The issue of citizenship for Syrians - ÖZLEM ALBAYRAK

The issue of citizenship for Syrians

The issue of granting citizenship to Syrian refugees that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had explained before and on his way back from Warsaw has once again been twisted by some media outlets. Most of them made it sound like Erdoğan said “We can give the Housing Development Administration (TOKİ) houses to Syrians and that will be OK.”However, those who read the entire response could easily understand what was meant; the president was not talking about donating the TOKİ houses to Syrians. He meant that a loan similar to how housing was allocated to the Meskhetian Turks in Erzincan through installment payments could be possible.

Because among these people who fled from death in Syria, there are those who have occupations that would contribute the Turkish economy as doctors, attorneys and engineers…

Since the intention of those who sarcastically try to make TOKİ a headline is obvious, I don't think it is worth wasting time on them. But there are real concerns regarding the granting of citizenship to Syrians.

Yeni Şafak columnist Ali Bayramoğlu discussed some of these concerns as well yesterday. For example how will the integration of all these 3 million people be provided? How will the big budgets required for this be provided? How will thousands of Syrians at the school age, who do not even know Turkish, be integrated in the Turkish education system? So on…

Truly, all of these questions are understandable and originating from predictions requiring answers. But there is benefit especially in sociologists taking these predictions seriously and considering the “opposite situation.” What are those opposite situation scenarios? Turkey's not giving citizenship to Syrians who meet the requirements of Turkish citizenship and the issues that can grow and be experienced doubling in our country as a result of Bashar Assad's tyranny in Syria going on for years.

The first issue will be the result of poverty. However both living in a country and not being the citizen of that country means living under worse conditions than the citizens of that country and in more poverty. It means living in basement floors, working for less wages even in qualified jobs, not paying tax to the government, but perhaps even being in a situation to be able to pay tax getting used to living on a half empty stomach.

Since the issue of citizenship for Syrians is being discussed, as some with a pride of superiority said “having tendency for crime” can be in question then. Because those statistics are correct, even if we accept them or not, the poverty and tendency to commit crimes are directly proportional. Dooming a social group both to poverty and ignorance and claiming that they are inclined to commit crime is neither fair nor moral.

Besides, if we find the Europeans racist since they identify all Muslims with terror, if we condemn the violence against the black people in the U.S., I do not think that based on the same logic, we cannot have the luxury to humiliate Syrians…

What we should do is not to accuse these people who left their country and live in the camps with having the tendency to commit crime; but work to improve the conditions in which they live… Of course if we believe in humanity and the existence of the values of humanity…

Secondly, as long as the condition of Syrians continues in the current way, it can be in question that the integration issue could be dragged to points beyond being fixed as time passes.

If integration is the name for giving opportunity to the religious or ethnic group that is different and minority compared to the majority, continuing their identity but living in harmony with the majority; it is open to discussion whether the integration of Syrians will be successful once they are granted citizenship or if they continue living in the camps.

But it is obvious that this issue will be discussed further. Because in reality, the important share of the Republic ideology that preached for 90 years saying “they stabbed us in the back, nasty Arabs,” is behind these discussions... Being loser against the West, behaving with the inferiority complex… Because this ideology is somehow the name of treating the countries and nations under our southern border with great arrogance…

It is obvious that those who have that education will both be a headache for us and slow down our discussions of the pros and ons of citizenship for Syrians…

Qualified Syrians

We should consider the acceptance of citizenship for refugees calmly. In this issue the discussion of the opposite side does everything to provoke us to lose our calm.

This is an inhuman approach that goes between fascism and daily fascism, identifies the refugees with a bad essence and all the evil with them.

In this sense, Sözcü newspaper carries the statements of fascism to its pages whereas Hürriyet newspaper carries the more insidious and indirect form of ordinary fascism to its pages.

For example, Sözcü initially lies that Syrian students were accepted without exams, all of them were given a scholarship of TRY 400, plus rent allowance. Then it complains about the exemption of Syrians from the Social Security Premium and the shop fees and again objects to their citizenship.

As for Hürriyet, it targets around 50 Syrian youngsters enjoying themselves at the beach, consoling themselves by chanting their country's name under the headline “300 Syrians,” identifying them with “300 Spartans.”

For the dominant view that deems proper only the role of “wailing” for the oppressed ones it may be disturbing but, it should be remembered that Syrians are also human beings, they can also laugh like us and they have the right to have fun.

A Hürriyet writer condemns a huge population through the Syrians who exploded while making a bomb.

And the next day impudently it can write an article warning the readers against fascism. “All the stones are set in place” when we remember that the same person polished the members of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) an entire year in his column who went to the funeral of the bomb carriers and suicide bomber.

Truly Turkey acted very slowly in granting citizenship to Syrians or any similar rights due to security reasons.
Forget about giving residence and work permits to most of them, those who could prove that they were eligible were not even given press cards. When looked in a pragmatic way, Turkey has mostly carried the “burden” of the Syrians till today but could not get the “efficiency” it could get from them.

Whereas there were the ones who were qualified in their jobs, who could really contribute in the country economy, art and science as President Erdoğan said.
For example a Syrian scientist who was one of the “qualified Syrians” and for the security of his family in Syria wanted to be called “Abu Ammar,” shared his experiences: “For two years I have been in Istanbul, I could not even afford to pay the rent of that house. My life and dignity were ruined. I have my Ph.D. but I am not allowed to work. The books I wrote are being studied at a university in Istanbul but I cannot give lessons there. In order to earn my living I make designs and give it to the Turks. And they use them under their own names. I drew the project plans of 270 houses. But I could not even get 1 percent of what a Turkish architect earned. I had stomach cancer. Since I have no insurance I cannot be treated. When my friends in the U.S. said I could recover with a simple operation, I sought asylum and I was accepted.”

