Istanbul: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday said that the “spirit of fascism” was running rampant in Europe as pro-Ankara hackers defaced top Twitter accounts in an escalating crisis.
Turkey and the European Union are going through their most explosive crisis after key EU members The Netherlands and Germany blocked Turkish ministers from holding rallies to back constitutional changes expanding Erdogan’s powers.
Erdogan has repeatedly accused the two countries of behaving like “Nazis”, comments that have left The Hague and Berlin aghast and prompted warnings from Brussels for the Turkish strongman to show moderation.
EU chiefs on Wednesday blasted his comments as “detached from reality” and incompatible with Turkey’s ambitions to join the bloc.
But far from stepping back, Erdogan on Wednesday ratcheted up his rhetoric a further notch, comparing the treatment of non-Europeans in Europe to that of the Jews in the Second World War.
“The spirit of fascism is running wild on the streets of Europe,” Erdogan said in a televised speech.
“The Jews were treated the same in the past,” he added, referring to the persecution of Jews under Nazi Germany, which carried out a systematic plan to annihilate Europe’s Jews in the Holocaust.
“Europe is heading towards being drowned in its own fears,” Erdogan said. “Turkophobia is mounting. Islamophobia is mounting. They are even scared of migrants who take shelter there.”
Several top Twitter accounts, including those of a German football club, the French economy ministry and BBC North America, were defaced by pro-Turkey hackers with a message slamming “Nazi Germany” and “Nazi Holland”.
“#NaziGermany. #NaziHolland. This is a small #Ottomanslap for you. See you on #April16. I wrote what? Learn Turkish.”
The message also featured a swastika and was followed by a video showing extracts of speeches by Erdogan.
According to legend, an Ottoman slap was a barehanded technique used in the Ottoman army that was strong enough to kill an opponent on the spot.
Twitter confirmed the attack. There was no immediate claim for the current mass cyberattack.
Germany’s Borussia Dortmund football club, tennis legend Boris Becker and Amnesty International were also targeted.
Turkey has suspended high-level relations with The Netherlands and blocked its ambassador — currently outside the country — from returning to his post.
Many in The Netherlands — a country bombed and occupied by the Nazis in the Second World War — were hugely offended by Erdogan’s comment that the country still had “vestiges of the Nazis”.
European Union president Donald Tusk said the comparisons were “completely detached from reality”.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said he was “scandalised”.
“The one who is doing this is taking distance from Europe and not trying to enter Europe,” he said.
The strong reaction from Brussels came as The Netherlands was voting in an election where Prime Minister Mark Rutte is facing a strong challenge from far-right populist Geert Wilders.
Analysts believe Erdogan is exploiting the crisis to the full to bring out nationalist votes and ensure victory in the April 16 referendum on the new constitution that opponents fear will create one-man rule in Turkey.
Erdogan Tuesday angered The Hague by bringing up the Srebrenica massacre of 1995, where Dutch UN peacekeepers failed to prevent the killing of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims by Bosnian Serbs.
On Wednesday he went further, accusing the Netherlands of massacring over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica.
“They have northing to do with civilisation, they have nothing to do with modern world,” Erdogan said in new onslaught against the Netherlands.
“They are the ones who massacred over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims... in the Srebrenica massacre.”
With anger growing in Germany over Turkey’s behaviour, Germany’s biggest-selling daily Bild told Erdogan he was not welcome in the country.
“Bild tells the truth to Erdogan’s face — you are not a democrat! You are hurting your country! You are not welcome here!,” it said on its front page.
Berlin’s anger has been compounded by the jailing ahead of a trial on terror charges of dual Turkish-German national Deniz Yucel, the Turkey correspondent of the German newspaper Die Welt.
Senior Turkish ministers, including Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, have also called into question the future of a deal with the European Union last year the substantially reduced migrant flows to the bloc.
Jean Marcou, professor at Sciences Po Grenoble in France, said the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was deliberately playing up the row to make a show of giving Europe lessons in democracy at a time when the far right is on the rise.
This “shows that perhaps the Turkish government is fragile and not so sure of the result on April 16,” he said.