AMANDA – Polarization at home, polarization abroad

Polarization at home, polarization abroadLast Saturday Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip ErdoIan, addressed some 20,000 supporters in a sports hall in Cologne, Germany. Meanwhile, according to police sources, around 55,000 Turks protested against ErdoIan elsewhere in the city.

ErdoIan’s visit was officially related to the 10th anniversary of the Union of European Turkish Democrats. This union is supported by Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), and ErdoIan was visiting Cologne at their invitation.

One cannot say the German government — having a history of delivering divisive speeches and creating tensions during such visits in the past, including in 2008 when he caused uproar by warning Germany’s largest minority against assimilation — was overly thrilled at the prospect of ErdoIan’s trip. This was clearly visible from the government spokesperson’s statement that said: “We hope ErdoIan delivers a speech that does not disrupt the social peace in our country and does not negatively affect our official relations.

We have joint policies, economic and political cooperation.”To underline this fact, the statement was followed up with a second one from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, urging the prime minister to show “a sense of responsibility and sensitivity.

” While nobody was going to say, “Do not come,” such statements clearly show that they were uncomfortable. Obviously, the recent visit of German President Joachim Gauck to Turkey, during which he criticized the anti-democratic developments in Turkey and was pretty much told by the prime minister to mind his own business, had already strained relations.

As back in Turkey, Turks abroad are today much divided about ErdoIan and the policies of the AKP. Not content at polarizing Turks at home, he now polarizes those that live abroad, too, which is obviously very detrimental to the host country.

On the morning of his visit, the police had to make several arrests following scuffles between ErdoIan supporters and security staff guarding the sports centre venue where the prime minister was due to speak.Clearly, ErdoIan had every intention of using this visit to campaign for the August presidential election — although he has not yet declared himself a candidate.

For the first time, Turks living abroad will be able to vote in their homehost countries without returning to Turkey. Germany is home to about 3 million Turks and from that number around 14 million are eligible to vote.

As we know, ErdoIan is the ultimate showman, and he put on quite a performance, a performance clearly aimed at winning him the most votes.During his typically defiant hour-long speech, ErdoIan — feeling no need to be polite to his German hosts — gave his critics in both Turkey and abroad a good bashing, accusing them of spreading lies and defamation, stating that claims that Turkey had no press freedom or that he himself was a dictator were “black propaganda” spread by people wanting to harm the country.

He also said it was wrong to criticize the Turkish police for their treatment of demonstrations as such protests were “terrorist acts.”As bullish as ever, ErdoIan told his supporters to integrate but not to assimilate, not to compromise “our language, religion and culture,” while also slamming those in Germany who have criticized his response to Turkey’s recent Soma mining tragedy.

While the Turks in the stadium may have cheered, nobody else did, including the tens of thousands of Turks outside in the streets who waved banners accusing ErdoIan of corruption and non-democratic behaviorIt is getting increasingly tiresome hearing the tale of black forces, lies and conspiracy. While ErdoIan may be able to pull the wool over the eyes of his supporters in Turkey and elsewhere, it does not work with others.

The facts are written in black and white by numerous international NGO’s watchdog organizations: While Erdogan may not be a full-fledged dictator, democracy in Turkey is moving in the wrong direction — media freedom is at its lowest point for years, while the rule of law has become a sort of legal anarchy and whoever controls power controls the law. He is responsible for this.

This sort of visit works to further strain relations between EU leaders and ErdoIan. Unfortunately, ErdoIan does not care and it seems it will not be the last one as apparently plans are afoot to visit more of his electorates abroad in the coming weeks and months.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman

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