Ara­bic signs face axe in Is­tan­bul’s Lit­tle Syria area

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -


With its col­or­ful signs, flash­ing lights and awnings dis­play­ing sales mes­sages in Ara­bic, Is­tan­bul’s Ak­saray neigh­bor­hood looks just like its nick­name, “Lit­tle Syria”. Those scenes soon could change as part of a crack­down on what one lo­cal of­fi­cial calls “vis­ual pol­lu­tion”. Last week, Ak­saray busi­nesses and res­i­dents re­ceived a no­tice or­der­ing them to de-clut­ter build­ing fa­cades and over­haul their sig­nage. The or­der rep­re­sents the lat­est salvo in an eight-year ef­fort to stan­dard­ize store­fronts and re­quire all signs to be in the Turk­ish lan­guage, which uses the Latin al­pha­bet. It also seeks the re­moval of signs in Cyril­lic let­ter­ing and all signs with neon and LED lights.

Some Syr­ian res­i­dents are vow­ing to ig­nore the or­der, see­ing it as an as­sault on their cul­ture. Tur­key to­day is home to 3 mil­lion refugees, mostly Syr­ian. “I will de­fend my rights be­cause I don’t agree with this de­ci­sion,” said Mehmet Basil Souc­car, who man­ages five Syr­ian restau­rants in Is­tan­bul. The 45-year-old, a dual Turk­ishSyr­ian na­tional, es­ti­mates that more than two-thirds of Ak­saray’s stores are owned and op­er­ated by Syr­i­ans - and pre­dicts street clashes if author­i­ties try to re­move Ara­bic sig­nage. “You can be sure that if they en­force this or­der, there will be a very ugly pic­ture in Ak­saray,” he said.

Some ar­gue that their busi­nesses must be iden­ti­fied with Ara­bic signs to be iden­ti­fied by their largely Syr­ian clien­tele, many of them refugees from the be­sieged city of Aleppo. “Our restau­rant’s name was well known in Aleppo,” said Mahrusi restau­rant man­ager Samer Abou Dan. “If we re­move our sign, we might as well shut the restau­rant down and leave.” —AP

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