Syrian refugees were attacked and their homes and businesses looted following a false claim that one of them had sexually abused a little boy in Adana, Turkish media outlets reported on Thursday.
An 11-year-old boy was allegedly abused in the southern province of Adana on Wednesday. Following social media rumors which said the perpetrator was a Syrian refugee, dozens of people took to the streets. The reaction quickly turned into a lynch attempt against Syrian refugees as the crowd looted houses and shops belonging to Syrians, according to the news reports.
The assaults took place in the Dumlupınar neighborhood in Adana’s Seyhan district where the abuse allegedly happened.
Despite police intervention with tear gas and water cannons, the attacks and protests went on throughout the night. Some 40, people including five women were detained due to the attacks or provocations through social media, daily Evrensel said.
The Adana Governor’s office released a statement on Friday rubbishing the sexual assault report.
The statement said the perpetrator was a 15-year-old boy named A.K. who has a lot of criminal records. He was arrested in connection with the allegations.
However, attacks targeting Syrians continued in the city even after the arrest report.
In July false sexual abuse claims and attacks on Syrians took place in Istanbul’s Kucukcekmece district, one of the refugee settlements in the city. Later, police refuted the claims which blamed the abuse on Syrian refugees.
Syrian refugees started to arrive in Turkey in 2011 when a civil war broke out in their country.
Over the years Turkish society has gradually viewed the Syrian refugee issue as a political and economic matter rather than a humanitarian one.
Many Turkish citizens see the Syrians’ presence as the main cause of unemployment and high rents in the country. Further, they are viewed as the source of crimes or even of diseases and terrorism.
Research conducted by Istanbul Bilgi University’s Centre for Migration in 2018 revealed that two-thirds of Turkish people think Syrians are responsible for increasing the crime rate in the country.
“It is a myth [among society] that Syrians and asylum seekers have been committing crimes. It does not reflect reality. We see that only three percent of all crimes in the country were committed by the Syrians,” Atay Uslu, the chairman of the Immigration and Integration Sub-committee of Human Rights Commission in the Turkish Parliament, said in June.
The university poll also showed that more than 70 percent of Turkish people believe Syrian refugees are taking their jobs.
As of June, the number of Syrians who have sought protection in Turkey is 3,6 million according to Uslu.