Turkey detained hundreds after anti-Syrian riots

A protester throws a rock towards a Turkish truck during protests against Turkey in al-Bab, in the northern Syrian opposition held region of Aleppo on July 1, 2024 [GETTY]

Turkish authorities said Tuesday they had detained over 470 people after anti-Syrian riots in several cities sparked by accusations that a Syrian man had harassed a child.

Tensions escalated from Sunday following violence in a central Anatolian city after a mob went on the rampage, damaging businesses and properties belonging to the Syrians.

“474 people were detained after the provocative actions” carried out against Syrians in Turkey, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said on X.

A group of men targeted Syrian businesses and properties in Kayseri on Sunday, with videos on social media showing a grocery store being set on fire.

In one of the videos a Turkish man was heard shouting: “We don’t want any more Syrians! We don’t want any more foreigners.”

A court in Kayseri ordered the Syrian man’s arrest late on Monday, Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc said, adding: “The child and her family are under our state’s protection”.

Officials said the child was a Syrian girl, who was related to the man accused of harassing her.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday blamed the opposition for stoking tensions and condemned the anti-Syrian violence as “unacceptable”.

The unrest spread to several other cities late on Monday including Istanbul and authorities have often called for calm.

“Let’s not get provoked, let’s act moderately,” Yerlikaya said in an appeal to Turkish citizens.

“Those who hatch these conspiracies against our state and nation will receive the response they deserve,” he said.

Turkish police boosted security around the Syrian consulate in Istanbul on Tuesday, deploying an armoured truck and patrolling the vicinity, according to an AFP journalist.

Turkey, which hosts some 3.2 million Syrian refugees according to UN data, has been shaken several times by bouts of xenophobic violence in recent years, often triggered by rumours spreading on social media and instant messaging applications.

In August 2021, groups of men targeted businesses and homes occupied by Syrians in the capital Ankara, after a brawl which cost the life of a 18-year-old man.

The fate of Syrian refugees is also a burning issue in Turkish politics, with Erdogan’s opponents in last year’s election promising to send them back to Syria.

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