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Anti-Arab sentiment on rise in Turkey

Growing protests against Syrian refugees signal changing perceptions toward Arabs in Turkey.
A Syrian refugee carrying his belongings passes over railway tracks after crossing the Syrian border on January 16, 2014 in Karkamis, near the town of Gaziantep, south of Turkey. Two weeks of battles between Syrian rebels and jihadists have killed at least 1,069 people, mostly fighters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday. Among the dead, not all of whom were identified, were 608 Islamist and moderate rebels, 312 jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and 130 civili
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On Aug. 18, Gaziantep, a southeastern industrial city close to the Syrian border, was in a state of panic over a rumor that Syrians had poisoned the drinking water. Last month in Gaziantep and other border towns, protests were staged under the banner “We Do Not Want the Syrians.” The protests led to clashes with the police, physical assaults and vandalism against Syrian-owned businesses. Among the slogans heard were “Tayyip resign,” “City residents do not sleep, retake your city” and “We are the people of this town.” The media is full of sad stories about desperate Syrian, Iraqi and Yazidi refugees, but there is almost no coverage of mounting anti-immigrant sentiment or the increasing frequency of violence against immigrants.

After three years without an end to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, citizens of Turkey have now begun to recognize that the refugees are here to stay. Calls by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for “patience and hospitality for our brothers who will soon be going back to Syria” are not resonating in many circles.

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