There is a growing tendency, rampant but steady, to pinpoint the Syrian refugee population as the reason of all the inherent problems of Turkish society. We were probably virtuous, peace loving, incorruptible before their arrival. Reading some articles in the mass media recently one would think that honor killings of women and girls did not exist, nor did rape or child molestation. Homophobia was absent as well as corruption and we lived in a kind of brave new world.
Now we have welcomed around 3 million refugees from the Middle Eastern countries, mainly Syria, and our society has turned into a nightmare. There is child abuse, moonlighting, slave labor and our cities are infested with refugees, beggars and people who are runaways who did not stay to defend their country.
This is pure fascistic rhetoric, and in history, such use of similar discourses has never heralded any good outcome. Turkish society is the result of a huge population exchange and ethnic cleansing in the aftermath of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and its disappearance. Basically, the Muslim population of the empire was resettled in Anatolia and the Christian minorities were sent to other countries, mainly Greece and the other parts of the Balkans. Terrible events occurred in the Balkans, the Caucasus under the Russian Empire, and Anatolia itself. The thousands-of-years-old Armenian culture and population disappeared from its ancestral lands, as well as the Ottoman presence in the Balkans, in Crimea and the Caucasus. For decades following the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, these migration flows continued. The Turkish nation and nation-state has been modeled to place the "Turk" - what would formerly have been an Ottoman Muslim - at the center of its historiography and citizenship. The fact that laicism and constitutional citizenship were accepted as the pillars of the new Turkish society did not alter the fact that non-Turkish minorities were not accepted in this society.
A number of terrible events have happened through the existence of the Republic to push the non-Muslim minorities out of Turkey. Most renowned examples are the virtual deportation of the Jewish population in Edirne, the Wealth Tax that was promulgated by the government in 1942 basically for the spoliation of the non-Muslim business community in Istanbul, Sept. 6-7, 1955 Istanbul pogrom that saw hordes of looters destroy and ransack the shops and factories of non-Muslims with impunity.
As a result, only a few thousand Greeks live in Istanbul now alongside a very diminished Armenian minority of perhaps around 50,000 people, and maybe 20,000 Turkish Jews.
But the "Turkishness" of society was not to the taste of everyone, especially the Kurdish population of the Republic who felt ostracized from the very beginning. They did not like it. The first Kurdish uprising started in 1925, fomented mainly by the Kurdish officers of the Ottoman army. The uneasiness of the Kurds has continued through the history of the Republic, attaining its climax with PKK terror.
Turkey is a land of immigration; this is for certain. But only migrants who are thought to become loyal Turkish citizens are welcome. For the second time after the Kurds, in Turkey there is a very sizeable Muslim diaspora who are not likely to turn into Turkish constitutional citizens as Georgians, Circassians, Macedonians, Pomaks, Cretans, the Crimean Tatars, Azeris, Bosnians, Chechens and all the other populations of the Balkans and the Caucasus.
When the Syrian refugees were accepted at first, this was a pure humanitarian problem, and despite all the criticism, Turkish authorities did what should be done at that time. They have saved the lives and the honor of millions of Arabs and other people from the Middle East. Now, however, the problem is not humanitarian at all, it has become a problem of integration. This is a very touchy and difficult question and should be handled with utmost care. Unfortunately, the tension and the conflicting discourse within society and politics have turned the issue into a very disdainful argumentation.
All should be done to avoid further targeting Syrian refugees as the culprits of all that is problematic in this society will not only turn their lives into nightmares, it could ultimately totally destroy the foundations of the Turkish Republic. And this is not an exaggeration.