Thursday, August 4 at 7:30 p.m. GMT:
For many Syrian refugees, life in Turkey has become increasingly difficult. Amid soaring food and transport prices, public resentment of the group is growing and reports of abuse and violence are on the rise.
Displaced Syrians were once welcomed to Turkey with open arms. But 11 years later, the civil war in Syria continues with no end in sight. And while Turkey prides itself on hosting the largest refugee population in the world – 4 million people, mostly Syrians – this costly endeavor is now a political flashpoint for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The Turkish lira fell 45% last year and inflation hit 80% in June, a 24-year high. Citizens increasingly blame refugees for taking their jobs and using precious public resources. Ahead of the 2023 election, Erdoğan’s challengers are capitalizing on growing anti-refugee sentiment by pledging to massively relocate Syrians to their homelands.
To deflect criticism of the government’s economic policies, the ruling party has also taken up the issue of refugees. Erdoğan himself has spoken of plans to send at least 1 million refugees back across the border to “safe zones” that Turkey has spent billions of dollars securing.
But many Syrians fear it is not yet safe enough to return. Despite growing xenophobia towards them, some say they would prefer to stay in Turkey, where there is relative stability and more opportunities. Others, tired of being mistreated, say they would rather go to Europe, but find it difficult to get visas.
Speaking to Al Jazeera recently, Mohammed Hawasli, sales manager of a mobile phone company living in Istanbul, said: “We would all like to go back to our country and rebuild it again. But we left for a reason, because Syria is at war with itself and we wanted to live with dignity.
In this episode of The Stream, we ask, are Syrian refugees in Turkey being used as political pawns? Join the conversation.
On this episode of The Stream, we are joined by:
Yusuf Erim, @YusufErim34
Editor-in-Chief, TRT World
Ömer Özkizilcik, @OmerOzkizilcik
Foreign and Security Policy Analyst
Sarah Hunaidi, @sarahunaidi
Writer & activist