Nazi insults and riots as Turkey lashes out

Rotterdam: Turkish protesters threw rocks at the police and cars jammed the streets. © PA

Relations between the EU and Turkey are in crisis. The Turkish president accuses Germany of “Nazi practices”. Now it seems he may face a total ban from Europe. What on earth is going on?

Dutch riot police have broken up a protest this weekend by more than 1,000 supporters of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Demonstrators had gathered outside the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam to support Erdogan after two Turkish ministers were prevented from addressing a rally in the Dutch city ahead of Turkey’s referendum next month.

Erdogan wants support from the large number of Turkish people living in Europe to help clinch victory in the April 16th referendum in Turkey that could give him sweeping new authoritarian powers.

Most EU countries are angry about the planned rallies officially because they will “increase friction and hinder integration” but really, so commentators say, because they are against the increasingly dictatorial regime in Turkey and do not want Erdogan to win the vote next month.

If he wins he will be personally allowed to appoint ministers, prepare the budget, choose the majority of senior judges, enact certain laws by decree, announce a state of emergency and dismiss parliament.

Relations between Turkey, NATO’s second-largest military force, and the EU are rapidly turning poisonous.

In recent hours Turkey’s foreign minister called the Netherlands the “capital of fascism”; Erdogan accused Germany of “Nazi practices”; Denmark’s prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen postponed a planned meeting with Turkey’s prime minister, saying he was concerned that “democratic principles are under great pressure”.

And Geert Wilders, the anti-Islam candidate who is expected to top the polls in the Dutch election the day after tomorrow, told the Turkish minister to “go away and never come back.”

“Turkish President Erdogan faces TOTAL ban from EU” read a headline last night in a British newspaper.

But the EU can’t simply walk away from Turkey, as Erdogan well knows. A year ago this Saturday, Turkey agreed to a wide-ranging deal to help halt the flood of migrants into Europe. This deal is widely seen as the only wall against a new flood of migrants into Germany, France and the rest of Europe.

Stop the dictator

Erdogan wants to use the free speech laws of Europe for the chance to promote proposed changes to the Turkish constitution that would be the decisive step in transforming his country from an autocratic, despotic state to a dictatorship. He must be stopped on principle, say many.

It is simply not worth having a huge row about, say others. EU countries cannot stop foreigners making speeches in their streets simply because they dislike their politics. European capitals are full of far more extreme speakers and campaigners than a few Turkish ministers. And think of the consequences of Turkey turning its back. They would be terrible.

You Decide

  1. Should politicians be allowed to campaign in foreign countries?
  2. Should the West be friendly with Erdogan’s government?

Activities

  1. Design a newspaper front page which explains the events of the past weekend.
  2. In groups of three, create a two-minute video explaining the importance of Turkey on the world stage today.

Some People Say...

“Countries should never interfere in the affairs of others.”

What do you think?

Q & A

I’m not Turkish, Dutch or German. Why does this matter to me?
Turkey is a hugely important country due to its size, its population — and perhaps most of all, its geography. Straddling Europe and the Middle East, it is one of the key diplomatic players in the fight against IS and in dealing with the migration crisis. If it becomes more repressive, that will have consequences for the whole region.
Is Erdogan likely to win this referendum?
Polls in Turkey are notoriously politicised, but all the signs so far point to a very tight race. For many, the details of the constitutional reform are hard to understand, and so in some ways the vote has become a referendum on Erdogan instead. He is a man whose supporters revere him but who has many enemies.

Word Watch

Erdogan
Mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998, he founded the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2001 which won three general elections; he was prime minister until he became president in 2014. A fervent Islamist he was able to curb the political power of the military, which had previously governed Turkey insisting on a secular state.
Rotterdam
The Netherlands’ most multi-ethnic city. Muslims make up 13.1% of the population, mostly people with either Turkish or Moroccan heritage.
Expected to top the polls
Wilders may win the popular vote, but under the Dutch system is unlikely to be able to make the alliances necessary to form a government.
EU
Erdogan has been in negotiations for EU membership, but his ruthless crackdown on nationwide protests against his perceived authoritarianism with alleged human rights violations and curbs on press and social media led to failure to meet EU membership conditions. In 2016, a failed coup against his government was followed by purges with mass arrests of soldiers, judges and teachers and an ongoing state of emergency.

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