But if the Turkish president does deport Syrian refugees, he won’t be sending them to a “safe zone,” as promised. These extremely vulnerable people would be deported into the lines of combat in this contested, oil-rich zone.
Syrian women refugees suffer more discrimination and racism in Turkey than their male counterparts, research shows.
This is partially due to a big gap in Turkish language acquisition: 20% of Syrian refugee women complained that lack of language causes exclusion and discrimination, U.N. survey data from 2016 shows, compared to 13% of men.
Even so, 73% of Syrian refugee women told the U.N. that they feel safe in Turkey. That may be related to their resettlement in cities and towns across Turkey, primarily in Istanbul, where they usually live in poor neighborhoods.
Though Turkey does not criminalize homosexuality, it is not always safe for LGBTQ Syrian refugees, either. Gay Syrians have suffered physical and verbal attacks, often with little response from law enforcement or the government.
In August 2016, Muhammed Wisam Sankari was found mutilated and killed in Istanbul, two days after he went missing. Sankari had told police he feared for his life after having previously been abducted, tortured and raped by unknown attackers, according to reports.
The Turkish government denies that it is forcibly returning refugees to a war zone, which would be illegal under Turkish and international law.
For LGBTQ Syrians, going home may be a death sentence.
In August 2019 a transgender Syrian woman named Ward told The Guardian newspaper that she feared being deported to the Turkey-Syria border because the al-Nusra terrorist group, a branch of al-Qaida with 5,000 to 10,000 fighters in western Syria, would kill her.
The Kurdish minority in northern Syria, as in nearby Iraq, has long been stuck between Ocallan’s armed militia, the Turkish government and their own authoritarian leaders – used and abused, my research finds, by politicians seeking to further their own regional agenda in the Mideast.
Returning Syrian refugees to this battleground would make them the “buffer” between these warring forces, turning more vulnerable people into collateral damage of a greater geopolitical war.