The head of largest Turkish European NGO says Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an opportunity for the long overdue peace in the fragile Balkan region ahead of the NGO’s 6th general assembly in Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo which the Turkish president will attend as an honorary guest on May 20th.
“Turkish president Erdogan has a good relations with Serbs and Croats and we have strong cultural and historical ties with Bosniaks and that is extremely important for the stability of the Balkans,” says Zafer Sirakaya, the head of Union of European Turkish Democrats or UETD. Sirakaya underlined the importance of recent climax in Turkish Serbia relations thanks to unprecedented friendly ties between the presidents of both countries.
The head of UETD, Zafer Sirakaya says they will send a strong brotherly message to Europe from the Bosnian capital
“Peace in Bosnia which is dubbed failed-state goes through Belgrade and Turkey is well aware of it and have been investing in Serbia both politically and economically,” says one of the experts in Bosnia who has been closely following the matter for decades. Bosnian Serbs started an aggression on Bosniaks in 1992 following the referendum which overwhelmingly approved breaking away of Bosnia from dismantling Yugoslavia following the footpaths of other Yugoslav countries like Croatia and Slovenia. In the following 4 years, more than 100 thousand people were killed and Bosnian Serbs carried out the last genocide of 20th century in the heart of Europe.
UETD have already been active in 17 Eurpoean countries and have launched its offices in the Balkan countries last year. The Turkish NGO to hold its 6th general assemly in Sarajevo which drew some controversy on social media in the Balkan country.
“Those who oppose Erdogan’s visit are always on the social media. when you go out on the streets of Sarajevo, they are nowhere to be found,” says Selim Dilek, one of the prominent Turkish businessman in Sarajevo who moved there right after the war.
UETD will hold its general assembly in Sarajevo’s Olympic hall which is expected to exhaust its over 10 thousand people capacity drawing attendees from all over Europe. One hotel owner in Sarajevo who prefer not to be named says he already booked his 120-bed capacity hotel for the MAy 20th weekend. “All the shopkeepers, restaurant owners are pleasant of the event because it will bring thousands of people to this city and provide a lot of cash for the locals,” he added.
UETD head Sirakaya also pointed out that the reason why his NGO is holding its general assembly in Sarajevo has a lot to do with the recent increasing xenophobia, Islamophobia and antisemitism in Europe. “Sarajevo is a city where mosques, churches and synagogues live side by side and people of all religious and ethnic background live in harmony and we will send the message of brotherhood to rest of the Europe from the Jarusalem of the Balkans,” said Sirakaya.
Sarajevo Olympic Hall during 1984 Winter Olympics.
Some European media have been heavily criticizing Turkish president for using the Balkan country to promote his election agenda. The European countries mainly Germany and The Netherlands prevented Turkish officials from holding rallies ahead of last year’s referendum which changed Turkey’s parliamentary system to presidential one. France, Germany, Austria and The Netherlands all announced that they do not want Turkish politicians to hold election activities in their countries for the June 24th early elections.
Mustafa Yeneroglu, however, an Ak Party member who was raised in Germany, recently said the election ban of European countries only applies to Ak Party and the members of Turkish opposition have been appearing in election propaganda gatherings in some European countries.