New Zealand FM sent to Turkey to confront Erdogan over Christchurch comments

Erdogan has caused upset after he warned anti-Muslim Australians would suffer the same fate as soldiers in World War I Gallipoli campaign. (File/AFP)
Updated 20 March 2019
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New Zealand FM sent to Turkey to confront Erdogan over Christchurch comments

  • Erdogan has twice screened excerpts of video footage of the New Zealand mosque attack
  • The Turkish president says New Zealand should change laws so the attacker can be harshly punished

ANKARA, Turkey: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday Foreign Minister Winston Peters will travel to Turkey to “confront” comments made by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on the killing of at least 50 people at mosques in Christchurch.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday following a terror attack at the two mosques during Friday prayers.

Erdogan - who is seeking to drum up support for his Islamist-rooted AK Party in March 31 local elections - said Turkey would make the suspected attacker pay if New Zealand did not.

Speaking at a campaign rally in the northern town of Eregli, Erdogan criticized New Zealand and Australia for sending troops to Turkey in the World War I Gallipoli campaign, claiming their motive was anti-Islam-oriented.

“What business did you have here? We had no issues with you, why did you come all the way over here?” Erdogan said. “The only reason: We’re Muslim, and they’re Christian.”

In inflammatory comments on Monday, Erdogan had also suggested that anyone who comes to Turkey with anti-Muslim sentiments would be sent back in coffins, “like their grandfathers were” during the Gallipoli campaign.

Those comments were made in Canakkale province in northwestern Turkey, which is home to the historic battlefields, on the anniversary of a World War I Turkish naval victory.

The comments came at a campaign rally that included video footage of the shootings which the alleged gunman had broadcast on Facebook.

Ardern said Peters would seek urgent clarification.

“Our deputy prime minister will be confronting those comments in Turkey,” Ardern told reporters in Christchurch. “He is going there to set the record straight, face-to-face.”

Peters had earlier condemned the airing of footage of the shooting, which he said could endanger New Zealander's aboard.

Despite Peters' intervention, an extract from Tarrant's alleged manifesto was flashed up on a screen at Erdogan's rally again on Tuesday, along with footage of the gunman entering one of the mosques and shooting as he approached the door.

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he summoned Turkey's ambassador for a meeting, during which he demanded Erdogan's comments be removed from Turkey's state broadcaster.

“I will wait to see what the response is from the Turkish government before taking further action, but I can tell you that all options are on the table,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

Morrison said Australia’s ambassador to Turkey will on Wednesday meet with the members of Erdogan’s government.

Morrison said Canberra is also reconsidering its travel advice for Australians planning trips to Turkey.

Relations between Turkey, New Zealand and Australia have generally been good. Thousands of Australians and New Zealanders travel each year to Turkey for war memorial services

Just over a century ago, thousands of soldiers from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) struggled ashore on a narrow beach at Gallipoli during an ill-fated campaign that would claim more than 130,000 lives.

The area has become a site of pilgrimage for visitors who honor their nations’ fallen in graveyards halfway around the world on ANZAC Day every April 25.


‘They have crushed our voices’, Kashmiris on not being allowed to pray

Updated 15 min 23 sec ago
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‘They have crushed our voices’, Kashmiris on not being allowed to pray

  • More than 3,000 people have been arrested from different parts of the valley, media reports
  • Most of the big mosques have been shutdown to avoid people amassing for a large congregation

SRINAGAR, Kashmir: A strange silence engulfs Kashmir valley three weeks after the abrogation of the Article 370 that ensured a special autonomous status for Jammu and Kashmir in the Indian union.
This is the silence enforced by the fear of the gun after arrests of a large number of politicians, activists, lawyers, businessmen, and commoners.
“I have been summoned at least four times by the Indian troops and harassed, barring me from offering my prayers. I requested them, explaining that no one indulges in agitation in this area...” Hafiz Altaf Ahmed Shah, an imam at the local mosque told Arab News.
Media reports suggest that more than 3,000 people have been arrested from different parts of the valley and put in special detention centers in the semi-autonomous state or outside.
For those spared or lucky to avoid arrest, a lurking danger looms if they resist – be it a cleric or a professor, male or female, exercising restraint is the only option left.
In Srinagar and outside, most of the big mosques have been shutdown to avoid people amassing for a large congregation – a potential recipe for resistance.
“Our three story mosque is usually at full capacity but today, only 10 to 12 people offered Friday prayers because of the curfew,” Shah said.
Small and medium-sized mosques are under constant vigil. The clerics of these mosques have been ordered to lie low and not lead prayers in their mosques.
“We are being subjected to injustice by the Indian government and the world is aware. But no one is speaking on these issues. They have shut down our communication. They have silenced and crushed our voices,” Shah said.
Watch this exclusive video by Arab News to get a sense of what’s happening in the area.