Turkey-Sweden Relations Strain Further as Kurds Stage Hanging of 'Dictator Erdogan' in Stockholm

Turkey ordered a probe after PKK activists hanged an effigy of President Tayyip Erdogan by its leg in the Swedish capital and called him a dictator. The act of protest was staged by the Swedish Solidarity Committee for Rojava, which represents the Kurdish territories of Syria.

Earlier, diplomatic tensions between Turkey and Sweden worsened on Thursday after the footage was aired online by the pro-Kurdistan activists in Sweden. The incident comes at a time when Stockholm and Ankara are pushing on with a strained negotiation over Sweden's quest to join the North American Treaty Organization (NATO).

Erdogan effigy being hanged by PKK inSweden
Erdogan effigy being hanged by PKK in Sweden Reuters

Turkey has blocked Sweden's entry into the security alliance, saying Stockholm supports Kurdish independence activists. The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) fights for a Kurdish nation in a region intersecting Syria, Iraq and Turkey. Ankara considers PKK, which fought the Turkish state for the creation of an independent territory, as a terror organization.

'How Dictators End Up'

Turkey summoned Sweden's ambassador on Thursday to protest the staging of the 'hanging' outside the Stockholm city halls. Sweden denounced the act, and Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said he "strongly repudiates threats and hatred against political representatives". He also said Sweden supports 'an open debate on political choices'.

The video aired by the Rojava shows a mannequin representing Erdogan hanging from a pole. "History has shown that this is how dictators end up... It's time for Erdogan to resign before he ends up hanged in Taksim", the video says. Taksim is the main square in Istanbul.

Who is Seher Cagla Demir, female PKK member identified as Ankara bomber?
Kurdish children, with their hands chained, march and shout slogans during a demonstration calling for the release of jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Beirut, Lebanon February 14, 2016 Reuters

Human Rights Violation

The Kurdish rights groups have been stepping up pressure on Stockholm in recent months, after the Erdogan regime started pressing for tough measures against Kurdish activists in Sweden. Stockholm recently extradited an activist to Turkey as part of efforts to placate Ankara. It is important for Sweden to come into an agreement with Turkey, as under the Nato rules all members must agree before a new nation can be admitted into the bloc.

The Kurds in Sweden say that giving in to Turkish demands violates human rights and that Ankara will only keep pressing for more such measures. "When you show an autocratic regime that you're willing to change your laws and infringe upon the rights of your people on their behalf, that regime will keep asking for more ... This is the only possible outcome when you make concessions to leaders like Erdogan," she added," Meghan Bodette, Director of Research at the Kurdish Peace Organisation, tweeted.

40,000 Kurds hold rally for independence

Turkey has said that the incident shows Stockholm's failure in keeping its promises. The Turkish foreign ministry said the hanging video was a clear violation of Sweden's promises under the memorandum of understanding signed between the countries in June.

"That the PKK defies the Swedish authorities in the heart of Stockholm proves that they have not taken the necessary measures against terrorism, contrary to what they assured recently," said Fahrettin Altun, a spokesman for the Turkish president, according to Euro News.