‘This is a Turkish Republic; go back to your own country’ – Middle East Monitor

Al Jazeera journalist, Rokaya Celik, has been attacked in Istanbul by a member of İyi, a nationalist, right-wing party.

“One of the representatives of the İyi Party came over when he heard I was speaking Arabic,” says Rokaya, who was at work reporting on the upcoming parliamentary elections.

“He started swearing and saying, ‘There is no place for Arabs here, go back to your own country’.”

“I am Turkish, where shall I go?” she asked, and tried to continue working.

“This is a Turkish Republic, go back to your own country,” he said, before attacking her and camerawoman, Dima Mansour, knocking Rokaya’s microphone from her hand.

On Sunday, Turks will head to the polls to choose between a coalition of six opposition parties, including İyi, and headed by Kemal Kilicdaroglu. The alternative is the current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been in power for two decades.

Observers have accused both Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu of using the country’s 3.7 million Syrian refugees as a scapegoat for the deteriorating economy and, in turn, fuelling a rise in racism which has flared across the country.

Unable to leave the house in their own country, these depraved people dare to behave in a way that is spoiling Ataturk’s Turkey.

Kilicdaroglu has pledged to send home millions of Afghans and Syrians, declaring at one press conference: “We do not want the demographic structure of our country to change.”

Rokaya and Dima Mansour were in Umraniye, a district on the Asian side of Istanbul, which is known for its diverse population and where political parties from all sides work together.

Rokaya says she senses a rise in racism against anyone overheard speaking Arabic: “The conversation about expelling and taking away people’s citizenship has increased so much against Arabs, foreigners and refugees. There is so much tension in the street,” she tells MEMO.

All refugees, asylum seekers and those who have been unjustly naturalised in the last 20 years – Syrian, Afghan, Iranian, Iraqi, Russian, Ukrainian, African, retired Europeans – should be deported and we should be relieved of the burden of 13.5 million people.

“We face a lot of challenges whilst at work, but this is the first time I have been physically attacked whilst in Turkiye. There is a lot of polarisation here; politicians are playing faiths and sects against each other in their election campaigns.”

“Arab journalists fear talking and reporting on news in the street because of the rise of racism,” she continues. “They don’t differentiate between anyone – a refugee, a journalist or any other person.”

You bought your citizenship with your money. We gave our lives for our citizenship. We will send you back to where you came from.

Rokaya is Egyptian and was granted Turkish nationality through her work visa. As well as this, her father has historic roots in the country.

She is married to a Turkish national, which also gives her the right to Turkish nationality. She is also the mother of two girls who only have Turkish passports.

“My arm is still hurting now,” Rokaya tells MEMO. “If it wasn’t for the police and other people from different parties who came and tried to protect us, they wouldn’t have stopped.”

READ: ‘Racists’ force Turkiye brand to withdraw t-shirt with Arabic writing

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