Fast fashion chain LC Waikiki has sparked a wave of controversy and criticism for withdrawing a children’s T-shirt after Turkish nationalists criticised the use of Arabic text on the product.
The company had displayed on its Turkish website a T-shirt with the famous Disney character Mickey Mouse printed, with the top saying “It’s time to play” in Arabic, triggering a racist response from Turks who rejected the presence of the Arabic text.
Customers voiced their anger and demanded the company only use the Turkish language for products sold in Turkey.
Shortly after, LC Waikiki responded to the criticism by announcing the removal of the product from its shelves, drawing ire from its Arab customers.
LC Waikiki’s official Twitter account responded by stating that the item was intended for sale outside of Turkey and that a technical issue was to blame for it being listed on the Turkish app store. The item was then taken off the Turkish marketplace.
“Hello, we, as LC Waikiki, operate in 56 countries. We offer products suitable for the languages and cultures of the countries for sale in those countries. We have decided that this product, which was produced abroad, is also placed for sale in Turkey. Due to a systematic error, we removed him from the sale,” the company said in a statement.
However, the withdrawal of the shirts caused outrage in the Arab world where calls for a boycott of the brand have surfaced.
Arab customers criticised the brand’s decision to remove the shirt from Turkey and saw it as a compromise with “racist voices in Turkey.” They also questioned why writings in Arabic on clothing raised Turkish criticism of the brand but not writings in English or French.
Some also stated that LC Waikiki “should not have deleted the item from the store” because of the notable expanding population of Arabs in Turkey, including refugees, students, and others.
Arab calls to boycott LC Waikiki
#قاطعوا_LC_Waikiki (Boycott_LC_Waikiki) began trending on social media following LC Waikiki’s withdrawal of the product with Arab users expressing anger with the brand.
Racism against Arabs in Turkey
The latest developments come amid strong anti-Arab sentiment in Turkey, where Syrian refugees in particular face ongoing attacks and discrimination.
Nationalist Turks blame foreigners for the country’s economic woes that include high rates of unemployment and a diminished purchasing power as a result of inflation.
Racism has also been fueled by politicians’ frequent use of anti-refugee rhetoric.
A Turkish court recently overturned contentious proposals by the mayor of the northwest city of Bolu, Tanju Ozcan, to tenfold foreigners’ water bills and impose a fee of 100,000 lira ($7,435) on foreigners getting married in Turkey’s civil ceremonies.
“They overstayed their welcome. If I had the power, I would use municipal officials to throw them out by force,” Ozcan said. “I know people will talk about human rights and they will call me fascist. I simply do not care.”
It also comes amid plans by Turkey to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees to the conflict-ridden country, where many face risk of persecution.