On Wednesday night, Syrians who fled the civil war in their country and who are residing in the Altındağ district of Ankara were involved in a series of incidents that could well have mushroomed into a major disaster had it not been for the swift action of the Turkish security forces.
Syrians apparently beat up a Turk, and the locals then turned on the Syrians and attacked the building where they were residing. Police took swift action and prevented the incidents getting out of hand. However, later in the night Turks again attacked the building and tried to torch it. Again the Turkish police intervened, and the fire brigade put out the blaze. Some people were slightly injured and there were no serious casualties.
A very lucky escape... At first instance this incident may seem to be a random event where a simple street fight turns into a local battle between Syrians and the people of a district. However, this may not be the case.
The incident in Ankara may well be the tip of the iceberg and may be a growing problem all over Turkey.
There are at least one million Syrians in Turkey who have fled their country and who have sought refuge not only in the special camps allocated for them by the Turkish state but who are residing all over Turkey and especially in Istanbul and Ankara.
Those in the camps who number around 220,000 are of course the guests of the Turkish state and they are more than welcome in a country that has historically had a good record of extending a helping hand to refugees of all kinds. However, those who are not in camps (around 600,000 to 800,000) and who are scattered all over the country and completely out of control are not only a serious security hazard but also a growing social problem.
There are reports of Syrian gangs harassing people in Ankara and Istanbul. The streets are full of Syrian beggars. Some are desperate; some are pretending to be desperate. Desperate people can commit very serious crimes, so we have a time bomb on our hands. Add this to the growing resentment of the Turkish public over the presence of these Syrians. The incident in Ankara was a warning call. The authorities have to act before the bomb goes off. The international community also has to see the growing problem in Turkey and why the Erdoğan government is pushing so hard for global action to put an end to the Syrian tragedy.