“I thought that Nazism was over in Germany, but it turns out that it is still going on,” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this weekend after two rallies in support of his government were cancelled.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was quick to condemn his words: “One cannot even comment on such utterances, they are not justifiable,” she said. “You certainly can’t justify them, not even during the election campaign for a referendum on introducing a presidential system in Turkey.”
“Comparisons with Nazis always just lead to one thing – to belittle those crimes,” she added.
Erdogan also warned Germany not to try and keep him out of the country. “If you don’t let me in, or if you don’t let me speak, I will make the whole world rise up.”
Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert called for “cool heads to prevail,” insisting that Turkey and Germany “have a close economic relationship” and are “partners in the fight against terrorism.”
The rallies, which were to be held in Gaggenau and Cologne, were aimed to drum up support for the April 16th referendum vote on the Turkish constitution. Several high-profile Turkish politicians were prepared to speak. The events were cancelled amid concerns capacity and security.
If approved, Erdogan’s constitutional changes will transform the way Turkey is governed. Of the 3 million Turks living in Germany, roughly 1.4 million are eligible to vote in the referendum.
The rally incident comes at a time when relations between the two nations are already on a downward trend.
“What we have seen in the last couple of years is a deterioration in political relations between Turkey and Germany,” said Professor Enes Bayrakli, who teaches political science at the Turkish German University in Istanbul. “We have good economic relations but not on the political side, and it’s getting worse each year.”
Relations have worsened following the failed coup against Erdogan last summer, explains Bayrakli.
Last month, 43-year-old German reporter Deniz Yucel was detained in Turkey as part of the president’s crackdown on press freedom. He has been in jail since Feb. 14th.
Editor’s note: Turkey has descended more and more into radical Islam in the past year, with massive purges by Erdogan after the attempted coup. But the insult to Germany seems to be calculated to distance Turkey even further from the civililized world.