In the past month a systematic campaign has been underway in Turkey targeting Syrian and other migrant populations through deportations (through forcible signings of “voluntary return forms”), forced-movement within and between cities, harassment, and ill-treatment. While the government has released official statistics of the number of those deported and moved,[i] these do not correspond to the official statistics of Syrian deportations declared by one border crossing, Bab al-Hawa (6,160 and 4,370 Syrians in the months of July and June 2019 respectively), the statement from Syrian Associations’ Platform that three thousand deported persons had approached them in July alone, and the report from the Istanbul Bar Association’s Legal Aid Bureau that there had been a 3.5 times increase in deportation cases.[ii] There are reports of young and old men, women with children, and unaccompanied minors, some of whom have Temporary Protection IDs, being deported. Police are reportedly conducting home raids, and Syrians in Istanbul are living in siege-alike conditions. The Istanbul governorate announced on 28 July 2019 that Syrians in Istanbul who were either registered in other cities or were not registered at all would have until 20 August to leave the city and register elsewhere. The authorities have subsequently extended this date until 30 October.[iii]
Leading up to this campaign, there had been a steady build-up of discrimination against Syrians. In February, a group of young Turkish men armed with knives and batons, chanting "This is Turkey, not Syria!" harassed Syrians in the working-class Istanbul neighborhood of Esenyurt, causing them to barricade themselves in their shops. The police arrived while the mob were throwing stones at Syrian businesses, but they were unable to stop the violence and had to call in reinforcements. Several other acts of violence and lynching attempts of Syrians followed this incident. At the end of June, a crowd in Küçükçekmece, Istanbul, threw stones at Syrians’ houses and stores after fake allegations of the rape of a young girl by a Syrian man. The police did not take any action to disperse them, despite the incident happening in front of the police station. Syrians have been banned from public beaches, blamed for inciting disorder. Xenophobia has become directly institutionalized in local governance policy by a newly elected CHP mayor in Bolu, who cut municipal financial aid to Syrians and other asylum seekers, and refused to grant them municipal permits to open businesses. Online vitriol has been ongoing for six years, and sporadic bursts of violence often go unreported. Inaccurate rumors spread that Syrians are receiving preferential treatment in access to social services and resources over Turkish citizens, including being spared from taking placement tests for university exams. The newly re-elected Istanbul Mayor Imamoğlu made statements regarding the high number of Arabic shop signs,[iv] which led to a regulation that shop signs must contain seventy-five percent Turkish language. Syrians have consistently been used as a political tool to fit whichever role most benefits a given group at any given time.
Structured Antagonisms in Articulations of Anti-Syrian Sentiment
Since the initial response of the Turkish government to the arrival of Syrians in the country in March 2011, there have been structured contradictions in their representation and reception. On the one hand, some Syrians have been treated as depoliticized humanitarian receivers detached from the revolutionary political position which caused many to leave Syria. They have been welcomed along lines of religious fraternity, or used cynically as leverage for receiving European Union funds during the EU-Turkey deal.[v] On the other hand, they have been the subjects of a regime of capital accumulation which requires an increasingly permanent migrant population. The public rhetoric and policies towards Syrians have also changed over time, from an early adherence to hospitality from the government, to the present situation where all political parties have committed to their removal from the country.[vi] The fractures of that contradiction have influenced the kind of discrimination that has emerged, politically motivated, culturally and historically specific, rooted in real or perceived economic grievances. Discrimination from various opposition political parties, notably the centrist CHP and right-wing IYI party, has consistently invoked an anti-Syrian platform along either secular, nationalist, or economic lines. A certain segment of secular and urban elite society may criticize Syrians as part of a wider discontent with the ruling government and their policies, their discrimination becoming blurred with what may be termed Islamophobia. Many workers criticize Syrians not as fellow and equal workers, but as having an unfair advantage in undercutting their labor opportunities. There are legitimate anxieties, particularly among Alevi populations, that some jihadist groups from Syria might be located in refugee camps. The welcoming rhetoric of the government and its policies, which have technically provided registered Syrians with access to healthcare and education, as well as the visible humanitarian support from the international community, have also worked to create antagonisms against them.
