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Post-coup climate Tensions grow among Swiss-based Turkish community

Pro-Erdogan demonstrators protesting in front of the Turkish consulate in Zurich on July 16


Relations between supporters and opponents of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan living in Switzerland are under strain in the wake of last week’s failed coup, according to Swiss papers.

An estimated 120,000 people with Turkish roots currently live in Switzerland.

Citing various social media platforms, the 20 Minutes free newspaper suggests an online witch hunt may be underway.

“Erdogan supporters have launched appeals on Facebook and Whatsapp to report on regime dissidents,” the newspaper reported.

An Erdogan supporter declared in an online post: “Together we can storm the caves of coup supporters. Who doesn’t want to denounce these terrorists and traitors to the nation?”

In another, a supporter of the ruling AK Party called for the closure of the Zurich school founded in 2009 by the Gülen movement. Fethullah Gülen, 75, has been blamed for masterminding the July 15 attempted coup, in which at least 232 people were killed. He denies any involvement.

The split between the reclusive US-based Muslim cleric and Erdogan had divided the Turkish community in Switzerland three years ago.

Overnight, some friends stopped talking to each other, Zurich historian Cebrail Terlemez told Swiss public radio, SRF.

“The events in Turkey affect Turkish citizens in Switzerland. Even if everyone is happy that the coup is over, the polarisation is getting worse,” said Terlemez, who is a member of the Gülen movement.

Kurdish concerns

Many Kurds live in Switzerland and in the past they have not hesitated to make their voices heard on Swiss streets. But today they are worried about the long arm of president Erdogan.

“This time the Kurds are more cautious,” Basel parliamentarian Edibe Gölgeli, who is of Kurdish origin, told the Basellandschaftliche Zeitung newspaper.

“Today is not a good time to take to the streets to protest against Erdogan’s policies,” Gölgeli said. The Kurds also condemn the attempted coup, she added. “Erdogan must be removed from power by the democratic path.”

She fears, however, that civil war could break out in Turkey, which would result in many Turks fleeing their country.

Meanwhile, it is realistic to imagine a rise in the number of requests for asylum from Turkey, said Kurt Fluri from the centre-right Radical Party in Der Bund paper.

Requests must be carefully examined, he said, “whether that pleases Erdogan or not”.

In the same article, Andreas Glarner from the conservative right Swiss People’s Party, who is known for his tough position on asylum, said there was no reason to grant asylum to anyone behind the coup.

“Erdogan is a democratically elected president,” he said.

This weekend several hundred pro-Erdogan demonstrators protested peacefully in front of the Turkish consulate in Zurich to express their joy at the failure of the coup.


Translated from German by Simon Bradley,

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