Turkey and the Netherlands' converging ideologies
Diplomatic relations between the Netherlands and Turkey have been restored, a common statement of the foreign ministries of both countries announced this Friday. There are, after all, a lot of common interests, like migration, combating terrorism and economic cooperation. What was not added is that the governments of both countries are ideologically more in line with each other. That may make conversation run more smoothly, but is nevertheless not good news.
There is a reference in the common statement to the ‘regretful events’ in March 2017. Many people remember those events. There was a referendum upcoming in Turkey about the constitution, and the Turkish government wanted to campaign in favour of the constitutional changes in the Netherlands.
The Dutch government resisted that and expelled the Turkish minister Fatma Kaya, who had come to Rotterdam via Germany. A group of Dutch Turks didn’t accept that and rebelled. "Get lost", Dutch Prime Minister Rutte told them. After all, not only in Turkey, also in the Netherlands a vote was coming up, for parliament to be precise. Playing off sentiments against not-native Dutch people is an easy way to score points in the Netherlands these days. This triggered the break in relations between Ankara and The Hague.
In retrospect, it was actually the rapprochement between Ankara and The Hague that started in March 2017. The group of Dutch Turks who were waving Turkish flags on the landmark Erasmus Bridge, incited quite fierce emotions among other Dutch people, mostly white ones.
Did those waving flags consider themselves Dutchmen or Turks? And in case of the latter, why were they still living in the Netherlands?
One after another politician confronted Dutch Turks who voted in favour of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The most recent example was Gert-Jan Segers, the leader of the Christian Union (CU), a small Christian party that is part of the Dutch governing coalition. He said in an interview with a Dutch daily that Dutch Turks had to choose. What he meant was: if you live in the Netherlands, you have to be one hundred percent Dutch – even if you are not.
I wondered: where had I heard that point of view before? Of course, in Turkey, the country where I worked as a correspondent between 2006 and 2015 and from which I was expelled in 2015 because I had, besically, besides Dutch become a little bit too Kurdish as well.
Two identities, that’s problematic in Turkey – unless it is the state imposed combination of ‘Turk’ and ‘Sunni Muslim’. ‘Turk’ and ‘Alevi’ - the country's largest religious minority group - is problematic, ‘Kurd’ and ‘Sunni Muslim’ is too, let alone ‘Kurd’ and ‘Alevi’ or any other unwelcome combination.
With its state ideology, Turkey has been refusing for close to a century now the fact that people always carry multiple identities. You can try to push people into a box, but they will eventually break out if that box simply does not fit.
In the aforementioned interview, Segers said that the Netherlands has to speak out more firmly against President Erdoğan's regime. He does not realize, or refuses to acknowledge, that his and the whole government’s line of thought is increasingly shifting towards the Turkish state ideology of one identity for all. An ideology refuses people the space to be who they are and thus denies the humanity of every single one of us.
To confirm the renewed friendship between Turkey and the Netherlands, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs will pay a visit to Turkey later this year. It is not clear whether that will be Foreign Minister Blok, who may be forced to step down because of the blantantly racist comments, leaked this week, that he made at a meeting with Dutch expats. He probably will not: racism is considered an ‘opinion’ in the Netherlands nowadays, so the parliament will not be too hard on him.
Maybe his Turkish counterpart Çavuşoğlu has heard about the upheaval about Blok. Maybe he heard that Blok considers Turkish bakery shops problematic. Will he ask which measures Blok proposes against Turkish bakery shops in Dutch cities? Will he close them down? Force them to choose another name?
I have a piece of advice for Blok. Confirm that those are actual options, and then remind Çavuşoğlu that that is exactly what Turkey is doing with Kurdish bakery shops that dare to hang a signboard in their mother tongue. That should smoothen the creases. Everything, as the common statement put it, back to normal.