February 2, 2023

Athens News

News in English from Greece

Turks burn the flag of Sweden, and Erdogan threatens not to admit the country to NATO

The provocative action of the Swedish right-wing radical Rasmus Paludan, who yesterday burned the Koran, sacred for Muslims, in front of the Turkish embassy, ​​had its political consequences and is now greatly complicating Sweden’s path to the North Atlantic Alliance.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a press release condemning the Swedes, and in Ankara, citizens began to burn the flags of the northern country.

Just a few hours after Paludan’s provocation, the fire flared up again, albeit on the opposite side – in Ankara. In addition to the burning of the Swedish flags, there was also an official reaction. A special press release from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that what happened is an “open hate crime”. Also in the Turkish press, in particular in one of the largest editions of the country, the Anadolu newspaper, the words of a source from the Turkish Foreign Ministry are quoted about the possible involvement in the action of activists of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) living in Sweden, which Ankara considers a terrorist group. The interlocutor of the publication also notes that the incident is a direct violation of the memorandum signed by Sweden “On the prohibition of terrorist organizations” on its territory.

There is not only an obvious religious and ethical side to what happened, but also, of course, a political side. This is not the first time that Turkey has hindered the entry of the Swedes into NATO, seeking more and more concessions from them, especially on the extradition of PKK members to Ankara. Erdogan is clearly going to sell his signature on the contract as expensive as possible, so there is no doubt that Paludan’s act will be used by him to the maximum benefit for himself. And before the upcoming elections, the Sultan will clearly not miss the chance to score political points.

Time, it must be said, is now working against the Turkish leader – the Swedes, despite all the obvious problems, even with the local diasporas, can afford to wait a little longer, but Erdogan’s greed can go sideways.

What happened

On January 21, a protest rally was held at the Turkish embassy in Stockholm: its participants supported the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, banned in Turkey, and against Sweden’s entry into NATO. The organizer of the protest, far-right politician Rasmus Paludan, who heads the Danish anti-Islamic Stram Kurs (Hard Deal) party, delivered a speech condemning Islam and then burned a paperback Koran.

The action, organized by Paludan, brought together about 100 people, among whom were many media workers. She passed under the protection of reinforced police squads. Paludan addressed the audience with an hour-long speech in which he sharply criticized Islam and migrants, and finally set fire to a copy of the Koran with a lighter. “If they are against freedom of speech, then let them live elsewhere,” Paludan explained his position.

The Swedish police, in turn, explained that they agreed on the event in accordance with the laws on freedom of expression. According to the agency Reutersin the permission that Paludan received from the police to hold the action, its purpose was called the fight against Islam and “the attempts of the Turkish leader Recep Erdogan to restrict freedom of speech in Sweden.”

At the same time, the Swedish authorities condemned the burning of the Koran. “Freedom of speech is a fundamental part of democracy. But what is legal is not necessarily appropriate. Burning sacred to many books is a deeply disrespectful act. I want to express my sympathy to all Muslims who are offended by what happened in Stockholm,” Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson tweeted. A similar statement was made by Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom: “There is wide freedom of expression in Sweden, but this does not mean that the Swedish government or I myself support the expressed views.”

Effects

Paludan’s actions caused discontent not only in Turkey, but also in other Islamic countries – for example, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani also called this a manifestation of Islamophobia.

The head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, also reacted to the incident. “In fact, only those who are possessed by the devil, the most frostbitten villains are able to encroach on holy values, calling it a sign of protest. It is reported that the action was agreed with the authorities of Stockholm, but I am firmly convinced that this vile act was not only approved, but, moreover, initiated and paid for by political forces. Otherwise, such a blatantly defiant provocation would never have received approval,” wrote he is in his telegram channel. And he added: “Burn in hell, demons.”

Swedish Defense Minister Paul Jonsson was scheduled to visit Turkey on January 27 at the invitation of his colleague Hulusi Akar. With this visit, Sweden hoped to convince Turkey to approve its application to join NATO, submitted in May 2022. However, the meeting was decided to be canceled, as the Turkish authorities felt that Stockholm was not making enough efforts to prevent protests against Turkey. Also Ankara stated about the violation by Sweden of the agreements adopted during the discussion of the possibility of the country’s accession to NATO. We are talking about the obligation of Stockholm to recognize the PKK (it defends the rights of the Kurds in Turkey) as a “terrorist organization”.



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