April 17, 2007


In an April 16th interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE INTERNATIONAL, Tayip Erdogan, Turkey's Prime Minister made the following outrageous statement when asked about freedom of religion in Turkey:

SPIEGEL: Brussels complains that the pace of reforms in Turkey has slowed. For example, you still have the infamous Article 301, which makes the denigration of Turkishness prosecutable and limits freedom of opinion. The EU is also demanding complete freedom of religion.

Erdogan: In Turkey the religious minorities have more rights than they do in Europe. What aspect of their faith are they not allowed to live out here? Do we tear down their churches?

Actually Mr. Erdogan that is exactly what you and successive Turkish governments have been doing for decades. Please do not insult our intelligence. We suggest you go to the following website for a partial list of destroyed Armenian churches: The Genocide Education Project

Further along in the interview the following give and take took place regarding the infamous Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code and the murder of Hrant Dink earlier this year:

SPIEGEL: Why are authors still tried in Turkey under Article 301?

Erdogan: I see that you are influenced by the Turkish press! Please check how many have been sentenced under this law or are in jail.

SPIEGEL: But people have been convicted. For example, murdered journalist Hrant Dink, who had Armenian roots, was sentenced to probation.

Erdogan: I met the writers who say that Article 301 must be completely eliminated. I asked them: Do you want to make it easier to decry the state, the parliament or the prime minister? I am saying yes to criticism, but no to insults. There are similar laws in Europe -- but for us it is about Turkishness, and for you it is about the German nation.

SPIEGEL: But we are protecting the state, there is no protection for "Germanness." So you don't want to change 301?

Erdogan: I don't think it should fall completely. The article also protects the right to criticize.

OK - The man is evidently smoking something in transit from Afghanistan to Europe. But Erdogan might actually be elected Turkey's next president. In fact, voting in Turkey's parliament for the next head of state will start after the closing date for nominations, April 25th.

So far, Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) which has a clear parliamentary majority has not yet announced whether Erdogan will be its candidate.

This past Saturday a demonstration in Ankara protesting a possible Erdogan candidacy rallied some 300,000 "secular Kemalists". Many in Turkey view Erdogan as a closet Islamicist who if elected will slowly dismantle the bureaucratic state structures and secular nationalism founded on the teachings and tenets of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Read the entire SPIEGEL interview HERE


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