Turkish police and gendarmerie have prevented Ümit Özdağ, leader of the far-right and anti-refugee Victory Party (ZP), from entering the border province of Hatay where he vowed to plant a “symbolic mine” on the border purportedly to prevent the crossing of the refugees into Turkey, Turkish media outlets reported.
Özdağ, who has been at the forefront of anti-refugee propaganda in Turkey, announced on Twitter on Sunday that he would travel to the Reyhanlı distrist of Hatay, bordering Syria, on Monday and would “plant the first mine on the Syrian border,” to be completed when his party comes to power.
Yet, the politician said in later statement that the mine he would plant would not be a real mine but a symbolic one.
A bus carrying Özdağ and his party members was stopped by the police and gendarmerie before their arrival in Hatay and was prevented from entering the city upon an order from the Hatay Governor’s Office. The governor’s office also banned all protests and demonstrations in the city.
The politician and his supporters were outraged by the decision.
“As Victory Party [members], we cannot enter Hatay, which is inside the borders of Turkey, by land. Yet, it is possible for an ISIL [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant] militant, a PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] terrorist or a perverted Afghan. It is banned for the Victory Party. The easiest and safest way to enter Hatay is from Syria,” tweeted Özdağ.
Zafer Partisi olarak Hatay’a Türkiye sınırları içerisinde karayolu ile giriş yapamıyoruz. Hatay’a; IŞID veya PKK’lı bir terörist, sapık bir Afgan olarak girmek ise serbest. Zafer Partisine girmek yasak. Suriye’ye geçerek Hatay’a girmek en güvenli ve kolay yol
— Ümit Özdağ (@umitozdag) June 27, 2022
Syrian and Afghan refugees in Turkey, which hosts around 4 million refugees, are frequently targeted by Özdağ, who holds them responsible for the social and economic problems in the country.
Özdağ also said when his party comes to power, it will make Turkey withdraw from the Ottawa Treaty, which Turkey signed in 2004, agreeing to phase out anti-personnel landmines and establish a humanitarian surveillance system on its borders.
Attitudes about refugees fleeing the long conflict in Syria have gradually hardened in Turkey, where they used to be welcomed with open arms, sympathy and compassion, as the number of newcomers has swelled over the past decade.
In addition to Özdağ, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) is notorious for its anti-refugee rhetoric, with its leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu vowing to send all Syrians back to their homeland if his party comes to power.