Osama Abo Zayd, a prominent Syrian opposition figure who once served as a spokesman for a military negotiation committee of the opposition, says he was "attacked" at the Syrian Consulate in Istanbul.
Zayd was at the consulate for the legal registration of his marriage in Istanbul. He said he had to "pay" $300 for an appointment at the consulate and was mistreated when he arrived. "A clerk saw a wristband symbolizing the Syrian revolution on my wrist and told me he would not process my application if I didn't remove it," Zayd told Anadolu Agency (AA), referring to the opposition movement against the Bashar Assad regime. "Then, officials there hurled insults at me and tried to remove me from the consulate. I told them that we were in Turkey, not in the offices of al-Mukhabarat," he said, referring to the feared intelligence unit of the Assad regime. "They intimidated me and tried to hit me. Security officers came and forced me out of the building," Zayd said. The dissident said he has filed a lawsuit against the consulate clerks. "Turkey's relations with the regime are bad, but it still did not shut down the consulate so that it can help the Syrian people. Instead, people coming here are subject to insults," Zayd complained. He said the consulate has to serve all Syrian citizens, regardless of their views, under international laws. "I believe Turkey should do something about it. You see, there are about 200 people here, waiting under the sun for an appointment, and they pay hundreds of dollars just to make an appointment," he said, pointing out the crowd outside the consulate building. He claimed that consulate officials demanded $800 "to speed up" the process of obtaining a passport, adding that they also asked for additional fees only to book an appointment.A Twitter user echoed Zayd's complaints and said, like Zayd, thousands of Syrian refugees living in Turkey after fleeing the civil war in their country faced similar treatment whenever they wanted to renew their passport or for other procedures. The user claimed Syrians had to pay $300 to a middleman just to get an appointment, basically, a bribe.
Turkey hosts more than 3.5 million Syrian nationals who fled the conflict that erupted in 2011. Most lack a passport as they had to flee their home with few belongings. Those who have one must renew it every two years to travel abroad; otherwise, they cannot travel anywhere and rely on temporary IDs issued by Turkey, which only allow them to stay in one city.