At the end of last week, Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib visited Turkey. It was a bilateral meeting with her Turkish foreign minister colleague, Mevlüt Çavsoglu.

According to Çavusoglu, Belgium urgently needs to take action against the “Turkish-Kurdish terrorist movement PKK”. Because, still according to Çavusoglu, “the PKK is fully engaged in coordinating illegal terrorist activities from Belgium”.

Lahbib’s answers were quite clear:

  • “Everything that the Belgian government can determine about sympathizers of the PKK in our own country fits perfectly within the scope of freedom of expression.”
  • “If Turkey gives us the evidence, then we will take action.”
  • “Belgium understands the concern for Turkey’s national security, but we are also deeply concerned about Turkey’s rising dependent justice and the possibility of a new Turkish ground operation in Iraq and Syria. That means a risk of escalation. Our common priority must be the fight against Daesh.”

To Minister Çavusoglu’s reproach that there is Islamophobia and racism in Belgium, Lahbib replied: “There is also racism in Turkey, …” and “… that every form of discrimination must be fought: discrimination against women, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, etc.”

Minister Lahbib is clearly not intimidated by the sharp outburst of the Turkish government. Nice work! This is the kind of tone and rebuke that many more international rulers and politicians should use against the current Turkish regime that continues to violate human and peoples’ rights.

Moreover, Hadja Lahbib scheduled a meeting with Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu a day later. That in itself is also very remarkable, because Imamoglu was recently sentenced to a prison term of almost three years. Imamoglu is a social democrat and member of the opposition. He poses a threat to Erdogan as he is seen as a possible candidate for the upcoming presidential election.

Because the mayor appealed against that verdict, he is still a free man. There was a rally with thousands of people in Istanbul against his conviction on Thursday.

(Photo announcement: Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib and Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamogu)