Global Voices Online: Refugees
On May 11th, Reyhanlı [en] small Turkish town on Turkey-Syria border, was under terrorist attacks. This was the biggest terrorist attack [en] in country's 90 year-old republican history. After the explosions nine people were detained [en] by the security forces. Officials said [en], two vehicles were used in the bombings and more than 50 people were killed and at least 100 people were injured. But on social media, there were rumors that the real number of the victims is more than 100.
Twitter user shiny (@Idauk) tweets [Tr]:
@Idauk Simdi Antakya'dan arkadasimla konustum.Olu sayisi 100′un uzerinde diyor.Reyhanli'da fiili sokaga cikma yasagi varmis.Hastahaneler perisan.
I just talked with a friend from Antakya. As my friend said, the number of the people were killed is over 100. Also, there is a curfew. Hospitals are all miserable.
@denizatam AKP çareyi buldu, Reyhanlı için yayın yasağı başladı! Ana akım medya yetmedi yerel basını sustur şimdi. http://haber.sol.org.tr/devlet-ve-siyaset/akp-careyi-buldu-reyhanli-icin-yayin-yasagi-basladi-haberi-72848 …
AKP (Justice and Development Party) found the solution. A media ban was initiated for the Reyhanli Blasts! Mainstream was not enough, now it is the time to silence local media.
Journalists protested [en] the media ban. On Türkmax, the media ban was protested in a more sarcastic way, on their comedy show “Heberler”. In the video, the anchorman is opening the program with Reyhanlı blasts. Due to media ban, he remains speechless. Here is the video [tr]:
A Turkish viral graphics and design website, bobiler.org, published a picture about media ban. User brewolve prepared a graphic about the Turkish media's reaction on Reyhanlı blasts, since the media was just following their normal program line and not mentioning Reyhanlı blasts. Graphic can be seen here.
Although the media ban was lifted by Turkish courts, on May 16, a video on YouTube claims that the ban has fulfilled its purpose. In the video [tr], a journalist interviews several people on the street asking them “what do you think about Reyhanlı?”. The answers are shocking; only one person recognized the blasts, and a few remembered where the town was, and rest had no idea where it was or what happened in Reyhanlı, even though the video was recorded only five days after the blasts. Here is the video:
There are also reports [tr] on racist attacks on Syrian refugees. Since the Syrian civil war, Syrian refugees and militants fled to Antakya [en], a Turkish city on Syrian-Turkey border, and Reyhanlı, a town of the same city. Since the refugees and militants moved [en] into Antakya, the tension between the locals and Syrians has been high. In the report it says:
“Suriyelilerin yaşadığı binalara topluca gidilmiş birçok ev yakılmaya çalışılmış, ele geçirilen kişiler darp edilmişlerdir. Aşırı milliyetçi/ulusalcı eğilimlere sahip partilere mensup fanatiklerinden olduğu söylenen ve her geçen gün sayıları artmakta olan bu gurup, yaşanan gelişmelerden Suriyelileri sorumlu tutmakta, Reyhanlı ilçe merkezinde devriye gezerek sıklıkla yol kesmekte, Suriyeli veya Suriye vatandaşı olduğunu zannettikleri kişileri linç etmeye çalışmaktadırlar”
A group of people went to the buildings that Syrians are living in, they beat the people they caught. As said, these people are the members of ultra nationalist parties and they increasing in numbers, they blame Syrians for the blasts, and they patrol the Reyhanli city center, where they are attacking Syrians or people who look like Syrian citizens.
Turks on social media gave mixed reactions on the attacks on Syrians in Reyhanli.
Twitter user T.C. Zehra Aydogan (@TurkKizi1919) is angry at Syrians in Antakya:
@TurkKizi1919 Turkiye'ye yerlestirilmeye calistiklari Suriyeli Multeci dedikleri terorsitlerdir.
The so called Syrian refugees that they want to settle in Turkey are, actually terrorists.
Another user, T.C.Devrim #ATATÜRK (@saadet_karakus), is angry at government for helping the refugees instead of the locals:
@saadet_karakus Suriyeli multeci icin milyar dolar harcayanlar,Reyhanlı esnafının vergi, sigorta borçlarını 1 yıl erteliyor.Silsene o borcu buyuk devlet!
The ones, who spend billions of dollars for Syrian refugees, are delaying Reyhanli store owners’ debts for one year. Write off those debts, you big government!
Twitter user Sami Pelitli (@SamiPelitli) says:
@SamiPelitli Reyhanli'da patlayan bomba yuzunden multecileri suclamak, onlara saldirmak nasil bir vicdansizliktir? Bir de irkci degiliz dersiniz.
What kind of remorselessness it is, to blame refugees for the blasts in Reyhanli, and to attack them? And you also say we are not racist.
Journalist Hayko Bağdat (@haykobagdat) tweets:
@haykobagdat ÖSO, cemaat, AKP'li filanlı olmaktan değil, tehcirin ne olduğunu bildiğimden Suriyeli mültecilere toz kondurmuyorum ben.
