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Turkey deciding whether to deport Syrian journalist over ‘bananas’ video

Published: Updated:

Turkish authorities are considering whether to deport a Syrian journalist over a humorous video about claims that local people cannot afford to buy bananas while Syrians in the country can, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Syrians in Turkey shared footage of themselves eating bananas last month after a video on social media showed a Turkish citizen saying he cannot afford bananas but Syrians are buying them “by the kilogram.”

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The videos outraged many Turks, prompting authorities to detain foreign nationals over “provocative posts” of them eating bananas. The Immigration Directorate said those detained would be deported.

Some 3.6 million Syrian refugees currently live in Turkey, but sentiment toward them has recently soured.

Turkish food prices have soared in recent months and some Turks say the government provides more economic support to migrants.

In a video, Majed Shamaa, a journalist working for Orient News, buys bananas in a secretive manner and hides away to eat them without being seen.

His lawyer, Mehmet Ali Hartavi, said Shamaa was sent to a repatriation center near the Syrian border after being questioned and released by a prosecutor in Istanbul at the weekend.

He said Shamaa, who has lived in Turkey for seven years, had not intended to mock anyone and had wanted to address Syrians’ problems in a humorous way.

“Believe me, Syrians are afraid when purchasing bananas or fruit. He touched on this bleeding wound,” Hartavi told Reuters.

Shamaa fears being executed if sent back to areas controlled by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, since he has also made comical videos about him, Hartavi said.

He said a decision on whether to deport Shamaa was expected on Friday.

Erol Onderoglu, Turkey representative for Reporters Without Borders, said the deportation procedure was being used as a weapon against journalists critical of the government.

“The treatment that Majed Shamaa faces for treating the ‘banana’ dispute in a humorous way shows how fragile the safety of residence and tolerance have become in Turkey,” he said.

“We have serious concerns about the security of Shamaa’s life,” he added.

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