Turkey’s row with Europe plays well for Erdogan

Seven people injured and 12 held over anti-Dutch protests as dispute escalates

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: front page headlines on newspapers that regularly criticise Erdogan and the Turkish authorities read “Arrogant Holland” on Sunday. Photograph: Ozan Koseozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: front page headlines on newspapers that regularly criticise Erdogan and the Turkish authorities read “Arrogant Holland” on Sunday. Photograph: Ozan Koseozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images

 

Seven people were injured and 12 arrested following anti-Dutch protests in Istanbul early on Sunday morning as a diplomatic spat between Turkey and the Netherlands escalated.

Several hundred demonstrators waved Turkish flags, chanted religious slogans, including “God is greatest”, and sang patriotic songs. Several riot-police vehicles blocked the entrance to the Netherlands consulate, which is on the pedestrianised Istiklal street close to Taksim Square, and one police officer suffered a broken hand during a brief confrontation.

“We are here to show our displeasure at the racist policies of the Netherlands,” said Yunus Emre Özel told AFP. Later on Sunday, eggs were pelted at the consulate gates and a Dutch flag flying above the building was lowered and replaced by a Turkish one.

It was soon removed and the consulate sealed off by police. Protesters also gathered outside the Dutch embassy in Ankara. Since returning to Istanbul on Sunday morning, Turkey’s family minster, Beytul Sayan Kaya, whose refused entry to Turkey’s consulate in Rotterdam sparked the protests in Istanbul, claimed she and her team were subjected to “rough treatment” in the Netherlands. Reports broadcast by Turkish media claimed the minister was expelled when in fact she was escorted by Dutch police to the German border.

Defiant

The spat has grown since Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan’s “Nazi remnants” references to the Dutch authorities following the latter’s refusal to grant entry to Turkey’s foreign minister for a scheduled visit this weekend. Speaking in Istanbul today, president Erdogan said that the Netherlands would learn “what diplomacy is” and remained defiant.

“I can go to any country with my passport, both as a diplomat and within the frame of the freedom of travel,” he said. Later this afternoon in the city of Kocaeli, 100km east of Istanbul, the president called on EU organisations to sanction the Netherlands.

The president and prime minister Binali Yildirim campaigned separately across several cities in Turkey’s Marmara region, calling for voters to back constitutional changes that will be presented in a referendum on April 16th. The governing AK party is backed by the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party or MHP. Campaigning for a “no” vote are the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the secular, founding party of the Turkish republic, and the Kurdish-rooted HDP.

Terrorism

More than a dozen HDP parliamentary deputies have been detained by authorities over the past several months on charges of supporting terrorism. The dispute with the Netherlands, however, has crossed party divisions with CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu echoing president Erdogan’s sentiments.

“If a minister of the Republic of Turkey is not allowed to enter her own consulate or embassy, please suspend [our] relations with the Netherlands,” he told a rally in Adana. Front page headlines on newspapers that regularly criticise president Erdogan and the Turkish authorities read “Arrogant Holland” on Sunday. Pro-government outlets reported that Turkish protesters in Rotterdam were “hunted” by police dogs.

Ties between the EU and Turkey have soured following Ankara’s crackdown on dissent following a botched military coup last July.