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Erdogan condemns opposition’s ‘inhuman, un-Islamic’ aim to forcefully expel Syrian refugees

May 14, 2023 at 9:34 am

Turkish President and Leader of the Justice and Development (AK) Party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends an election rally, organized by AK Party, in Istanbul, Turkiye on May 12, 2023. [İsa Terli – Anadolu Agency]

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has condemned the main opposition candidate’s policy goals toward Syrian refugees as “inhuman” and “un-Islamic”, days before the landmark presidential elections are set to proceed.

Amid the months of campaigning by competing parties in Turkiye leading up to the looming presidential elections which are set to kick off tomorrow, a key policy touted by the opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu and his Republican People’s Party (CHP) has been the vow to deport the 3.5 million Syrian refugees currently in the country within two years.

Speaking at a question-and-answer event at the Presidential complex in the capital Ankara this week, Erdogan called those plans “inhuman and immoral, and more importantly un-Islamic”. He added that “There are doctors, engineers, and lawyers among the Syrian refugees who came to Turkey. Is it reasonable for us to expel them?”

READ: ‘This is a Turkish Republic; go back to your own country’

During that same event, the president emphasised his and his Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) goal of gradually returning Syrian refugees to Syria based on non-forceful and voluntary means. As part of that, he highlighted his government’s construction of 100,000 houses in rebel-held northern Syria to cater to returnees.

Erdogan also denied the opposition’s claim that Syrian students had been receiving preferential treatment in Turkish schools and universities.

Despite the AKP government’s stated aim to gradually encourage Syrians to leave by facilitating the means of their return to Syria, human rights groups and reports have accused Ankara of forcibly returning refugees to the country through methods such as arrest on trumped-up charges, the forced signing of confessions and agreements, and their secret deportation to northern Syria.

Many Syrians and analysts, therefore, fear that there will be a sharp increase in the persecution of Syrian refugees within Turkiye regardless of who wins the elections.

READ: Turkey has forcibly deported 155,000 refugees back to Syria, report says