The hashtag #ÜlkemdeSuriyeliİstemiyorum, which translates to “I don’t want Syrians in my country,” became a trending item on Twitter on July 3 in response to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s announcement that millions of Syrian refugees living in the country would be granted citizenship.
Erdogan made the announcement while speaking in the southern Turkish town of Kilis during a meal to break the Ramadan fast which was reportedly attended by Syrian refugees:
Tonight, I want to give some good news to my brothers and sisters here. Among our brothers and sisters, I believe there are those who would like to obtain citizenship of the Turkish Republic. Our interior ministry is taking steps in that regard. Turkey is your home, too.
On social media, people used the trending hashtag to express their unease over the situation. Erdogan has become extremely unpopular and disliked by his own nationals. However, due to fear of massive crackdowns and jail time for dissidents, his opponents remain largely silent in their disdain for him:
I am sorry but I don't want unregulated Syrians immigrants in my country as well. Turkey is not a refugee camp #ÜlkemdeSuriyeliİstemiyorum
— Sofia (@_macaryos) July 3, 2016
— modest kebab (@modestkebab) July 3, 2016
Someone even suggested replacing Erdogan altogether:
Turks better change Erdogan who supports ISIS and has made millions of Syrians homeless. #ÜlkemdeSuriyeliİstemiyorum
— Mohammad AmirRahmani (@mohamad__ar) July 3, 2016
One user suggested helping the Syrian refugees by providing them with a country to reside in was fine but railed against the idea of providing them with Turkish citizenship:
#ÜlkemdeSuriyeliİstemiyorum The Syrians deserve a refuge somewhere but giving away Turkish nationality is a different thing.
— hammam (@hemo1803) July 3, 2016
Not everyone agreed with the trending hashtag. Some found the tweet offensive and complained that refugees don’t necessarily want Turkish citizenship because they are already paying taxes and rent living in the country like everyone else living there:
You must be kidding, before citizenship (WE DON'T WANT IT) please consider me a refugee.
WE PAY TAXES AND RENTS
— علاء الدين المحيميد (@admhemed) July 4, 2016
Another Syrian asked whether the Turkish conscience would allow the refugees to be thrown back into the “hell” that has become their homeland:
We didn't ask for this war, do you want us to just go back inside hell? #ÜlkemdeSuriyeliİstemiyorum
— Amer (@ClassiAtassi) July 4, 2016
— Muhammad Almasri (@al3arabi1234) July 3, 2016
According to Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News, the hashtag also drew angry reactions from some public figures. Journalist Kadri Gürsel reportedly wrote, “Directly naturalizing 3 million Syrians is a result of frustration. [Giving citizenship] before even granting refugee status amounts to harming Turkey.” Novelist Ahmet Ümit reportedly tweeted, “Saying #ÜlkemdeSuriyeliİstemiyorum is racism. The real bad people are the politicians who use Syria issue for their own interests.”
Turkey reportedly has 2.7 million registered Syrians living in the country. According to the Financial Times, Erdogan Toprak, an MP with the opposition Republican People’s party, told the Hurriyet Daily News earlier this year that the naturalization of these refugees could wind up having lasting political ramifications. “There will be over 1m new voters in the 2019 elections if the government goes through with the proposal, which will, in turn, change the outcome of the elections,” Toprak said.
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz.