Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has demanded that Sweden put an end to the demonstrations by supporters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Stockholm, as a condition for approving its NATO membership bid.
In a phone conversation with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Sunday, Erdogan said his country continues its “constructive attitude” toward Sweden’s joining the alliance, but Sweden’s change of terrorism laws to meet demands from Ankara was “meaningless” while PKK supporters hold protests in the country, according to a statement from his office.
In January 2023 the protesters burned the effigy of Erdogan that was hanged near Stockholm City Hall by a pro-Kurdish group called the Swedish Solidarity Committee for Rojava.
The relations between Turkey and Sweden have been strained over various issues, including human rights, democracy, and the Kurdish question. Turkey has accused Sweden of supporting Kurdish separatism and terrorism, while Sweden has criticized Turkey’s crackdown on dissent and its military operations in Syria and Iraq.
Sweden applied for NATO membership in 2022, after years of debate and public opinion shifts. It is one of the few European countries that are not part of the alliance. Turkey, as a founding member of NATO, has the power to veto any new members.
The PKK has been waging a decades-long armed struggle against the Turkish state for Kurdish autonomy and rights. It is designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union. The YPG is the main Kurdish force fighting against the Islamic State group in Syria, but Turkey views it as an extension of the PKK.
The Swedish Solidarity Committee for Rojava said it hung the effigy of Erdogan to protest against his policies toward the Kurds and to urge him to “take the chance to step down now, so you don’t end up upside-down in Taksim Square”. It said it was trying to stand up for Swedish democracy, which was being “sabotaged” by Kristersson.
Sweden’s free speech values might come under fire if they accept any demand from Erdogan for getting NATO membership and surrender on its European values of human rights and democracy.