Impact of Recession on Intensification of Anti-Arab Stance in Turkey

2021/12/31 | Economy, Note, top news

Strategic Council Online - Opinion: The abortive coup in Turkey in 2016 and Erdogan’s policies in the region have caused the consequences to affect the economy and livelihood of the Turkish people who, in recent months, have seen a 20 percent inflation rate and a record low devaluation of the lira. Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan believes that keeping interest rates low could offset the 20% inflation rate, a view that has left its mark on the Turkish real estate market. Hassan Ashrafi - Researcher on Turkey affairs

According to a report released by the Turkish State Statistics Agency last month, real estate transactions with citizens of other countries in Turkey have grown by 50% and billions of dollars have entered the Turkish real estate market. According to the report, 7,363 properties were traded with foreigners in Turkey in November, up from 4,962 in November last year, which is considered as a record. The main buyers of the real estate in Turkey are citizens of Iran, Iraq and Russia. The main transactions in Istanbul were with 1992 units and almost half of the number of transactions was in Antalya and Ankara.

The devaluation of the lira since 2016 and Turkey’s need to attract foreign investment prompted the AK Party to pass a law in January 2017 according to which the government allowed foreign nationals who had invested at least 1 million dollars in Turkey to get citizenship of that country. But the plan was met with opposition within Turkey. Opposition parties believed that such actions were in support of Erdogan’s fellows who own a real estate network. Many Turks, on the other hand, saw the Arab presence as a threat to their culture by buying property in Turkey. Selling the country to the Arabs was a proposition that became common in the early 1980s; when Turgut Ozal encouraged the Persian Gulf countries to invest in the Turkish market. On the other hand, the presence of Syrian nationals in Turkey has added to this anti-Arab view in Turkey. This view led secular opposition candidates to win municipal elections for the first time since 1994. It was rumored that 110,000 Syrians had received Turkish citizenship in the run-up to the election.

According to the statistics of the Turkish Interior Ministry, 380,000 Syrians were born in the country from 2011 to 2019.

Some in Turkey, with a population of about 80 million, worry that the invasion could mean a backward secular culture. Ümit Özdağ , deputy leader of the Good Party, a nationalist party led by Meral Aksener, fears that Turkey will “become a Middle Eastern country”. Ozdag represents the border town of Gaziantep, where a quarter of the 2 million people are asylum seekers. Onal Cuikoz, a Member of Parliament and deputy of the foreign policy section of the Republican People’s Party who ran against Erdogan in the 2018 presidential election, challenged Erdogan with the slogan of returning Syrian nationals to their country. However, he stressed that his remarks are not anti-Syrian and that his party intends to restore stability in Syria and allow its citizens to return voluntarily. Samir Hafez, a Syrian member of the Justice and Development Party, stressed, however, that most asylum seekers would likely remain in Turkey. However, he said the departure of even a few hundred thousand people could potentially reduce the pressure on the government. He noted that Turkey’s ultimate goal is to return Syrian nationals to where they belong. The economic downturn and rising unemployment, which are said to be largely due to the presence of Syrians, are one of the areas of public pressure on the Turkish government.

Omar Kadkuy, a Syrian refugee and research fellow at the Ankara-based Tepav Institute for Migration, believes that Syrians are the only victims of economic conditions. The government grants work permits to a small number of Syrians, paving the way for illegal activities. In this situation, the employers will have the opportunity to pay lower wages to the Syrians, and this will cause them to steal jobs and lower their wages. He believes that dissemination of false information through social media also has some effect on the government’s attitude towards Syrians. For example, the ban on Syrians entering the university was the result of such provocations. Erdogan’s military intervention in Syria reinforced statements such as ‘while Syrians are enjoying their lives here, our soldiers are shedding their blood for Syria” and increased negative feelings of the Turks towards asylum seekers. The current mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, says that in some parts of Turkey the number of asylum seekers is higher than their native inhabitants. According to the United Nations, Turkey, with 3.6 million Syrians, has the largest refugee population in the world.

But in Turkey, anti-Arabism is a fundamental and deep-rooted issue dating back to the Ottoman era. In the Ottoman Empire as a multicultural system, most of the high government positions, except for the Ottoman-dominated Hejaz Emirate, were under the domination of the Ottomans included the Turks or non-Arabs. But the Ottoman policy in the process of Turkification of the country led to the Arab revolt against the Ottomans. Currently, anti-Arab attitudes in the Turkish society have affected two main groups; the Arabs who are present in Turkey due to the inflow of capital and the purchase of property, and the Syrian refugees. Alongside those two axes, some Hebrew sources claim that public hostility towards the Arabs has spread in recent years, even against the Palestinians.

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