by Deina Abdelkader for The Conversation
TURKEY — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan isn’t limiting his assault on neighboring Syria to attacking Kurdish troops that run the country’s northern region . He says the 3.6 million Syrians now living as war refugees in Turkey will also be returned “to their own homes” once northern Syria is wrenched from Kurdish control.
This could be an empty threat. After eight years of welcoming people fleeing Syria’s civil war, the Turkish public is beginning to turn against Syrian refugees . Erdogan may see anti-refugee rhetoric as a way to boost his popularity , which is slumping due to recession in Turkey and years of controversial power grabs .
But if the Turkish president does deport Syrian refugees, he won’t be sending them to a “safe zone,” as promised. These extremely vulnerable people would be deported into the lines of combat in this contested, oil-rich zone.
The forgotten half: Women Syrian refugees
In my experience researching minorities at risk in the Middle East, governments dealing with mass migration often overlook the particular challenges facing the most vulnerable refugees: women, children and LGBTQ people.
The Syrian refugees in Turkey are majorly Sunni Muslim – the same faith that predominates in both Turkey and Syria. However, Syrians are ethnically and linguistically different than Turks.
Syrian refugees differ from the broader Turkish and Syrian public in another way, too: 75% of them are women and children, according to the global nonprofit Migration Policy Institute. Between 2011 and 2017, more than 224,000 babies were born in Turkey to Syrian refugee families. Those children are now stateless, granted neither Turkish nor Syrian citizenship at birth.
Syrian women refugees suffer more discrimination and racism in Turkey than their male counterparts, research shows.
This is partially due to a big gap in Turkish language acquisition: 20% of Syrian refugee women complained that lack of language causes exclusion and discrimination, U.N. survey data from 2016 shows, compared to 13% of men.
Even so, 73% of Syrian refugee women told the U.N. that they feel safe in Turkey. That may be related to their resettlement in cities and towns across Turkey, primarily in Istanbul, where they usually live in poor neighborhoods.
Those areas surely feel secure compared to war-torn Syria. They are safer, too, than refugee camps along the Turkish-Syrian border, where rape, human trafficking, prostitution and child marriages have all been reported, according to OBC Transeuropa, a think tank.
Half of all Syrian female refugees were under the age of 18 when they were displaced by war to the Turkish border area.
LGBTQ Syrian refugees: An untold story
Turkey’s Syrian refugee community includes other marginalized groups that would face unique dangers back home, including gay, lesbian and trans people.
The exact number of LGBTQ Syrian refugees displaced across the region is unknown, human rights groups say. But Syria – like much of the Middle East and North Africa region – is a dangerous place to be gay.
Homosexuality is illegal in Syria, and both the government and terror groups like the Islamic State persecute sexual minorities. Being gay is culturally unacceptable according to traditional Islamic mores.
Though Turkey does not criminalize homosexuality, it is not always safe for LGBTQ Syrian refugees, either. Gay Syrians have suffered physical and verbal attacks, often with little response from law enforcement or the government.
In August 2016, Muhammed Wisam Sankari was found mutilated and killed in Istanbul, two days after he went missing. Sankari had told police he feared for his life after having previously been abducted, tortured and raped by unknown attackers, according to reports.
Recent crackdowns by the Turkish police in Syrian refugee communities, have been detaining and deporting thousands of Syrian refugees, including LGBTQ people.
The Turkish government denies that it is forcibly returning refugees to a war zone, which would be illegal under Turkish and international law.
For LGBTQ Syrians, going home may be a death sentence.
In August 2019 a transgender Syrian woman named Ward told The Guardian newspaper that she feared being deported to the Turkey-Syria border because the al-Nusra terrorist group, a branch of al-Qaida with 5,000 to 10,000 fighters in western Syria, would kill her.
Ward was deported days later. She was last seen in late August being forced into the trunk of a car by militants in Syria, according to the Guardian report.
Erdogan’s stated purpose in invading Syria is to rid its northern region of the Kurdish Worker’s Party – an armed militia and political party known as the PKK – and create a “buffer zone” between the two countries.
The PKK has been a thorn in Turkey’s side for the past 41 years.
With Syrian government support, PKK leader Abdallah Ocallan has been threatening the Turkish government with a Kurdish separatist insurgency long before Erdogan’s presidency.
The United States, like Turkey, considers the PKK to be a terrorist organization.
But in Syria the U.S. had, until its recent military withdrawal, allied itself with other secular and progressive Syrian groups, namely the Syrian Democratic Forces.
