Golden sculpture of Turkish leader removed from German city after provoking clashes
The city of Wiesbaden in Germany has removed a golden statue of the Turkish head of state installed in the city centre as part of an arts festival, because of the controversy it aroused.
“In agreement with the police, the municipality decided to dismount the statue because the security around could no longer be guaranteed,” said the town hall in a message on its Twitter account.
The four-meter-high statue of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan with his arm outstretched and finger pointing, was installed at the beginning of the week in the city by the organisers of the Biennale art festival in Wiesbaden.
This festival, operating this year under the slogan “bad news” had obtained permission from local authorities, and said it aimed to provoke the public and encourage discussion. But they were apparently too successful in their mission as the sculpture has aroused clashes between supporters and opponents of both the project and Erdogan himself.
Soon after being installed, several insulting comments, including “Turkish Hitler,” were scrawled on the statue. The atmosphere became particularly heated on Tuesday night when the two sides faced each other “in a rather aggressive atmosphere,” according to a police spokesman.
A local security official, Oliver Franz, told the daily Wiesbadener Kurier of a physical confrontation between the two sides. “Knives have been observed,” he added. This situation eventually pushed the mayor to order the withdrawal of the work.
Uwe Eric Laufenberg, the director of the theater of Wiesbaden who curated the exhibition, defended it in the name of freedom of expression.
“It is certainly appropriate to conceive of Erdogan as a controversial figure, and one that we are allowed to discuss freely here in this country, he told Reuters, adding that “in a democracy, we have to put up with all kinds of opinions.”
A local leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, Emil Sänze, denounced in turn “the stupidity” of the organisers who “offer a stage to a despot who spends his time humiliating the Germans”