A golden effigy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan evoking the famous statue of Saddam Hussein has been erected in a central German city as part of an art festival whose theme is “Bad News,” The Associated Press reported.
The larger-than-life statue, almost four meters, in the central German city of Wiesbaden depicts Erdoğan with a raised right arm, a pose reminiscent of the iconic statue of the former Iraqi dictator that was famously torn down in 2003 by American military forces during the Iraq invasion.
The local Wiesbadener Kurier reported the statue was put up in the city’s downtown area late Monday. City authorities had authorized the statue as part of the ongoing Wiesbaden Biennale art festival but didn’t know Erdoğan would be the person depicted, the newspaper reported.
“We have a lot of irritated citizens calling us. It is not clear that it will be part of the Biennale,” a spokesperson for the organizer said, according to German news website merkur.de.
City authorities met on Tuesday and decided the statue could stay in place until the end of the event, Sept. 2.
The Turkish president will pay a state visit to Germany Sept. 28-29.
Wiesbaden State Theater director Uwe Eric Laufenberg defended the statue as a statement of freedom of expression. “We set up the statue to discuss Erdogan,” Laufenberg explained. “That goes on everywhere. Art is there to show how it is. That is not always easy to understand. But in a democracy you have to accept all opinions.”
The city does not want to intervene despite the protests as long as the art campaign poses no threat to public safety and order. Yet, it attracted mixed opinions from German pundits and citizens on social media. Some said it must be a “bad joke.”