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Opinion: Turkish warning on Germany merely tit-for-tat diversion

The Turkish government has issued a travel warning for its citizens traveling to Germany. This diversionary tactic is an attempt to cover up the human rights situation in Turkey itself, writes DW's Oliver Sallet.

It sounds like some sort of joke: A travel warning for Germany – issued by the Turkish government. A despotic state is accusing a constitutional state of racism. But the latest provocation from Ankara is by no means meant to be funny. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is serious: Germany is dangerous, and Turkish citizens need to be warned.

At the same time, an increasing number of Turkish refugees are applying for asylum in Germany. Since the failed coup in the summer of 2016, Turkish citizens have gladly sought safety in Germany. In July alone, there were more than 600 asylum applications – in the last two years, the number has more than tripled.

Watch video 02:10

Turkey issues travel warning for Germany - Dorian Jones in Istanbul

It is ironic that there are so many asylum applications in Germany, because according to the Turkish government's travel warning, issued last Saturday, one should avoid getting "involved in political debates." One should also respond in a calm manner towards any "racist and xenophobic aggression." The Turkish asylum seekers at least, do not appear to have been put off so far.

 

Right-wing populism becoming increasingly socially acceptable

The fact is that right-wing populist statements have become increasingly socially acceptable in Germany since the refugee crisis. If the anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is elected to the German parliament, it will be the first time that a far right-wing party has seats in government since the Second World War. And AfD top candidate, Alexander Gauland, recently demanded that the German migration commissioner, who is of Turkish origin, be "dumped back in Anatolia." Now the public prosecutor's office is investigating the party for hate speech. Yet this does not seem to affect the AfD's popularity. It may even end up being the third strongest party in the federal elections.

The Turks' outrage may well be justified. However, there is no danger for Turks in Germany. In any case, the number of Turkish tourists in the country is fairly low – and even the two million Turks who live in Germany hardly need to fear "being dumped in Anatolia." Erdogan's travel warning cannot have been directed at them.

Erdogan using the German election to up the ante

DW correspondent Oliver Sallet

DW correspondent Oliver Sallet

The target of Erdogan's message is clear: It is aimed at the millions of Turkish voters, who have never been to Germany and who also do not intend to travel there. It is about Turkish domestic politics and currying favor with his supporters. The ruler in Bosporus wants to send out another sign of his strength and at the same time, show the Germans his new self-confidence. He already did this during his election campaign for the referendum on modifying Turkey and increasing his power. Now he is using the German election campaign and the calls by Merkel and Schulz to suspend the EU accession talks with Turkey, to up the ante.

Turkish citizens should stay away "from political rallies and public spaces" where demonstrations take place that could be "organized or supported by terrorist organizations and tolerated by the German authorities," it said in the travel warning.

The allegation: Germany grants protection to terrorists

Erdogan alleges that Germany is teeming with supporters of the banned Kurdish workers' party (PKK)  - which has not been denied by the German government. Further, this is not a new allegation. The German domestic intelligence agency calls the PKK the "most powerful foreign extremist organization in Germany." Erdogan's complaint is that Germany is not sufficiently resolute in its action against the PKK and provides protection to terrorists. But this allegation is unfounded. Since 1993, the PKK has been banned in Germany – even publicly showing a portrait of the imprisoned PKK leader, Ocalan, is punishable. Almost 4,500 investigative proceedings against PKK members and sympathizers were pending last year. Are Turks in Germany in danger from the PKK? Hardly.

Germany can respond calmly to the "travel warning." It is a further provocation against a country that upholds the principles of the rule of law – from a country that has to accept that it is seen by others as under arbitrary rule.

Dilek Mayatürk Yücel and Deniz Yücel (privat)

Dilek Mayatürk Yücel and Deniz Yücel

Next provocation only a matter of time

The travel warning is nothing more than a tit-for-tat response to the increased warning for German citizens traveling to Turkey. This was a warning about the "increase in German citizens being arbitrarily imprisoned."

German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel celebrated his 44th birthday last weekend, behind bars. On Monday it became known that a German couple had been arrested in Istanbul.  The Turkish authorities did not follow the due process of law.

Erdogan can perhaps score points in his own country for such measures as issuing a travel warning.  But he will hardly be able to distract his partners abroad from the fact that the human rights situation in Turkey is getting worse. Many EU states still speak out against ending the accession negotiations with Turkey. But the next provocation is only a matter of time. Until then, the German government would be well advised not to fall into Erdogan's trap and to see the travel warning for what it is: a domestic political red herring.

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