Protests and arrests as anti-Syrian riots rock Turkey



Turkey’s government is calling for calm after violence against Syrian refugees erupted in the central Melikgazi region and spread to other areas. The unrest began when Turkish authorities arrested a Syrian man accused of sexually abusing a seven-year-old Syrian girl in Kayseri. Angered by online reports of the crime, Turkish residents flipped cars and set Syrian-run shops on fire, demanding that Syrians be expelled from the country. The violence later spread to the southern province of Hatay, where protesters set a Syrian grocery store ablaze.

Turkey’s Interior Minister, Ali Yerlikaya, condemned the riots, stating they “damaged houses, workplaces, and vehicles belonging to Syrian nationals” and accused the perpetrators of acting “illegally in an attitude that does not suit our human values.” On Tuesday, Yerlikaya announced that 474 individuals had been detained following the “provocative actions” against Syrians. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also condemned the violence, attributing it to opposition parties. He emphasised that “nothing can be achieved by fuelling xenophobia and hatred of refugees in society.”

The recent violence is part of a broader pattern of anti-Syrian sentiment in Turkey, where over 3.5 million Syrians reside under “temporary protection” status. This is not the first time xenophobic protests targeting Syrians have occurred in the last three years. Economic hardship, soaring inflation, and rising nationalist sentiment have intensified anti-refugee feelings. Umit Ozdag, leader of the anti-migration Victory Party, criticised the government’s treatment of Syrian refugees, further inflaming tensions. The violence also sparked retaliatory riots in opposition-held areas of northwestern Syria, with hundreds of Syrian demonstrators protesting in solidarity with their compatriots in Turkey.