Discourse in mainstream media depicts Syrians as burglars, beggars, criminals, as culturally different (not “modern”), and as creating social tensions. Hashtags on social media, “We do not want Syrians in our country,” consistently call them dirty, vermin, parasites, and freeloaders. Furthermore, actual government policies towards Syrians have carved hierarchies and consolidated inequalities based on education, employment, wealth, religion, and political allegiance. A reported seventy-five thousand Syrians, around two percent of their total population in Turkey (the figure comes from a recent newspaper report which does not give its source[vii]), have become naturalized citizens. Citizenship rights are mostly accessible to those who have graduated from Turkish universities, work in specialized professions such as doctors, scientists, business(wo)men, or those who have sufficient funds to buy property in Turkey, which immediately qualifies one for citizenship. These conditions for achieving citizenship status have arguably aligned this demographic quite tightly to the fate of the ruling party, revealing the underlying capitalist motivations behind providing sanctuary for the displaced.
Simultaneously, other Syrians are made insecure and vulnerable. The temporary protection status renewal, which Syrians must complete in order to remain registered, reportedly entails asking questions of a political nature, rumors of which dissuade many Syrians from undergoing the process, leaving those of particular political allegiance vulnerable to future forced deportation, population transfer, and effective criminalization. Prior to the most recent campaigns, forced deportations had been ongoing for the past four years, mainly from border regions but increasingly from other metropoles. Refugee camps, which only house eight percent of the total population of Syrians, have been increasingly dismantled. The vast majority of Syrians making up the ninety percent of the population who do not have a work permit are members of the illegalized labor subordination. Their bodies become disposable and precarious, not only through insecure livelihoods and employment, but also through a temporary and arbitrary legal status. They cannot join unions, find themselves exposed to workplaces with poor health and safety mechanisms, and children are rendered vulnerable to underage labor. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Turkish government is working on a plan to relocate 700,000 Syrians to territories that it is planning to seize from US-backed Kurdish groups in northern Syria.
Racism and the Politics of Discrimination
Much of the anti-Syrian discrimination has emerged from a nationalist and militarist discourse which criticizes Syrians for not taking up arms to defend their country.[viii] In the aftermath of the lynching attempt in the Istanbul neighborhood of Küçükçekmece, a Kurdish man told a reporter: “They called me 'Kurd with a tail' in Rize. I still cannot forget those days. But a Kurd and a Syrian cannot be compared. My grandpa's blood was spilled on this land, not Syrians'. They are refugees.” This comment, not necessarily a reflective opinion, constructs a division between one oppressed population, the Kurds, and another, the Syrians, through appeals to blood, honor, and sacrifice within a specific geographical territory. It highlights the multiple registers through which a militarist discourse is employed, not just in the service of Turkish nationalism but also to promote belonging among other groups. And it also indicates how racism and discrimination are not confined to targeting Syrian refugees. Identification and articulation of “others,” is often contradictory, unstable, and dependent on a particular constellation of relations at any one time. Barış Ünlü’s work demonstrates how such discrimination is embedded in the context of Turkishness and may not always be a consciously taken position. This leads not only to racist attitudes towards Syrians but also blind spots in Turkish engagement with the Kurds, particularly in the failure to recognize the discrimination with which Kurds are targeted.
