Turkey's main opposition leader has vowed to deport 3.5 million Syrian refugees and rebuild ties with the regime of Bashar Al-Assad if he beats President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the next election.
In a video posted on his Twitter account on Friday, the leader of the Republican People's Party (HDP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, announced his intention to reopen embassies in both countries, restore relations with Assad and return Syrian refugees "within two years" of coming into power.
İktidarımızda Suriyeli misafirlerimizle helalleşip iki yılda memleketlerine uğurlayacağız. Bu iktidarımızın en önemli beş önceliğinden biridir. Plan ve programlarımız hazır. Bu video da bunun taahhüdü olarak burada dursun istedim. pic.twitter.com/5kE4csutCo
— Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (@kilicdarogluk) July 16, 2021
Kilicdaroglu blamed the presence of Syrians for "big complaints from citizens who do not have jobs or income." He added that "bigger problems" to which there is no solution may be faced in the future.
"Go to Istanbul, Izmir, Kayseri, Hatay, Gaziantep, and Kilis, and you will find many of these widespread problems there," he stressed. He cited by way of example the south-eastern district of Sanliurfa where, he claimed, Syrians work for half the wages of Turks and are therefore taking many of the jobs.
Kilicdaroglu's announcement comes at a time when there have been numerous attacks against Syrian refugees in Turkey. Nationalist rhetoric blames the refugees for many of the country's economic problems.
According to the HDFP leader, however, this is not racism. "The Syrians are close to us, but they will be happier on the soil they were born, and for this, we will work to send them there safely."
This is not the first time that he has announced plans to deport Syrians to their home country; he said the same thing last month. He also reiterated that the European Union (EU) would be paying for the Syrians' return, but did not present any evidence or roadmap showing how the bloc will do this.
Condemning the EU for complaining about the refugee crisis flowing through Turkey to Europe while failing to build infrastructure that would enable the refugees' return, Kilicdaroglu said, "I told them [the EU]: Put your hands in your pockets and build schools, hospitals, infrastructure and roads, and then we will send them back to their country."
He stressed on Twitter that he is "nothing like" Erdogan. "No one can declare my country to be an open prison for refugees. Let me tell you in advance, very tough negotiations are waiting for you."
My call to the world: I'm nothing alike to Erdogan. I come from the Kuvayi Milliye tradition. No one can declare our soldiers as watchmen to where they fled; or declare my country an open prison to refugees. Let me tell you in advance, very tough negotiations are waiting for you.
— Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (@kilicdarogluk) July 18, 2021