Last week, a Turkish man was detained in connection with an assault on a Kuwaiti tourist in the northern city of Trabzon. The attack was widely publicised in the local Turkish and social media.
Racist attacks in Turkiye, especially in Istanbul, towards Arabs first became apparent with the arrival of Syrian refugees. Without tangible evidence, many claimed they were taking Turkish jobs. More recently, the hostility became even more widespread and aggressive after the secularist coalition lost the May 2023 presidential election.
What made matters even worst has been Turkiye’s economic crises, of which high inflation was the most obvious. Since the pandemic, the situation became increasingly unbearable for many locals.
Turkiye has earned $13 billion in the second quarter of 2023 from tourism, which accounts for 20 per cent of the country’s total revenue. As a result, Turkiye cannot and should not undermine this vital source of revenue through the display and conduct of racist campaigns against foreigners, be they tourists, Arabs or otherwise.
Relatedly, Turkiye’s economic ties with Arab nations have grown in the past two decades and are expected to continue growing. The importance of good relations with Arab countries was highlighted in the period 2018-2020, when the economy suffered a huge setback because of the sanctions and boycott that followed the murder of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, in Istanbul.
During the first seven months of that crisis, Turkiye lost $90 billion, decreasing 13.7 per cent from the same period last year, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute.
Turkish media should explain that there is huge difference between traders and refugees. Not all traders are refugees and not all refugees are beggars. The spread of hate speech through insults, distortion, hostility or demonisation in printed and visual social media content against millions of refugees in Turkiye is further deepening prejudices and creating social unrest and tension among communities.
It is disgraceful that widely circulated headlines about refugees are very often fabricated through exaggerated charges and distortion. Examples of such headlines like “’Forbidden love’ motive behind the murder of Syrian mother-daughter” and “Syrian bride absconds with wedding jewels” are inciteful and, quite frankly, dangerous.
Even on an intellectual level, racism towards Arab journalists, authors and academics have been on the rise in Turkiye, as well. Last month, Al Jazeera journalist, Rokaya Celik, had been attacked in Istanbul by a member of İyi, a nationalist, right-wing party.
According to Zygmunt Bauman, one of the most prominent philosophers of our time, and originator of concept ‘Liquid Modernity’, these people who are coming now as refugees do so, not because they are hungry, without bread and water. [They are] people who yesterday were proud of their homes, were proud of their positions in society, were very often very well educated, very well-off and so on. But they are refugees now because of oppression.
Economically, here in the UK, London is the biggest financial hub for Gulf rulers.
According to Bank of London & Middle East , Middle Eastern investors are expected to pump $3.2 billion into the UK real estate market in 2024 to capitalise on its increasing affordability and a growing interest in the student accommodation sector.
In order not to lose Gulf investors who will certainly boost the Turkish economy, Turkiye should hasten to conclude the proposed ‘Gulf Trade Pact’. Within this Pact, there must be the removal of all visa requirements, which help the investors and save their time.
The relationship between Arabs and Turks is rooted in a common history, cultural and religious ties. If the Turkish authorities do not find a solution for this shameful campaign of racism and xenophobic violence towards Arabs, Turkiye will lose Foreign Direct Investments. Indeed, just on a human and moral level, Turkiye must end this racist campaign before it is too late.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.