The Kurdish minority in northern Syria, as in nearby Iraq, has long been stuck between Ocallan’s armed militia, the Turkish government and their own authoritarian leaders – used and abused, my research finds, by politicians seeking to further their own regional agenda in the Mideast.
Returning Syrian refugees to this battleground would make them the “buffer” between these warring forces, turning more vulnerable people into collateral damage of a greater geopolitical war.
The Conversation publishes knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence from academics and researchers in order to inform public debate with facts, clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.
RAGE is Latest Venue to Fall Victim to the Pandemic
WEST HOLLYWOOD (L.A. Magazine) — Rage nightclub has been a destination for LGBTQ+ nightlife in the bustling Santa Monica Boulevard corridor of West Hollywood for decades. Now, nearly 40 years after first opening its doors, the club has announced it has permanently closed, yet another local business to collapse amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rage nightclub management lays some portion of the blame on their landlord, Monte Overstreet. The club’s now-former general manager, Ron Madrill, told Q Voice News that rent for the location was already “very high” prior to operations shutting down in March. He says he believes an impasse over rent payments may have contributed to Rage’s closure.
Overstreet also reportedly owns the space formerly occupied by neighboring bar Flaming Saddles Saloon, which also announced […]
Anderson Cooper Reveals He’s a Dad, Welcomes New Baby Boy
NEW YORK CITY (TMZ) — Anderson Cooper is the proud new father of a baby boy … revealing Wyatt Morgan Cooper to the world.
The CNN anchor took to Instagram Thursday night to reveal earlier this week Wyatt was born via surrogate. Cooper said, “As a gay kid, I never thought it would be possible to have a child, and I’m grateful for all those who have paved the way, and for the doctors and nurses and everyone involved in my son’s birth.”
As for Wyatt’s name, 52-year-old says it’s in honor of his dad, who passed away when he was just 10, saying, “I hope I can be as good a dad as he was.”
Anderson also shared a sweet message about his surrogate, saying, “Most of all, I am grateful to a remarkable surrogate who carried Wyatt, and watched over him lovingly, and tenderly, and gave birth to him. It is an extraordinary blessing – what she, and all surrogates give to families who cant have children.”
Finally, Anderson says, “I do wish my mom and dad and my brother, Carter, were alive to meet Wyatt, but I like to believe they can see him. I imagine them all together, arms around each other, smiling and laughing, happy to know that their love is alive in me and in Wyatt, and that our family continues.” His mother, Gloria Vanderbilt died last year.
Wyatt is Anderson’s first child … Congrats!!
Mister Rogers Told Co-Star Don’t Come Out as Gay, and Marry a Woman
(TMZ) — “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was no place for gay people … so says one of the stars.
Francois Clemmons, who played Officer Clemmons from 1968 – 1995, says in his new memoir, Fred Rogers got wind of the fact Clemmons was gay, pulled him aside and said, “Franc, you have talents and gifts that set you apart and above the crowd. Someone has informed us that you were seen at the local gay bar downtown. Now, I want you to know, Franc, that if you’re gay, it doesn’t matter to me at all.”
And, then the other shoe dropped … “Whatever you say and do is fine with me, but if you’re going to be on the show as an important member of the ‘Neighborhood,’ you can’t be out as gay.”
Clemmons told People Rogers told him secrecy was the only way … “You must do this Francois … because it threatens my dream,” adding, “I was destroyed. The man who was killing me had also saved me. He was my executioner and deliverer. But, at the same time, I knew that he would know how to comfort me.”
According to Clemmons, whose memoir is titled, “Officer Clemmons,” Rogers also told him the audience didn’t care who he was sleeping with … “especially if it’s a man.”
And, there’s more … according to Clemmons, Rogers urged him to marry a woman, and he obliged. Clemmons married La-Tanya Mae Sheridan. They divorced in 1974 and later Clemmons came out.
He says he forgives the legendary TV host … “Lord have mercy, yes. I forgive him. More than that, I understand. I relied on the fact that this was his dream. He had worked so hard for it. I knew Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was his whole life.”
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This Just In…
- Petition Circulating to Ask Judge to Keep Ed Buck in Jail
- RAGE is Latest Venue to Fall Victim to the Pandemic
- Koretz Won’t Back ‘Uplift Melrose’ Plan
- Man Sentenced for Hit-and-Run Death of Pedestrian on Sunset
- Beverly Grove Man Charged for COVID Relief Loan Fraud
- County Hospitals Receive 300 iPads for Patients to See Family
- Processions to Cedars Will Salute Healthcare Workers on National Nurses Day