Unrest boils over in Turkish capital, dozens detained in attack on Syrians

Turkish authorities have detained 76 people in relation to Wednesday’s massive attack on an Ankara neighbourhood which has a large Syrian population, the capital’s police directorate said in a statement on Thursday.

According to the Ankara police, 38 of the suspects had previous convictions for looting, bodily harm, robbery and several drug-related offences.

Some of the detainees were taken into custody for “sharing posts outside the realm of reality on social media”, the directorate said.

The police urged citizens “to not heed provocative news and posts on social media and aid security forces”.

Wednesday saw mobs target Syrian homes and businesses in a working class neighbourhood of Ankara’s Altındağ district, where two days earlier two young Turkish men had been injured in a fight between local Turks and Syrians. One of the young men, 18-year-old Emirhan Yalçın, lost his life at the hospital on Tuesday, and two Syrian nationals were arrested by an Ankara court for first degree murder.

On Wednesday night, police units were ineffective in stopping the hundreds of men who took to the streets, and on occasion officers were caught on video advising the men how to behave. In one video, an officer among several police buses is seen directing the crowd towards an unknown location.

In another video, officers are seen telling the men to not roam about in such large numbers, and to keep quiet.

“Politicians undoubtedly have a great share in this pogrom. So where were they yesterday?” journalist Burcu Karakaş asked in a tweet.

The government’s refugee policy is “wrong” and will “come at a heavy price”, main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said on Thursday, during a visit to the eastern border province of Van, a route preferred by Afghans as they traverse Iran in the hopes of crossing into Turkey, most of them irregularly.

“I will send our Syrian brothers back to their homelands without violating their rights,” Kılıçdaroğlu told reporters. The centre-left leader also said Afghans coming into Turkey “must be sent back via democratic means”.

On the topic of migration, Kılıçdaroğlu also spoke against Turkey’s further involvement with the conflict in Afghanistan, and said Afghans were coming to Turkey to live, “while we send bright young people to Kabul to fight”.

Tensions have remained high for several years, but Turkish society has recently expressed more overtly anti-refugee and anti-migrant sentiments, as well as less enthusiasm for sending troops overseas.

Some 66.5 percent of the population is in favour of completely shutting down Turkey’s borders to migrants, while 61.1 percent want Turkey to withdraw its existing troops from Afghanistan.

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