Why Turkish president Erdogan’s visit to Britain has led to protests

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Protests have been taking place outside Downing Street ahead of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May.

Mr Erdogan, who arrived in Britain on Sunday for a three-day visit, will also meet the Queen.

Why is Erdogan in Britain?

Mr Erdogan and Mrs May are expected to discuss trade, economic relations and international issues.

For the UK’s part, Mrs May will be keen to forge strong links with Turkey ahead of Brexit.

Last year, the two leaders met in Ankara where they agreed a £100 million defence deal to help develop fighter jets for the Turkish air force.

Before arriving in Britain, Mr Erdogan said: “We want to continue our economic relations as the governments of Turkey and the United Kingdom without interruptions after Brexit.”

Why have there been protests?

Since the failed coup against the Turkish government in 2016, thousands of opponents have been purged including public servants, lawyers, police officers and academics.

There has also been a crackdown on journalists who speak out against the government.

This action has been strongly condemned and is likely to be the source for the protests in Britain.

There is also anger that the British government is courting a government accused of abusing human rights. As Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas put it, Mrs May was “increasingly willing to cosy up to repressive leaders”.

Labour MP David Lammy said: “Today human rights abuser and despotic dictator will have the red carpet rolled out for him by [Theresa May] and he will have an audience with HM Queen Elizabeth. Quite disgusting to fawn over this tyrant in an attempt to sell him yet more arms, too cowardly to raise human rights.”

Who was protesting?

A number of different groups took part in the protests including those that support press freedom and journalists: Reporters Without Borders, the Cartoonists Rights Network International and the Index on Censorship.

Index on Censorship told i:

“If the UK government and Theresa May believe in free expression and free speech, then we expect them to put robust discussion of the censorship of journalists, artists and academics in Turkey on the table in meetings with President Erdogan while he is in London.

“The British government has said it defends freedom of expression, so let’s see them put their commitment into action in their foreign policy decisions. Index’s Mapping Media Freedom project has seen 583 reports of attacks on the Turkish media since Erdogan became president. President Erdogan is removing the right of the media to write articles that criticise his policies by imprisoning journalists and  we are also seeing hundreds of academics being removed from their jobs.”

Kurdish refugees also joined the demonstration – under Mr Erdogan’s leadership Turkey has continued to deny the Kurdish people autonomy. The country has also been targeting Kurdish militia – which it considers to be a terrorist group – in the Syrian civil war.

“It is incumbent on the British people to speak out against Theresa May’s cosy hospitality for one of the worst totalitarian leaders in the world right now,” said Rosa Gilbert, co-Secretary of the Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign.

“Theresa May might greet Erdogan warmly in order to further UK weapons sales to Turkey but she does not do so in the name of the British people.”

Will human rights abuses be discussed?

Downing Street has said Theresa May will raise the issue when she meets Mr Erdogan.

“Our close relationship with Turkey allows us to have frank discussions. You can expect the Prime Minister to raise human rights,” said Mrs May’s spokesman.

“We have always been clear that we want Turkey to uphold its international obligations including respect for freedom of expression and political freedoms.

“It is also an opportunity for the United Kingdom and Turkey to build on our close co-operation on counter-terrorism, migration, regional stability, trade and in other vital areas.

“They have a close working relationship and there are many areas of shared interest which they look forward to discussing.”

Read more: 

Purge deepens on Turkish press freedom

Holidays to Turkey and Egypt are back in favour according to Thomas Cook Holiday Report





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