‘I am here despite assassination threats,’ Erdoğan claims in visit to Bosnia

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday said that information about possible assassination threats against him during his visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina would not deter him from attending a convention in the country, Sputnik news reported.

Erdoğan made the statement during a press conference following his meeting with Bakir Izetbegovic, the Bosniak member of the tripartite Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ on Saturday had warned of possible “assassination threats” against Erdoğan during his Sunday visit to Bosnia, tweeting, “We are aware that there are circles who are uncomfortable with such a great leader, a man with a cause. We are aware that they want to get rid of our president. These assassination threats are not new, they have always been there.”

“Information came to me from the National Intelligence Organization [MİT], but I’m still here. Such threats will not deter me,” Sputnik quoted the Turkish president as saying.

Erdoğan also noted at the press conference that Turkey has no secret agenda in Bosnia but rather only seeks its prosperity, unity and economic improvement.

The Turkish president spoke at the sixth assembly of the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), which recently established a sister lobbying organization in Bosnia, the Union of European Balkan Democrats (UEBD), in Sarajevo on Sunday afternoon, where he is looking to win the votes of 10,000 Turks residing in Bosnia and surrounding countries in Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24.

Thousands, holding banners and pictures of Erdoğan attended the convention, which was held in Sarajevo’s largest sports venue.

Izetbegovic greeted Erdoğan at the gathering, saying that the West did not like him because “he is a powerful Muslim leader that we have not had for a long time,” according to an AFP report.

During his speech Erdoğan urged Turks to unite for the presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24 and asked for their support, stating: “Let’s give a strong response that will be heard by Germany, France and Belgium. Are you ready to show the power of European Turks to the world?”

“Today, if some European countries exhibit demeaning behavior towards me and our land, the reason is the disarray of Turks in those countries,” Erdoğan argued.

“At a time when renowned European countries claiming to be the cradle of civilization have failed, Bosnia and Herzegovina showed by allowing us to gather here that it is a real democracy, not a so-called one,” he told a crowd.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who heads a right-wing coalition opposed to Turkey joining the European Union, said last month Erdogan would be barred from “trying to exploit” Europe’s Turkish communities.

The Turkish lobbying organizations are said to be close to Erdoğan. The UETD’s headquarters is in Cologne, home to one of the biggest Turkish communities in Germany. It has branches in other European cities with significant Turkish populations.

Zafer Sirakaya, president of the UETD, earlier said his organization is an NGO and has no direct links to Erdoğan or his party but concedes that there is a “bond of love” between the UETD and the Turkish president.

According to a report by Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW), Erdoğan has brought together more than 20,000 people in the Bosnian capital to back his election bid. But some leaders are worried his growing influence in the Balkans could lead to regional instability.

The event in Sarajevo was the only one of its kind scheduled in Europe after several EU countries banned campaign rallies, including Germany, the Netherlands and Austria.

Erdoğan called on the Turkish diaspora in Europe to play an active role in political parties of their countries of residence. “I request you to actively take part in political parties in the countries you live in,” Erdogan said.

Erdogan claimed the most enmity towards Turkey in European parliaments is being exhibited by people of Turkish origin. “On June 24, we will not only elect a president and lawmakers; we will also make a choice for the next century of our country,” Erdogan added, referring to the upcoming elections in Turkey.

DW reported that some leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina have expressed concerns about Erdoğan’s growing influence in the country, with Bosnian Serb leader Milord Dodik saying Erdoğan was “interfering a lot” in the country’s affairs.

Erdoğan met with Izetbegovic ahead of the rally. During a joint press conference, the Turkish president acknowledged criticism of his visit, saying Ankara is only interested in helping the Balkan country develop.

But the Washington-based Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) has pointed to the Erdoğan regime’s growing influence in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Balkans as a possible source of instability. “Turkey’s president portrays himself as a protector of Muslims in former Ottoman dominions. He also uses this image in domestic politics, as millions of Turkish citizens have Bosnian or Albanian backgrounds,” said Janusz Bugajski, a senior fellow at CEPA.

“Initially seen as a useful supplement to the EU and the US, especially among the region’s Muslim populations, Turkey’s political interjections and self-declared ‘neo-Ottomanism’ are increasingly viewed with suspicion,” he said.


Izetbegovic on Sunday said God sent Erdoğan to Turkey with a special mission, calling on the Turkish people to support him, the pro-government Sabah daily reported.

Claiming that “Some tried to separate Turks and Bosniaks from their religion and identity,” Izetbegovic said: “God has sent nations one person to return them to their religion. We had Alija Izetbegovic. We remain standing with God’s help.”

Underlining that Turkey has been battling many internal and external problems, the Bosniak leader said that “Today the Turkish nation has a person sent by God. He is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Help him, support him. You must be on the right path. You, European Turks, you should support your leader.”

Justice and Development Party (AKP) government officials frequently attract criticism for their controversial remarks on religion and their attribution of righteousness to Erdoğan.

AKP Deputy Chairman Mustafa Ataş said on March 28, 2016 that President Erdoğan was a blessing from God to the ummah, the worldwide community of Muslims.

AKP Aydın provincial chairman İsmail Hakkı Eser was quoted as saying that he and party sympathizers love Erdoğan so much they think of him “like a second prophet.”

In a similar vein, Deputy Health Minister Agah Kafkas once said: “When we lay the foundation of a [facility], we also provide the date of its opening. This is the sunnah — Muslim practices based on the life and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad — of Tayyip Erdoğan.”

No government officials or supporters have publicly objected to the statements.

AKP Bursa deputy Hüseyin Şahin is known to have said that touching Erdoğan is a form of prayer, while AKP Düzce deputy Fevai Arslan said Erdoğan has all the attributes of God himself. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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