Discrimination against Syrians is occurring in the context of a form of racism long endured by internally displaced Kurds and Alevis, and resentment against Arabs, particularly wealthy tourists and property investors from the Gulf who have been buying real estate in the urban centers of Istanbul. Its manifestations differ across geographical and localized spaces, influenced by demographics and specific social, economic, historical, and political dynamics. In Antakya, there were early negative reactions against Syrians among a dominant Arab-Alevi population. Anxieties about Syrians do not necessarily map neatly onto party affiliations: a report found higher rates of contentment towards Syrians within people affiliated with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), while the rate of dissatisfaction among center-left Republican People’s Party (CHP) and People’s Democratic Party (HDP) is higher than seventy percent. Sometimes, allegiance to Syrians may come from unlikely groups: a CHP Mayor in Gazipaşa overturned a beach ban against Syrians against the wishes of his party members. The particular manifestations within which the discrimination is articulated is both specific to a particular historical moment and operates within structural bonds, which not only intersect but also relationally constitute and challenge each other.
Anti-Syrian discrimination and Islamophobia have often been elided into a use of the term ”racism,” which does not necessarily reflect the realities or specificities of the harassment, much of which is rooted in economic grievances. Racialization is a process in which human characteristics acquire racial significance and constitute foundations for classifying individuals into groups,[ix] and racism is a social process which “creates” race by inscribing, reifying, and reinforcing it (Fields and Fields, 2014). The persistence of categorizations and generalizations of Syrians as an essentialized group might be contributing to delineating a racialized population, leading to discrimination which is informed by racialized thinking. But an analysis of racialized discrimination requires going beyond identity politics, which treats it in primarily cultural and discursive terms, and conceptualizing it as something which is integral to and constituted by capitalism.
President Erdoğan’s repeated insistence of racializing himself as a “Black Turk” in opposition to “White Turk,” as a political tool to construct a false class distinction by counterposing a supposedly uneducated, lower-class against a supposed distant elite, displays both how racialization is an artificial construct (Erdoğan is not, by his own metrics, a Black Turk) and the inextricable intersection of race and capitalism. This indicates not only the complicated manner in which identities are re-arranged or counterposed in the service of political means, but also how invoking a false idea of class through racialized identity simultaneously undermines class consciousness. The entrance of Syrians into this dynamic illustrates further the hypocrisy of the artificial White/Black Turk divide. A heavily privatized economic system is trapping many Syrians, along with other dispossessed groups both with and without Turkish citizenship, in precarity. Articulating economically motivated discrimination against Syrians along identity lines, helped by the ambiguous boundaries of legal/“illegal” (which in the case of Syrians in Turkey is further blurred between migrant and refugee status owing to their particular legal protection)[x], creates divisions among a group who otherwise share similar economic grievances. Contextualizing current discrimination against Syrians in Turkey, therefore, reveals some of the contradictions of the governing powers and the complexities of layers of discriminations against them.
Although the Turkish government has provided some Syrians with some protections, these privileges also expose them to exploitation and, as a result, the majority are arguably more vulnerable to being expropriated as a result of being classed “Syrian” with associated stigmas and assumptions. Those Syrians who may be in a more favorable economic and social position are still collectively grouped into an antagonistic and discriminatory narrative by virtue of their nationality and bear the weight of the discrimination which marks their expropriated countrymen.
Other intersecting and relational systems impact the manner in which Syrians are classed and subjectified. The country's capital accumulation regime requires having an increasingly permanent migrant population but the majority of this population gets trapped within an informal and privatized economy, not just the market of labor but also of marriage, organ donation, and sex, and other privately operated markets. Within these invisible and insecure spaces in which there is no political protection, Syrians are in competition with other dispossessed migrant groups and other working-class citizens of Turkey, particularly those from a minority background and the internally displaced (although these populations technically have the protection of citizenship status).
