Aynur Tekin / DUVAR
The coronavirus, which has claimed the lives of hundreds of people in China, is also a problem for Chinese nationals living outside of their country. Some living in Turkey have been marginalized and discriminated against following news of the virus.
Emily Zhang has lived in Turkey for five years, and though she has not been to China for the past year she says that she has been denied entry to restaurants and shops. Yasemine Song, a ten-year resident of Turkey, says that despite holding a health a report that indicates they do not carry the virus, the child of a Chinese friend of hers was not allowed into their preschool.
Zhang arranges international painting exhibitions and from time to time hosts Chinese businesspeople who have come to invest in Turkey. Zhang, who lives in Istanbul, went to university in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus is known to have originated. Zhang recently lost one of her university professors who succumbed to the virus.
“I'm very said. I deeply feel the pain of what is happening in my country, Zhang said.”
Zhang maintains regular contact with her family and friends back home, who are under major stress due to the outbreak of the virus.
“At the moment their health is good and they do not have any [health] issues. For a long time, as it was back in the day, they cannot go out, and they are stressed and depressed. However as we know not leaving the house and going out is the biggest contribution to society at the moment, we are trying not to be a burden on the doctors and health personnel and their work,” Zhang said.
Zhang, like other Chinese people living in Turkey, has faced discrimination as a result of the virus, and said that not just the Chinese but other Asians have also been targeted.
“We understand that people are afraid of the virus, but there are people who see us and cover there nose and run away. When I saw 'I live in Turkey, I have not been to China for over a year and I am healthy' there are still restaurants and hotels that deny me entry. There are also people that ask whether or not I eat bats. I'm very said,” Zhang said. False information claiming that Chinese people eat bats had been floating around social media in Turkey amid news of the virus.
According to Zhang, such treatment is the result of a lack of knowledge of Chinese culture in Turkey,
“I believe that all of this fear is the source of insufficient information. It is illegal in China to buy or sell wild animals, those who violate the rules and eat them are very rare. Most Chinese people eat rice, chicken, vegetables and noodles. Those who are sick are innocent, they are in need of help and understanding,” Zhang said, adding that prior to the outbreak of coronavirus she had not experienced any negative treatment in Turkey. She said that in spite of the situation many Turks have supported her, and that she loves Turkey and considers it her second home.
Though Song said she herself has not experienced any discrimination thus far, Chinese friends of hers have not been so fortunate.
“A Chinese mother went to a hospital that she regularly goes to and made an appointment to vaccinate her child. But the appointment was cancelled. Also, a preschool would not allow a Chinese student to begin their second semester due to the complaints of other parents despite the fact that they had a health report indicating they were not carrying the virus,” Song said.
“Everybody can get sick, so Chinese people and those with a connection to Chinese people should not be marginalized,” Song added, urging that people exhibit common sense regarding the issue.