Hundreds arrested during anti-Syria riots in Turkey

Turkey’s government has urged for calm after violence against Syrian refugees broke out in the central Melikgazi region and spread to other areas.

Riots erupted after Turkish authorities arrested a Syrian man for allegedly sexually abusing a seven-year-old Syrian girl in the central city of Kayseri.

Turkish residents, infuriated by online reports of the crime, flipped over cars in Kayseri and set Syrian-run shops alight on Sunday night, demanding that Syrians be kicked out of the country.

The violence spread to the southern province of Hatay, where protesters set a Syrian grocery store ablaze.

The riots “damaged houses, workplaces, and vehicles belonging to Syrian nationals”, said Turkey’s Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya, who accused those responsible of acting “illegally in an attitude that does not suit our human values”.

On Tuesday, Yerlikaya stated “474 people were detained after the provocative actions” carried out against Syrians, in a post on X.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the violence, which he blamed opposition parties for stoking.

“It is unacceptable to burn houses, vandalise and set streets on fire,” he said on Monday of the violence, adding, “Nothing can be achieved by fuelling xenophobia and hatred of refugees in society.”

More than 3.5 million Syrians live in Turkey, the highest number in the region, who were initially welcomed as refugees when the war erupted in Syria in 2011.

Most Syrians live under “temporary protection” status and many subsequently became Turkish citizens. But anti-refugee sentiment has been rising in Turkey, particularly against Syrians, for several years because of a deep economic crisis that has seen soaring inflation.

Umit Ozdag, the leader of Turkey’s anti-migration Victory Party, blamed the violence on the government’s allegedly “privileged” treatment of Syrian refugees.

Anti-Syrian riots broke out in Turkey in 2021, after a Turkish teenager was stabbed to death in a fight with a group of young Syrians in the capital, Ankara.

Hundreds of people chanting anti-immigrant slogans took to the streets, vandalised Syrian-run shops and hurled rocks at refugees’ homes.

The recent violence sparked retaliatory riots in opposition-held areas of northwestern Syria, across the border, including those controlled by Turkish-backed forces.

Hundreds of Syrian demonstrators, some armed, took to the streets in protest. Some tore down Turkish flags, hurled rocks and objects at Turkish trucks and attempted to storm the Jarablus crossing, said the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, a war monitor.

Four people were killed in “exchanges of fire” with Turkish guards, while 20 more were injured, added the Syrian Observatory.

Protester Adel al-Faraj stated he took to the streets in solidarity with “our Syrian brothers in Turkey”.

“Our people fled from [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad only to be oppressed in Turkey,” he told the AFP news agency, urging Turkey to do more to stop violence against Syrians.

Tensions have been rising in Syrian opposition-held areas over moves towards rapprochement between the two countries, including plans to open a crossing between government-held areas and those held by Turkish-backed opposition forces in Aleppo.

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