• Germany's news in English
 
jobs_header_v3

Thousands protest at Erdogan German rally

AFP · 24 May 2014, 18:29

Published: 24 May 2014 18:29 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Erdogan is expected to run for the presidency in August, and Germany - with a Turkish community of three million, about half of them eligible voters - would be a strong constituency for the controversial leader.

Erdogan and his Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) have polarized Turks at home and abroad over what critics call his authoritarian style, a crackdown on civil liberties and corruption scandals under his rule.

In the western city of Cologne, where Erdogan spoke in an 18,000-seat arena, protesters waved banners that read: "Erdogan persona non grata", "Resistance against AKP fascism" and "Corruption, sharia, sultanate - Erdogan, you are not a democrat".

"Taksim is everywhere, the resistance is everywhere," the protesters chanted, a week before the anniversary of Istanbul's Gezi Park and Taksim Square anti-government protests that ended in harsh police crackdowns.

Many demonstrators wore hardhats with the word "Soma" on them, the western Turkish town where 301 coal miners died this month in the country's worst ever industrial disaster that sparked renewed street rallies.

Erdogan outraged many with his apparent indifference to the tragedy when he remarked that mining accidents are in "the nature of the business", and after photos showed his advisor Yusuf Erkel kicking a protester in Soma.

Amid the heightened passions, police in Germany made several arrests after breaking up a scuffle between security staff guarding the venue of Erdogan's speech and his opponents.

Rally organizers from the Turkish Alevi community, which follows a moderate form of Islam, said  as many as 65,000 people had joined the rally, while authorities put the attendance at 40,000.

The mood was very different on the other side of the river Rhine. Erdogan followers arrived at the 18,000-seat Lanxess Arena, which was festooned with Turkish flags and a banner that read "Welcome Mr Prime Minister, we are proud of you".

Conservative supporters, including many men in suits and women wearing traditional headscarves, passed through airport-style security as speakers started hailing the invited speaker.

To Erdogan's loyal supporters, he is a strong leader who rose from a poor Istanbul neighbourhood to oversee over a decade of economic growth, raise Turkey's stature in the region and make his mark with a series of eye-catching megaprojects.

"The arrival of Erdogan divides Turks living here in Germany," said Ufuk Cakir, president of the Association of Alevis of North Rhine-Westphalia state, which was co-organizing the protests.

Speaking at the demonstration, Cakir told AFP that "the recent events in Turkey, the corruption scandals, the killings of members of religious minorities, show ... yet again the need for our mobilization".

Erdogan's long-scheduled Germany visit has sparked controversy for days, and Chancellor Angela Merkel this week urged the premier to show "a sense of responsibility and sensitivity" while there.

Top-selling daily Bild in an open letter referred to Erdogan's recent controversial policies, such as blocking Twitter and YouTube, and wrote: "Erdogan, you're not welcome here! ... We do not want politicians like you."

Cologne mayor Juergen Roters said "this election stop by the Turkish prime minister is a provocation", while the head of the Association of German Turks, Safter Cinar, told AFP he hoped Erdogan would strike a "conciliatory tone".

Erdogan's speech was officially to mark the 10th anniversary of the AKP's sister organisation in Germany, the UETD, but was widely seen as a campaign rally.

In August presidential elections, in which Erdogan is expected to run, some 2.6 million overseas Turks will be allowed to vote abroad for the first time - including about 1.5 million in Germany.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit


Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
US tries to block Chinese purchase of Aixtron
Photo: Oliver Berg / DPA / AFP

US President Barack Obama on Friday moved to block a Chinese company's purchase of German semiconductor equipment maker Aixtron by rejecting the inclusion of Aixtron's US business in the deal.

Merkel to chart 2017 election battle at party congress
Photo: Tobias Schwarz / AFP

After Donald Trump's shock victory, Francois Hollande's decision not to seek re-election and populism on the rise, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is next up on the campaign podium to set out her strategy for winning in 2017 polls.

Berlin vs Munich: whose newborn polar bear is cuter?
Berlin's (left) and Munich's (right) newborn bears. Photos: Tierpark Berlin / DPA

Both city zoos welcomed baby polar bears into the world in November, with Berlin zoo its releasing first photos on Friday. But which one is more adorable?

Learn how to speak German like a silver screen icon
Dirty Harry. Photo: DPA

We all agree that there is no other option than to learn irregular German verbs by rote. But when you want a bit of downtime, why not learn from your big screen heroes?

Stolen Dachau 'Work will set you free' gate found: police
The entrance to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Photo: DPA

An iron gate from the former Nazi concentration camp in Germany's Dachau with the slogan "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work will set you free") has been found two years after it was stolen, police said Friday.

Mystery flight path artist draws new message in sky
Photo: DPA

A pilot who likes to draw patterns in the sky using his flight path has returned with his greatest artwork yet.

Berlin 'abusing power' to stop Snowden coming to Germany
Edward Snowden. Photo: DPA

Opposition parties have accused the coalition government of overstepping its authority in its attempt to block American whistleblower Edward Snowden's trip to Germany.

Germany gains record number of Michelin-star restaurants
Head of the Michelin Guide, Michael Ellis (centre) with Michelin-star chefs at a presentation in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

Germany had a slew of newly minted Michelin-star restaurants this year, and its top-rated establishments held onto their prestigious three stars.

At last: Germany passes major disabled rights reform
People in wheelchairs watch as the German parliament deliberates on the new disability rights reform. Photo: DPA.

For years people with disabilities in Germany have called for legislation to provide them with better benefits and opportunities in life and work. On Thursday the German parliament passed such a reform - but is it enough?

How new German rules are holding refugee families apart
Children wait for food in Jarablus, Syria. Photo: DPA

Germany, trying to staunch the flow of Syrian refugees, has placed high hurdles for them to be reunited with their families, creating a Kafkaesque nightmare in the courts.

Lifestyle
10 German Christmas cookies you have to bake this winter
Sponsored Article
The key to launching your international career
Lifestyle
Our 10-step guide for doing Christmas just like a German
National
Here's why so many Germans vote for the far-right AfD
National
7 events in Germany that'll make December unforgettable
Lifestyle
7 frosty German sayings to make you a winter wordsmith
National
This is how unequal German society has become
National
Six things you should know about the Lufthansa strike
National
9 ways living in Germany will make you a better person
National
These 10 German Christmas markets cannot be missed
Features
8 German words that unlock amazing secrets in English
Culture
10 German words with simply hilarious literal translations
Lifestyle
7 things Germans do that make foreigners feel awkward
International
Why Donald Trump's grandad was booted out of Germany
National
This is what is really inside your Döner kebab
National
Rejoice! Christmas markets start opening across Germany
Education
These German universities are best at landing you a job
Travel
Why Heidelberg is Germany's most inspiring city
Lifestyle
This soppy German Christmas ad will bring you to tears
National
Here's where Germans speak the best (and worst) English
Culture
10 German books you have to read before you die
Culture
U-Bahn train found filled with autumn foliage in Berlin
Features
Seven German words that unlock amazing secrets about English
Travel
Germany's ten most beautiful towns you've never visited
6,627
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd