A Kurdish refugee in Turkey and his son speak to Rudaw in Amed or Diyarbakir. Photo: Rudaw TV
by Mashallah Dakak
DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — Refugees from Rojava or Syrian Kurdistan living in southeastern Turkey understand the advantages Turkish citizenship can offer, as the civil war in their homeland enters its seventh year, but few in one Kurdish city say can obtain it.
“I have come here for six years. We still cannot walk freely. We still do not have citizenship. We only have the ID but we are not allowed to go outside Diyarbakir,” said one refugee.
In the last six years, the number of refugees who have gained Turkish citizenship is very few locals say, for example in Diyarbakir, out of 10,000 refugees only 150 have gained citizenship.
They told Rudaw that the Turkish government has granted citizenship to just 150 Rojava refugees — mainly graduates and entrepreneurs — while thousands remain waiting.
Bahaddin Salo has gained citizenship along with his wife and children. He said that the main obstacle of citizenship is to confirm your field of study.
“When we gained the citizenship many gateways opened up for us," said Salo, adding that previously he could not enter a single country but now “the gates of 104 countries are open to us.”
Those who do obtain citizenship are entitled to all rights of a Turkish citizen. But the immigrants, who have not gained citizenship, live in hardship. They are wary of breaking the law or being seen as doing so by Turkish authorities.
“They have not given it to us. What shall we do? We want to take it if they give us,” said one Kurdish man.
Because of the conflicts in Syria many families have been separated. Their fear is that the citizenship of Turkey might further separate them. Those who hold citizenship can stay, but others might be forced to leave.
One mother fled war-torn Kobane along with eight of her children and has not yet become a Turkish citizen. She said missing her home is more important than Turkish citizenship for her, and even if she gains it she would return to Kobane.
Because of the Syrian civil war and ISIS war in Syria and Iraq, Turkey hosts the most refugees in the world, numbering at least 3 million, 2.7 million of whom are Syrian nationals.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly promised that the most qualified among the refugees can receive Turkish citizenship and that the interior ministry is in the midst of a vetting process.
Ankara has said by getting citizenship, the refugees will have brighter prospects in the labor market and reduce the overall migration to Europe.
As part of an agreement with the European Union, called the Facility for Refugees in Turkey, Ankara received nearly 750 million euros in 2016, a figure that could reach 6 billion by 2019.
Diyarbakir or Amed city in the Kurdish language is the second-largest in the province after Gaziantep.
Kobane received worldwide attention when the YPG with the support of the KRG Peshmerga and the US-led Global Coalition, were able to defeat a months-long, bloody siege by ISIS against the city in late-2014 and early-2015.
Amed is about 200 kilometers northeast of Kobane, in the heart of Turkish Kurdistan.