Ancient Haven for Refugees Sees Signs of Strain

Ceyland Yeginsu, New York Times, July 31, 2014

A Syrian boy stood on a white stool under a giant Turkish flag in Taksim Square, selling cold water one hot evening last week. His sales efforts went mostly unnoticed, until a Turkish teenager approached him and pulled him by the ear, berating the boy for working on his territory.

“These Syrians have no shame–stealing our spots when we go to break our fast for an hour,” said Ibrahim Esin, 18, referring to the daily fast during the month of Ramadan, which ended Monday. “They stick around here like flies, either begging on the streets or stealing our customers. It’s a real nuisance.”

A few days later, the Syrian refugees, who had been a familiar sight in the streets, sleeping in parks and squatting in abandoned homes here over many months, were difficult to find in central Istanbul.

“The municipality came and swept them all away,” said a restaurant worker on this city’s main shopping boulevard, Istiklal Street.

Turkey has kept its borders open to displaced Syrians fleeing that country’s bloody civil war, taking in more than a million refugees since the fighting began three years ago. Many of the refugees began spreading out from border towns and refugee camps into cities in search of jobs and more permanent places to live. The government says there are 67,000 registered refugees in Istanbul, though various reports from nongovernmental organizations put the unofficial figure at 200,000. Their presence is fostering resentment here, and some Turks have demanded that Syrians in Istanbul be sent back to the camps.

The government has responded in the past week by rounding up Syrian refugees across the city, putting them on buses and sending them back to camps in the south.


Syrian beggars meander through dense traffic, sometimes selling water and tissues, but more often infuriating drivers by tapping on windows with open palms extended. Other refugees have taken on street trades in what they say is an attempt to preserve their dignity, but their efforts have created resentment from Turkish vendors who do not want the competition.

The Turkish government, an opponent of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, did not anticipate that the war in Syria would last this long. When Turkey opened its border to refugees in 2011, the government presumed that Mr. Assad’s days were numbered and refugees would soon return home.

Now Turkey faces its own security threats in an increasingly unstable region. There are jihadist fighters taking refuge on its border with Syria, and their extremist counterparts in Iraq have taken hostage dozens of Turkish diplomats. The influx of refugees is transforming the social fabric of major cities, sparking violent protests.

In one recent demonstration in Kahramanmaras, a city in southeast Turkey, knife-wielding demonstrators chanting, “We do not want Syrians!” attacked Syrian shopkeepers.



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  • MekongDelta69

    Let all the savages kill each other. Who cares?

    • Oil Can Harry

      Turkish people: These damn Syrians are ruining our country almost as badly as our people have wrecked Germany during the last 50 years!

  • Syrians are the squeegy men of Istanbul?

    • JDInSanD

      Who drives the taxis?

  • propagandaoftruth

    Poor Turkey. Cry me a river.

  • dd121

    If you’d like, we could provide you with vast numbers of slightly used Mexicans.

    • propagandaoftruth

      Throw in some ebola infested Africans and the libtards who care for them and we gots us an apocalypse a cookin’!

  • Don’t let Obama hear of this mistreatment of Syrians. He’ll send planes for them and bring them here where they’ll be given free housing, food, ebt cards, and obamacare. Not to mention honored at the White House with a chittlins and turnip greens dinner.

  • NoMosqueHere

    The Turkish Muzzelmen are a horrendous lot; the Syrians better watch themselves.

    In 1915, the Turks massacred 2 million Armenian christians in one of the worst atrocities in human history. Hitler was inspired by the Armenian holocaust. And muslims love to kill each other in huge numbers too; consider the Iran/Iraq war, in which 3 million people were killed, including many children.

    • Zimriel

      The Turks (and Kurds, then) killed their share of Syrian Christians too, as I recall.

      Anything that distracts Erdogan at home is fine with me. Especially since that [expletive self-deleted] has made such a show of enlisting Turks abroad to mess around with European political systems.

    • saxonsun

      In the 1920’s, the Turks also murdered one million Greeks–it’s called the Greek Genocide.

      • ElComadreja

        The Turkish bastards try to justify it to this day and the west pretends it never happened. Turks are vermin.

  • RHG

    Now the Turks know how the Germans feel about them.

  • none of your business

    Shoeshine and newspaper boys and other peddlers have harassed each other since peddling began. Turkey and the Syrian refugees should sue the American neo cons and Fox news to support the refugees that have arrived ever since we decided to overthrow Assad who kept the lid on in Syria despite the fact that he was not a liberal democrat approved of by George Soros.

  • IstvanIN

    The Turkish government, an opponent of Syria’s president, Basharal-Assad, did not anticipate that the war in Syria would last this long. When Turkey opened its border to refugees in 2011, the government presumed that Mr. Assad’s days were numbered and refugees would soonreturn home.
    As I believe the US should, stay out of others nation’s affairs unless they threaten you.

  • Given Syria’s much smaller population, it can not possibly ever amount to the demographic Chernobyl that Mexico has become here.

    • Zimriel

      We haven’t yet even seen demographic Chernobyl. That’s coming, when the Maya jungle tribes and the whole rest of Central America show up here. Hold on to your hat and, for that matter, your head.

  • kikz2

    reminds me of the ducks and the hens fable…. which also applies to us… http://www.heretical(com)/pubs/fabledh.html

  • Augustus3709

    Oh c’mon Turkey, the Syrians just dream of a better life and come to do the jobs that Turks don’t want to do.

  • scutum

    The Syrians are just taking the jobs Turks won’t do.

  • ElComadreja

    They’ve also committed genocide/ethnic cleansing on Greeks, Assyrians and other groups. They are filth.