Religious solidarity, historical mission and moral superiority: construction of external and internal "others' in AKP's discourses on Syrian refugees in Turkey
Karakaya Polat, Rabia
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Turkey hosts the world's largest community of displaced Syrians. According to UNHCR, there are more than 3 million registered Syrians in Turkey as of 2018. Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria in 2011, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has followed an open-door policy, which was accompanied by a discourse emphasizing religious solidarity and humanitarian values. However, the arrival of Syrian refugees has become entangled with the existing identity debates and conflicts in Turkish politics. The AKP's discourse on Syrian refugees has become intertwined with its positive self-representation as the defender of all oppressed people (mazlum) and its attempts to reconstruct the Turkish nation along more Islamic lines. The article analyses parliamentary debates and presidential speeches in order to unravel AKP discourses on Syrian refugees. Drawing upon the Discourse Historical Approach in Critical Discourse Analysis, the article puts forward two arguments. First, the refugee issue has become a constitutive component of AKP identity and a discursive tool to reconstruct the nation along more Islamic lines. Second, Turkey's refugee policy has become a source of pride and enabled the AKP to claim moral superiority both vis-a-vis the West and its political opponents at home.