Turkish court arrests three for murdering Syrian teen in wave of racist attacks

A Turkish court has arrested three minors for the murder of 17-year-old Syrian Ahmed Hamdan Al Naif in the southern Antalya province’s Serik district. Al Naif was at the district center looking for seasonal work, unaware of the ongoing attacks against Syrians.

Ceren Deniz / Gazete Duvar

As the allegations of a Syrian man molesting a child in central Turkey’s Kayseri province led to protests that spread throughout Turkey, 17-year-old Ahmed Hamdan Al Naif on July 2 was stabbed by demonstrators in the Serik district of Antalya. 

Naif incurred fatal wounds and died in the hospital. His 15-year-old friend Hasan Halid El Nayif and coworker Beşar Obaid Al-Marai were also injured and hospitalized.

Gazete Duvar spoke with locals and seasonal workers in the district, learning that Al Naif had recently arrived in the district in search of better work options. 

At the beginning of the agricultural season, Al Naif had come to Antalya from Istanbul, where his sister lived. He began working in daily jobs arranged by his supervisor. A group of young migrant workers, including Al Naif, worked for an ironworker constructing greenhouses. 

On the day of the incident, Al Naif and a few other child workers complained to their supervisor about the harsh working conditions and low wages. They found it very difficult to work under the scorching sun in Antalya and decided to leave the job, seeking other opportunities in the district center.

According to other seasonal workers, none of the children knew of the ongoing incidents in the Serik and Kepez districts. 

One worker described the situation, “It’s really tough work in extreme conditions, like working in the middle of a desert. The greenhouse amplifies the heat, making it unbearable. While the outside temperature is 40 degrees Celsius, inside, it feels like 50 degrees. The kids, aged 15-16, couldn’t bear it and left for the district center, unaware of the incidents in Serik. They reached the town center, where they were confronted and killed.”

On the afternoon of July 2, a dispute broke out between Al Naif and R.Ö. (17), Y.Y. (15), and I.A. (17) for unknown reasons. The argument escalated, and Al Naif, wearing a red shirt, was stabbed in the chest. He was taken to Serik State Hospital, where he died. 

Videos on social media showed El Nayif being hit on the head and face with various objects by a group before he managed to escape. Another video showed a child, stripped to the waist, being kicked while lying motionless. The attackers fled the scene on motorcycles.

The local court arrested R.Ö., Y.Y., and I.A. after police interrogation. Many Syrian migrants were at the hospital and gendarmerie, while Al Naif's family arrived from Istanbul and collected his body for burial in Syria. Following the events, many Syrians in the area began loading their belongings into vehicles to leave.

A local, Ş.A., said, “These kids were innocent. They didn’t molest anyone; they have no criminal records. They were just trying to earn a living. This isn’t just anger; it’s an attempt to destroy.”

He added that the attacks in Serik targeted homes and businesses thought to belong to Syrians, smashing windows, and setting places on fire. 

“People even barricaded their doors to protect themselves. Those who tried to stop the attacks were also assaulted. Cars were set ablaze, and a motorcycle mistakenly believed to belong to a Syrian turned out to be owned by a local,” he concluded.

M.D., a farmer in a neighborhood of Serik, described the working conditions for seasonal child workers. “No one wants to talk about illegal residence, unregistered work, or safety violations for fear of imprisonment. If you sit and watch in Serik’s Çınaraltı Square or Cumhuriyet Street, you’ll see more Syrians than locals. Syrians work in seasonal jobs in all the agricultural villages, forced to accept the conditions.”

Turkish Interior Ministry announced on July 2 that 474 people were detained in connection with the attacks on Syrian properties in various provinces of Turkey. 

Of those detained, over half had priors including migrant smuggling, injury, drugs, looting, theft, damage to property, and sexual harassment.

(English version by Ayşenaz Toptaş)