Syrian refugees hit by Turkey's earthquake have discrimination to contend with as well

Syrian refugees who had lost their homes and loved ones to war experienced further devastation with the Maras-centered earthquakes. Activist Taha Elgazi says that Syrians have not been able to sufficiently benefit from aid due to discrimination.

Millions of people continue to struggle with a lack of basic resources, and especially with tents, following the Maras-centered earthquakes. However, there are people among the earthquake victims who must contend with discrimination in addition to all these difficulties. Yildiz Onen from the Refugee Rights Platform who visited the earthquake zone to observe issues faced by Syrians, and Taha Elgazi, a refugee rights activist who is Syrian himself, both talked to Arti Gercek about the problems experienced by earthquake victims.

Noting that nearly half of the nearly 4 million Syrians in Turkey live in the earthquake zone, Onen stressed that women in particular face great difficulties:


“We witnessed it ourselves; women do not have the time to sit for even five minutes. One child cries, the other child disappears. She runs after the other boy to prevent him from going to the wreckage. For example, I saw a 60-year-old Syrian woman tie a rope to hang her laundry on a building that was about to collapse.”

“There are unbelievable stories. For example, we talked to an 18-year-old young Syrian woman. She did not know Turkish. This young woman was brought from Syria to be married. Her husband's first wife had died. There is a 5-year-old child from the deceased woman. When the husband died in the earthquake, an 18-year-old Syrian young woman and a 5-year-old child were left alone. She had also lost 14 members of her family to the earthquake in Syria."


Yildiz Onen described the discrimination she witnessed in the earthquake region as follows:

“While we were there, a political party provincial organization brought cotton candy for the children. While we were conversing with two Syrian women, a woman who was nine months pregnant came to us with a three-year-old child in tow. Apparently, they had been in line for cotton candy. She teared up as she said, ‘They gave it to people who spoke Turkish, but not to us.’ Then an older Syrian boy took that three-year-old child and returned with the cotton candy. Because he knew Turkish.”


Refugee Rights Activist Taha Elgazi said that Syrian refugees victimized by the earthquakes of February 6 have been unable to meet even their most basic needs since then due to the discrimination and anxiety they suffer:

“In any camp, they experience fear even when standing in line for a meal. The fears of ‘Someone might take a picture of us. Someone might say something to us. Someone might say, “Syrians are taking soup away from Turks. The Syrians have taken everything from us,”’ are heightened. When we meet with refugee earthquake victims, they tell us that they see to their own needs. Most do not go to aid distribution points. They go once or twice a week, at most. Syrian earthquake survivors even use their children's diapers twice. Yes, there was an earthquake and there were many casualties, but the future is also uncertain for these people; they do not know what to do.”


Noting that there were many refugees who could not be reached after the earthquake, Elgazi said that many of them remained under the rubble, and although some of them had been sent to hospitals, their whereabouts are unknown:

“The rights of Syrians registered under temporary protection status are relatively respected, but there are undocumented Syrian citizens, some of whom lost their lives. They have been buried in common graves, and it is now incredibly difficult for their rights to ever be recognized. We have fears as the election approached. Refugees were already an oppressed and neglected group before the earthquake, and this has only compounded after the earthquake. The government no longer cares about refugees. From the day of the earthquake, I personally believe the next 6 months will be very difficult. The government's abandonment of the refugees will likely create a vacuum. This vacuum will be filled by fascist, discriminatory, and racist policies. Refugee earthquake victims will be left to seek the solution in moving to European countries or returning to Syria.”


Taha Elgazi also expressed that the 60-day road permit issued by the Directorate of Migration to the refugee earthquake victims is far from a solution to the problems of the Syrians due to their fear of discrimination:

“Let's say you go to another city for 60 days, but when you return, you have no home. Some Syrians still live in parks in the earthquake zones. As for discrimination, they do not have a problem with earthquake survivors from Turkey. In some tents, Turkish and Syrian families live together. They share their troubles, their work, and their bread, and try to heal each other's wounds. The problem is that volunteers from some outside teams have discriminatory behaviors.”

Previus and Next Posts