Arab-Turkish sentiments have worsened after a Kuwaiti on holiday in Turkey’s Trabzon was brutally attacked in the street in front of his family. Since the Arabic media exposed the incident, which took place on 16 September, the Turkish government has made several very public arrests in an attempt to soften the potential backlash to the country’s vital tourist trade.
Part of Turkey’s damage limitation exercise was to arrest eight anti-Arab and anti-refugee social media administrators on Saturday for allegedly “promoting racism and spreading hatred online”.
Police also visited the Kuwaiti tourist in hospital, making gestures of goodwill, while the pro-government media glossed over the severity of the incident, saying the tourist had received a “slap”.
Meanwhile, a group of pro-government Turkish journalists released a video compilation of themselves making declarations promoting Arab-Turkish unity, and condemning the recent treatment of refugees and migrants by racist elements in the country.
Turkey has seen a rise in anti-Arab sentiment in recent years, spurred by the influx of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria amid soaring inflation, the lira hitting rock-bottom and the rising cost of living.
The future of Syrian refugees was in the balance earlier this year as Turkey went to the polls with immigration as a central issue.
In 2022, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that he would resettle one million refugees in northern Syria. The Turkish president has long come under scrutiny for policies of demographic manipulation in the region, particularly in northern Syria’s Afrin, under Turkish control since 2018.
This year, according to a detailed report by Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ), almost 30,000 Syrian refugees have been subjected to inhumane treatment while being deported from Turkey.