The past few weeks brought an upsurge in protests and acts of violence against the Syrian refugees in Turkey.
Most Turks believe that there are far more Syrians currently in Turkey than Ankara acknowledges, because the majority of them are not registered.
Public anger is not only being stirred by Syrian beggars becoming permanent features on the streets of cities and towns, but also because the refugees are undercutting already low wages and forcing up rents in mainly lower-income districts because of the increased demand for housing they create.
Recent surveys indicate that many Turks still view helping the needy Syrians as philanthropic, but these same surveys also reveal a significant amount of resentment. More and more people think there is a limit to how philanthropic Turkey can afford to be when millions of Turks are also facing unemployment and poverty.
Confrontations between local people and the Syrians living outside official refugee camps appear to be inevitable given these large numbers. An angry crowd in the southeastern city of Sanliurfa, reportedly organizing through social media, tried recently to demonstrate against the Syrians, but was prevented from doing so after the city’s governor mobilized the riot police to protect the refugees.
A group of 20 youths, angered over the ban, attacked three Syrian passersby, stabbing one in the leg. The Syrians took refuge in a local shop whose owner protected them from what turned into a lynch mob. The police detained 10 people, but such a response is unlikely to deter additional attacks on Syrian refugees.
May alone has witnessed violence against Syrians in Izmir, Gaziantep and Hatay. Some incidents are said to have taken place after Syrian involvement in attacks on locals and alleged accosting of local girls. These days, even rumors to this effect are sufficient to gather a crowd chanting “Syrians out!” or “We don’t want Syrians here!”