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Can Turkey Assimilate Its Refugees?

Lessons from History

A woman takes photographs in front of the New Mosque by the Bosphorus strait in Istanbul, Turkey, January 12, 2016. Murad Sezer / Reuters

The neighborhood of Bağlariçi is some six miles north of Ankara’s city center. Like most of its suburban quarters, its apartment blocks and high streets are neither distinct nor very old. Superficially, the neighborhood is a testament to the city’s rapid growth over the last decade. Recent events, however, have shown that Bağlariçi is emblematic of a profound new trend in Turkish society.

Since 2011, this modest neighborhood has become home to more than thirty thousand Syrian refugees. The sheer size of this community of newcomers has brought considerable attention to the district, making it synonymous with the contemporary struggles and tensions that confront refugees and natives alike. On the one hand, the municipal government has by no means ignored the personal and communal hardships of Syrians living in Bağlariçi. Local schools have spent vast sums trying to educate Syrian-born children and to

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