Following a vicious attack against tens of tourists from South Kurdistan in Trabzon on the Black Sea coast, a group of journalists, activists and citizens have launched a campaign calling on people to boycott tourism to Turkey.
Footage uploaded on YouTube showed Turkish citizens beating around 50 tourists from South Kurdistan (Iraq’s Kurdish region) as they were taking photographs in the district of Trabzon while holding the Kurdistan flag.
The news immediately went viral on social media with activists and bloggers posting hashtags like #StopVisitingTurkey# and #BoycottTurkey# to warn people against travelling to what they described as a “racist country”.
“Boycott Turkey until they learn how to respect the Kurdish tourists and travellers arriving at their airports. There are so many better countries whose citizens will respect you, your flags and the clothes you wear,” said Bextiyar Goran, an activist, on Twitter.
Another tweet by Hemn Rafeek, a Kurdish activist, accused Turkish people of intolerance: “Turkey has always been a dangerous place to visit. People have zero tolerance towards others. Racism is a part of their culture. Stop visiting it until new protection laws are enacted,” he said.
The representative of the Gorran Movement in the Iraqi parliament condemned the attack, urging the federal government to take a firm and immediate step in response to what happened. Member of parliament, Kawah Mohamed told 7Dnews that the Gorran movement denounced the attack on Kurdish tourists in Trabzon.
“What happened is totally inappropriate and unacceptable. Nine persons have been detained and legal investigations have been launched by the Çaykara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, yet surprisingly, none of the attackers were detained,” Mohamed said.
“The Kurdish flag is a constitutional icon in Iraq and carrying it is not a crime. The federal government must protect the life and dignity of the Iraqi Kurdish citizens and deal with such abuses, as it is has happened before.” he added. Mohamed said that he had received a number of complaints from Kurdish people who were mistreated at Turkish airports.
“Their cellphones were checked in the airport and some were kept waiting for hours meaning they missed their flights.” he said. “So far, the Iraqi government has not responded to our demands, and there has been no action taken in this regard, but we will follow up this issue on both levels inside the Iraqi parliament and also with the executive authority.” Mohamed added.
Sherzad Shikhani, a Kurdish journalist, told 7Dnews that the assault clearly reflects the hostile policy of the Turkish government against the Kurdish people in general.
“The harassment which the Kurdish tourists have been exposed to for simply raising their flag while taking a selfie picture proves the fact that Turkey adopts a superior stance when dealing with the Kurdish community although it has been recognised by the Iraqi constitution, Shikhani said.
“All communities, even sports clubs, have their own flags which are held in high esteem by members. Although tourism accounts for a huge part of Turkey’s economy, Turkish people fail to hide the grudge they bear against the Kurds and their flag.” he added.
In his interview with 7Dnews, Shikhani wondered why the region of Kurdistan offers concessions to Turkey while the latter treats the Kurds with such arrogance.
“The region’s government is very weak when dealing with Turkey and it has begun to lose its sovereignty. Turkish troops have entered the region’s territories and established permanent camps and this is a part of the intimidating policy which Turkey adopts against Southern Kurdistan,” Shikhani added.
Shikhani said he doubted that the regional government would be able to take retaliatory measures, but “at least it should present an official protest to the Iraqi foreign ministry to put an end to these aggressive policies.”
Boycotting holidaying in Turkey is not confined to deterring Kurdish tourists, German journalists and activists launched a similar campaign a few months ago advising people not to travel to Turkey.
A brochure in various languages was prepared and handed out in Munich detailing the reasons why tourists should think twice before choosing Turkey as their holiday destination. Meanwhile, the hashtags TurkeyThreatensTourists and TurkeyIsNotSafe have circulated in Arab and Gulf countries.
Earlier this week, the Saudi embassy in Turkey and the foreign ministry published an alert on their official pages on Twitter, warning Saudi nationals against doing business in Turkey.
According to Turkish opposition websites, the country’s economy is suffering from successive crises, the most important of which are the fall in the value of lira, inflation, high prices and accumulated debts that are hitting thousands of Turkish companies.
Indexes issued by the Turkish Ministry of Tourism showed that the number of tourists dropped by 8.12% last March, compared to the same time last year. This is an indication that President Erdogan is now losing his trump card, which is the tourism sector that provides the Turkish economy with more than $32 billion annually according to the latest figures released in 2018.