The relationship between the Netherlands and Turkey has gotten a lot worse in the past weeks after Turkish minister of Family Business was blocked in RotterdAfbeeldingsresultaat voor turks referendumam and sent out of the country. Minister Kaya came to Rotterdam to deliver a speech about the upcoming Turkish constitutional referendum. A lot of people are against this constitutional change, as it would give Erdogan more power and ultimately lead to the Turkish state becoming a dictatorship. But by sending Kaya away, we might have violated our own constitution. Our constitution says that everyone has the freedom to say whatever they want, as long as it doesn’t violate any other laws. By sending Kaya away we disabled her in expressing her thoughts and opinions about the Turkish referendum, so has the Netherlands gone a step too far, or was this a justified action given the situation that we are in?

For the first time in a long time, all ministers agreed that sending Kaya away was a good decision. Why wouldn’t the ministers just let her speak out about this constitutional change? Firstly it was important to keep the public safety, by letting Kaya attend to the meeting she would stimulate the constitutional change which could have effects for the peace of our state and other surrounding states. Secondly, the Netherlands doesn’t allow Turkish public political campaigns, which was Kaya’s intention.

As a state the Netherlands has certain interests, one of those interests is preventing other nations from getting too powerful. Erdogan is building a strong army, and his people are becoming more and more nationalistic, so the referendum may cause a lot of problems among European countries. The referendum would cause Erdogan to gain even more power, so all things considered isn’t it then important that the safety of the people is protected in favour of freedom of speech? And this is where different ideologies clash. If you look at the matter of full freedom of speech, you may say that it is allowed to campaign the Turkish referendum here in the Netherlands. But if you look at the consequences campaigning the referendum in the Netherlands might have for us and surrounding states, you might say it was a good decision to send Kaya away after all.

It is completely understandable that the Dutch government is against Erdogan’s referendum, but let’s look at it from another perspective. What about the Dutch citizens with Turkish passports? They legally have the right to vote in the Turkish referendum, so they also have the right to know what they are voting for. Personally, if I was voting for something I would like to know what is actually going on in the campaigns. That is also our right as Dutch people. Another fundamental right is our freedom of speech. So, isn’t it weird that the Dutch state disapproves the welcoming of this Turkish minister while claiming freedom of speech Is a really important factor of Dutch culture. Even if the Dutch state is against the matter, the Dutch-Turks still have the right to know what they are voting for, and the Turkish ministers have the right to tell them.

I personally think that the Dutch state should inform the people on the campaign themselves. This way the Dutch-Turkish citizens still know what they are voting for, without being influenced by Erdogan. Of course the Netherlands would have to inform people about everything about the referendum, both good and bad fronts, and not just the parts that make it seem like the worst idea ever so that people won’t vote for it. The lack of knowledge can cause serious problems because Turkish people will vote for something they don’t know anything about. The Turkish people all have their own voice, let’s hope they know the consequences of using it.

Renske Pouwels