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What will Turkish elections bring for Syrian refugees?

4 min read

As the AK Party loses the majority in Parliament, Syrian refugees who have not been welcomed by the majority of the opposition in Turkey until now, worry about their future.

Turkey has been one of the main shelters for refugees fleeing the war in Syria since the beginning. With the country’s 911-kilometer-long border with Syria, Ankara has pursued an active open-door policy while Jordan and Lebanon have gradually closed their doors to those escaping from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s snipers and barrel bombs. If it had not, then thousands would be added to the death toll in the bloody conflict in which 220,000 people have lost their lives, according to U.N. estimates from Jan. 15. The death toll could be as high as 305,000, according to some activist groups. Dealing with nearly 2 million refugees is not an easy task for a government, but Ankara has managed to come through it. Turkey has committed itself to humanitarian assistance for refugees. In many reports, the refugee camps in Turkey have been defined as “five-star.” But what makes things worse has been that the number of refugees stuck in Syria and trying to escape has never stopped increasing since the war has not come to an end. The refugee camps were not enough for that amount, and many Syrians chose to take care of themselves in Turkey instead of trying to survive in Syria.

Of course, many problems have started to occur. There are complaints about increasing rents in towns and cities and decreasing wages of positions where employers have found a way to lower costs, employing Syrians for less pay. During the June 7 election campaigns, opposition party leaders hit hard the Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) entire approach to the conflict in Syria as well as its open-door policy for the refugees.

The chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, included an election promise in his campaign speeches, vowing that the CHP will send Syrians back to their homeland if his party comes to power. The CHP, which has supported the Assad regime and has not cut its relations with Damascus yet, has always accused the government of plotting against the Syrian regime. According to the CHP, Syrians were not actually refugees, but were brought to Turkey to destabilize the country. Meanwhile, the Nationalist Movement Party’s Gaziantep deputy candidate Ümit Özdağ tweeted on his personal account in May: “The 500,000 Syrians will go, 500,000 tourists will come to Gaziantep.” Talking to the Doğan Media Group right before the elections, the new MHP deputy said the MHP would start negotiations with Assad when they come to power in order to “cut the main logistics behind jihadists who are supported by the U.S.”

The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which passed the 10 percent election threshold and was a huge success in the elections, did not vow xenophobic promises against Syrians during its campaign. On the contrary, the party’s co-chair, Selahattin Demirtaş, said they should become Turkish citizens. However, he alleged that the AK Party government would go to war in Syria if the HDP could not pass the threshold. The HDP never directly targeted Syrian refugees as a party, but supporters on social media accused the people who fled from the civil war of “being a jihadi or a member of ISIS” many times.

Now, in the light of the election results, the ruling AK Party lost its majority in Parliamentary. While the West welcomes the results, there are others who enjoy the results. One of them is Mihraç Ural, who was behind the blasts in Reyhanlı in Hatay province in May 2013 in which 41 people were killed. He also has long been in the service of Syrian intelligence agencies. Ural, who has fought for the Assad regime for a long time and has been recruiting Turkish people to fight in Syria for Assad for more than two years, celebrated “the victory against the AK Party and [President] Recep Tayyip Erdoğan” on social media, stressing: “Erdoğan loses, Assad still stands.” Still as the party that got the largest share of the vote, the AK Party will probably be the first one to try to form a coalition. In the uncertain period in question, Syrian refugees who have not been welcomed by the majority of the opposition in Turkey until now, worry about their future.

Resource: Daily Sabah, June 10, 2015

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