An attempt to bar Syrians from public beaches by a municipality in the Gazipaşa, Antalya run by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has drawn backlash from experts and academics for being xenophobic and racist.
The municipal council in Gazipaşa, where a CHP candidate won the local elections in the March 31 elections, voted in favor of a controversial ban barring Syrians from public beaches. However, the decision was vetoed by the mayor from the same party only after receiving public backlash.
Professor Suat Kolukırık from Akdeniz University told Anadolu Agency (AA) the decision was unfortunate and dangerous, emphasizing the contributions of Syrian refugees in the Turkish economy and international marriages that strengthen the bonds between the two groups of people. "This decision prompts a perception of criminality for all Syrians. It is a deliberate move that undercuts brotherhood and the culture of living together in the country," he said.
Stressing that such attempts gained momentum before the June 23 rerun elections in Istanbul, Kolukırık said issues concerning Syrian refugees have heated up and exploited for political agendas.
Mehmet Yüksel, the council group spokesperson in Gazipaşa of the CHP's Nation Alliance partner, the right-wing Good Party (İP), told the council that they support the motion. Spokesperson Mustafa Uysal of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) said the issue is a governmental policy and voiced his party's opposition, a view also shared by councilors from their People's Alliance partner, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
The motion was put to vote and adopted with 12 CHP and İP councilors voting in favor, seven AK Party and MHP councilors voting against and two councilors, including Mayor Mehmet Ali Yılmaz, abstaining. Later Tuesday, Yılmaz said in a press conference that he vetoed the motion and returned it to the municipal council. Recently, numerous CHP mayors have passed discriminatory resolutions against Syrian refugees. In Mudanya, Bursa, a CHP mayor's reasoning for clearing makeshift tents set up by Syrian refugees on the coastline drew criticism as the latest example of the party's anti-migrant practices. Mayor Hayri Türkyılmaz instructed municipal police to clear the tents set up by Syrians, along with animals left grazing in the area, including camels and horses, which were also brought into the sea to cool off and be washed.
Foundation for Solidarity with Refugees and Immigrants (SGDD) Director İbrahim Vurgun Kavlak told AA that refugees were being subjected to discrimination after they became more visible in society. "Being a refugee does not mean only to breathe like a plant," Kavlak said, adding that it is normal for them to participate in the daily life of the country where they found shelter. Previously, Tanju Özcan, the new CHP mayor in northwestern Bolu province, instructed municipality departments to stop relief for foreigners since they were already receiving aid from the central government, 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 were living in the "highest standards" in Bolu.