‘We feared the worst’: Turkey’s failed coup a relief for Syrian refugees

The Guardian reports: When tanks rolled across Istanbul and Ankara on Friday night, at the start of Turkey’s botched coup, many in the country were frightened. But few in Turkey had more reason to be afraid than its 2.7 million Syrians, the largest Syrian diaspora community in the world.

“When we first heard about the coup attempt, we felt an unprecedented fear,” remembers Hussein Qassoum, a 30-year-old logistics manager living in Istanbul. “Most of my friends started asking: ‘Which other country should we go to now?’”

Like many Turks, Syrians feared the violence that broke out in the early hours of Saturday might spiral into something more sustained. But Syrians also had more specific concerns about what might happen to them if the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was toppled.

Life is hard for Syrians in Erdoğan’s Turkey, where they do not have full rights. Despite recent legislative changes, the vast majority are not allowed to work. Hundreds of thousands of Syrian children are not in school, with many working in sweatshops instead. Syrians are denied official refugee status, since Turkey does not recognise key parts of the UN refugee convention.

But Erdoğan’s government has at least given about 2.7 million Syrians a basic level of sanctuary. None of his political opponents has promised to be as accommodating and there is a fear that without Erdoğan, life could get even tougher for Syrians in Turkey. [Continue reading…]

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