ISTANBUL/AMSTERDAM: Hackers supporting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday defaced Twitter accounts of top individuals and institutions with Nazi jibes, as the EU hit back at Ankara’s behaviour in an escalating crisis.
Turkey and the European Union are going through their most explosive crisis after key EU members The Netherlands and Germany blocked Turkish ministers from holding rallies to back constitutional changes expanding Erdogan’s powers.
Erdogan has repeatedly accused the two countries of behaving like “Nazis”, comments that have left The Hague and Berlin aghast.
EU chiefs on Wednesday blasted his comments as “detached from reality” and incompatible with Turkey’s ambitions to join the bloc.
The strong reaction from Brussels came as The Netherlands was voting in an election where Prime Minister Mark Rutte is facing a strong challenge from far-right populist Geert Wilders.
Analysts believe Erdogan is exploiting the crisis to the full to bring out nationalist votes and ensure victory in the April 16 referendum on the new constitution that opponents fear will create one-man rule in Turkey.
Several top Twitter accounts, including those of a German football club, the French economy ministry and BBC North America, were defaced by pro-Turkey hackers with a message slamming “Nazi Germany” and “Nazi Holland”.
The message also featured a swastika and was followed by a video showing extracts of speeches by Erdogan.
According to legend, an Ottoman slap was a barehanded technique used in the Ottoman army that was strong enough to kill an opponent on the spot.
Twitter confirmed the attack. Several nationalist Turkish hacking groups have claimed hacks in recent days but there was no immediate claim for the current mass cyberattack.
“We are aware of an issue affecting a number of account holders this morning,” a Twitter spokesperson said, adding the source of the attack had been tracked to a third party application, whose permissions had been removed.
Germany’s Borussia Dortmund football club, tennis legend Boris Becker and Amnesty International were also targeted.
‘Taking distance from Europe’
Turkey has suspended high-level relations with The Netherlands and blocked its ambassador — currently outside the country — from returning to his post.
Many in The Netherlands — a country bombed and occupied by the Nazis in World War II — were hugely offended Erdogan’s comment that the country still had “vestiges of the Nazis”.
European Union president Donald Tusk said the comparisons were “completely detached from reality.”
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said he was “scandalised”.
“The one who is doing this is taking distance from Europe and not trying to enter Europe,” he said.
Erdogan sought to rub salt into the wound Tuesday by bringing up the Srebrenica massacre of 1995, where Dutch UN peacekeepers failed to prevent the killing of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims by Bosnian Serbs.
“The Netherlands and the Dutch, we know them from the Srebrenica massacre,” he said, telling The Hague “not to give us a lesson in civilisation”.
‘Not welcome here’
With anger growing in Germany over Turkey’s behaviour, Germany’s biggest-selling daily Bild told Erdogan he was not welcome in the country.
“Bild tells the truth to Erdogan’s face — you are not a democrat! You are hurting your country! You are not welcome here!,” it said on its front page.
Berlin’s anger has been compounded by the jailing ahead of a trial on terror charges of dual Turkish-German national Deniz Yucel, the Turkey correspondent of the German newspaper Die Welt.
Senior Turkish ministers, including Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, have also put into question the future of a deal with the European Union last year the substantially reduced migrant flows to the bloc.
Jean Marcou, professor at Sciences Po Grenoble in France, said the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was deliberately playing up the row to make a show of giving Europe lessons in democracy at a time when the far right is on the rise.
“The fact that the AKP is trying to mobilise people by using these kind of methods and arguments shows that perhaps the Turkish government is fragile and not so sure of the result on April 16,” he said.