Turkish premier cancels German awards ceremony visit | News | DW | 17.03.2012
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Turkish premier cancels German awards ceremony visit

Organizers of a controversial award ceremony honoring Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the German city of Bochum say he has called off his visit to receive the award.

Organizers in the German city of Bochum, who had faced hefty criticism over a social advancement award intended for Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday, cited Friday's Turkish helicopter crash in Afghanistan as the reason for the cancellation.

Police in Bochum had been mobilizing for an anticipated 20,000 protestors opposed to Erdogan receiving the citation, including minorities such as Kurds, Armenians and the Alevis religious community critical of Turkey's recent human rights record.

The so-called Steiger Award intended for Erdogan had also drawn condemnation from Germany's governing conservatives, the opposition Greens and the German journalists' trade union, the DJV.

Friday's crash of a Turkish Sikorsky helicopter near Kabul killed 12 Turkish soldiers and four Afghan civilians. It was by far the deadliest incident involving Turkish troops in Afghanistan, where they have been assigned a noncombat role with US-led NATO forces.

Award with coal-mining ethos

The Steiger Award, reminiscent of Ruhr District's coal mining tradition and the leadership role of pit foreman known in German as "steiger," stems from a private initiative and honors personalities for perceived tolerance, humanity and record of social advancement.

Award organizer Sachsa Hellen told DW on Saturday that Erdogan had called off his trip to Germany because of the Turkish helicopter crash in Afghanistan. The rest of the ceremony for 10 other recipients was expected to proceed as intended. Initiated in 2005, the Steiger Award is this year being awarded to to Queen Silvia of Sweden, the fashion designer Wolfgang Joop and Germany's ex-president Horst Köhler, among others.

Gastarbeiter aus der Türkei sitzen nach ihrer Schicht auf einer Bank auf dem Gelände der Zeche Neu-Monopol in Bergkamen im Kreis Unna. (Undatiert).

Remembing 50 years of Turkish "guest workers" in Germany

Organizers said they had picked Erdogan to mark 50 years of German-Turkish friendship that began in the early 1960s with the recruitment of what Germany then called Turkish "guest workers." Some three million people of Turkish origin now live in Germany.

Bizarre, says Bavarian CSU

On Friday, Alexander Dobrindt, the General Secretary of Bavaria's governing conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) - a partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition - had described the Steiger invitation to Erdogan as "tasteless" and "bizarre."

"The gross opposite of tolerance prevails in Erdogan's country, namely repression of religious and ethnic minorities, insufficient press freedom and an absence of equal opportunities for women," Dobrindt said.

A statement released by the Alevis Community in Germany said the prize planned for Erdogan would be a "slap in the face for all minorities in Turkey."

The Greens' spokesman on migratory issues in the German Bundestag parliament, Memet Kilic, said that, despite Turkey's quest for EU membership, Erdogan neither promoted improved ties with Europe "nor tolerance and religious freedoms."

Since the mid-1980s, a struggle between Turkish authorities and Kurdish separatists has resulted in some 40,000 deaths. In recent years, Erdogan's government has promulgated reforms, such as allowing Kurdish language broadcasting.

On Women's Day, 8 March, Turkey's parliament passed laws aimed at protecting women from domestic abuse while women's rights activists highlighted patriarchal outrages, including "honor killings."

On Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan admitted that Turkey's slow legal system often left suspects jailed for years without a conviction. Several thousand Turkish complainants have cases pending with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

ipj/rc (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)

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