Ahmed Hamdo Abeyd, a young Syrian refugee boy living in Turkey, was forced to sell tissues on the streets to survive. That’s a tragic enough story without the added element of physical assault.
While walking the streets of Izmir, barefoot and peddling tissues, the young boy was brutally attacked by a Turkish restaurant manager and his lackeys. The manager claims that the boy was disturbing his customers, as if that justifies assault.
“I was only selling tissues. While I was about to sell a pack to a lady there, they pulled me aside and hit me.”
Even after passers-by attempted to intervene, the manager kept on.
“They stepped on me. Syrians on the other side of the road rushed and poured water on me and I gained consciousness only then.”
Images of the attack went viral shortly after, and ignited outrage among Turkish social media users, and an outpouring of sympathy for the child.
The uproar drew the attention of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who demanded that the Izmir provincial party leader track the boy down so he and his family can be cared for.
It appears that the offending restaurant manager will face legal consequences.
Though this suggests a happy end to this particular story, it shouldn't make us complacent about the wider issue.
This isn’t the first time a Syrian refugee child has been attacked by Turkish locals. Six months ago, another boy was assaulted by a manager of an Istanbul Burger King. Both incidents are evidence, perhaps, of a degree of xenophobia existing among a fraction of the Turkish community.
But this is not representative of Turkey as a whole, and least of all Izmir, which is well-known for its liberal stance.
Nonetheless, there’s no denying that the Syrian refugee population needs help. There are too many like young Ahmed who live in poverty, who have only tent camps or abandoned buildings or the open streets to call home, and who are vulnerable to attacks such as these.