever know their true homeland. This column has been vocal in the positive promotion of the Turkish response to this crisis but has just received an account from a Turkish contact in Istanbul and, in the interests of highlighting the prolonged suffering of the Syrian people, this account is published as follows with minimal retouching:



I returned to Istanbul 1 month ago after being away for the autumn /winter season. I noticed a shocking increase in Syrians in the streets. Its impossible to walk down any street without Syrians kids running up to you with their passports asking for loose change. Many Syrians line Istkal Street hoping a tourist will spare a lira or 2. Last week I was sitting outside when a Syrian woman with 2 kids walked up to the table and asked for change. She pulled her passport and I immediately reached inside my wallet to give up some change. Before I could the restaurant owner removed her with force from the my tables yelling at her in Turkish. I was disturbed but what could I do? I've noticed police officers use excessive force when catching Syrians stealing fruit and food from the markets.


 I've had several discussion with numerous of Turks concerning Syria. The large majority of the Turks seem to hate having them here. It seems Turks blame Syrians more for their countries economic downturn than their corrupt government. One individual a Professor at Bigli University told me that Syrians were nothing more than con artists. He explained to me that his friends in border cities told him that Syrian migrate to Turkey to collect money from the government and then return home to their normal lives. I asked him was he and his friends mad? He said that crime in border cites have increased and that Syrians regularly steal, rob, and attack people. I explained to him that Turkey like most of the world had failed Syrians. I told him to examine Sweden who instead of treating Syrians like refugees have decided to welcome them with citizenship, education, jobs, and tools to transition them into into Sweden culture. 

I was told once by someone in Turkey that the media coverage is all propaganda and that the Syrian Civil War is being exaggerated. This debate didn't end well. I gave him the statistics of deaths, orphaned kids, and refugees and he downplayed it as Western Media Games. 


Last night I had dinner with a friend who works for Reuters. He is the coordinator for the Middle East. He informed me that while Turkey has taken measures to help Syrians, they have fought hard to keep them out of Istanbul. The government fears it will hurt their image (like the protest aren't!). He said for a long time they just ignored them here in Istanbul, hoping that if they didn't provide services they would return back to border towns. However the number has sky-rocketed and the government is left playing catch- up. There are no organization here in Istanbul that helps Syrians. He said there has been little campaigning in Turkey to raise awareness and money for Syrians. 


Like all immigrants Syrians are blamed for everything. I had a friend quit his job 2 months ago. He blames Syrians for not being able to find a job. He said they work illegally and for less so there are no jobs.


I've been researching for myself organizations in which I can help. However I have ran into dead in. It's not uncommon to see kids parent-less playing in the streets walking around. These kids needs shelter, guardianships, and education. Someone needs to save them.


The foregoing is chilling to read given that the Turkish are known for their hospitality however, there has been antipathy between the two peoples historically and this could take its roots in Ottoman times. It must be stressed that the text shared is the testament of an eye-witness who is expressing his personal views and opinions based upon his observations and that neither the Star nor this columnist are endorsing or otherwise, this account – how could they, given the personal nature of the account? But it is right that this account is made public in the hope that the appropriate authorities can be compelled to look into the ongoing plight of the Syrian people more closely and with all due compassion, or let us not forget that the casus beli for the Syrian conflict is way above and beyond the ordinary men, women and children of Syria.


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