By Gokce Sencan
The Turkish government has accused the Netherlands of authoritarianism for doing no more than it does to its own citizens.
Dutch-Turkish protesters, who protested at the Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam over a refusal to let ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) politicians campaign in the country, were attacked and dispersed by the Dutch police and water cannons.
Police violence is never acceptable. But to complain about the curtailment of fundamental rights and the suppression of free speech, while supporting the current AKP government, is deeply hypocritical.
Those who (understandably) defend the politicians’ freedom of speech need to understand that the AKP’s campaign rhetoric is based on targeting “No” voters, opposition academics and intellectuals by accusing them of treason and supporting terrorism. Such incendiary tactics cannot be defended on the basis of ‘free speech’.
The constitutional amendments, that AKP politicians had wished to rally support for, will greatly centralise the power of President Erdoğan; further removing the checks and balances necessary for a free and liberal democracy. Parliament’s powers will be curtailed, the president will be given further powers over the judiciary, and an unprecedented amount of power will be granted to the executive.
Such changes are indefensible given that the AKP has a ruthless record of suppressing its political opponents, which has been reached unprecedented levels in the aftermath of last July’s failed coup.
The protesters in Rotterdam, in supporting a “Yes” in the referendum, are therrefore validating the implementation of an authoritarian system which will be used to further suppress dissent in Turkey.
They enjoy the basic rights granted to them by the liberal democratic system in the Netherlands, yet want to use these rights to support growing tyranny at home.
They lend their support to a Turkish government that is cracking down on ‘inner enemies’, yet decry the lack of democracy when the Dutch government treats them the same way.
Being Turkish/Dutch or Turkish/German or Turkish/X does not necessarily equate to being an AKP supporter. This kind of a reductive narrative only empowers the dangerous rhetoric of ultra-nationalists like Geert Wilders.
And there is, in fact, a very diverse Turkish community in the Netherlands, with a growing number of those who have recently sought refuge in Europe.
But I have no sympathy for those who now suddenly feel like they have been oppressed for trying to defend free speech and political expression, whilst supporting those who continue to deny that of others.
My only hope is that maybe, just maybe, this experience will be eye-opening for the Erdoğan supporters in Europe; now that they have first-hand experience of everything we have faced in Turkey in the last decade.