How Turkey’s Past Informs Its Present Crisis with Syrian Refugees

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M. Ahmet Karabay

The attacks, looting, and arson against Syrians that have continued for the past two days did not arise suddenly. They came loudly. Inflicting such suffering on minorities and the weak is in our genes. These actions have always been seen and carried out as “cleansing” in our history.

Today marks the anniversary of the burning to death of 33 innocent people on July 2, 1993, at Madımak in Sivas. The voices of conscience of this society were burned in Madımak. On September 6-7, 1955, the homes and businesses of Greeks, Armenians, and Jews, who were natives of this country, were burned, destroyed, and looted. Afterwards, some people began the desired cleansing.

After cleansing minorities from Anatolia in 1915 and 1955, the properties and real estate belonging to these minorities passed into the hands of certain people. Those who wanted no accountability for this became the leading voices of hatred.

The acts of violence against Syrians are no different from those experienced in our history. Efforts to demonize Syrians have been consciously cultivated for the past 7-8 years. Those who displaced these people are none other than those who hold power in the country today.


During the period when the conquering mentality that ruled the country was visiting and hosting Bashar al-Assad with their families, they convinced the Syrian leader of their sincerity. When the events known as the “Arab Spring” began in Tunisia and spread to other countries, neither Assad nor the Syrian people ever thought that this fire would burn their own country.

When protests began in northern cities, Assad, believing in the friendship of Ankara, requested materials like plastic batons, plastic shields, and tear gas from Turkey to intervene in the protests.

Ankara indicated it would meet Assad’s request, but at the same time, calculated the dimensions the protests might reach and sought ways to benefit from it. When the Damascus regime realized it was being stalled, it began to violently suppress the protests to prevent the situation from escalating.

At that time, Ahmet Davutoğlu, who was the Foreign Minister, went to Damascus on Erdoğan’s orders to give a “final warning.” The meeting between Bashar al-Assad and Davutoğlu on August 9, 2011, lasted six hours. The Turkish side, rejecting the West’s calls for democratization as “mandate,” insisted on a timeline for transitioning to democracy from Assad.

Assad stated that he had already begun taking some steps, but it was impossible for his country to set a timeline of a few months. Davutoğlu, carrying Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s message of “Our patience is running out!” summarized the meeting as “We said what we had to say!” and left Damascus.

What followed is well known… The events in Syria quickly spread across the country. During this period, Erdoğan made statements like “We will pray in the Umayyad Mosque on Friday!” born out of an occupying mentality.

Hakan Fidan, who was then the head of MIT and is now the Foreign Minister, advised the government in the following days on how to start a war between the two countries: “I would send four men and have eight missiles fired…”

It is unknown whether the mentioned missiles were fired from Syria to Turkey. However, Ankara began training opposition Syrians in the border provinces to fight Assad. A paid army under the name “Free Syrian Army,” funded by Turkey, was established. This was not enough, and support was given to ISIS.

After that, ways to profit from the war through their companies were prepared. This was not enough either; a “safe zone” was attempted to be created, and useful facilities in this zone were dismantled and moved to the north of the border for sale.

The number of people entering the country through the border, which had turned into a thoroughfare, reached tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands, and eventually millions.


Turkey was one of the primary destinations for displaced Syrians. Those who claimed to be “Ansar” and said, “Let the number of arrivals reach one hundred thousand, and we will show Assad…” saw over time that it did not work that way.

The Syrians, who had to pay the price of rebelling against Assad by leaving everything behind and fleeing their homeland, reached millions in the north of the border. Those who were once “Ansar” now saw the newcomers as those taking their bread and threatening their existence.

Whenever some judicial incidents involved Syrians, the crime was portrayed as if only the “migrants” committed it. With the country’s economic crisis, anger towards Syrians began to be expressed more openly.

Whenever social media posts like “Syrians are everywhere now!” intensified, attacks would follow. The incidents in Kayseri the other night were presented as a reaction to a Syrian’s harassment attempt. Yet, Kayseri has recently gained a reputation as a fertile ground for sexual crimes. You can take the time to look at the various sexual assault news reports in Kayseri shown in the visual below.

The fact that those who try so hard to appear very moral always have something to cover up was revealed in this incident too. The government, however, has been watching the incidents of the past two nights instead of taking measures.

The much-loved Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya has been busy publishing statistics for the first night of the incidents. Yerlikaya announced that there were 343,000 posts from 79,000 accounts, that investigations were launched into 63 accounts, and that 10 of these were referred to the prosecutor’s office.

The images from the events in Kayseri shared on social media caused a great uproar in Syria. Protests against Turkey were held in areas under Turkey’s control, such as Afrin, Mare, al-Bab, al-Rai, Idlib, and Azaz. These protests turned into violent acts, with Turkish-registered vehicles being damaged, Turkish institutions and organizations being stoned, and the Turkish flag being burned.

The retaliatory actions in Syria then evolved into violent acts north of the border. Violence escalated in Nizip, Adana, Istanbul Sultanbeyli, Kırıkhan, and Konya. In Gaziantep, Syrian homes were set on fire, even though it was known that people were inside.

Those who do not want to see that all these events are the result of the failed attempts to realize the dreams of the One-Man they call “Chief” are now taking out their anger on Syrians. Having killed and driven Syrians north of the border, they are now trying to send them back by burning them.

The government, however, clings to the word “provocation” and tries to point the finger at some intelligence agencies to get out of the situation.

Yes, intelligence services can be involved in any social event. It should not be forgotten that even the most powerful intelligence agencies in the world cannot ignite energy that does not exist. The country has been turned into a powder keg by wrong policies. If you do this much, intelligence agencies with plans against you will not hesitate to strike the match.

Now, the tension between the two countries is being discussed as a risk of dragging Russia and the US into a hot conflict in the region. If such a thing happens, not only the major cities but even the districts of Turkey will be at great risk due to the Syrians.



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