I am defending Syrian refugees, because I know the meaning of emigration, not because I am fan of FSA (Free Syrian Army), AKP (Justice and development Party), or congregation.
After the death of tens of people and a border town with tens of buildings collapsed [en], life still continues in Reyhanlı. Twitter user Bünyamin Salmanyan (@bunyms) remembers Mustafa Ayaz [tr], who was killed by the blasts in Reyhanlı:
@bunyms Reyhanlı'daki saldırıda hayatını kaybeden 25 yaşındaki Mustafa Ayaz'ın eşi bugün doğum yapmış, adını Mustafa koymuşlar..
Mustafa Ayaz, 25, was killed by the blasts; his wife gave a birth to his son today, and they named him Mustafa…
On 17 May 2013 Australian blogger and self-styled ‘global nomad’ More Atlitude posted a lengthy and detailed post in response to “Australia’s decision yesterday to excise its mainland from the migration zone” this week. He argues that it
essentially reinforces a horrible, horrible policy of enforced detention for legal (I stress, again and again and again, people, LEGAL, good grief do I need to paint it neon and string it with lights?) asylum-seekers.
Interfaith groups in Myanmar are actively working for peace, understanding and harmony amid rising cases of violence against the minority Muslims in the country.
A recent case of anti-Muslim violence instigated by Buddhist mobs broke out in Oakkan, a northern district of Myanmar's former capital city Yangon, on April 30. Around 77 houses were burned down, nine people injured and one killed. It was the latest attack in a series of violence which targeted Muslim houses and shops in the cities of Nattalin, Bago and central Myanmar. The riot that happened at the central town of Meikhtila on March 20 was the second major conflict after the sectarian violence in the Rakhine state which displaced 100,000 people last year.
Our primary objective is to obtain peace for Myanmar. We don't want the troubles and the conflicts. We want to stop the clashes that hinder our path to democracy, as soon as possible. As a follower of Islam, I am sad for all this. But as a Myanmar, we cannot accept this situation. Most of the people in my country want to live peacefully and don't want conflicts. That's why our movement will be successful nationwide. Whether in Buddhism, Islam or any religion, there are people who insult or vilify other religions. If we are to feel bad about this, there would be no end to this. These are the acts of destruction. They are not the truth. Those who made videos that insult Buddha or Jesus, regard these acts like a game. We are hurt by this. In our religion, we have no right to vilify others. Even though we feel sad deep inside, we just have to suppress it because all we want is peace.
On the other hand, religious extremists and racists continue to create division in different communities. Social media hate comments and propaganda also played a role in inciting violence on the eve of the conflicts. This is unfortunate since Myanmar has recently implemented some reforms to promote freedom of speech.
Mon Mon Myat wrote an investigative report in the Bangkok Post, speculating who are the people behind the religious and racial hate messages. (Myanmar version also available here [my]). His research focused on the content and style of the messages that the writers used. It is suggested that the propaganda might be state-sponsored. He also wrote:
In Meiktila, the spark that ignited the violence is widely believed to have been a dispute between the Muslim owner of a gold shop and two would-be customers, both Buddhists.
But what could, and probably should, have been nothing more than a minor spat rapidly escalated into mass murder and rioting. And all thanks to a group of anonymous online rabble-rousers, relentlessly banging the drum for intolerance and hatred via their blogs and websites.
He stressed the fact that government needs to handle the violence decisively:
Whether or not these atrocities were committed by military or paramilitary groups, the fact remains that the government did nothing to bring those responsible for the killings to justice.
Meanwhile, Mandalay citizens have formed a “Conflict Prevention” [my] committee in response to these hate messages. On May 3, an anonymous group were trying to provoke a riot in the city of Mandalay. Fortunately, security was able to control the situation and three people were arrested.
The claims that the foreign religious extremists want to wage Jihad against Myanmar may damage the image of the Muslim people who want to live peacefully in Myanmar. As these claims can create misunderstandings on Islam, they can also affect our movement for the peace and religious harmony and the trust-building between the different communities that we are trying to develop.
He urged domestic media to be more careful in reporting this matter:
For the media, they should be careful not to increase the fear and doubt among the Buddhists when reporting about such claims. It should be noted that respective governments do not accept such claims. It would be appropriate if the media can ask and present the opinions of the leaders of Islamic organizations in Myanmar regarding such terroristic ideologies.
Blogger Nay Phone Latt also shared [my] his opinion:
Actually, through government policies we can change the situation that is making us worried. We can resolve by using firm and effective laws that truly rule. I think government should impose laws and policies that forbid religious insults in society and protect the minority religion from being dominated by others. Even if we don't want to revolve the issue by using laws, at the society level we can start by casting aside our hatred and shaking hands with one another. By creating peaceful coexistence as our focus, we can find solutions. Otherwise, if we resort to using violence, the circle of killings will not stop and it will turn our country into a hideous battleground. To prevent this, both the government and the people are responsible.