Somalis victims of xenophobic attacks in Turkey

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Somalis victims of xenophobic attacks in Turkey

ISTANBUL- For years, Somalis have contributed generously to Turkey’s economy, but now the group’s prosperity has become a target of abuse in Turkey, where anti-immigrant sentiments are on the rise.

According to the Canadian-based international think tank, the International Forum for Rights and Security (IFFRAS), Turkey is an opportunistic country with its own agenda focused on geoeconomics and geopolitics. Instead of facilitating Somalia’s development, Turkey has used state-sponsored corporations to exploit its assets, all as part of a development trap disguised as religion.

Ten years ago, in 2011, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan landed in Mogadishu amid the ravages of one of the worst famines in Somalia’s history.

Meanwhile, his announcement of grandiose projects like the launch of Turkish Airlines flights to the Somali capital, the renovation of a hospital and the opening of Turkey’s largest embassy in Africa in Somalia had shown that Turkey’s mission went far beyond aid and that Ankara was an alternative to Somalia’s traditional donors.

The historic visit had won Erdogan praise across Somalia.

A decade later, Somalis are beginning to realize that Turkey has gone from friend to foe, from trading partner to trade protectionist, from state builder to outright saboteur, IFFRAS reported.

Somalis own various shops and consultancy firms in Ankara. One can also see Somali restaurants, barbers, markets and hairdressers in different streets of the capital.

Until recently, the pro-Turkish government media was gaga over the contribution of Somali entrepreneurs to the Turkish economy. However, in recent times, the prosperity of a predominantly Somali neighborhood has become the target of abuse in Turkey.

In April 2021, a right-wing newspaper known for its anti-immigrant coverage featured the area in a report and put it on the nation’s radar. Under the headline “The hub of Ankara has become Somalia”, the report says that businessmen and asylum seekers in the East African country have completely transformed two streets in Kizilay “in their own country”.

Since then, plainclothes police have started visiting Somali businesses here frequently, carrying out sporadic identity checks and harassing customers, IFFRAS reported.

In September 2021, in an incident that shocked the neighborhood, police arrested and issued eviction orders to several Somali business owners in the area, forcing them to sell their businesses or shut them down altogether.

In a shocking incident, shop signs containing the name “Somalia” or phrases in Somali were forcibly dismantled or replaced with Turkish names, eg Somali Sofrasi became Guzelyurt Sofrasi.

Somalis and shopkeepers claimed the signs were changed under pressure from security guards, while security guards said such transactions were done by the municipality and they had no information about it , reported IFFRAS.

According to eyewitnesses, Somalis who take to the streets are forcibly taken to the police station for reasons such as asking for identification, and released after waiting for hours. Somali customers no longer feel safe taking to the streets because of these practices.

This recent experience has made them worried about their future. Somali trade has suffered. People don’t want to come to their stores anymore.

A source, familiar with the thinking of the police, said local authorities don’t want Somalis and their businesses to be visible in the heart of Ankara. Xenophobia is skyrocketing in Turkey and the police do not want Somalis in Kizilay.

They just want Somalis to be invisible in the heart of the city, reports IFFRAS.

Source: Ani News

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