Jews, Syrians target of most hate speech in Turkish media: Study

Armenians, Greeks, Christians, atheists, and Kurds were among others demonized by mostly pro-government media, NGO says.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Jews and Syrians were two of 25 groups most targeted by hate speech in the Turkish media in 2017, a comprehensive study by a human rights foundation found.

The Istanbul-based Hrant Dink Foundation said in a Turkish-language report released Saturday that during last year, it identified 5,296 columns and news stories containing racism, xenophobia, religious supremacism, sexism and homophobia in over 80 national and local media outlets.

With at least 1,251 news stories and opinion columns that contained anti-Semitic racism, Jews came first among 79 different ethnic, religious, foreign or sexual minority groups.

In comparison, that figure stood at 1,148 for Syrians of whom over the years over three million have sought refuge in Turkey due to the raging civil war in their country.

Armenians and Greeks, another two people with states neighboring Turkey ranked third and fourth in being targeted in 855 and 597 instances of racist expressions respectively.

The NGO that conducted the study was founded in memory of the Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink who in 2007 was assassinated by a Turkish supremacist with alleged ties to the security forces.

Media outlets targeting Jews, by far, were staunchly pro-government newspapers spearheaded by the Islamist daily Yeni Akit.

Others were the deeply conservative Milli Gazete, Yeni Mesaj, far-right Yenicag, Milat, Dirilis Postasi, Yenisafak, and Turkiye, the last four with ties to the administration of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

'What if an Islamic army against Israel was formed by 57 Muslim-majority countries,' ran a headline with a map on the pro-AKP Yenisafak newspaper's Dec. 12, 2017, version that detailed a hypothetical plan to destroy the Jewish state.
'What if an Islamic army against Israel was formed by 57 Muslim-majority countries,' ran a headline with a map on the pro-AKP Yenisafak newspaper's Dec. 12, 2017, version that detailed a hypothetical plan to destroy the Jewish state.

Anti-Semitism surged at the times of reports of Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Occupied West Bank and US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital with claims of Jewish control of the world politics and finance.

Syrians, on the other hand, were targeted mostly by the nationalist-secular dailies such as Sozcu or Haberturk which fell behind the pro-AKP media in anti-Semitism.

In the run-up to Turkey’s April 2017 referendum on granting unprecedented powers to the President’s office, Sozcu ran multiple stories accusing them of being a potential vassal electorate for Erdogan’s ambitions.

Other news on Milliyet, or again Sozcu, focused on crimes committed by Syrians or public frustration with Syrians due to rising unemployment or increasing rents in housing.

The very names “Jew, Armenian” or “Greek” were occasionally used as insults, a widespread public phenomenon in Turkey.

Two main religious denominations about which most discriminatory rhetoric was written were Christians and Buddhists, the former in news related to the Myanmar authorities’ violent persecution of the minority Muslim Rohingya people.

In June 2017, Yeni Akit came out with a subheading labeling the European Union as the “Gavur Camp,” using a derogatory term for disbelievers in a report carrying Turkey’s Minister for EU Affairs Omer Celik who was protesting the union’s suspension of Ankara’s accession talks.

Erdogan himself used the term in the phrase “I cannot live in the lands of Gavurs,” as the word saw a spike in media while some columnists such as Haberturk’s Murat Bardakci penned an article critical of the Europeans saying, “Gavurs were doing what being Gavur required.”

Atheists were another group that received hostile coverage.

The same Yeni Akit depicted atheists with a picture of Satan burning in hellfire in a report that pointed at several Turkish actors and academics as enemies of Islam.

Kurds, who according to unofficial estimates constitute over about a fourth of the 80-million population of the country, came after Westerners.

More of the anti-Kurdish sentiments, though, were expressed through fierce demonization of legal Kurdish political parties, outlawed armed organizations in Turkey, US-allied anti-Islamic State (IS) groups in Syria or the Kurdistan Region in Iraq.

Top Turkish officials, including the President and his ministers, have alleged Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and US-backed Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) were atheists in a bid to discourage majority-Muslim Kurds from having sympathies with them.

At times, media tried to discredit Kurdish demands for self-rule or independence, the Kurdistan Region’s referendum on secession from Iraq last year for example, by alleging an Israeli role behind such motives.

Days before the September 2017 referendum, Yenisafak ran a headline on its front page, claiming the leading purveyor of the vote, the Region’s former President Masoud Barzani, was planning to resettle 200,000 Jews from Israel in Kurdistan.

Erdogan himself on numerous occasions has blamed Jews, and Israel, for Kurdish aspirations.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany