A former Swedish diplomat, a Kurdish-Swedish writer and two editors in chief of Swedish newspapers on Tuesday called on Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson to stand firm against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s threats of blocking the country’s NATO membership bid and urged him to bring up Turkey’s human rights violations against Kurds.
Former Minister Pierre Schori, writer Kurdo Baksi, editor-in-chief of the Dala-Demokraten newspaper Göran Greider and editor-in-chief of the Dagens Arbete newspaper Helle Klein wrote a joint article under a headline that can be translated as “Remind Erdogan what a real democracy is,” for the Aftonbladet newspaper.
“Sweden’s new Prime Minister, Ulf Kristersson, will travel to Turkey to meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Sweden’s application for NATO membership will constitute the main agenda of this meeting since Turkey has veto power. In his meeting with Erdogan, Kristersson will also have a golden opportunity to tell him what a real democracy is,” the article said.
Finland and Sweden abandoned their decades-long military non-alignment and applied to become members of NATO in May, three months after Russia invaded Ukraine.
NATO member Turkey is threatening to derail Sweden and Finland’s attempts to join the Western defense alliance unless they extradite dozens of people Ankara accuses of “terrorism.”
The writers said in the article that the Swedish prime minister should question why politicians such as Selahattin Demirtaş, the former co-chair of Turkey’s third largest party, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), are imprisoned in Turkey.
Demirtaş was arrested in November 2016 and has been behind bars since then despite a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in November 2018 that his pretrial detention was political and ordered his release.
Turkish courts refused to implement the ruling, and a regional appeals court in Turkey subsequently upheld a prison sentence handed down to Demirtaş for disseminating terrorist propaganda.
“Kristersson should express clearly his opposition to Turkey’s new plan to attack the Kurdish areas in North Syria announced by Erdogan, as well as the repeated military threats against Greece,” the article read.
Erdoğan had for several months threatened to launch an operation against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria. Ankara has carried out three cross-border operations in Syria against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as well as US-backed Kurdish militias such as the YPG and has frequently used factions of armed Syrian fighters in addition to its own forces.
“Turkey’s pro-government media outlets should immediately stop spying on the Swedish Turkish journalists who enjoy their civic liberties in Sweden,” the article said.
Abdullah Bozkurt and Bülent Keneş, Turkish journalists living in exile in Sweden, were recently targeted by a pro-Erdoğan paper which revealed their addresses and published secretly taken photos on its front page.
The article concluded with a call to the prime minister to urge Erdoğan halt attempts to force Sweden to extradite Kurdish-Swedes and not “promote a witch hunt” against innocent Kurds living in the country
A non-binding deal Sweden and fellow NATO aspirant Finland signed with Turkey in June commits them to “expeditiously and thoroughly” examine Ankara’s requests for suspects linked to the Gülen movement, a faith-based group outlawed by Ankara which is not recognized a terrorist group by the international community and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
Both Swedish and Finnish government officials previously said they would continue to respect national and international laws regarding Turkey’s extradition requests and that the decision for extraditions will be up to independent authorities and the courts.
However, Sweden’s new center-right government said they would fulfill all requirements under a deal with Turkey to join NATO and would concentrate on external relations with its immediate neighborhood while dropping the previous administration’s “feminist foreign policy,” according to The Associated Press, citing the country’s top diplomat on Monday.
Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said the new government shares Turkey’s concern about the PKK.
“There will be no nonsense from the Swedish government when it comes to the PKK,” Billström told the AP in an interview. “We are fully behind a policy which means that terrorist organizations don’t have a right to function on Swedish territory.”