Skip to main content

Several injured in Brussels clashes as Turkish poll tensions spill into Europe

60-year old woman among those hospitalised following violence between supporters and opponents of constitutional referendum
Photo shows woman being taken to hospital in a ambulance after the incident in Brussels (Twitter)

Six people were injured in "serious incidents" in front of the Turkish consulate in Brussels between supporters and opponents of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday, Belgian police said.

"Serious incidents broke out between supporters and opponents of the Turkish regime, on a public road, outside the consulate of Turkey," Brussels police spokeswoman Ilse van de Keere told AFP.

"Many people were injured" and taken to hospital, she added.

On Friday morning the Belgian prosecutor's office said that six people had been injured, of which two were still hospitalized. Five people born between 1969 and 1988 were arrested and will be questioned by the police, the prosecutor added. The five men were among the injured. 

According to the pro-Kurdish Firat news agency (ANF), three people of Kurdish origin arriving to vote on the referendum were stabbed in incidents provoked by supporters of Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The news agency said that the attackers belonged to the "Ottoman Hearths", a pro-Erdogan street youth movement who have been responsible for similar violent incidents in Turkey.

The incident occurred on the third day that Turkish voters in Belgium are allowed to cast early ballots for a referendum that could vastly boost Erdogan's powers.

Turkish voters in Austria, Denmark, France, Germany and Switzerland can also cast their ballots for the next two weeks, until 9 April.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, in a tweet, condemned the violence saying his government has "zero tolerance" for such incidents linked to the Turkish referendum.

Around 100 people remained in front of the consulate at 10pm but police had managed to separate the rival camps and the situation was said to be under control.

The Brussels prosecutor's office was investigating the incident.

'Mob' blamed

The Kurdish community organisation NavBel said a 60-year-old woman was among those attacked and was seriously wounded.

One of the four attackers fled into the embassy building but was later arrested, NavBel said in a statement cited by the Belga press agency.

The No Platform In Europe, an organisation lobbying for the Turkish diaspora to vote No in the referendum, released a statement condemning the attack, blaming the Yes supporters for instigating the violence to intimidate their opponents.

“The dictator in the palace [Erdogan] and the fascist AKP-MHP mob cannot scare us with these attacks," the group said, referring to the AKP's alliance in the referendum with the leaders of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

Turkey will vote on 16 April on the proposal to create an executive presidency and abolish the post of prime minister.

Relations have strained between Europe and Turkey - especially with the Netherlands and Germany - after Turkish ministers were blocked from speaking to their citizens in those countries.

Western nations have also voiced concern about the planned changes, and about a crackdown in Turkey in the aftermath of a failed coup last July that has seen thousands of people arrested or fired from their posts.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

 
Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.