• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Thousands protest at Erdogan German rally

AFP · 24 May 2014, 18:29

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

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".

Story continues below…

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.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Babies and corpses turning up in record numbers
Photos: DPA

Germany is experiencing a mini baby boom - but a veritable "death boom" is more than balancing out the score sheet.

Monsanto still 'open' to deal with German chemical giant
An Indian Monsanto farmer seen at work in 'Sweet Corn' field at Monsanto Bangalore Centre. Photo: EPA.

Monsanto said on Wednesday it was still open to a potential merger with Bayer, or to another big deal, as it reported lower earnings due to a tough agricultural market.

Shock birthday party attack at campsite leaves one dead
A broken fence posts found at the campsite. Photo: DPA.

Violence erupted at a campsite birthday party in Lower Saxony leaving one dead, police reported on Wednesday.

Trabi totalled on Autobahn after skidding on snail slime
Photo: Paderborn police

A vintage East German "Trabi" car has come unstuck after its driver hit a snail trail on the Autobahn.

Munich 'to spend extra €2.2m' on Oktoberfest security
Oktoberfest in Munich, 2014. Photo: DPA.

After terror attacks in Paris, Brussels and most recently Istanbul, Munich could spend nearly €3 million more on security and other measures - but terrorism isn't the only concern: the biggest fear is overcrowding.

The Local List
Six ways to make this Munich summer one to remember
The Kocherlball in the English Garden. Photo: DPA

At a loss for what to do with the warm months in Munich this year? These six attractions have to go on your summer bucket list.

Brexit vote
Germans rally on Twitter to show love for UK
Photo: DPA

Twitter was swamped with tributes after Germany's largest liberal newspaper asked readers to show some love for Britain despite its vote to leave the EU.

German kidnaps Swiss child, raising online gaming fears
File photo: Rachel Johnson / Flickr Creative Commons.

A 12-year-old Swiss boy was allegedly abused by a German man he first met online.

'Hero' refugee hands in €150,000 he found in wardrobe
Muhannad and the secondhand wardrobe. Photo: Minden Police.

A refugee from Syria found a huge stash of money in a secondhand wardrobe he bought. But keeping it for himself would have been a betrayal of his religion, he said.

Istanbul airport bombing
Flights from Berlin to Istanbul cancelled after terror attack
Turkish police block the road after an suicide bomb attack at Atatürk Airport in Istanbul. Photo: EPA.

All flights from Berlin's Tegel airport to Istanbul have been cancelled after a suicide bomb attack killed at least 36 people in the city's major airport.

Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Sponsored Article
US expats: Taxes are due June 15th
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Lifestyle
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Society
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Lifestyle
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
Features
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
Culture
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
Features
6 reasons Germany's summer is unbeatable for thrill-seekers
National
The future belongs to these 10 German regions
7,924
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd