Intelligent enemy is better than a stupid friend

Intelligent enemy is better than a stupid friend

A Turkish proverb say, it’s better having an intelligent enemy than a stupid friend.

That partly fits with the headline of the Swiss newspaper Blick, which was published on March 13 with a headline in Turkish. Together with a photo of Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan and his four-finger “Rabia” salute, the headline asked Turkish citizens to say “no” to “dictatorship in Turkey” by voting “no” in the April 16 referendum for a constitutional shift.

The reason why it doesn’t exactly fit with the proverb is that, it is not difficult to call the move stupid, but it is very difficult to call it friendly.

If Blick’s editors thought that there was one person who would change their mind from “yes” to “no” by reading that headline and open letter, they are not only day-dreaming but also do not have a clue about Turkish politics or, indeed, politics anywhere else as well. Perhaps there will even be some naysayers who change their minds in reaction to this insolent level of orientalism, not the other way around.

An MP from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) expressed gratitude to Germany and the Netherlands on TV the other night because he estimated the recent tension had added two more percentages to the “yes” votes.

But would there be a single Swiss citizen who would change their mind on a Swiss referendum after reading a Turkish paper’s provocative and biased headline in their own language? 

It was neither smart nor friendly, because it also contributed to the ongoing tension between Turkey and the Netherlands which has spilled over to those parts of Europe where Turkish citizens live. It has also contributed to the hate speech in Europe and in Turkey.

And this headline is not an isolated case in Europe. Those who – correctly – criticize the jingoistic stance of some Turkish papers and TV stations must also see the mirror images; for example, the Dutch press as they made fun of people on the streets of Rotterdam being hit by police batons and being bitten by police dogs.

It is worth asking whether there would be similar headlines if Turkish politicians, especially cabinet ministers representing the Turkish Republic, had not insisted so much on campaigning in Europe for the April 16 referendum. That would be a hypothetical question, but Turkish politicians should have thought that there might be reciprocal consequences before they brought a domestic fight to European soil.

Now the gap between Turkey and the European Union is growing.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has slammed EU officials for siding with the Netherlands despite “violations of the basic rights” of Turks and Turkey.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said that despite President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım’s words, he believed right-wing EU politicians were working for the “yes” vote in Turkey in order to alienate Turkey further.

It will not benefit either Turkey or the EU if the two part ways. It’s not only because of the economy, it is also because of strategy, security, peace and the strengthening and spreading of quality democracy in a part of the world in which it is needed most.

This relationship must operate according to mutual respect for rights and values.

The sooner diplomacy works, the better.