Somali restaurant owner victim of racist attacks in Ankara arrested for eviction

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The owner of a Somali restaurant in Ankara, the Turkish capital, who came to public attention when he was the victim of racist attacks, was arrested to be sent to a deportation center and then sent back to Somalia, has announced an opposition MP.

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a deputy of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), announced on Twitter on Wednesday that Mohamed Isse Abdullah, the owner of a Somali restaurant in the Kızılay district of Ankara, has been arrested and will be sent to center deportation. Gergerlioğlu said Abdullah’s detention took place despite the legal steps he took against the deportation, such as an individual petition to the Constitutional Court of Turkey.

The lawmaker, also a prominent human rights activist, called on the Turkish authorities to immediately release the Somali man, accusing them of breaking the law and depriving an individual of his liberty.

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

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

This 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, in an earlier statement, said Abdullah faced death if deported to Somalia.

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

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 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 Abdullah at the time.

After being held at Ankara police headquarters for two nights without explanation, Abdullah and eight other people were taken to a deportation center where they learned that the Ankara immigration administration had decided to initiate eviction 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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