Migrants bear the brunt of rising nationalism ahead of Turkey’s presidential runoff

·1-min read

As Turkey enters the final stretch to Sunday’s crunch presidential runoff, politicians are turning up the heat on migrants. In Istanbul’s immigrant neighbourhoods, the political discourse is driving migrants and new Turkish citizens into President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s arms.

The aroma of Kabuli pulao – a heady mix of steaming rice, marinated lamb and toasted almonds – mingles with the delicately herby whiff of mantu dumplings at an Afghan restaurant in Istanbul’s working class Zytinburnu district.

A solitary waiter brings out glasses of chai zafran – saffron tea – with a beaming smile. But there aren’t too many customers in the eatery this afternoon and it’s not the aromas from the kitchen that are preoccupying the clientele.

“I feel it. I smell it. I hear it, and it’s been increasing over the past few months,” admits Mansour Tawab* as he sips his post-lunch chai zafran.

Tawab is referring to the stench of ultra-nationalism sweeping Turkey ahead of the May 28 presidential runoff between the incumbent, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the opposition’s Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

(* Name changed due to security concerns.)

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