A few days ago, footage of an elderly woman being kicked in the face by a man in Turkey started circling social media, sparking a debate about the growing number of hate crimes against Syrian refugees that have sound refuge in the country.
Leyla Muhammed was sat on a public bench in Gaziantep when the attacker, who has now been named as 39-year-old Sakir Cakir, walked up to her and kicked her in the face. In the shocking footage, Cakir can be seen approaching Muhammed with a group of other men and after verbally abusing her, things take a turn for the worst. Cakir kicks the elderly woman in the face so hard that she loses her balance and begins to cry, holding onto her right eye. Later on, the attacker told local authorities that Muhammed was a ‘kidnapper’, but according to local reports, she was just an innocent Syrian woman who had learning disabilities.
“It’s a kick in the face of humanity and one of many for us as Syrians. I’m standing in solidarity with the 70-year-old Syrian woman, Leyla, who was kicked in her face yesterday by a racist in Gaziantep, Turkey,” tweeted Syrian journalist Husam Hezaber.
“The person who beat Leyla has been arrested,” Davut Gul, the Governor of Gaziantep said in a statement on Twitter after visiting her in hospital. “She has been admitted to the hospital and her treatment has begun. Together with my wife and colleagues, we visited her and conveyed the wishes of our dear nation for her to get well soon.
“We stand with the oppressed against the oppressor,” he concluded.
The disgusting attacker has now been arrested and is awaiting sentencing. According to multiple reports, he has an extensive criminal record as it is.
Gaziantep is a Turkish city close to the Turkish border with Syria which is home to 2 million people – just under a quarter of them are Syrian refugees.
Turkey’s President, Tayyip Erdoğan has previously spoken out on the refugee crisis, emphasising that he will not “expel” those feeling war and conflict after the opposition called him out on the issue.
“We will protect up to the end these brothers who fled the war and took refuge in our country,” Erdoğan said in a televised address. “We will never expel them from this land. Our door is wide open to them. We will continue to host them. We will not throw them into the lap of murderers.”
Al Jazeera reported that Turkey has welcomed nearly five million refugees in total, including Syrians and Afghans, but their presence has caused tensions with locals, especially as the country is in economic turmoil with the weakening lira and soaring energy and food prices.
This has, in turn, put immense pressure on Erdoğan to gain some sort of ‘control’ on the issue, but with Turkish politician and former deputy leader of the Nationalist Movement Party, Umit Ozdag breathing down his neck and promising the Turkish public to “send them back”, it seems as though the issue will form the premise of the next elections.
But one thing we know for sure is that violence and racism is not the answer. Thankfully, Muhammed is recovering in hospital and we’ve even seen a movement (#Gözlerimiz_Senin_Kurbanın) started for her wherein people take photos clutching their eye to show solidarity with her as well as other Syrian refugees who have faced similar circumstances.
May Allah grant her a speedy recovery.