Turkey lashed out at Sweden on Friday after an effigy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was hung upside down from a lamppost in Stockholm during a pro-Kurdish demonstration.
Turkey angry over ‘hate crime’ in Stockholm
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Sweden “cannot evade its responsibilities” by condemning only the act, which took place on Wednesday. At a press conference alongside Italian Prime Minister Antonio Tajani, Cavusoglu said the demonstration was “racist” and a “hate crime”.
“This action took place in the center of the city, right in front of the municipality, in front of everyone,” he said. “Sweden has a responsibility here.”
He said the Kurdish PKK organization was “laying mines on its way to Swedish NATO membership”. The PKK is considered a terrorist organization not only by Turkey, but also by the US and the EU.
Turkey, a NATO member, has called on Sweden to crack down on Kurdish militants who want to join the 30-nation defense alliance. Under NATO rules, all members of the organization must unanimously agree to allow an aspiring nation to join.
Both Finland and Sweden, neutral during the Cold War, applied to join NATO in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But Turkey objects to the Nordic countries’ history of welcoming asylum seekers, many of them Kurds, whom Ankara considers terrorists.
“Sweden and Finland have committed to what they can do and signed off,” said Cavusoglu. Sweden, along with fellow NATO aspirant Finland, has signed an agreement with Turkey to meet Ankara’s security demands.
Cavusoglu said Turkish, Swedish and Finnish representatives will meet for a third meeting in Brussels.
Turkish state media reported that Turkish prosecutors are investigating the Stockholm incident. The images of the image were posted online by the so-called Solidarity Committee for Rojava, a reference to Kurdish areas in northern Syria.
The Kurdish group posted photos of the effigy alongside photos of the 1945 execution of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. “History shows how dictators end,” the Rojava Committee tweeted, comparing Erdogan to Mussolini.
Effigy incident ‘extremely serious’ and ‘dangerous for Swedish security’
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson condemned the effigy incident on Friday, also saying he thought it was intended to derail his country’s NATO bid.
“People tried to express their opinion on Sweden’s entry into NATO by depicting President Erdogan in a disgusting way as if he was close to being executed,” Kristersson told reporters after meeting with visiting European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
“I would say this is sabotage against the Swedish NATO application,” he said. “It is dangerous for Swedish security to act in this way.”
Kristersson also said it was “extremely serious” to carry out a “mock execution of a foreign democratically elected leader” in a country that has witnessed similar forms of political violence. Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh was stabbed to death in 2003, while Social Democratic Prime Minister Olaf Palme was assassinated in Stockholm in 1986.
Turkey summoned the Swedish ambassador to the Stockholm protest earlier this week. Turkish parliament speaker Mustafa Sentop also called off a meeting with Swedish parliament speaker Andreas Norlen for next Tuesday.
Norlen told Swedish news agency TT that it is “regrettable that the visit has been cancelled”.
Kurdish militants are a sensitive issue for Turkey, as the PKK has been waging a bloody uprising against the Turkish state since 1984, with thousands of people killed in the conflict. Some Kurds believe that an independent Kurdish nation should encompass the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran.
Turkey has regularly carried out cross-border attacks in Iraq and Syria, targeting Kurdish militants.
wd/msh (TBEN, Reuters, dpa)