Syrian refugees have risen to the top of the agenda for some of the newly elected mayors of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP).
CHP Mayor Rıdvan Karakayalı of the Kemalpaşa district of western İzmir province is another example of the CHP's increasing anti-refugee rhetoric and has promised to expel Syrian refugees.
"We will get rid of Syrians. There is peace in Syria, so what they are doing here?" Karakayalı said on a TV program, answering a question regarding the situation of refugees in the district.
He has not been the first to take such a stance against Syrian refugees, instead of preparing to resolve the municipality's problems. Tanju Özcan, the new CHP mayor in western Bolu province, instructed municipality departments to stop relief for foreigners, saying that Syrian refugees should return home as soon as possible. Despite receiving stern criticism, he later continued to support his anti-refugee plan, saying that Iraqi, Syrian and Afghan refugees are living in the "highest standards" in Bolu.
Similarly, Karakayalı also declared war on signboards with the "Syrian language" in his district, most likely referring to Arabic, saying that he will take legal action against them. "There are shops with signboards with the Syrian language near our party [building]. I will remove them. They will be taken away from here. They will return to their countries," he said angrily on the TV program.
The district municipality of Kemalpaşa passed into the CHP's hands in the March 31 elections from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) as Karakayalı won the polls with only about 800 votes against his opponent.
The recent anti-refugee practices of the CHP drew reactions from society. Last week, the International Refugee Rights Association filed a criminal complaint against the Bolu mayor. Speaking for the International Refugee Rights Association, lawyer Uğur Yıldırım said Özcan's decision has caused public resentment, and he did not heed the calls of civil society organizations and lawyers, continuing his discriminatory policies against Syrian refugees. Yıldırım added that Özcan violated the Human Rights Declaration's 14th article of the right of sanctuary and asylum and also acted against equality and equal access to municipality services listed in the Constitution.
During the campaign period of the June 2018 parliamentary and presidential elections, CHP Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu adopted a similar populist and exclusionary interpretation of nationalism in a bid to garner votes. In a speech at a rally in northern Giresun in 2017, Kılıçdaroğlu said: "There's no money for farmers, but do you know how much has been spent on the Syrians? $30 billion. They've become first-class citizens. The price of hazelnuts has made people in the Black Sea Region second-class citizens. You will ask for an account of this."
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