Erdogan to break fast with Syrian refugees

Erdogan to break fast with Syrian refugees
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to have an iftar meal with Syrian refugees and the head of the UNHCR, as well as Angelina Jolie.
2 min read
18 June, 2015
Turkey has an open-door policy towards Syrian refugees (Anadolu).

Syrian refugees in southern Turkey will welcome some prominent guests to break the Ramadan fast with them on Saturday, after the Turkish government announced that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would be heading down for the iftar meal, along with the head of the UN's refugee agency, Antonio Guterres, and Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie.

The event is to mark World Refugee Day, which falls this year in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began on Thursday. Observant Muslims refrain from eating and drinking between dawn and dusk, and in Turkey a communal neighbourhood iftar meal is traditional.

Erdogan and his guests are set to travel to Mardin, in southeastern Turkey, a city with a large native Arab population, and a large number of Syrian refugees.

Since the outbreak of the conflict in Syria in 2011, Turkey has had an open-door policy towards refugees coming from its neighbour to the south, and the country now hosts 1.8 million Syrians, according to Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority.

Turkey is also the world's biggest refugee host, and gave over $5.7 billion in relief efforts over the past four years.

"We reach out to people in need, regardless of the colour of their skin and the language they speak," said Erdogan. "We will continue to assist whoever might find themselves in need."

The iftar meal is one of a number of events that Guterres will be attending on his visit to Turkey, with the head of the UNHCR also planning to meet senior government officials, including the prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, in Ankara.

Erdogan, who served as prime minister from 2003 until last year before becoming president, often portrays himself as a man of the people, but his party lost support in Turkey's recent parliamentary elections in Turkey's south-east to the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP).