Turkish president stokes anti-western rhetoric over New Zealand killings
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded Tuesday that New Zealand reinstate the death penalty and apply it in the case of the gunman who killed 50 people in two Christchurch mosques. The demand is the latest escalation in rhetoric by Erdogan in the face of Wellington’s call for moderation.
“You heinously killed 50 of our siblings. You will pay for this. If New Zealand doesn’t make you,” Erdogan told supporters during a campaign rally ahead of local elections. Erdogan also said, “The necessary action needs to be taken” by the New Zealand parliament.
Erdogan has made the mosque killings a central part of his local election campaign. A grainy video of the gunman attacking the mosques has been repeatedly played at his campaign meetings.
Lisel Hintz, an assistant professor of international relations at the Johns Hopkins University, says the broadcast of the video plays into Erdogan’s hands.
“Showing footage of the Christchurch massacre, recorded by the shooter himself, is intended to incite fears of Islamophobia and bolster Erdogan’s image as protector of Muslims in a world hostile to them,” she said. Other analysts say many Erdogan supporters are drawn from nationalist and Islamist backgrounds.
The New Zealand government has called on Ankara to stop airing the video and to turn down the rhetoric, which Wellington warns could provoke attacks on New Zealand citizens. Wellington also points out that the suspect is an Australian citizen.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters said Tuesday he is traveling to Turkey “to set the record straight.”
Erdogan again used the video of the mosque attacks, however, at two televised campaign rallies attended by thousands of people.
The Turkish president is seeking to build support for his religious conservative AKP ahead of local elections March 31. Analysts suggest that with the economy in recession, soaring unemployment, and double-digit inflation, Erdogan wants to change the political narrative.
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