Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was blocked Saturday by German protesters from receiving an award for “humanity and tolerance.”
The 2012 Steiger Award was originally set to be awarded to Erdogan at a ceremony Saturday night in the western Germany city of Bochum. “Steiger” translates as “miner,” and is intended to reflect the qualities of responsibility, honesty, openness and hard work valued in the North Rhine Westphalia region where the award is presented. The award was created in 2005 under a private initiative.
The Turkish prime minister was to receive the prize “in the name of the Turkish people” on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the agreement that allowed hundreds of thousands of Turkish foreign workers to enter Germany.
However, at least 25,000 people demonstrated in Bochum against the move, the vast majority of whom were of Turkish origin, according to the DPA news agency. They cited “human rights violations,” including Turkey’s persecution of the Kurdish population. There are some three million Turkish nationals and Germans of Turkish origin currently living in Germany.
Organizers meanwhile said they had decided not to award the prize to Erdogan because he was not personally attending the ceremony. The Turkish prime minister’s office told reporters he had canceled his plans after 12 Turkish soldiers died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
By Chana Ya’ar