Turkey: Passports belonging to millions of Syrians leaked

Details of more than three million passports were leaked on a Turkish Telegram group that called for violence against Syrians

Ragip Soylu

Over 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey have had their passport details leaked (Creative Commons)

Scans of passports belonging to more than 3.3 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey were leaked online late amid a week of racially motivated attacks targeting Syrians in multiple cities across the country.

A Telegram account named “Turkey Insurrection” shared a file late on Thursday containing scans of the first and second pages of Syrian nationals’ passports, listing their locations.

“Let’s begin with the passports, and then we will share them city by city. They will end, all of them,” said the Telegram group’s unnamed admin. 

The messaging channel included calls to attack Syrian refugees in the country.

In a statement, Turkey’s interior ministry confirmed there had been a leak involving Syrians but added that the file did not appear up to date.

The Telegram channel and its backup group have been shut down. The ministry added that the channel also attempted to instigate “insurrection” in Istanbul’s low-income neighbourhood of Sultanbeyli. 

“We determined that a 14-year-old was administering the channel and the Istanbul local children’s branch took action,” the statement said. 

The leak appears genuine, as Syrian journalist Wissam Shahleh found his name and personal information in the documents.

Riad, a Syrian living in Istanbul, told Middle East Eye that his personal information was among the leaked data and that he feared for his family. 

“The [Syrian] regime will also receive this information,” he said. “As long as Assad and the Mukhabarat [Syria’s intelligence service] are in power, it has become impossible to return to Syria. We are not wanted here either. There’s nowhere left to go.”

Violence erupted in the Anatolian city of Kayseri on Sunday after reports emerged that a Syrian national had allegedly sexually harassed an underage girl.

Hundreds of locals in the city’s low-income neighbourhood destroyed vehicles and stores belonging to Syrians and set buildings ablaze.

The unrest continued on Monday, spreading to cities such as Adana, Hatay and Gaziantep, leading to the detention of hundreds, many of whom had criminal records.

On Wednesday, local reports said a 17-year-old Syrian boy was killed in a racially motivated attack in the southern town of Antalya.

Hamide, a Syrian living in Gaziantep, said her daughter, who is fluent in Turkish, reviewed the leaked data and found their names on the list.

“My husband was killed while fighting alongside Turkish soldiers in Syria’s Afrin,” she said, referring to the Turkish military operation in Syria in 2018 against Kurdish armed groups. “I lost my husband and my children lost their father. What did we do? What crime did we commit? We don’t know where to go.”

Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak reported on Thursday that thousands of Syrians did not show up for work in Kayseri, where the violence began, resulting in significant losses for heavy industries. 

Mecid, a Syrian living in Izmir who lost his older brother in Turkey’s fight against Kurdish armed groups, expressed his frustration in a phone call, saying he also lost his leg during the same military operations and now feels unsafe.

“I have given more to Turkey than these racists who insulted me. My brother and my leg,” he said. 

Istanbul, Turkey

Passports belonging to millions of Syrians leaked in Turkey

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