Expats in Turkey fear growing anti-Westerner sentiment

Published:  3 Jan at 6 PM
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Following the latest terror attack in Istanbul, many expats in Turkey are beginning to be afraid that anti-westerner sentiment is escalating.

Many foreigners living in Turkey are now checking online every time an attack is reported to see if expats have been injured or killed. Last year, terror attacks across the country by extremist groups totalled 21, with several bombings deliberately aimed at tourists. UK government travel advice notes a high threat from terrorism, especially against British nationals and UK interests.

It’s estimated over a thousand UK retirees are resident in the Muslim country in addition to the high number of expat professionals living and working in Istanbul and Ankara. In addition, many Brits have bought holiday homes in the country’s coastal cities and towns. One Istanbul-based Irish expat told the Irish News that expats across the city had been horrified by the Reina nightclub attack, adding the oppressive atmosphere in the city is beginning to feel like Iraq.

Steve O’Farrell runs a consultancy and translation company and is seriously worried about the ongoing situation, saying he’d become more aware than usual of anti-Christian sentiment in the run up to the festive season. He told reporters it’s normal to see Islamist groups circulating anti-Christmas and New Year propaganda, adding that this year it was different.

Posters of Santa with a gun held at his head or getting hit were everywhere, and government schools were told not to celebrate New Year as it is against Turkish culture, thus giving implicit permission to escalate the prejudice. Irish foreign minister Charlie Flanagan has condemned the recent attack and is warning Irish citizens to take care whilst in the country.

However, holiday companies are downplaying the dangers by noting the resort of Kusadasi is at least four hours’ drive from Istanbul. One company told the media they are expecting the usual number of tourists, most of whom are repeat customers. Tourism is an important contributor to the Turkish economy, with a drastic drop in the annoul numbers sure to cause economic pain.
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