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Turkey: Riots target Syrians in Ankara following report of death at hands of refugees

Many Syrians wounded in unrest following reports that a refugee killed a teen in a park in the Turkish capital
Pro-nationalist demonstrators gesture during riots against refugees in Ankara (Reuters)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

Hundreds of angry people attacked Syrian refugees in Ankara's Altindag district on Wednesday night after two Syrians were accused of killing a Turkish teenager.  

Images posted online showed a Syrian child wounded in the attacks. Tensions are mounting in Turkey over migration into the country and the presence of refugees.

After receiving images of Syrian refugees wounded in Ankara, including a child, head of the Turkish Red Crescent Dr Kerem Kinik urged the public to calm down.

"In which tradition of ours is there stoning people's houses at night?" Kinik asked on his social media. "Many refugees reached out and told us that they were scared for their children's lives."

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Translation: "Injured Syrian boy was brought to the hospital for treatment"

Kinik said the Syrian boy was wounded after stones were thrown into his home and hit him on the head. 

Despite the significant presence of the Turkish police, crowds attacked the businesses and homes of Syrians in response to the deadly stabbing of the teenager. Chanting slogans like "Ya Allah bismillah, Allahu ekber" (Oh God, in the name of God, God is greatest), often associated with conservative groups in Turkey, people marching through the neighbourhood smashed cars belonging to Syrian refugees. 

Ankara police said it has detained 76 people who participated in riots and distributed fake news on social media to provoke the public.

Thirty-eight of those had previous crime records of looting, assault and possession of drugs, it added.

Located on the outskirts of Ankara, Altindag is known for being a low-income and conservative neighbourhood. Two residents who appeared on local media justified the attacks by saying they wanted Syrian and Afghan refugees out of the country.  

"If people did what we needed to do, then we would avoid these kinds of incidents, and they must leave our country," said an unidentified young person. "A Turk is the brother to a fellow Turk. Turks don't have any brother other than a Turk."

The incident was sparked on Tuesday, when several local media outlets said that two Turkish residents fought with two Syrians in a park in Altindag. One of the Syrians allegedly stabbed Emirhan Yalcin, 18, and another youth called Ali Yasin Guler. Yalcin later succumbed to his wounds and died in hospital. The suspects remain in police custody. 

One Syrian refugee living in Altindag said residents from the area had destroyed his business. 

"We don't know where to go. We will follow the police instructions," the Syrian businessman told a local outlet

Police in Ankara eventually stopped the riots after residents marched for hours, intimidating Syrian refugees and attacking their businesses. 

Last month, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), warned the government that refugees posed a threat to national security. Kilicdaroglu vowed the CHP would send every Syrian back to their country if his party takes power in the country's next election, and denied that such a move was racist.

In response, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), said: "They have taken refuge with us. They beg for safety. We cannot tell them to go back to where they were."

Translation: In Ankara Altındag, all houses and shops thought to be belonging to Syrians are attacked.

Fatih Yasli, an academic an commentator, blamed “middle-class opposition members” on Twitter for inciting the public with paranoia and hysteria, despite not having to deal with refugees in their areas. “Inevitably it exploded in the poorer neighbourhoods,” he tweeted.

Over the past few weeks, thousands of social media users in Turkey have attacked refugee rights in the country, with the hashtag "we don't want refugees in my country" trending. Politicians have also jumped on the bandwagon in a bid to win public favour. 

Officials from the recently founded Democracy and Progress Party (Deva) also criticised the government's mishandling of the arrival of migrants as the root cause of the incidents.

Last month, Tanju Ozcan, a CHP mayor in Bolu, said he would charge Syrian refugees six times the regular price for water and garbage disposal services. 

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