afraid to go out

  • Affected by the economic crisis, Turkish society is turning its back on millions of immigrants and asylum seekers

  • In recent months, the country has experienced several racist episodes and violence against immigrants has increased

HabibWhen he walks down the street, he walks as quietly as possible. Not a sound more, not a stridency more, not a look that could be misunderstood. Habib, an Afghan refugee living in Istanbulwhen he leaves the house, he lowers his eyes and walks quickly.

Your mission is to reach your destination as soon as possible. That no one notices. “I live in fear something happens to me. I watch a lot when I go out. If I go with someone, I try to remind them not to make too much noise. Let no one be angry with us. It’s like that every day. We try to survive it”, explains Habib, who arrived in 2018 in Turkey fleeing Afghanistan.

Habib worked as a carpenter for a few years for the spanish nato mission in the Central Asian country. One day, in his native town, a man threatened him: he had to stop working for foreigners or take care of the results. He collected what little money he had – his wife and son had to stay because he wasn’t giving – and he went a few years first to Iran then to Turkey.

Now Habib lives in the Istanbul district of Bagcilar, one of those hosting the most refugees in the country. Turkey, meanwhile, is the country in the world that hosts the most refugees: around four million, according to data from the The United Nations.

In Istanbul, this carpenter somehow survives, struggling to obtain daily tasks with which you will earn, if you are lucky, about seven euros in one day. “What I love the most is carpentry, but now I don’t care. I do what I can and what I find. For a long time there has been very little work“, complains Habib, who today managed to work a few hours in a sewing workshop.

Fight at the bottom of the pyramid

In recent months, Turkey has fully entered an era of economic turmoil with a falling currency and runaway inflation approaching 80%, according to unofficial figures. Everyone, without distinction, is feeling the effects of this crisis. Some, however, more than others.

“In the Turkish labor market, refugees work in exploitative conditions, hyperprecariousness and vulnerability. They earn little and the unemployment rate is high. If one can say that the crisis, whether one is a refugee or a Turkish citizen, causes suffering, one can also say that the refugees have suffered more. If there is a pyramid of work, then they are at the bottom of everything. farm hierarchy“, explains the expert and academic canan sahin.

All this, however, did not prevent what seemed avoidable: both the government and the opposition indiscriminately used refugees as scapegoat of this crisis. After years of being an example of welcoming refugees, Turkey has turned against it.

“They put us at the origin of the problems but they are wrong. The problem here”, explains Taha Elghazi, Syrian refugee and human rights activist — there are people who try to put us at the center of these issues for political purposes. And it did turkish society change your mind about us.”

fire and knives

There are dozens of examples. It’s the end of December Izmir, the third largest city in the country. Three young Syrians die home at night because of a fire. Police assume the cause of the fire was an electrical fault, but a man comes to the police station a few days later to explain that he was the one who set the apartment on fire because of his i hate refugees.

On January 9, in a neighborhood near Bagcilar. A group of around 50 young Turks take to the streets shouting “it’s not syria, it’s turkeyThey go to a store belonging to a Syrian and ransack it.

January 11, also in Istanbul. It is two o’clock in the morning when eight boys enter an apartment where several refugees live. They stab and kill one, Nail Al Naif, 19 years old. Activist Taha Elghazi was there the next day.

“At first the news that came out said that the eight who broke into the house at dawn they came in to steal. Lie. Nail’s classmates told me that no one tried to take anything away from them. Neither their phones nor their money were stolen,” says Elghazi, who fears the situation will get even worse due to the silence of the Turkish political leaders and the mediawho systematically tiptoe over these events: “Until politicians condemn attacks of hatred and racism, violence will surely increase because, in the end, non-condemnation becomes permission“.

Justice is even affected. “One could conclude that in the massive attacks on refugees, many perpetrators they end up unpunished, or those convicted receive lesser sentences than they should, says court-appointed lawyer Eren Gönen, who specializes in representing refugees and migrants. We must not forget that hate that a part of Turkish society feels also exists between civil servants within the state. »

Waiting for an answer

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“I live in constant fear that the police will arrest me and deport to afghanistan. Even the owner of the apartment I share is threatening to call the police to have us evicted. I can’t go on like this,” said Habib, who tried to talk to the spanish consulate in istanbul to get him out of Turkey and his wife and children out of Afghanistan.

months ago, however, no answer, and your options run out. If he is deported to Afghanistan, his life could be in danger for having worked in the years preceding the Taliban power against the new masters of the country. His only option is to move on: “I can’t stay in Turkey. I hope Spain will help me. I don’t have many other options…”.

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