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Why is Turkey Taking in so Many Syrian refugees?

Politics / Turkey Jul 05, 2015 - 10:43 AM GMT

By: Atlantic_Perspective


The UN can´t stop praising the Turkish government for hosting around 2 million Syrians. The Turks have indeed been generous, more than any other country in the region. Actually, too generous. Why is Ankara so keen to help the Syrians fleeing into Turkey?

This “generosity” is actually not that generous. The Turkish government has strong reasons to want the Syrians in.

1. Don´t mess with the good guys: Over the past two years, Turkey has become a de facto dictatorship. Dissenting opinions towards the government or the president, are frequently rewarded with jail sentences, monster penalties, forced unemployment and tax harassment.

The standard procedure regarding demonstrations in Turkey, includes water cannons, tear gas, beatings and the like. Even if the demonstrators are literally of a dozen people just saying a few slogans. The police has orders to charge, regardless of the consequences on passive bystanders getting caught in the violence. Police violence that is, because the demonstrations are mostly peaceful. But the police makes sure they are not.

Turkey hosts the world record for the number of journalists in jail. But yet, the UN can´t stop praising the same government that puts a record number of journalists in jail. That´s the reward for taking in 2 million refugees: you get to do whatever you want, and nobody dares to say anything. After all, the West is too embarrassed for its own inaction on the Syrian refugee crisis. If Turkey is compensating for the slack, let it have its way.

2. Syrians today, Turks tomorrow. The vast majority of Syrians living in Turkey are pious Muslims, grateful to the even more pious Turkish government. There are indications that a huge percentage of these Syrian refugees may soon be given Turkish nationality. And when that happens, guess who they will vote for? Again, 2 million grateful Syrians may prove to be very rewarding investment, especially to a government that just lost majority in parliament.

After 13 years ruling the country, the AK Party is losing support. 2 million Syrians turned Turks, will definitely be a good help in the next election.

3. The “R” factor: religion. A day doesn´t go by without the words “Muslims” or “Islam” being said by members of the Turkish government or the president. In the run up to the last election, there were political rallies where top politicians didn´t hesitate to hold and show the Holy Quran during their speeches.

As said before, the vast majority of Syrian refugees are pious Muslims. The “secular Turkey” story is just that: a story. There is nothing secular about Turkey. The imams (the equivalent to priests and ministers in Christianity), are public servants, paid by the state. Mosques are fully paid by the state as “public works”.

In 2014, the Directorate of Religious Affairs of Turkey (Dyianet) had a budget 2.6 times bigger than the Ministry of Health. In Turkey, people can die for lack of medical treatment, but not for lack of a Mosque. That´s how secular Turkey is.

The Turkish government gives far more consideration to the pious Muslims with Syrian passport, than to its own liberal citizens that make up for about 20-30% of the total population.

There are objective and not so objective reasons for Turkey (or at least its government) to want to host such a big number of Syrians. It paid off very well over the past two years, and it could pay off even more when these refugees become Turkish Syrians.

Turkey has indeed helped two million people, and that´s a good thing. But probably not for the right reasons. That´s the Atlantic Perspective.

Copyright © 2015 by The Atlantic Perspective.

The Atlantic Perspective is an opinion blog aimed at explaining, forecasting and providing solutions to some of the world´s most relevant issues.

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