The speaker of Germany’s parliament has strongly condemned threats against German-Turkish MPs following a Bundestag vote that declared the 1915 mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman forces a genocide.
Norbert Lammert expressed particular outrage at comments made by Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who said MPs with Turkish heritage who had backed the vote were traitors whose blood was impure and should be tested in a laboratory.
“I would not have thought it possible that a democratically elected head of state in the 21st century would link his criticism towards democratically elected members of the German Bundestag with doubt as to their Turkish heritage, and describe their blood as contaminated,” Lammert told parliament on Thursday.
Erdoğan’s comments came after the Bundestag’s resolution last week, in which he called the 11 MPs of Turkish origin a “mouthpiece for the PKK”, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ party that is fighting for an independent Kurdish state.
Lammert said he rejected the insinuation that German MPs were terrorists, saying he considered the remarks to be an attack on the whole parliament.
Since the resolution, the MPs have received a barrage of death threats and verbal abuse from Erdoğan supporters.
The row is taking place against the backdrop of intense, often fraught negotiations in recent months over how to jointly cope with the influx of refugees to Europe after Germany received 1.1 million refugees last year.
Under an agreement reached between Turkey and the European Union, which was championed by the chancellor, Angela Merkel, migrants arriving on Greek islands are to be returned to Turkey in return for EU aid and visa-free travel for Turks in Europe.
Erdoğan has frequently questioned the validity of the deal and there have been repeated threats from within his party to cancel it altogether.
In turn, Merkel and the EU have been accused of kowtowing to a government with a highly questionable human rights record.
Leading Turkish politicians have warned that the Armenia resolution, which it said was rejected by “over 90% of the Turkish population”, threatened to destabilise not only relations between Germany and Turkey and to upset the estimated three to 3.5 million people of Turkish origin living in Germany.
Most of the Turkish wrath has been directed at Cem Özdemir, the Green party’s co-chair, whose parents are Turkish immigrants and who was instrumental in bringing a revised draft of the resolution to the Bundestag. Özdemir featured prominently in a tweet by Turkey’s mayor, Ibrahim Melih Gökçek, which consisted of a collage of the 11 Turkish-German MPs along with the hashtag “The traitors should be denaturalised”.