Somali restaurant owner in Ankara faces eviction after racist attacks

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The owner of a Somali restaurant in Ankara, the Turkish capital, faces deportation from Turkey after his restaurant was the target of a series of racist attacks, Turkish Minute reported, citing the daily Birgün.

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a deputy of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), announced on Twitter that the Turkish authorities had decided to evict the owner of the restaurant, Mohamed Abdullahı. The reason given by the authorities for the expulsion of Abdullahi was unclear.

“His crime was to run the Saab restaurant in Kızılay according to the law. The police told him to close the restaurant, then he was subjected to racist and discriminatory acts,” Gergerlioğlu tweeted.

Businesses run by Somali nationals in Ankara have faced increasing pressure from Turkish police as well as racist attacks from locals since the fall of 2021.

In June, police whitewashed the Saab restaurant sign for displaying colors used by Kurdish militants whom Ankara considers terrorists.

The development was seen by many as a harassment of the Turkish capital’s growing Somali community, which has established restaurants, cafes and clothing stores there in recent years, becoming the target of abuse in a country where anti-migrant sentiment is on the rise.

Gergerlioğlu said Abdullahı faced death if deported to his conflict-affected country.

He said he had lived in Turkey with his wife for more than 10 years, both of whom graduated from Turkish universities and had friendly relations with their neighbours.

According to migration expert Neva Övünç, revoking a person’s work permit can lead to their deportation, but if a person is at risk to their life in their home country, deportation decisions should be reversed.

According to a Middle East Eye report in October, ever since the Sözcü daily featured Somali businesses in Kızılay in a report under the title “The center of Ankara has become Somalia” and put it on the nation’s radar in April 2021, plainclothes police began making frequent visits to Somali businesses there, carrying out sporadic identity checks and harassing customers.

Police arrested a group of Somali business owners, including Abdullahı at the time.

After being detained at Ankara police headquarters for two nights without explanation, Abdullahı and eight other people were taken to a deportation center where they learned that the Ankara immigration administration had decided to initiate deportation proceedings against them, MEE said.

The incident prompted some Somali business owners to quickly sell their properties, resulting in a number of restaurants passing into the hands of Turkish citizens, according to MEE, who added that for those who have not found ‘buyers to resume their business in a national economic crisis, the only option was to close permanently.

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