Turkey let out its anger Wednesday after the publication of a cartoon of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by the French weekly Charlie Hebdo, threatening to take diplomatic measures against Paris which rejected “attempts at destabilization”.
In a context where France and Turkey, two NATO member countries, are at loggerheads, the famous French satirical weekly represented Mr. Erdogan in underwear, beer in hand, lifting the dress of a veiled woman in exclaiming: “Ouuuh! The Prophet ! “
This unflattering drawing aroused the ire of Ankara, who opened an investigation for “insulting the head of state” and promised “diplomatic action” likely to further poison the reports, without however providing details.
Despite “attempts at destabilization and intimidation”, France will “never give up its principles and values”, French government spokesman Gabriel Attal retorted on Wednesday, stressing “European unity” around Paris .
Mr. Erdogan has multiplied in recent days the attacks against his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, accusing him of “Islamophobia” for having defended the right to caricature the Prophet Muhammad during a tribute to a French teacher beheaded for showing drawings in class.
Affirming that he had not seen the latest Charlie Hebdo cartoons representing him, Mr. Erdogan expressed his “anger”, due not “to the despicable attack against me, but to the insults against the prophet” Muhammad.
“We know that the target is not my person, but our values,” continued the Turkish president, a spokesperson for whom had previously denounced “cultural racism”.
Relations between Turkey and France have gradually deteriorated since last year, mainly due to disagreements over Syria, Libya and the eastern Mediterranean.
But tensions were heightened last week when Mr Erdogan, accusing Mr Macron of waging a “campaign of hatred” against Islam, questioned his “mental state”.
The Turkish head of state, who seeks to pose as a defender of Islam to polish his image with his electoral base and in the region, urged Monday to boycott French products, but his call seems to have been relatively little followed .
This latest outbreak also places a little more under the sign of tension in the Champions League match to be held Wednesday evening in Istanbul between Basaksehir, a club close to Mr. Erdogan, and Paris Saint-Germain.
Despite growing tensions, Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu said Wednesday that Ankara did not plan “for the moment” to recall its ambassador to Paris, after France returned its representative to Turkey on Saturday.
In the midst of the war of words, the spokesperson for the French government made a point of “recalling very clearly that these are hateful remarks against journalists and against an editorial staff that have led to attacks, dramas, killings (… ) in our country “.
Charlie Hebdo was the victim in 2015 of a deadly jihadist attack, after publishing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
The duel between Ankara and Paris is part of a larger context of anger in the Muslim world towards France in connection with the defense of the caricatures of Muhammad, any representation of which is taboo in Islam.
Mr. Macron’s support for these cartoons, in the name of secularism and freedom of expression, is indeed perceived by many Muslims as a hostile stance towards Islam.
Several protests took place this week in predominantly Muslim countries, including a gathering of tens of thousands of people calling for a boycott of French brands on Tuesday in Bangladesh.
On Wednesday, about 300 people gathered again in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, launching slogans hostile to France and burning an effigy of Mr. Macron, according to an AFP correspondent.
A rally against the latest Charlie Hebdo cartoons in front of the French embassy in Ankara brought together around thirty people.