Now this scientist lives in Michigan. Actor Edward Norton started an aid campaign for him. U.S. President Barack Obama also joined the campaign and sent a “welcome” message to this scientist.

To prevent the rise of similar examples and migration of Syrians with high education abroad, Turkey began some initiatives and started the citizenship process, which is the most important stage of this.

For those who meet the security criteria, first giving “Turquoise card” and after the observation process giving them citizenship is a right strategy.

It is necessary to remind that among our conditions for citizenship there are conditions such as “to be fluent enough in Turkish, to have an occupation enabling them to make a living and finance their dependents, to have no condition that will serve as an obstacle against national security and public order.”

I think all these were too big results to get rid of the responsibility by confessing on an eid day and saying sorry.…

Citizenship issue for Syrians

The statement made by President Erdoğan during his Kilis visit that stirred discussions is this: “Among our brothers I believe there are those who want to be citizens of the Republic of Turkey. There are steps taken by our Ministry of Internal Affairs in this issue.Our ministry will do its best with an office by giving these brothers this aid and supporting them we will give them the opportunity for citizenship.”

Actually the issue of granting citizenship, since Syrian refugees entered into this country, has been a matter exploited by the opposition, turning refugees into enemies.

“They allow the refugees vote with fake IDs” is one of the top lies in this regard, yet it could not be proven even once. Well, what will happen now? Will all the refugees be given citizenship? How will the selection be made? Will there be exceptional practices?
The government and presidency should immediately give enlightening answers to these and similar questions.

Initially the timing of the statement is not surprising. However according to our current laws, under normal conditions for a person to be able to apply for citizenship he/she has to live in Turkey for at least five years.

This period initially began to be over with the refugees who started to come in April-May 2011.

In the president's statement, the emphasis on everyone who wanted could apply, shows a “fundamental equitable” attitude and is important.

It is what is appropriate for Turkey, the only country accepting the most refugees without discriminating on religion, language or race. But in the end it shouldn't be forgotten that everyone who applies will be researched in detail by the security units of the government, the Ministry of Internal Affairs will make the final decision, and in exceptional situations theCabinet will intervene.

According to our existing laws, aforeigner may acquire Turkish citizenship provided that:

  1. a) They are in the age of majority and have the capacity to act either according to their own national law or, if they are stateless, according to Turkish law,

  1. b) They have been legally and duly resident in Turkey without interruption for five years preceding the date of their application. The applicant may stay abroad without exceeding six months within five years.
  2. c) They verify their determination to settle down in Turkey with their actions (e.g. buying properties, making investments in Turkey).
  3. d) They have no disease constituting an obstacle in respect of public health.
  4. e) They are of good moral character.
  5. f) They are sufficiently fluent in Turkish.
  6. g) They have a profession or income adequate to make a living and support their dependents in Turkey.
  7. h) They have no situation posing an obstacle in respect of national security and public order.

Also, persons who have brought industrial plants into Turkey or have rendered or are believed to render an outstanding service in the social or economic arena or in the fields of technology, sports, culture or arts can acquire citizenship with the decision of the Council of Ministers.

Therefore, there is a list of conditions that are estimated to eliminate most of the refugees such as the security, financing the family and Turkish requirement.

Also if it is thought that the Syrians who came to Turkey escaping from a chaotic situation, a significant part of them did not bring their IDs with them, since their registration in Syria cannot be obtained, there will be cases in which their history cannot be verified.

In the last instance even if it will not cause a security issue, there will be many refugees who unfortunately would not be able to prove this.

One of the concerns that come to mind is that, since Assad and the People's Protection Units (YPG) had already started ethnic cleansing, by giving citizenship to the refugees, Turkey would be assisting this with its own hands.

In this issue, initially Syrian refugees can be given dual citizenship with the decision of the Cabinet.

So knowing that they will not lose their Turkish citizenship, they will be encouraged to go back to their country after the war.

Giving citizenship to the refugees is a complicated issue. Accept it as an introduction to a discussion that will last long.

How they will be citizens?

  • - Syrians will be given citizenship gradually. In the first stage considering the required occupational qualifications, 30,000-40,000 people will be given citizenship.
  • - A total of 300,000 people are aimed to be Turkish citizens. If they have, their family members in Turkey will also acquire the right to citizenship.
  • - Those who acquire citizenship will not be able to vote in the elections within one year.
  • - According to the existing conditions for the citizenship right, foreigners have to stay for five years in Turkey. For Syrians who have been in Turkey for less than five years a regulation can be made.
  • - The security investigation of those who will be given citizenship will be carried out the National Intelligence Organization (MİT).
  • - The way will be opened for the Syrian businessmen who have money but cannot make an investment.
  • - Some critical names who are the regime opponents can have life guarantee through “citizenship.” These names can be used for intelligence as well.
  • - There will be activities to remove the negative perception that can be formed in the public opinion about giving citizenship to the Syrians. In this context it is among the possibilities that a campaign that will highlight that the grandfathers of the Syrians who fought with the Turks shoulder to shoulder in Çanakkale, namely a campaign that will highlight the “Spirit of Çanakkale.”
  • - Steps will be taken for the things afterward as well. Real estate sales, the investment opportunities for those who have money and keeping the rich Syrians who want to go to Europe here are aimed.


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