Munzer Dabdoub, a Syrian from Homs Governorate, is living in fear as he awaits a decision from the Turkish Government about his continuing residence in Istanbul.
Turkish authorities have given Syrians living in Istanbul until the end of September to leave the city, a shock to hundreds of Syrian journalists and media workers, most of whom are based in the capital city.
In an interview with 7Dnews, Munzer, who works as editor for a TV channel, said he would be forced to leave Istanbul, since, despite having the required ‘Temporary Protection Identification Document’ (Kimlik) issued by the Istanbul Department of Immigration, his family is under threat of deportation and if the Department fails to issue them with Kimliks, he will have to leave his job.
Turkish media reports indicate that 300 Syrian journalists based in Istanbul are at risk of losing their jobs.
Like Munzer, Firas Dibeh, founder of the Syrian Journalists' Association in Turkey, faces the same fate after failing to obtain a Kimlik for Istanbul.
Firas explained in an interview with 7Dnews that his problem is that his tourist visa expired three years ago and he failed to renew it. “In Turkey, a foreigner pays a fine if his residency permit expires and he can then renew it but this does not apply to Syrians. Consequently, a Syrian whose residency permit has expired and has not been renewed for some reason then becomes an illegal immigrant and can be deported absolutely anywhere.”
Firas said that Syrian journalists have already been expelled from Istanbul "but in smaller numbers, after the Istanbul Governor issued a decision to allow some categories to stay in the city even though they weren’t registered, including students who spent the last year in Istanbul schools."
"Many journalist colleagues have children in school and are allowed to stay in Istanbul but others are threatened with deportation to other states or to Syria, because they aren’t married or have no children in school."
Many organisations working on behalf of journalists or Syrians in general in Turkey are trying to solve this problem, including Reporters Without Borders, whose representative in Turkey, Erol Onderoglu, told Turkish newspaper ‘Haberler’ that the Turkish government is not well informed about what is happening to Syrian journalists, pointing out that these journalists had been forced to seek refuge in Turkey due to the dangers they faced in their country.
Onderoglu hopes that the Turkish authorities will take their special situation into consideration and deal with them with some flexibility. He said that Reporters Without Borders was continuing to communicate with the Turkish authorities to prevent the deportation of Syrian journalists from Istanbul and had assured the authorities they would hold talks with the United Nations and the European Union to find a solution.
Mahdi Daoud, who heads the Forum for Syrian Associations, a coalition of Syrian NGOs in Istanbul, said that the Forum “has been in contact with the Turkish authorities for months to resolve the issue of Syrians in Istanbul and to return Syrians who have a Kimlik issued from Istanbul but have nonetheless been deported to Syria."
Daoud told 7Dnews that the Forum "also registers the names of all Syrians in Istanbul and sends them to the Istanbul Department of Immigration in order to transfer their Kimliks to Istanbul."
What Daoud said contradicts a statement by Lina, a reporter in Istanbul, who told 7Dnews that the risks for Syrian journalists and their families include not only being expelled from Istanbul also from Turkey. She has a Kimlik issued from Istanbul but has not been able to update her family’s data with the Immigration Department for a year, which puts her family at risk, as the Department will no longer process non-updated cards and the family may even be accused of falsifying their Kimliks.
Lina concluded, "The greatest danger awaits them inside Syria if they are deported from Turkey, due to differences between the opposition groups that control areas of northern Syria.”