A billboard advertisement at Istanbul's international airport warned travelers that Sweden has the highest rape rate in the world. In fact, Sweden's rape rate is average for Europe.
A large advertisement in the departure section of Istanbul's Ataturk airport falsely claimed Sweden has the highest rape rate in the world, in the latest source of tensions between Turkey and Europe.
Printed in English and Turkish, the advertisement reads: "Travel Warning! Did you know that Sweden has the highest rape rate worldwide?" Also on the billboard is an image of the front page of the pro-government "Gunes" newspaper, which paid for the advertisement, saying: "Sweden, a country of rape."
The advertisement led to a Twitter storm in Turkey, where #DontTravelToSweden was trending on Friday.
The advertisement came after Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom earlier this week irked Ankara with a tweet critical of a Turkish court's decision to annul a law that named sexual acts with children under the age of 15 "sexual abuse."
The top court gave the Turkish parliament six months to rewrite the law according to its ruling. The case came from a lower court that was concerned there was no distinction between sex crimes involving a teenager or a young child. According to Turkish media, the government plans to rewrite the law with stiffer penalties for rape cases in which the victims are under 12, and a separate category for those between 12 and 18.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said earlier this week Wallstrom's comments were "the result of racism and anti-Islam sentiment in Europe." Turkey also summoned the Swedish ambassador to the Foreign Ministry.
In a news article on Friday, "Gunes" said it had run the advertisement in response to Sweden joining other countries in a "defamation campaign" against Turkey. It also referred to another spat between Austria and Turkey over the weekend, when a news ticker at Vienna airport read: "Turkey allows sex with children under the age of 15."
The Swedish Embassy in Ankara responded to the "Gunes" advertisement with a tweet explaining how rape is calculated in Sweden, where officials say the rape rate is average for Europe.
According to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, the country has a high statistical rate of sexual crimes because of the broad definition of rape and more women report rape than in other countries.
"Every single offence is for example recorded separately and all reported events are counted as crimes even if some of them later are found not to have constituted criminal offences," the Swedish Embassy added.
cw/sms (AFP, Reuters)