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Producer briefly detained over short film ‘Silent Invasion’ on Syrian refugees in Turkey

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Hande Karacasu, the producer of a short film about Syrian refugees in Turkey that also provides statistics refuting the country’s official figures on refugees, was briefly detained after the release of the film on YouTube amid rising anti-immigrant sentiment in the country, local media reported on Wednesday.

Silent Invasion” is a dystopian movie about a Turkish man who was born in 2011 and had studied to become a physician, only to work as one of three Turkish janitors in a hospital owned by Syrians where even speaking in Turkish is banned, in the year 2043 and in a Turkey where a Syrian candidate has been elected to rule the country’s largest city and commercial hub of İstanbul, which is referred to as a “state” in the film rather than a city.

The short film has received more than 1.5 million hits since it was released on Karacasu’s YouTube channel on Tuesday.

The cybercrimes department of the Turkish National Police on Tuesday announced Karacasu’s detention in the western province of Sakarya, accusing the producer of “manipulating the information about asylum seekers and irregular migrants [in Turkey] and distorting the facts in video content.”

Reacting to the development, Ümit Özdağ, leader of the far-right and anti-refugee Victory Party (ZP), said he had covered the production costs and approved the script of the nine-minute short film, which he argued included no elements of hatred or enmity.

The producer was released a few hours after her detention, local media reports said.

Anti-immigrant sentiment has reached a boiling point in Turkey, fueled by the country’s economic woes. With unemployment high and the price of food and housing skyrocketing, many Turks have turned their frustration toward refugees, particularly the nearly 4 million Syrians who fled the civil war that broke out in 2011.

According to figures claimed in the short film, Turkey currently hosts roughly 8 million Syrian refugees and has granted citizenship to some 900,000 of them.

Official figures, however, show that Turkey hosts nearly 4 million Syrians — the largest number in any one country of Syrians displaced during the 11-year-old civil war.

The latest research by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) revealed that the number of people who say they won’t be returning to Syria has increased to 78 percent, Karacasu says at the end of the film, adding that the number of Syrians who obtained citizenship in Turkey might reach 15 million in the next 20 years considering that the birth rate of Syrian women is 5.3 births per thousand of population.

Attitudes about refugees fleeing the long conflict in Syria have gradually hardened in Turkey, where they used to be welcomed with open arms, sympathy and compassion, as the number of newcomers has swelled over the past decade.

Tensions between Turks and Syrians flare up on occasion in Turkey, where refugees are blamed for many of the country’s social and economic troubles.

Hate crimes against refugees and migrants have been escalating in the country in recent years as Turkish media, including pro-government and opposition outlets, fuel and exploit the flames of hatred against people who fled their countries and sought refuge in Turkey.

Anti-migrant sentiment has also been expressed by opposition politicians, including Özdağ and Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), who promised to send Syrians back home if his party comes to power in 2023.

Meanwhile, the state-run Anadolu news agency on Tuesday reported that Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had announced that his government was working on a new project to ensure the “voluntary” return home of 1 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.

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