Even without a state visit by Turkish President Erdogan, his party’s election campaign in Germany is continuing. Experts warn of the extent of such events and recognize a threat to German democracy.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has canceled his planned visit to Germany on Friday. Difficulties in agreeing on topics and a time were given as the reason. The “Frankfurter Rundschau” reported that Chancellor Olaf Scholz insisted on publicly criticizing the hate speech of an AKP MP in Neuss during his visit. Erdogan did not agree with that.

On January 13, AKP MP Mustafa Açıkgöz gave a hate speech in the “Yunus-Emre Mosque”, which belongs to the right-wing extremist Gray Wolves. In it he threatened, among other things, to “annihilate” the Kurds and the Gülen movement, which attempted a coup in 2016. “Just as we won’t give them the right to live in Turkey, we won’t give them that in Germany either. No matter where they flee in the world, we will crush the PKK and [Gülen] terror supporters,” Açıkgöz said in the speech.

Political scientist and Turkey researcher Burak Çopur welcomed the German government’s decision not to hold a meeting with Erdogan under these circumstances.

“President Erdogan expects from the free world that his party and his cult of personality remain just as sacrosanct and spared criticism as in his Turkish autocracy.” Berlin informed him unequivocally that this was not possible Democracy in Germany and for a clear stance on foreign policy,” said Çopur to the “FR”.

Çopur warns of new hate tirades from Erdogan supporters and fears that critics in Germany could soon be in danger. “I’m used to a lot of hate and agitation from Erdogan’s ranks in Germany, but this has reached a new level. We’re sitting on a powder keg,” said Çopur in an interview with “Stern”. Çopur has already experienced this hatred himself. Because of his open criticism of the regime, the researcher has received death threats and is under police protection.

Despite the canceled state visit, Erdogan’s election campaign in Germany continues. His re-election on May 14 is uncertain, which is why he is counting on the 1.4 million Turks who are eligible to vote in Germany. According to a report by Deutsche Welle, almost half voted in the last election. 65 percent fell on Erdogan, more than 12 percentage points more than Turkey’s overall result.

Eren Güvercin, chairwoman of the regional association of the “Liberal Diversity Berlin”, explains that AKP events do not always receive as much attention as the appearance in Neuss. They are often advertised as “banal exchanges” with Turkish citizens. “In terms of content, these events are about clear election campaign events,” Güvercin told the “FR”.

It is also not surprising that Mustafa Açıkgöz gave his speech in a mosque of the right-wing extremist “Grey Wolves”. Erdogan is specifically looking for ways to join forces with ultra-nationalist groups. They are prepared to intimidate undecided voters into voting if necessary.

“The AKP will pull out all the stops to mobilize voices in Germany. If we want to prevent further tensions in Germany, then we must act now,” warns Güvercin.

The warning from Çopur and Güvercin was at least partially heeded. According to “Stern” from the North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry of the Interior, it was said that the statements by the AKP deputy should be examined for criminal liability. Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also invited representatives of the Turkish embassy and wanted to review any consequences.

“I hope that everyone now understands that this is not about a mud fight among ‘Turks’, this is about defending German democracy against extremists,” said Burak Çopur.

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