Twelve people were arrested outside of the Turkish embassy in Rotterdam early on Sunday after police in riot gear used batons, dogs and water cannons to disperse crowds of protesters angry that the Dutch government had denied entry to two Turkish officials looking to campaign for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan among the large number of Turkish dual-nationals living there.
The protests broke in both Rotterdam and outside the Dutch consulate in Ankara out after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s flight was prevented from landing in the Netherlands and Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya, Turkey’s family minister, was denied entry by road.
In Istanbul, the Dutch flag was replaced with the Turkish one, according to the Associated Press. A spokesperson for the Dutch police, Patricia Wessels, told the Associated Press that the arrests were made for alleged violence and public order offenses, and that protesters threw bottles and rocks at police early Sunday.
The Turkish officials were to address Turks living in the Netherlands about an April 16 referendum vote on the Turkish Constitution, which would expand the executive powers of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Erdogan’s wing in the Turkish government, the Justice and Development Party, is campaigning internationally for the reforms in European cities and towns with large Turkish populations. About 400,000 ethnic Turks live in the Netherlands, many of whom are dual nationals, according to the Dutch government.
European governments are opposing the efforts by Erdogan — who they say has shown dictatorial tendencies — to expand his power. After an attempted coup last year, the Turkish government imprisoned thousands of people, including journalists, human rights workers and Kurds who opposed his rule. The French government allowed a Cavusoglu to speak to at a gathering in Metz; similar rallies were banned in Germany and Switzerland.
In the Netherlands, a vote on Wednesday is expected to expand representation for Geert Wilders’s nationalist, anti-Islam party, which Erdogan is using as fodder for his own rhetorical flourishes.
Erdogan, in response to the banning of the gatherings, has threatened to impose sanctions on the Netherlands. Causoglu said at the gathering in France that the Netherlands was “the capital of fascism,” echoing a similar statement Erdogan made about Germany last week. He said, “I thought that Nazism was over in Germany, but it turns out that it is still going on. It is still going on, it is clear”, after Germany banned a gathering because, they say, they couldn’t guarantee the official who was to speak’s safety.
“We will teach them international diplomacy,” Erdogan said, and addressing crowds in Istanbul, said, “They are timid and coward. They are Nazi remnants and fascists.”
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Sunday that his government should not give in to Turkish pressure. He tried to diffuse the tension through a statement he made on Facebook. He said, too, that it was “wrong” for Turkey to send political representatives to the Netherlands in spite the Dutch government’s warning that it could inflame tensions.