Mar 22 2019

Don't forget Ottoman siege of Vienna, Erdoğan says after showing Christchurch footage

Updated with Erdoğan's comments at rallies on Friday


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday showed footage of an attack on two mosques in New Zealand last week that left 50 people dead, two hours after meeting New Zealand’s foreign minister in Istanbul.

Later the Turkish president linked the attacks to centuries-old conflicts between the Ottoman Empire and European states, declaring that resentment of the empire at the height of its power still exists today.

Erdoğan has repeatedly shown the footage at campaign rallies for the March 31 local elections since the attack took place last week. This time, at a rally in Konya in central Turkey, he chose to show the blurred version of the video that the attacker Brenton Harrison Tarrant had live streamed on his Facebook account.

New Zealand’s foreign minister Winston Peters arrived in Turkey for what he called “substantial” talks over Erdoğan’s recent comments about the attack on two mosques in Christchurch, Reuters reported.

“We are looking forward to commemorating and grieving with the Turkish people as to the event, and to some substantial talks when we are here,” said minister Winston Peters at the airport in Istanbul.

Following his meeting with Erdoğan, Peters told reporters that they did not talk about the footage with the Turkish president. “I did not see it necessary to bring the subject on the table. Because they are not doing it anymore,” Peters said.

A diplomatic spat began between Turkey and New Zealand after Erdoğan, campaigning for the March 31 local elections, started showing video footage recorded by Australian gunman Brenton Tarrant during the massacre in Christchurch. 

"You heinously killed 50 of our brothers and sisters. You will pay for this. If New Zealand doesn’t make you [pay], we know how to make you pay one way or another,” Erdoğan said during an election on Tuesday, as the country heads to local elections on March 31.

“If the New Zealand parliament doesn’t make this decision, I will continue to argue this with them constantly. The necessary action needs to be taken,” he said.

Erdoğan added more fuel to the fire on Monday during a commemoration of Turkey’s victory over allied forces, including thousands of soldiers from Australia and New Zealand, in the Gallipoli campaign of World War One.

The Turkish president linked the Christchurch attack to argue Turkey was under foreign threat once again, and said during his speech on Monday: “Your grandfathers came and saw that we're here. Then some of them walked back, while others left in coffins. If you come with the same intention, we'll be waiting for you.”  

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Ardern said on Wednesday that Foreign Minister Winston Peters would travel to Turkey to “confront” comments made by Erdoğan. “He [Peters] is going there to set the record straight, face-to-face,” she said. Peters had previously criticised Erdoğan for airing the footage of the attack, which he said could endanger New Zealander’s aboard.

Despite escalating tensions, Erdoğan on Thursday once again showed the livestream footage of the Christchurch mosque massacre. 

Erdoğan attacked the main opposition Republican People’s Party leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who had warned against terrorism rooted in the Islamic world, and compared him to far-right Australian senator Fraser Anning, who said the reason behind the New Zealand attacks were Muslim immigration.

Peters and Erdogan are attending an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Friday in Istanbul convened upon the request of Ankara to discuss the shootings in Christchurch and Islamophobia.

Speaking at the OIC meeting, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu vowed to take a stand “against all this hate speech, violence, and terrorism with both our speech and practical steps,” Anadolu Agency reported. 

New Zealand places great importance on freedom of religious belief and attacks on Muslims are “attacks on all of us”, Anadolu quoted Peters as saying during his speech. 

"This person will face the full force of New Zealand law, and will spend the rest of his life in isolation in a New Zealand prison," Peters said. "Our police have started the largest investigation in our history," he added.

Erdogan in his speech praised Ardern's reaction to the terror attacks, calling it a model for all leaders around the world, Anadolu said

"Humanity should fight Islamophobia with same determination it fought anti-Semitism after the Holocaust," the Turkish president said.

However, he returned to his anti-Western discourse yet again at a rally in Amasya in north-east Turkey later on Friday, this time tying the Christchurch attack to what he called foreign resentment of the power of the Ottoman Empire.

"We may forget the siege of Vienna. Don't forget! The foreign man does not forget," Erdoğan said, referring to the Ottoman Empire’s military campaigns that brought it close to capturing the European city.

The Christchurch gunman had written “Vienna 1683,” the year of the second Ottoman siege of the city, on the rifle he used in the attack.

Meanwhile, thousands gathered in Christchurch to remember the victims as the Muslim call to prayer sounded out over the city and around New Zealand on Friday, Reuters reported.

“New Zealand mourns with you. We are one,” said Ardern, who joined the group that gathered in front of the Al Noor mosque where most of the victims were killed during Friday prayers last week.