Online Hostility at the Nexus of Migration and Gender: Exploring the Gendered Hate Discourse Towards Syrian Refugee Women in Turkey

Erdoğan Öztürk Y., Işik Güler H.

International Pragmatics Association (IPrA), Winterthur, Switzerland, 27 June - 02 July 2021, pp.248-249

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Winterthur
  • Country: Switzerland
  • Page Numbers: pp.248-249
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


As the boundaries of the nation-states have become more blurred than ever, public discourses and perceptions around refugee populations are now positioned at the core of today’s political landscape and simultaneously of a growing academic interest. Such discourses predominantly index an anti-refugee and anti-immigration stance (Krzyżanowski, 2020). This stance is mostly manifested through aggressive, offensive and discriminatory language use directed at refugees in overt or covert ways. The affordances of online space significantly contribute to the visibility, proliferation and intensification of hate towards refugees in the form of offensive language practices at discursive and societal levels (KhosraviNik and Esposito, 2018).We witness the rise of a severe anti-refugee discourse towards Syrian refugees in Turkey, particularly in digitally-mediated spaces (Erdogan-Ozturk and Isik-Guler, 2020). More interestingly, we observe a gendered dimension of such discourses emerging at the intersection of race and gender. Refugee women are represented by means of multiple linguistics, discursive and argumentation strategies that uniquely construct gendered images of refugee womanhood. Adopting a critical lens into the intricate relationship of gender, anti-refugee discourses and offensive language practices, our research aims to explore (i) how refugee women are targeted and delineated in online anti-immigration discourses and (ii) what stances and identity categories are claimed by online social media users. Building on the analytical framework of the Social Media Critical Discourse Studies (SM-CDS) proposed by KhosraviNik (2018), our study analyses the comment section of a short YouTube video consisting of Syrian refugee women’s reflections on the hardships that they encounter in their everyday lives in Turkey. The specific focus of the video allows us to trace hegemonic understandings and meta-discourses concerning refugee women residing in Turkey. Our initial observations reveal that refugee women, unlike men, are constructed not only as racialized but also as sexualized objects. The hostile discourse towards refugee women is shaped by a masculinist-nationalist ideology and include direct references to their bodies, sexualities and physical appearances. Those references and stigmas are realized through gendered slurs, insults and taboo words at a referential level and through argumentation strategies of delegitimization at a discursive level. By taking a collective anti-refugee stance, Turkish social media users also form a hegemonic community of practice based on shared nationalist norms while they assign refugee women and refugees in general to the category of the other who does not belong to the society and country.