Turkish Secular Opposition: Erdogan Not Tough Enough on the Netherlands

The head of Turkey’s secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) is accusing Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of not sufficiently punishing the Netherlands for barring Turkish government officials from attending a pro-Erdogan rally, accusing Erdogan of being “just talk.”

“Suspend all relations with the Netherlands,” demanded CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on Tuesday. “It hurts our pride.” Kılıçdaroğlu accused Erdogan of not taking any measures to back up his claim that he would punish the Netherlands for preventing Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya from attending pro-Erdogan rallies in Rotterdam. Erdogan, he suggested, feared that any swift diplomatic action may hurt the chances of a referendum to amend the Turkish Constitution on April 16. A “yes” vote on the referendum would expand Erdogan’s powers significantly.

“They said they would respond with strong countermeasures. How? They say ‘wait until April 16.’ Why?” Kılıçdaroğlu asked, noting that his party “will provide support until the end” should Erdogan take any action against Amsterdam.

“You just talk. This nation is fed up with talk. Go and do whatever you are going to do,” Kılıçdaroğlu railed.

The state-run Anadolu Agency ran a story on Kılıçdaroğlu’s comment excluding his criticism of Erdogan. Instead, the article highlights his demand for “severe measures” against the Netherlands. “Turkey has not been offended in such a way before,” the excerpt of Kılıçdaroğlu’s statements on Anadolu read. “You should do whatever is necessary. You might not be offended, but I am.”

The CHP is the largest minority party in Turkey and has adamantly opposed Erdogan’s proposed constitutional changes. The party was founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, and describes its ideals with six basic principles: Republicanism, Populism, Nationalism, Statism, Revolutionism, and Secularism. It is a Socialist International member party and has long opposed the integration of Islam into the political sphere, something Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has focused on introducing into Turkish society.

Some reports note that Kılıçdaroğlu has changed the tenor of the CHP’s leadership, however, dropping a party ban on hijab and inching towards acceptance of political Islam, though never to the extent to which the AKP has embraced.

Following the coup attempt against Erdogan in July 2016, Kılıçdaroğlu participated in a unity rally in which he condemned the coup and supported Erdogan.

Kılıçdaroğlu’s complaint that Erdogan’s government has not acted sufficiently against the Netherlands follows days of incendiary rhetoric against the Dutch from Erdogan personally and other members of his government. “Issuing an apology will not suffice. The Netherlands will be held to account for what it did,” Erdogan vowed on Tuesday. This week, the government announced sanctions against the Netherlands, including banning Dutch diplomats and politicians from landing on Turkish soil.

Erdogan had previously referred to the Dutch political leadership as “Nazi remnants” and blamed the “spineless and ignoble” Dutch for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. Dutch leaders have called Erdogan’s comments “irresponsible” and demanded an apology.

“Nobody should try to give us lessons in civilization. Their history is dark but ours is clean,” Erdogan declared.

Turkey presided over what is widely considered the first modern genocide against its Armenian population from 1915-1917.


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