Fleeing the Taliban: Afghans met with rising anti-refugee hostility in Turkey

As violence causes a fresh wave of desperate journeys, populist politicians claim their country has become a ‘dumping ground’

By Liz Cookman
Aug 5, 2021
Photography by Emre Caylak for the Guardian

It was a journey that had taken weeks, and there were times when the 65-year-old Afghan widow, who walks with the aid of a stick, had to be carried by her son.

Their trek, across 15 canyons she says, left Durdana with badly scarred feet. “I have not had a day of peace in over 40 years. I had to come to Turkey, there was no choice.”

She had suffered a heart attack when her husband, a tiler, died five years ago in a roadside bombing in Kabul, and believed she and her three adult children would die too if they didn’t make the trip from home in Ghazni province to a people-smuggler’s safe house in eastern Turkey.

Durdana – who uses only one name – is one of tens of thousands of Afghans fleeing the country as foreign troops, most of whom have already left, withdraw completely before the end of August. It’s estimated that between 500 and 2,000 arrive in Turkey every day. For a country already playing host to four million refugees, the situation is causing alarm.

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s party (CHP) has been vocally anti-refugee, with leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu making a promise last month to “send them home” if his party assumes power.

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