A Syrian journalist living and working in Istanbul faces deportation, possibly with dreadful consequences, after he made a video mocking a televised remark about Syrian refugees being able to afford to buy bananas.
It all started when a Turkish citizen said in a street interview that Syrian refugees were living in better conditions than the citizens of Turkey, and that while Syrians could buy pounds of bananas he couldn’t afford to eat them.
The release of the video led to spontaneous reactions on social media, which in turn developed into a campaign with many Syrian refugees posting videos of themselves eating bananas.
The Syrian journalist Majed Shamaa, owner of a Youtube channel with over 52,000 subscribers, made a satirical sketch on the issue himself and posted it on Twitter.
İlay Aksoy, an official of the opposition Iyi Party, responded by targeting the social media posts, which in turn triggered a series of criminal investigations by Turkish prosecutors, and many, including Majed Shamaa, have been detained and are now facing deportation.
İlay Aksoy tweeted that the campaigners “made fun of Turkish citizens and insulted the national flag”, asked whether the Turks were “being assimilated by the Syrians” and expressed her gratitude to the authorities for “taking the Syrian comedian/journalist who made fun of the Turkish people to the Deportation Centre”.
The Media and Law Studies Association, a non-profit organisation working in the fields of free speech, journalism and internet freedom, has been informed by Shamaa’s lawyer that the Syrian journalist was forced to sign a document indicating that he was willing to return to his country.
Shamaa’s lawyer Mehmet Ali Hartavi said that Shamaa was living in Turkey together with his wife and two children, who are now desperate, and since he has taken a public stance and made public statements against both the Syrian government and Tahrir al-Sham, the dominant power in the jihadist stronghold Idlib, his deportation either to army-held areas or to Idlib could have equally fatal consequences.
Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP and human rights activist, protested in a tweet on Thursday, condemning the mistreatment of Syrian refugees and of Shamaa because of their social media posts:
“Being so intolerant to criticism! Stop this scandal and do not trample the prestige of this country further!’ he wrote.