Deputy of newly founded Good Party faces storm of criticism over racist comments

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 23.11.2017 20:35

A vice chair of the newly established Good Party, Ümit Özdağ, came under heavy criticism over his remarks on Syrian refugees, claiming a considerable part of Syrians living in Turkey are "obese" while a lot of Turks are "hungry."

Özdağ, who was a former deputy of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and was dismissed after his dispute with the party's leader, Devlet Bahçeli, posted two tweets on his personal Twitter account late Tuesday, targeting Syrian refugees. "While nearly 50,000 Turks are formally hungry and 1,250,000 of them are living under the hunger threshold, 32.6 percent of Syrians living in Turkey are overweight and 27.7 percent of them are obese," Özdağ tweeted, but did not specify any source for the statistics he published.

The tweet received more than a thousand replies from social media users, which heavily criticize Özdağ for his racist remarks and distorting the statistics regarding refugees.

However, Özdağ made another post after his controversial tweet, saying that "4.5 percent of Turkey's population now consisted of Syrians, and this number exceeds the population of the 38 provinces in Turkey," implying a threat against the Turkish population behind the growing numbers of Syrian refugees.

International Refugee Rights Association released a statement and denounced Özdağ's comments. "Özdağ is openly targeting Syrian refugees, who fled from the war and took shelter in Turkey. These [Özdağ's tweets] are discriminatory and racist slanders, which are not based on any real data," the statement said.

The association also contended that none of the statistics provided by Özdağ reflect real figures, saying most of the refugees are comprised of women and children. "According to theUnited Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 1,542,328 out of 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey consist of children, while more than 600,000 are women. Also, 439,514 of those children are [aged] under 5," it says.

Former MHP dissidents and a number of other political figures officially launched the Good Party in late October, under the leadership of former Interior Minister and MHP lawmaker Meral Akşener. Despite the party claiming that it would fill the void in center politics in Turkey, many rightist figures took part in the establishment of the party. Also, party leader Akşener, who served as the interior minister between 1996 and 1997, is notoriously known due to unidentified murders committed during her term especially in southeastern Turkey.

Turkey hosts 3 million Syrian refugees who fled from the civil war triggered after pro-democracy protests cracked down with an excessive violence by the Assad regime. Ankara previously announced that it has spent nearly $25 billion on the refugees.

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