The wretched of the earth: Racism

In November, three Syrian refugees were burned to death in Turkey’s Izmir province while they were sleeping. The attacker, identified as Kemal Korukmaz, “proudly admitted” to the killing of the young men under police custody for an unrelated crime last week, according to reports on Turkish media.

The brother of one of the victims told reporters that they had not had any conflict with the attacker.  Human Rights Association (İHD) Izmir, in a press statement, said the attack had been carried out with “nationalist sentiment”.

This racist act is absolutely terrifying. Syrians who escaped the persecution of Bashar al-Assad, one of the few living dictators in the world, and took refuge in Turkey are burned to death - what could be more painful than that?

The most tragic aspect is that we learned of the atrocity 35 days later. If it wasn’t for the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), we may have never heard of it. Even when it did come to light, the killings did not spark much protest in the country.

I know that if the victims had been Turkish, the public reaction would have been different. The media, politicians, and the people would have condemned the attack. As such, it is vital to stand up for Syrian refugees to remind them they are not alone against racism.

In 2021, “nationalist sentiment” led to death by fire for three young Syrian refugees, who would be the most wretched among the Wretched of the Earth, as Frantz Fanon wrote.

Unfortunately, this barbaric act was not the first hate crime against Syrian refugees in Turkey. And it won’t be the last, unless some measures are implemented.

Syrian refugees are one of the most vulnerable groups in Turkish society, and they deserve to not be the victims of racism, the world’s most despicable ideology.

It is high time Syrians were provided a peaceful environment as human beings. It is vital to point out that racism is a crime and not a mental health condition to be cured. However, in a country where the rule of law is not completely institutionalised, racism becomes a normal part of social life.

The 1951 Geneva Convention should be implemented in its entirety so Syrians can be officially designated refugees. The Turkish government should also provide support to them based on universal human rights principles.

Currently, although most of them have been living in Turkey for more than a decade, Syrians are called ‘guests’, a euphemistic title for their official status of temporary protection.

The more than 3 million Syrians are not guests; they are people who left their homeland due to fear of persecution. They must not be used as a political tool against European countries.

Dozens of refugees have been victims of hate crimes in the past year, and hostility against them comes from some politicians as well. Why is it that difficult to understand that asylum is a human right? Politicians who often make anti-refugee statements must be aware that they are harming peace among society with their discrimination.

As long as racist rhetoric is supported by society, hate crimes against refugees will not end. Therefore, deputies must understand that their words have power and strive for a peaceful environment for all, instead of destroying it. 

The death of these young men should not be taken lightly. It should be condemned by all, and all should stand up for refugees. The families of the victims should not be left on their own, they should receive support in their legal pursuit against the attacker.

As refugees are made into the wretched of the earth, a recipient of hate in the public sphere and on social media, it is necessary to stand with them as human beings. If we do not act together against racism, this hateful ideology will destroy all of us one day.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.
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