Europeans will not be able to walk safely on the street anywhere in the world if European countries maintain their current attitude toward Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said while also declaring that Turkey is no longer a country to be jostled.
“I am calling out to Europeans who are shaking their fingers at us: Turkey is not a country to be hustled around; it is not a country whose honor is to be played with, whose ministers are to be kicked out and whose citizens are to be jostled on the streets,” Erdoğan said at an event for local journalists in Ankara on March 22.
“If you keep up with this attitude, tomorrow no European or Western people will be able to walk in the streets with peace and safety in any place in the world,” he said.
The comments come amid a nadir in relations between Turkey and Europe, particularly Germany and the Netherlands.
Turkey became embroiled in a row with Germany and the Netherlands after Turkish ministers were prevented from making campaign appearances ahead of Turkey’s constitutional amendment referendum on April 16.
“If you open this dangerous path, you will suffer the greatest damage. As Turkey, we invite European countries to respect democracy, human rights and freedom. It should not be forgotten that these values are as needed in Europe as they are here,” he said.
Responding to criticisms that Turkey had restricted freedom of the press, Erdoğan said he “will not tolerate” any insult against himself.
“Cannot we use our right to go to the legal authorities about those who insult the president of the republic, disrespecting the position with all kinds of cartoons?” he asked.
“Criticize me, tell me my mistakes, I will benefit from them. But when it comes to insulting, I cannot tolerate it. I have to search for legal remedies,” he added.
Referring to the latest reports of international journalism associations, which state that at least 149 journalists are currently languishing in jail in Turkey, Erdoğan said: “There aren’t any journalists in that list.
We currently received a list of 149 detained journalists. Our friends had a look at the list and find out that 144 of them are detained over terror charges and four are for ordinary crimes.”
Erdoğan said he looked at the list and said, “They’re all thieves, child abusers and terrorists.”
“It includes crimes from robbing banks to setting election offices on fire. There is a need to ask a question here, what relation do these people have with journalism that you are making a list and sending it to our country?” he added.
“We are aware of the initial intention,” he said.
“Those who do not hesitate to put democracy, rights, freedoms and fairness aside when it comes to their benefit are putting on a mask when it comes to Turkey. We have decided to treat the ones with masks as bandits,” he said.
“Why are you putting a mask on? Come forward and say ‘I have a matter with Turkey, I want it to be broken into pieces’ so that everybody can see who is who,” he said.