Erdogan effigy stunt in Sweden aimed to reveal 'dictatorial' Turkey

Pro-Kurdish activists in Stockholm who hanged an effigy of Turkey's president, further impeding Sweden's bid to join NATO, say their stunt aimed to draw attention to Ankara's "dictatorial" regime.

The brazen stunt in front of the city hall incensed Turkey, which is yet to ratify Sweden's bid to join NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine last February.

Ankara wants Stockholm to crack down on activists close to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party and people accused of having ties to Fethullah Gulen, a US-based preacher wanted over a failed 2016 coup, before it approves Sweden's NATO aspirations.

Andreas, a 39-year-old Swede speaking to AFP on condition that his surname not be disclosed, showed a doll resembling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with a rope still tied to his ankles.

He and four other activists from the pro-Kurdish Rojava Committee of Sweden hung the effigy by the feet.

The display was meant to mirror the grim end of Italy's late dictator Benito Mussolini in 1945, when his body was strung up after he was executed.

Presented as a reminder of the fate of "dictators", the action was staged and filmed before being posted on social media.

The provocation caused outrage.

Sweden's ambassador was summoned in Ankara, which denounced it as "terrorism".

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson called it "sabotage" and condemned a "mock execution of a foreign democratically-elected leader."

- 'Sabotage not a bad word'-

"We did not expect it to get as big as it did," Andreas admits, "but of course it's good that the word got out."

"All of these actions we are doing just show more and more how undemocratic Turkey is. A normal democracy would never have reacted like this," he said.

In the Scandinavian country, NATO membership was long taboo, especially on the left.

But Russia's invasion of Ukraine flipped public and political opinion, as did the prospect of neighbouring Finland joining.

While polls showed a sharp swing in favour of NATO, many are disgruntled that there was little public debate before the previous Social Democratic government announced the country's bid in May.

Andreas, who describes himself as a "socialist" sympathiser who became passionate about the Kurdish cause because of the war in Syria, does not shy away from being labelled a saboteur.

"For me, sabotage is not a bad word... many political changes have happened through sabotage," he says.

The Rojava Committee is a "small group" of less than 100 supporters without financial backing, he says, "so we are using the means we have".

- No laws broken -

Slow-moving negotiations with Ankara have also raised fears the Nordic country, which has long proclaimed itself a "moral superpower", is prepared to sacrifice too much in the name of realpolitik.

Ankara and Budapest are the only holdouts who have yet to ratify Sweden's NATO membership.

Turkey has also demanded the extradition of some people but the Swedish courts have blocked that.

Swedish pundits have stressed that though the mock hanging was in bad taste, it was well within the country's freedom of expression laws.

Prosecutors said Monday a complaint of "defamation" had been dismissed and decided not to open an investigation.

"We knew it wasn't a crime because we have people working with law in our group," Andreas says.

"We are not trying to break any laws and we're doing what we can to protest," he adds.

In a sign that their action was perceived as harmless among Swedes, it took place in broad daylight, in full view of passers-by.

"People came up asking: 'What is this?' 'Interesting', 'Is it Erdogan?' Nobody cared when we did it."

The group is organising a demonstration against the Turkish regime and Sweden joining NATO on Saturday in Stockholm.

Following last week's stunt, a small left-leaning newspaper has launched a competition for satirical drawings of Erdogan, with a prize of 10,000 Swedish kronor (about $950).

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