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4th Mar 2024

Turkey has stopped me from going home, says Erdogan critic

  • Lagendijk in 2011 (Photo: Medya Dernegi)

A former Green MEP who has been critical of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been denied entry into Turkey.

Dutchman Joost Lagendijk, who now lives in Istanbul, said on Twitter on Sunday (25 September) that Turkish authorities had stopped him on his way back from the Netherlands and that he was “not allowed in”.

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The author and former chairman of the parliament's EU-Turkey delegation added he needed to apply for a special visa in the Netherlands.

“Hope it is only a bureaucratic obstacle and not a decision to block me forever,” he wrote.

The incident occurred just days after Dutch newspaper AD published an interview in which Lagendijk discussed the possibility of being expelled from Turkey in future.

He has just finished a book, titled Erdogan: Absolute Ruler of the New Turkey.

“I want to grow old here,” he said about Turkey, where he married a Turkish journalist in 2006.

“But if I were to receive a gag order, we would have to think about what we will do. The ultimate penalty would be to expel me. It would be naive to think that cannot happen to me.”

The leader of the Dutch green party, Jesse Klaver, called on the Dutch government to put pressure on the Turkish government “so that Joost can be with his loved one in Turkey quickly”.

Until recently, Lagendijk had been a teacher at the Suleyman Shah university in Istanbul. The university was one of 15 that was shut down by the authorities after the attempted coup in July for alleged ties to the movement of the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen.

“Some colleagues were supporters of Gulen, many of them had nothing to do with him,” said Lagendijk in the AD interview, published last Friday.

“At the faculty of international relations, where I taught, books of Gulen were explicitly banned. They wanted to avoid the impression the university had anything to do with Gulen.”

The former MEP said he may have underestimated “the dark side” of the Gulen movement, but also criticised Erdogan.

In an article published in EUobserver last year, Lagendijk called Erdogan “the de facto dominating force that does not accept criticism or checks and balances on his power”.

Lagendijk had also been a columnist for newspapers Zaman and Today's Zaman, which were seized by government authorities in March.

The former politician was an MEP from 1998 to 2009. Current co-leader of the Green group Rebecca Harms called Lagendijk “a true friend of Turkey in the European Parliament”.

Lagendijk quit the EU parliament in 2009 after two terms because he felt he had achieved what he could. When announcing he would not stand again, he told Dutch media he had become the face of the European Union in Turkey.

"People recognise me in the street, and they tell me they think I did a good job," he said in 2009.

The move comes amidst worries about future EU-Turkey relations, and increased authoritarianism in the candidate member state.

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