Naturalising Wealthy Syrians: The Syrians Are Not Like The Palestinians
13 June 2016
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
When the Turkish Prime Minister promised to grant Syrian refugees citizenship,
each person interpreted this in their own way. His Turkish opponents opposed
the decision and considered it an attempt to strengthen his position in the
next election and gain the Syrian vote. They launched a huge campaign on
social media against granting foreigners Turkish citizenship.
This has scared some Syrians because they think this is an indication that the
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has forsaken their cause and intends to
reconcile with the regime in Damascus. There are also those who consider it
more political propaganda that will not be implemented.
It is difficult to judge this decision before the ball starts rolling and the
first Syrian is granted Turkish citizenship. The idea itself is very
interesting and worthy of discussion under the current circumstances.
From the preliminary information available, we understand that the citizenship
plan is limited to those who are well off financially, an estimated 300,000
Syrians. This number is questionable as I cannot imagine that there are that
many wealthy Syrians amongst the 2,700,000 refugees in Turkey or the
population of Syria.
If the plan is real and not just propaganda, it is a smart and practical move
that will work in favour of Turkey's economy, even though it may cause
political problems. It is a good step toward easing the stress and suffering
that some categories of refugees face. I do not think that such a number will
change the Turkish electoral balance as the number of ''Syrian Turkish''
citizens who will be eligible to vote will not exceed 100,000. This is without
subtracting the number of young people who are not legally entitled to vote.
Erdogan will not benefit politically from this move because it will not be
achieved soon due to lengthy bureaucratic procedures. Despite President
Erdogan promising to grant Syrian refugees work permits last year, only 5,000
out of two million Syrians obtained them.
Of course, granting citizenship is a more complicated and sensitive process.
Perhaps years will pass before such a large number of people are granted
The 300,000 Syrians that have been promised citizenship do not compare to the
one million refugees that Germany has received and promised residency to (this
will usually lead to them being granted nationality eventually). If Erdogan
fulfils his promise, this will be an important achievement regardless of the
criticisms. These criticisms include discrimination against poor refugees and
that the plan is an attempt to gain votes.
The United States is an example of a country that has benefited from
immigrants. In some instances it loosened its restrictions and granted work
permits which later led to the granting of American citizenship to categories
that it thought would benefit its economy, such as the Indians whose numbers
have increased dramatically since the nineties. Today they are an important
category in different sectors and are distinguished by their hard work and the
importance that they attach to learning and professional excellence.
In the past decade, Britain put pressure on the Iraqi government to take back
Iraqi refugees but asked for doctors to be excluded on the grounds that there
was a large shortage of health workers and a great need for doctors.
Taking in hundreds of thousands of refugees may make their lives easier.
However, it will not stop the horrific tragedy that the Syrian people are
experiencing. No matter how many Syrians are granted Turkish and European
citizenship and jobs, the number of refugees is larger than that can be
accommodated globally. We are looking at a country where half of the nation
has been forced out of their homes. Today there are more than ten million
Syrians who are either displaced inside Syria or are refugees abroad.
The Syrians are not like the Palestinians whose suffering is more difficult
and complex. They were expelled after their homes and lands were seized and
they may not return to their country. The conflict in Syria is a dispute over
rule and will end one day. No matter how it will end and what the results will
be, the Syrian people will be able to return to their homeland just like the
Iraqis, Afghans, Somalis, Yemenis and other nations that have been plagued by
chaos and war. Those who want to return to Syria will return and those who do
not want to or cannot return will live abroad.
Al Rashed is the general manager of Al -Arabiya television. He is also the
former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al- Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly
magazine, Al Majalla. He is also a senior Columnist in the daily newspapers of
Al Madina and Al Bilad. He is a US post-graduate degree in mass
communications. He has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is
currently based in Dubai.