Evidence has begun to surface that Syrian refugees may be suffering at the hands of Turkey after they cross the border. In January the BBC team in Turkey met with an inmate named Ahmad at the Tekirday detention camp. They’d been following Ahmad since the previous September when they met him in a small town on the border of Turkey and Greece. According to the BBC, Ahmad was one of 2,000 refugees taking shelter in the town’s local stadium. Authorities came to disperse them but Ahmad was one of 120 refugees who held their ground. BBC reporters lost cell contact with Ahmad and he turned up later in what they called a ” local detention camp.” He alleges he was badly beaten there.
Inmates (keep in mind these were originally refugees from a war-torn country) not sent to detention centers were deported back to Syria. Amnesty International argues this puts the refugees in danger of serious human rights abuses. Human Rights Watch reported in November that thousands of refugees were being turned away at the Turkish border, forcing them to return to the constant violence and daily airstrikes that define life in modern Syria.
But getting through the border and into the country is no guarantee that refugees will live their future in peace. In fact, it’s no guarantee that they will even be guaranteed fundamental human rights or have access to basic services. Education has suffered particularly. Before the conflict 99 percent of Syrian children attended primary school; now, more than three million refugee children are out of school in Turkey and elsewhere. Instead, thousands of Syrian children in Turkey have become subject to beatings by fully grown adults. In one instance a Syrian child was beaten by a Turkish Burger King manager because he was caught eating a customer’s leftover fries. And while Turkey is a primary focus for the refugee issue because of how many Syrians fleeing violence there are in the country but these human rights abuses aren’t limited to Turkey. Greek police were caught last September beating refugees as they lined up to register for documentation to get into the country. The BBC asked the Turkish government for an interview to sort these allegations out; they declined and released a canned statement instead.
We sometimes like to think that rabid xenophobia is a phenomenon limited to the radical, American, often Christian, right. Our reaction has been shameful: 31 states have forbidden refugees entry, which sends a powerful albeit unenforceable statement. We like to think more progressive people, and more progressive countries, are immune to such an out-pour of hate. But all humans are descended from the same animal. Even Danish humans are capable of sanctioning theft from victims of war. Even Swedish humans are capable of roaming the streets looking for refugees to “punish.” Even Czech humans are capable of torching a refugee center in Prague.
Nothing is as bruising to the soul as realizing we have not come as far as we think we have, but no matter how these examples of domestic terrorism make us feel it is our duty as global citizens to confront them directly. American history, as flawed as it is, is a history forged by the conflicts of immigration. We have been there before and we know how serious these conflicts can be. Our duty extends beyond calling out GOP candidates for advocating deportation or internment of refugees in the states. We must recognize human rights is global, and bring light to every instance when those rights are violated, no matter what country those allegations come from.
Featured image courtesy of Wikipedia