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Turkish governor sets out to teach refugees social decorum

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A governor in a northeastern Turkish city has urged refugees to abide by a list of suggested behaviors to avoid animosity on the part of locals, apparently in response to rising anti-migrant sentiment, Turkish media reported on Wednesday.

Bolu Governor Ahmet Ümit held a meeting with the participation of representatives of Iraqi, Syrian, Afghan and Iranian refugees living in the city, who were referred to as “foreign guests,” according to a statement posted on the website of the governor’s office.

“In the meeting, the etiquette and good manners that our foreign guests should observe have been conveyed to them via translators,” the statement said.

In a speech he delivered at the meeting, Governor Ümit indicated that they have conducted studies to identify the behaviors of refugees that spark animosity among locals.

“Our guests will be more comfortable if they act according to the customs and traditions of Turkish society,” Ümit said.

The list of good manners expected from refugees includes some extreme suggestions such as not going out after nine o’clock in the evening unless necessary, avoiding congregating in large groups in public areas such as parks or squares and even not using excessive spice in meals.

Refugees are expected to refrain from staring at locals, especially women, or making irritating remarks, to give Turkish names to their businesses, to pay attention to personal hygiene and to avoid playing loud music or speaking loudly.

According to the statement, refugees were told to refrain making misleading comments that may disturb unity in their social media posts and to avoid flags, banners or similar symbols other than Turkish ones.

Anti-migrant sentiment has been on the increase in Turkey as refugees and migrants are frequently blamed for many of Turkey’s social and economic troubles. Opposition politicians have also expressed such sentiment. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), has promised to send Syrians back home if his party comes to power.

Moreover, the Bolu City Council recently approved by a majority vote a controversial proposal made by Mayor Tanju Özcan to impose an additional water and solid waste tax 10 times the normal tax on refugees in Bolu in order to persuade them to leave.

Hate crimes against refugees and migrants have been escalating in the country in recent years.

Anti-refugee protesters attacked houses, shops and cars owned by Syrians in Ankara’s Altındağ district on August 11-12, following reports that a Syrian refugee stabbed two Turkish men in a fight.

According to UNHCR, Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees worldwide. The country is currently home to some 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees, along with close to 320,000 persons of concern from other nationalities.

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