A golden effigy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan evoking the famous statue of Saddam Hussein has been erected in a central German city as part of an art festival whose theme is “Bad News,” The Associated Press reported.
The larger-than-life statue, almost four meters, in the central German city of Wiesbaden depicts Erdoğan with a raised right arm, a pose reminiscent of the iconic statue of the former Iraqi dictator that was famously torn down in 2003 by American military forces during the Iraq invasion.
The local Wiesbadener Kurier reported the statue was put up in the city’s downtown area late Monday. City authorities had authorized the statue as part of the ongoing Wiesbaden Biennale art festival but didn’t know Erdoğan would be the person depicted, the newspaper reported.
“We have a lot of irritated citizens calling us. It is not clear that it will be part of the Biennale,” a spokesperson for the organizer said, according to German news website merkur.de.
City authorities met on Tuesday and decided the statue could stay in place until the end of the event, Sept. 2. However, over increasing reactions Erdoğan’s statue has been removed by the fire brigade of the southwestern German city, Deutsche Welle reported on Wednesday.
The city had decided to take down the installation, which was a part of the Wiesbaden Biennale for contemporary art because its security could “no longer be guaranteed,” local authorities said on Twitter late Tuesday.
Wiesbaden State Theater director Uwe Eric Laufenberg defended the statue as a statement of freedom of expression. “We set up the statue to discuss Erdogan,” Laufenberg explained. “That goes on everywhere. Art is there to show how it is. That is not always easy to understand. But in a democracy, you have to accept all opinions.”
The city does not want to intervene despite the protests as long as the art campaign poses no threat to public safety and order. Yet, it attracted mixed opinions from German pundits and citizens on social media. Some said it must be a “bad joke.”
The statue is an art installation that is part of the Wiesbaden Biennale for Contemporary Art but was erected without the knowledge of city officials, a Wiesbaden spokesperson told German news agency DPA on Tuesday. This year’s art festival is taking place under the motto “bad news.”
“We have received calls from a string of confused citizens, it is not clear to people that it is part of the Biennale,” the spokesperson said of the statue.
Erdoğan is scheduled to make a state visit to Berlin on Sept. 28-29. Many Germans are opposed to his visit due to his authoritarian tendencies and attempts to sway political support among Germany’s large Turkish minority.
Cem Özdemir, the leader of Germany’s Green Party, said July that the Turkish President has transformed his country “into a kind of Turkmenistan or Azerbaijan with censorship, despotism, nepotism, and autocracy.” (SCF with turkishminute.com)