An effigy of Erdogan, hung in Stockholm on Wednesday, has caused diplomatic problems for Sweden. The country, which has bid to join NATO, now faces the possibility of having their application denied if Turkey refuses to grant their approval.
The act was evidently part of a protest led by the PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party), which is believed to have tied the effigy by its legs to a flagpole outside of the capital’s City Hall. Yet their actions may have not only targeted the Turkish President. The group might also have sought to prevent Sweden from becoming an EU member state.
Ulf Kristersson, the prime minister of Sweden, condemned the protest as well as the representation.
Sweden denounces PKK
The violence of the imagery shocked and angered both countries, which both decried the action individually.
Erdogan’s mannequin has been executed in Sweden’s Stockholm, which drew strong criticism from the Turkish leadership
The Swedish FM in response says “Portraying a popularly elected president as being executed outside City Hall is abhorrent.”
— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) January 12, 2023
It was “extremely dangerous…to make a mock execution of a foreign democratically elected leader,” Kristersson said according to ABC News.
Kristersson also declared it an act of “sabotage against the Swedish NATO application.”
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström also castigated the group’s demonstration of “threats and hatred against political representatives.” According to The Guardian, he repeated Kristersson’s statement that “portraying a popularly elected president as being executed outside City Hall is abhorrent.”
Turkey’s response to the incident was slightly more brutal and swift. Turkish Speaker of Parliament Mustafa Sentop immediately canceled an official visit with Speaker of the Riksdag Andreas Norlén. Such a move is particularly significant because the smooth transition of Sweden’s request does require sound diplomatic relationships between the two countries.
“I believe it is regrettable that the visit has been canceled,” Norlen told TT, the Swedish news agency.
Turkey strikes back
Turkey stated that the PKK sought to destroy diplomatic ties between the two just when they are of utmost importance.
“Their target is not only the president, but the main target of the terrorist [organization] is Türkiye,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu initially decried.
Yet he did provide an addendum. “The second goal is to prevent Sweden from joining NATO,” he said. “It continues provocations to prevent Sweden’s NATO membership. PKK/YPG is laying mines in Sweden’s way to NATO membership. Clearing these mines and stepping on them deliberately are Sweden’s choices.”
Çavuşoğlu also pointed out the new Swedish government’s apparent willingness to fight against the PKK.
“They are a little more determined than the old government on this issue, but it is not enough to show determination in words,” he said. “We need to see it in action. They must fulfill their obligations.”
Tobias Billström received a summons from the Turkish government on January 12th to meet in Ankara to make its complaint official. It was only in June of last year that Turkey lifted its veto on Finland and Sweden joining the EU. What happens now may very well depend on the meeting the Swedish Foreign Minister will attend.