Turkish Mob Sets Fire to Migrant Housing As Tensions Boil Over

A protestor holds a national flag of Turkey during a demonstration in Ankara, early on June 3, 2013, in a nationwide wave of protests.Turkey's Islamist-rooted government faced growing pressure on June 3 after angry demonstrators clashed for a third night with police. The unrest began as a local outcry against …
ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images/File

Police in Turkey evacuated Syrian refugees from their homes on Monday after one person was killed as an angry mob attacked the housing area in the Central Anatolian province of Konya’s Karapınar district.

Local media reports that the conflict began after an argument surfaced between local resident Mehmet Ertunç and two Syrian men, Mustafa El Muhammed and Hüseyin El Muhammed, over claims that they had sexually harassed Ertunç’s sister.

After tensions rose, Ertunç went home to retrieve a firearm before shooting the two men, killing Mustafa El Muhammed and injuring Hüseyin El Muhammed. Authorities subsequently arrested him.

However, incensed locals soon started to organize via social media over the sexual harassment claims, and began to march in the town square singing the Turkish national anthem before being dispersed by police.

Part of the mob then headed towards a community building housing Syrian migrants, protected by water cannons and riot police.

Despite a visit from the Karapınar District Governor, Mustafa Karaca, who promised to expel the Syrians from the area, the mob then targeted Syrian houses around the area by smashing windows, setting fires, and attacking migrants with stones and sticks.

As of July 2017, over three million Syrian refugees are residing in Turkey, as part of a settlement agreed to by the European Union, who are paying 3 billion euros for their accommodation to prevent them entering Europe.

However, the migration wave has led to tensions between locals and different Islamic sects and created growing anger in Turkey. Ankara has repeatedly threatened to renege on the deal, despite the European Union also providing funding for one million debit cards for Syrian refugees in Turkey, as well as 850,000 people now benefiting from an EU-funded project that providing cash assistance to vulnerable families.

This month, Turkish authorities arrested a number of soldiers after a video emerged of military members inflicting heinous beatings and inhumane treatment on Syrian refugees.

Meanwhile, a report last year found that many Turkish businesses are using migrants as effectively slave labor, often paying them barely half the minimum wage and denying pay to those who complain.

In March, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak warned that over three million more migrants could arrive in Turkey from Iran with the intention of entering Europe.

“Unfortunately, they are mostly Afghans again from the further east of Iran,” Kaynak said. “Europe and the world should think about it. They want to come to Turkey as a transit point and they do not want to stay in Turkey. They want to cross into the west and for them, Turkey is an important barrier and is enduring an important cost.”

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