The perpetrator of the murder of three Syrian men, which took place in Turkey’s İzmir province in November, has admitted in his testimony to a prosecutor to have committed a hate crime, the Evrensel daily reported on Wednesday.
The Turkish man poured gasoline over the Syrians, identified as Mamoun al-Nabhan, 23; Ahmed al-Ali, 21; and Muhammed el-Bish, 17, while they were asleep and set them on fire on Nov. 16, according to Evrensel.
The daily said the perpetrator, born in 1981, was offered a chance to take part in the extrajudicial operations of JİTEM by his commander while he was doing his military service in the 2000s and that he accepted the offer.
JİTEM, the Gendarmerie Intelligence and Anti-terror Unit, was a clandestine military organization accused of involvement in the torture, disappearance and execution of many Kurdish politicians and businesspeople during the 1990s, a period of bloody conflict between the Turkish state and Kurdish militants.
“I can’t talk about them [JİTEM operations] now, it’s a state secret. Then I came back to İzmir, my hometown. … One day I found a note on my car saying ‘Begin duty.’ After a while I found another note saying ‘Continue duty.’ A third note then said ‘Start cleansing,’” said the perpetrator, who then explained that he interpreted the third note as someone ordering him to “cleanse Turkey of Syrians,” Evrensel said.
The perpetrator then told the prosecutor that he had five liters of gasoline in his car on the night of the attack and that he used it to set the three Syrians on fire. They were all working for the Birlik Beton construction company and staying in the same room, according to Evrensel.
The daily further said that after taking his statement, the prosecutor’s office requested a psychological evaluation of the attacker.
Meanwhile, human rights defender and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu on Thursday questioned the reason why the hate attack targeting the three Syrians was kept a secret from the public for over a month and why people only recently found out about it in the news.
“This was a hate crime. … The public shouldn’t be talking about anything but this right now. Unfortunately, this hatred [of Syrians] has turned into a culture of lynching,” the MP said during a press conference in parliament.
Mustafa Yeneroğlu, a deputy from Turkey’s opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), on Thursday asked in a parliamentary question posed to Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu if claims that the perpetrator of the hate crime was only arrested after he killed two Turks in the aftermath of setting the three Syrians on fire were true.
“It was claimed that the killing of the three Syrians wasn’t investigated as a murder [case] and that an investigation was launched only after the suspect stabbed two Turkish citizens to death and that only then was the suspect arrested,” the MP said, asking Soylu the reason why there wasn’t an effective investigation launched into the hate crime before the murder of the two Turks.
Yeneroğlu also asked whether the allegation that the families of the murdered Syrians were summoned to the police station afterward and warned to keep quiet about the attack was true.
Refugees in Turkey have been increasingly targeted by hate speech and hate crimes and are blamed for many of Turkey’s social and economic troubles.
Turkish media including pro-government and opposition outlets fuel and exploit the flames of hatred against people who fled their countries and sought refuge in Turkey.
According to the latest figures provided by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Nov. 22, Turkey is home to a total of 4,038,857 refugees from around the world. Speaking to parliament’s Planning and Budget Committee, Soylu said 3,731,028 of these were Syrian refugees who are residing in Turkey under temporary protection status. The number of refugees with international protection status is 307,829.