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'Racists' force Turkiye brand to withdraw t-shirt with Arabic writing

LC Waikiki t-shirt with Arabic writing [samerdaboul6/twitter]
LC Waikiki t-shirt with Arabic writing [samerdaboul6/twitter]

The Turkish clothing brand LC Waikiki is under fire after it withdrew children's t-shirts from shops in Turkiye after protests that they were decorated with the Arabic language.

The offending t-shirt with Mickey Mouse on it read "it's time to play" and has now been withdrawn following pressure from some customers who said that only the Turkish language should be used for products sold in Turkiye.

In a statement, LC Waikiki said: "This item was produced for international branches but was put on sale in Turkey due to a system error. Consequently, we removed it from the store."

Now some people across the Arab world are calling for a boycott of the brand under the hashtag #lcwaikiki, pointing out how thousands of t-shirts have phrases written in English but have not been withdrawn from the shelves.

"I will boycott all Turkish LC Waikiki products and call on our Arab brothers to boycott them due to their compatibility with the racist discourse in Turkey. The company has thousands of products in English and apologised to the racists for a kid's t-shirt with three Arabic words on it. Do you hate the language of your Prophet, your Qur'an, your prayers, and your pilgrimage to this degree?"

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Some social media users have justified the store's decision and are stirring up hatred against foreigners in the country.

In one tweet a Turkish social media user says: "I'm ok with English, French and German, the only language I have a problem with is Arabic."

One of the comments underneath reads: "Because they persecuted and murdered us whilst converting us to Islam (I am Muslim.) For years their armies crushed and humiliated us, and when the time came, they rebelled and betrayed us. They are responsible for the world's troubles; how can I not be cautious?"

Another asks: "there are t-shirts that have English phrases, what's the problem?"

Another replies: "We don't have 10 million English people living in Turkey."

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Roughly 5.29 foreign nationals live in Turkiye, 3.7 million of them are Syrian refugees. Many have expressed concern over their safety and future in the country amid increased racism and anti-refugee sentiment.

Refugees are being held responsible for the depreciation of the lira and inflation which have brought about a severe economic crisis in the country.

The mayor of the northwestern city of Bolu has introduced a law charging foreigners 11 times more for water and waste services.

In May, Tanju Özcan erected a banner warning Syrians it was the "last call" for them to return to their home country.

"I call on temporary refugees; 11 years ago, you said you came to our country as guests… our hospitality has been going on for too long."

It is not just politicians. In a tweet, Turkish comedian Elif Ulug says, "my face when I see an asylum seeker", adding a picture of her looking in disgust. The tweet has over 1,500 retweets and more than 90,000 likes.

Despite requests to Twitter to remove the tweet on the grounds that it is hate speech and racist, the social media giant said the tweet had not broken their safety policies.

"The problem did not start with the #lcwaikiki t-shirt, and it will not be resolved and will not change by boycotting the company. There is a racist general atmosphere in Turkey that has increased like crazy in recent years, and it is the biggest and strongest force which made the company retreat [withdraw the t-shirt]. Unfortunately, there is no outlet for Arabs to stand up to this, not even in the media!"

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