Alongside this economic and political system, Syrians exist in a unique and arbitrarily administered legal category, of Temporary Protection Status, which has no grounding in international law and which the Council of Ministers can remove at any time, presumably without recourse to due process of law. Recent developments indicate the exact fragility of this precarious status. Other Syrians exist without any legal status, either because their documents expired, and they did not wish to renew them due to political insecurity or because they arrived in Turkey after new registrations had ended. As recent weeks have proven, it is not only registered Syrians who are vulnerable to deportations, and this “economy” of deportability (De Genova 2016), in which there is an unequal distribution over who is more vulnerable to deportation than others, displays the unequal distribution of this power over non-citizens’ lives and liberties. As with vulnerability to expropriation, vulnerability to deportation ties Syrians every further into unequal structural dynamics in which their bodies are further depoliticized and exposed to further economic, physical, and social insecurity. Vulnerability to the possibilities of deportability, expropriation, exploitation also impacts the conditions for their labor power to be produced and acts to demarcate them further.
Any analysis of anti-Syrian discrimination in Turkey should take into account its differential nature, variegated across geography and blurred with specific instances of Islamophobia; how it relates to other constructions of identity; and how it is being influenced by, or internalized within liberal humanitarian notions of multiculturalism which is practiced by the international community in contrast to a clear shift in Turkish government policy. Focusing on racialized discrimination against Syrians as merely born out of identity politics neglects the structures which help create the conditions for it to exist, and the manner in which they relate in intersecting and structural bonds with each other. Race and racism help create, reproduce, and reinforce an array of hierarchies rooted in class domination, while the social processes which impact on the manner of capital accumulation influence the way in which they are articulated. One of the repercussions of discrimination and “otherness” is that they create subjective affirmations of identity that fragment and erode the rationale for political collectivity. In analyzing their articulations, one should also question the extent to which they prevent equal social and political rights and a sense of solidarity informed by social justice.
A more committed theoretical effort is required to trace these mechanisms within Turkey in their nuanced entirety, not only with attention to historical specificities, but also highlighting the fragility and instability of the politics of identification and questioning the liberal discourses on which those politics are arguably based.
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 On 28 July 2019, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu made a statement announcing that the ministry had “started working on the return of undocumented migrants in Istanbul,” and noted that “in the framework of operations initiated on 12 July 6,122 ‘illegal’ migrants have been caught, of whom 1,000 are Syrians.”
 “When you enter some neighborhoods, you cannot even read the shop signs. This is Turkey; this is Istanbul."
 The hypocrisy of this position was reflected somewhat in Turkey’s hosting of the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016 concurrently to sending refugees abroad as part of the EU-Turkey Deal.
 On 13 July 2019, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that Turkey was preparing a series of policy changes regarding the country’s Syrian refugees, including the deportation of criminals and ending free healthcare services:
“We are preparing to take new steps. We are going to encourage them to return to their countries. We are going to deport those who have committed crimes. Furthermore, we foresee a contribution payment from them in exchange for the health services provided to them.”
 The exact number of Syrians who have become citizens is debatable, with different figures provided by leftist groups, the ministry of interior, and the mainstream media and a politicization of these numbers, particularly before elections and during economic and political crises.
 When two municipalities banned Syrian from entering public beaches in June, many Turks celebrated the policy by saying “they are enjoying beaches, while our [Turkish] soldiers are fighting and dying in Syria.”
 PA Silverstein, “Immigrant racialization and the new savage slot: Race, migration, and immigration in the new Europe.” Annual Review of Anthropology 34 (2005): 363–384.
 While Syrians in Turkey are refugees, their legal status does not afford them full refugee status under international law as a result of the geographic limitation which Turkey retains on its ratification of the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention, meaning that “refugee status” can only be given to those fleeing “events occurring in Europe.” The Government of Turkey responded to the initial influx of Syrians to the country with an “open door policy” and provided immediate asylum to millions of Syrians. A legal framework was prepared and ratified in October 2014 that labeled Syrians as Foreigners Under Temporary Protection and granted them certain rights. Under this regulation, registered Syrians have free access to public services such as education and health. (Timur Kaymaz and Omar Kadkoy, “Syrians in Turkey – The Economics of Integration” AlSharq Forum, 2016).