Turkish Riots in Rotterdam Threaten Dutch Political Stability Ahead of Elections This Week
The Reuters picture above of supporters of Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan are not from Istanbul or Ankara, but from riots overnight in Rotterdam that threaten the stability of the Netherlands ahead of Dutch parliamentary elections later this week.
The Rotterdam riots, which required a state of emergency to be declared by the Dutch government, are part of a larger unfolding drama involving provocations by the Turkish government inciting millions of Turkish citizens living in European countries.
The current crisis began when the Dutch government prevented the Turkish foreign minister from landing in the Netherlands to hold a political rally in Rotterdam in support of dictator Erdogan and an upcoming referendum in Turkey intended to give Erdogan more power. The foreign minister then landed in Metz, France.
Several hundred demonstrators waving Turkish flags gathered outside the Turkish consulate in the Dutch city of Rotterdam on Saturday, demanding to see the Turkish minister for family affairs as a dispute between the two countries escalated.
Police erected metal barriers and patrolled on horseback to keep the demonstrators away from the consulate as the crowd grew with more pro-Turkish protesters arriving from Germany.
Turkish Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya traveled by road to the Netherlands from neighboring Germany after the Dutch government revoked landing rights for a plane carrying Turkey's foreign minister earlier on Saturday.
Dutch TV footage showed police stopping the minister's convoy near the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam and preventing her from entering the building.
The Dutch government said it did not want Turkish politicians campaigning among Turkish emigres in the Netherlands, leading President Tayyip Erdogan to brand the fellow NATO member a "Nazi remnant".
After Dutch authorities declared Turkish Family Minister Kaya persona non grata and a confrontation with Dutch police prevented her from approaching the consulate, with Kaya locking herself in an armored car and police beginning to tow away the car with her in it, she eventually got into another car and was deported to the German border from where she entered the country.
Then commenced the rioting by Erdogan's Turkish supporters living in the Netherlands:
These are some of the rocks that the rioters were throwing at police:
Here is video of some of the confrontations:
That prompted the mayor of Rotterdam -- a Muslim -- to declare a state of emergency in the town center. That would later be expanded by the Dutch government regionally.
This has ignited a serious diplomatic row between Turkey and the Netherlands, with threats being made against Dutch diplomatic officials in Turkey:
And Erdogan himself has jumped into the fray, describing the Dutch decision to prevent Turkish officials from staging a rally in the Netherlands as an act akin to the Nazis, who occupied Holland during World War II:
Which prompted a retort from Rotterdam's mayor:
Turkish media are casting the crisis as the Dutch authorities suppressing democracy -- all while Erdogan's jails are filled with journalists, former government officials, and thousands of Turkish citizens (all victims of his ongoing political purges):
Of course John McCain was just in Turkey a few weeks ago meeting with Erdogan and touting our shared "democratic values":
There are considerable implications for Holland, the EU, and NATO in this crisis.
First is that Dutch parliamentary elections are scheduled for later this week, with anti-immigration candidate Geert Wilders competing for a lead in the polls. Tonight's activity, and possibly more protests in coming days, is sure to give Wilders a considerable boost.
Secondly, there are more than a million Turkish citizens living next door in Germany, as well as in neighboring European countries. In fact, Germany backed down from canceling a pro-Erdogan protest in Germany yesterday morning:
Here's a veiled threat by Erdogan to unleash more refugees on Europe if his demands are not met regarding lifting visa restrictions to allow more Turkish citizens to migrate to the EU:
And this diplomatic crisis could provoke a crisis within NATO -- pitting NATO allies against each other and putting the U.S. in a precarious position in choosing whose side to take:
Many observers in Europe, the U.S., and in the Middle East will continue to watch events unfold this week. The Dutch elections will give an indication of how European citizens are responding to these events and of the prospects of anti-immigration parties throughout Europe.