The Representation of Syrian Refugees in the Turkish Policy Debate

By: Sanam Vaghefi  

The aim of this study is to address competing narratives about Turkey's`open door policy`on Syrian refugees by analyzing two Twitter campaigns, which were launched against this policy. My research questions are `How does the host society frame its arguments for and against the refugee policy in the Turkish case?` and `How are the Syrian refugees represented as a category in different policy narratives in social media? `. Using a model inspired by the Qualitative Narrative Policy Framework, I conducted an analysis of the Turkish anti-policy and pro-policy narratives. The main data consist of 200 tweets posted in 2016 and in 2017 under an anti-refugee Twitter campaign. The sampling includes random Twitter users, politicians, and celebrities who have impact the social discourse. I have collected, translated, coded and analyzed the most popular tweets posted for this debate. As a result, I found out that there is a sharp contrast between the representation and refugees by the pro-policy and anti-policy camps. In both of these policy narratives, Syrian refugees are represented as a homogeneous category of people with a single common ethnic, national, and religious identity. In the anti-policy narrative the refugees are represented as `villains` and their presence is seen as a threat and burden. Both are problematic as the pro-policy narrative represents the refugees as a category of `victims` who lack agency and rely on the compassion of the host society.

2019 Special Focus—Border Crossing Narratives: Learning from the Refugee Experience
Virtual Lightning Talk

Sanam Vaghefi

PhD student, Sociology, University of Victoria, Canada