By Alex Rühle, Stockholm
The Turkish-Swedish merry-go-round of outrage is now spinning so fast that you can hardly keep up. On Saturday afternoon, a Koran burned in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, and in the afternoon, opponents of NATO and sympathizers of the Kurdish liberation arms marched through the city center and ran over a photo of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s face. The demonstrators were carrying a doll of the Turkish president that they had hung by its feet ten days earlier. All of this led to large demonstrations and protests in Turkey, but also in many Arab countries over the weekend. On Monday evening, after a cabinet meeting, Erdoğan announced that Sweden should no longer expect Turkish support for its NATO membership. Anyone who “allows blasphemy in front of our embassy” can no longer rely on Turkey’s help, he said.
On top of all that, there is now an Erdoğan cartoon competition: The Socialist Magazine The flame has called for this as a symbolic defense of freedom of expression and a protest against the Swedish government, which it says is betraying democratic values in an attempt to wrestle the Turkish government into approving Sweden’s entry into NATO. According to the editors, they received 400 submissions. The winning image shows an old man holding a small human in both hands and about to bite off its head with vampire-like fangs. Apparently he’s already mutilated his feet. Judging by the clothing, one can assume that the victim of the cannibal was a Kurdish resistance fighter.
— Leonidas Aretakis (@LAretakis) January 23, 2023” data-teaserlist-element>
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The award-winning draftsman, a graduate of the Stockholm Art Academy, alludes to Goya’s dark painting “Saturn Devouring His Children”, which Leonidas Aretakis, who The flame-Editor interprets in an interview with the SZ as an “artistic response to the horrors of war and the Inquisition”. “Only this time it’s Erdogan who eats his own children.” Five Swedish newspapers, including The Expressas well as the Finnish one New time have declared in a journalistic alliance that they also want to publish the cartoon.
The demonstrators are “terrorists” for Erdoğan’s government
The winning image is probably too artificial and abstract for much Twitter outrage. Flamman will show 16 more pictures from the competition, which are less subtle, showing Erdoğan and his Swedish colleague Ulf Kristersson, for example, as a gay bondage couple or as a harem pasha with a small pleasure slave. If these pictures go viral, which is to be expected, the Swedish-Turkish negotiations will become even more difficult.
Several members of the Turkish government already described the puppet action as “terror” and the Saturday demonstrators as “terrorists”. Erdoğan’s spokesman Fahrettin Altun compared the burning of the Koran to the Night of Broken Glass in 1938, which says more about the excessiveness of Turkish outrage than about the tasteless populist one-man action by Danish right-wing extremist Rasmus Paludan.
In addition, there is the global Internet mob, which pours hectoliters of fuel on the fire by mixing half-truths with hate speech. Chechen provincial dictator Ramzan Kadyrov, for example, insinuated that the Swedish government was behind the burning of the Koran: “I am firmly convinced that this heinous act was not only approved, but also initiated and paid for by political forces. Otherwise it would be such a harsh and challenging provocation not approved.”
The sad point: Kadyrov hits a point in that it later emerged that it was the Sweden Democrats who paid Rasmus Paludan both the demonstration fees and the cost of his flight from Copenhagen. The Sweden Democrats are not part of Sweden’s three-party coalition, but they have a huge influence on government policy, having won the most votes in the conservative camp in last autumn’s election. Paludan, who also has Swedish nationality, essentially ran through the Sweden Democrats’ right-wing populist program during his Koran burning, inciting incitement against migrants and Muslims, branding them all criminals and social parasites.