Offers Turkish nationality to Syrian refugees
Istanbul—Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared Sunday that Syrian President Bashar Assad was a “more advanced terrorist” than ISIS, despite the deadly attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport that Turkish officials blame on IS.
Speaking in the town of Kilis near the border with Syria, Erdogan said the Syrian leader was responsible for the deaths of some 600,000 of his own citizens and was the root cause of the war in Syria.
“He is a more advanced terrorist than a terrorist from the PYD or the YPG,” Erdogan said. “He is a more advanced terrorist than Daesh.” Erdogan was referring to Syrian Kurdish militia, which Ankara accuses of being a terror organization because of their affiliation with Turkey’s Kurdish rebels, and to the ISIS group by its Arabic name.
Three militants armed with assault rifles and suicide bombs attacked one of the world’s busiest airports on Tuesday night, killing at least 44 people. Although no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, Turkish officials say they believe it was the work of IS.
Turkish authorities have detained at least 24 people in raids in several Istanbul neighborhoods over possible connections to the attack. Seventeen other people were detained in the province of Gaziantep, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
Erdogan paid an unannounced visit to the airport on Saturday, saying a prayer in front of a memorial set up for the victims, which features the pictures of airport employees killed in the rampage.
He later flew to Kilis, where the number of Syrian refugees is higher than the local Turkish population. IS militants have also attacked the town with cross-border rocket fire, killing 21 people there since January.
Erdogan said countries he did not name were supporting the Syrian Kurdish militia and the IS in a bid to prevent democracy in Syria and for their “dirty calculations” in the region. He also announced that his government would allow Syrian refugees in Turkey to take on Turkish citizenship.He said, “We are going to help our Syrian friends in offering them the chance, if they want it, to acquire Turkish nationality.”
Syrian refugees living in Turkey could eventually be granted Turkish citizenship, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has signalled, a plan that has sparked controversy at home. “I want to announce some good news,” media quoted Erdogan as saying late Saturday at a dinner to break the Ramadan fast on the Syrian border. “We are going to help our Syrian friends in offering them the chance, if they want it, to acquire Turkish nationality.” The interior ministry will shortly announce how the citizenship procedure would work, Erdogan said.
He did not specify whether all of the 2.7 million Syrians that Turkey is hosting would be able to apply, and gave no details on eligibility criteria or how long the process would take.
“We regard you as our brothers and sisters — you are not far from your homeland, but only from your homes and your land,” Erdogan told a group of Syrian refugees in Kilis.
“Turkey is also your homeland.” Ankara has refused to grant refugee status to Syrians who have fled the devastating war across the border since 2011, referring to them as “guests”. Only a select group have been granted work permits and residency. The country’s open-door policy to Syrian refugees was initially a source of pride for many Turks.—Agencies