When asked by a French MP about the freedom of speech and minorities in Turkey, Erdogan said French should be concerned about the lack of freedom of religion in France: “But it is your problem, not ours. So you deal with your problems and let Turkish people decide about the problems here. But I invite you to come and see for yourself. You don’t know anything about Turkey and you talk based on things you hear from other sources. Turkey is all Greek to you. You are kicking Roma out of your country and you still find in yourselves to criticize us.”
Another MP asked Erdogan about the conditions of Armenians and other minorities in Turkey. Erdogan said there are 70,000 illegal Armenian immigrants in Turkey. He threatened to send them home if Europe continue to lack understanding about Turkey. He added that Christians in Turkey have equal rights like anybody else and free to do whatever they want.
Upon another question Erdogan said he finds assimilation to be a crime against humanity. And Turks living in the EU should not be assimilated but their cultural flavor to be preserved. He did not mention Turkey’s assimilation efforts against Kurds, Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Georgians and many other ethnic minorities for over a hundred years.
When asked about arrests of journalists in Turkey, Erdogan said the matter is in courts and legislation is not responsible by the actions of judiciary. But he added the books that caused the arrests of the journalists are on the Internet and people can see for themselves what is written in them. He said: “You will see that they were conspiring for a coup d’etat and that’s why they were arrested, not because of anything they wrote.” He did not answer a question about the length of trials in Turkish judiciary system.
Critics say that his speech did not target the Council of Europe MP’s but rather the Turkish public opinion. Turks react very well when their leaders belittle Western Countries which are seen as the reason for all evil in the country. Incoming elections are due in June in Turkey and election propaganda have already heated up in the country despite the fact that most polls predict AKP will keep its majority in the Parliament after the elections.
UPDATE: 6:05 pm
Upon PM’s request the Council of Europe will send an envoy to investigate media freedom in Turkey. In today’s meeting PM has challenged the Council members for their ignorance on matters Turkish such as freedom of press and treatment of Christian minorities.