Of late, an illustration depicting the tragedy of the oppressed Syrians has become popular on social media. The illustration titled “Choices for Syrian children” shows two children, whose images have become the symbols of the bloody war in Syria — Omran and Aylan.
Omran represents those Syrians who have not left their homeland despite the war. The cute 5-year-old Omran was pulled from the rubble of a building following aerial bombardment. He was covered in dust from head to toe. With blood on his face, he was sitting quietly on a seat in an ambulance. He was visibly stunned after the shocking experience. He was neither crying nor speaking. It is the cost of not leaving the land of his birth; a land full of violence, deaths, bombs, starvation and sufferings.
The other one was Aylan, who lost his life when the dinghy he had got on with his family, sank and whose body was lying on the beach. His picture symbolizes those Syrians who left their homeland and paid the ultimate price for trying to reach countries where they could live in peace and safety.
The illustration of these two innocent children sums up the dilemma of the Syrian people. The majority of Syrians under bombardment do not know what to do now; they are in despair and have no solution in sight. It is surely a right and reasonable choice for people to leave their destroyed homeland at war and seek refuge in other countries. What is wrong and not understandable is that some countries remain insensitive to their miseries and leave innocent people to die without making any allowances for children, women or the elderly.
Turkey is taking care of approximately 3 million Syrians and trying to look after them like their own children. Everyone undoubtedly appreciates this excellent attitude. However, Turkey is a developing country with limited resources. Despite its limited resources, Turkey has spent approximately $10 billion on refugees. But surely it is not possible for a country with limited means to solve all the problems.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a new plan to improve the conditions of refugees in July. According to this plan, those among our Syrian brothers and sisters who want to become Turkish citizens will be granted citizenship. The declaration of the president immediately led to various reactions in the public and the social media.
It is a good decision. In the years when our Syrian brothers and sisters started to arrive in our country, I insistently laid emphasis on the importance of taking such a measure necessity. Granting our Syrian brothers and sisters citizenship would undoubtedly accelerate the process of their integration in Turkish society. Besides, it would make it easier for them to meet their basic needs, to overcome the difficulties they face in finding work, and to have access to extensive medical services and modern education. This attempt would help eliminate their concerns for the future and uncertainties about their lives. In short, it is an affectionate movement that would improve their lives.
Naturally, everyone is expected to support such a project. However, like in every society, there are loveless people — though small in number — in Turkish society as well. These people are generally distinguished by such characteristics as prioritizing their own comfort and hating almost everything in the world. Therefore, it is a remote possibility that such people would support a favor or a sacrifice.
The reason some people of hatred come up with for their objections to the existence of Syrians in our country is that they regard them as potential criminals. However, statistics have revealed that, contrary to popular belief, the rate of Syrians getting involved in infractions and crimes is very low. Therefore, any attempt to create an incorrect perception would be a discriminatory and racist attitude.
The thought that refugees could lead to social conflict is also unfounded. First of all, Syrians are not “foreigners.” They are people who believe in the same God, religion, scripture and prophets as we do, who share similar historical processes and culture with us. We have a 1,000-year relationship and a common background. That’s why our Syrian brothers and sisters were among those who poured into streets and stood against the coup on July 15 and who defended democracy with millions of people in the historic rally on Aug. 7. Considering there are no differences between them and us, there is no reason to worrying about the idea of granting them citizenship. Surely, there could be different opinions but a merciless tone toward the Syrian refugees is definitely wrong and it would not befit our society. Our duty is to show love toward these innocent people. What befits Turkey is to act in accordance with love, self-sacrifice and good morality, rather than with merely pursuing its own narrow self-interests, and to make a benevolent gesture to register these oppressed people as Turkish citizens.
It is important that conscientious people think properly and support this attempt; it is necessary to take into consideration that our Syrian brothers and sisters are already quite anxious. It is our responsibility to alleviate their fears and worries. Compassion brings compassion; a lack of love and feelings of cruelty open the door to disasters.
Adnan Oktar's piece in Arab News & Jefferson Corner: