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Unexplainable German double standards with Turkey and Egypt

Image of Turkey's Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdag delivers a speech on 3 March 2017 [Ayhan İşcen - Anadolu Agency]
Turkey's Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdag delivers a speech on 3 March 2017 [Ayhan İşcen - Anadolu Agency]

The war of words between Turkish and German officials and diplomats started when Germany prevented Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag from holding a rally in Germany. The minister headed to Germany as part of a mobilisation and awareness campaign that started prior to the pending constitutional referendum that is planned to be held on 16 April.

It’s natural that a country like Germany which hosts at least 4 million citizens from Turkish origins (about 1.4 million are on the electoral register) will become a travel destination for a government that is bracing to make the most colossal constitutional reform in the history of the Republic of Turkey.

Shockingly, though, the ministers were suddenly not allowed to hold their rallies. Apart from the German government’s inconsequential excuses and justifications – citing concerns of overcrowding – Bozdag made it clear that, “We see the old illnesses flaring up” in reference to German racial fascism of the 20th century. He bluntly said that he was racially discriminated against.

Germany has recently accepted the asylum applications of 136 Turkish diplomats and military officers that Turkey accuses of participating in the failed coup attempt in July last year. Instead of focusing on elements of terrorist organisations such as the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Germany defends Deniz Yucel, a journalist that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly accused of being a “German agent” and a member of the PKK.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a meeting at Presidential Complex in Ankara, Turkey on 8 February 2017 [Presidency of Turkey / Yasin Bülbül/Anadolu Agency]

Image of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan [Presidency of Turkey / Yasin Bülbül/Anadolu Agency]

President Erdogan went further to liken Germany’s cancellation of his minister’s rallies to Nazi practices. Turkey summoned the German ambassador over the rally cancellations and, interestingly, the German envoy, Martin Erdmann, has been summoned by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs six times since last March.

Lately, Germany has been turned into a literal hideout for everyone who opposes Erdogan’s policies. Last year, the German ambassador and a host of European diplomats attended a politically charged court hearing against Can Dundar who was facing terror charges. Dundar was the editor-in-chief of centre-left Cumhuriyet newspaper until August 2016. He was detained in November 2015 after his newspaper published footage displaying vans belong to Turkish intelligence dispatching ammunitions to Syrian rebel-held territories.

Ankara was further irritated after Germany received Dundar as a guest of honour at an official reception with German President Joachim Gauck himself. Since June 2016, Dundar has lived in exile in Germany, despite the fact that an arrest warrant against him has been issued by the Turkish government.

Last June, the German parliament overwhelmingly adopted a symbolic resolution considering the killings of Armenians in 1915 a genocide, mounting tensions with Turkey at a sensitively delicate point in time. In the aftermath of the coup attempt, President Erdogan was not allowed to address the masses in Germany via phone.

There is a widespread perception that Turkey has been in Germany’s crosshairs for two main reasons. Firstly, Turkey’s crackdown on HDP members of parliament, accused by Ankara of being the political wing of the PKK, and the Fetullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO) caused German officials to vehemently criticise Turkey. The former is an unequivocal public supporter of PKK terrorist attacks and the latter is the mastermind of the brutal failed coup attempt.

Secondly, whether they admit it or not, the more Erdogan is empowered and Turkey is democratically institutionalised, the more clumsy Germany feels. If 50 per cent of Turkish voters say “yes” to the government’s proposed constitutional reform, Turkey’s national, regional and international proactive policies will be enhanced, contrary to German desires.

Merkel with the Egyptian putchists

We would definitely respect the German barbs over human rights and free speech in Turkey if German Chancellor Angela Merkel didn’t keep her passive stance on human rights in Egypt. The Chancellor has pledged to boost her country’s support to one of the world’s most autocratic regimes.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) shakes hands with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (R) during their meeting at Ittihadiya Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt on 2 March 2017 [Egyptian Presidency/Anadolu Agency]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) shakes hands with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (R) during their meeting at Ittihadiya Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt on 2 March 2017 [Egyptian Presidency/Anadolu Agency]

Any fair observer would never dare to compare Turkey and Egypt simply because they are incomparable. Turkey is being run by a democratically elected president and government and Egypt has been completely hijacked by a group of generals. It’s out of question that Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, the putchist who overthrew Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, can be compared to Erdogan who pioneered the renaissance of modern Turkey.

The Chancellor would rather be cherished if she didn’t just address the region’s refugee crisis to merely stem the influx of migrants to her own country. She is believed to be looking for an agreement like the one reached between the European Union and Turkey in which the latter controls the exodus of refugees in exchange for economic support.

Now Merkel wants to help Egypt fortify its coast guard and rein in the illegitimate human trafficking across the Mediterranean. It would be more feasible if European Union countries respected their deal with Turkey and simply fulfilled their commitments. On the contrary, Greece is reluctant to extradite fugitive Turkish military officers who participated in the thwarted July coup attempt, while other officers accused of participating in the coup are offered political asylum in Germany.

Why doesn’t Germany offer equal platforms for asylum seekers from different backgrounds and ethnicities? It seems that they prefer conspirators and putchists rather than refugees from Syrian or African origins. In her visit with Al-Sisi, Merkel is simply outsourcing the responsibility for the refugees crisis to untrustworthy regimes.

Ironically, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, a German NGO was shut down by Egyptian security forces in 2011, and its employees were handed prison sentences in absentia. Merkel said: “It’s really good that we are able to make progress on our political fundamental values.” What a sweeping paradox when she adds that, “It is an essential step on the way to more diversity for civil countries.”

The Turkish putchists are amiably welcomed in Germany, while the Egyptian putchists are designated as supporters of diversity in civil society. Everybody is entirely aware that the Egyptian regime has waged an all-inclusive arbitrary shutdown of all NGOs, a brutal crackdown on dissent, indiscriminate detention, extrajudicial killings and forcible disappearances of opponents and activists. However, while Al-Sisi promotes clichés of balancing human rights with his so-called war on terrorism, the German Chancellor attentively listens to his lies.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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