Turkish MP slams 'suspicious' racist campaign targeting Arab tourists

Turkish MP slams 'suspicious' racist campaign targeting Arab tourists
Racism against Arab tourists in Turkey's Trabzon and other cities is putting the country's economy at risk and must be confronted, a member of parliament has warned
3 min read
02 August, 2022
Turkey relies heavily on tourism for foreign revenue [Getty]

Turkish MP Bahar Ayvazoğlu has slammed a racist campaign against Arab tourists in the country, saying such attacks were harming Turkey’s economy and warned those behind it must be prosecuted.

Ayvazoğlu, who represents the Black Sea city of Trabzon on Turkey’s northeast coast and is a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party, said tourists from Arab countries – in particular from the Gulf - contribute hugely to the local economy.

She said that the racist rhetoric and hate speech were suspicious.

"Who are these instigators? Frankly, I don't just consider them a bunch of racists, to me, these individuals look more like perpetrators of a puppet attempt to disrupt our national economy, and they seem to be agents working for competing tourism markets," the lawmaker said in a video posted to her Twitter account, where she was seen standing in a busy Trabzon square.

"We will not allow this racist image to spread, and we will not allow achievements and efforts made in the tourism field for years to go to waste for a handful of racists and traitors," she added.

Her message came after a number of interviews with Trabzon locals on Turkish television channels, who complained of the large presence of Arab tourists in the city.

Voicing discomfort and in some cases using offensive phrases, locals said the tourists were driving prices up.

Tourism accounts for up to 12% of the Turkish economy and is a key source of foreign revenue. Like in many other tourism-dependent countries, the Turkish economy was hammered by the coronavirus.

The country is a favoured destination for many tourists from the Middle East due its closeness, visa-free entry rules and cheaper prices.

Tourists from the Gulf countries favour Trabzon and the surrounding area in particular because of its mild summer climate and natural beauty.

"Is there an ethnicity or nationalism in tourism? Does the tourist have a race or a sect? There were Arabic signs on workplaces… OK? Why weren’t you bothered by the English or German signs in Bodrum," asked Ayvazoğlu.

The deputy threatened to take the matter to the judiciary to confront "all forms of racism," warning that attempts to target tourists and the national economy "will not pass."

"This is an insult and betrayal of our country."

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In 2019, a municipality in the Antalya region tried to ban Syrians from entering a beach after a racist backlash from locals.

The attempt came after claims that some Syrian refugees were caught photographing locals and other tourists at beaches.

Early in July this year, Turkish clothing retailer LC Waikiki sparked outrage for removing an item of clothing which featured Arabic writing following racially motivated complaints from Turkish customers.

The brand’s withdrawal of the T-shirt and the recent rhetoric against tourists come amid a surge in racism and racist attacks against Arabs in Turkey - particularly Syrian refugees.