Violence outside Turkish embassy in Brussels during referendum vote

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Several people were wounded when violence broke out between supporters and opponents of the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in front of the Turkish embassy in Brussels on Thursday. 

“There were serious incidents between supporters and opponents of the Turkish regime on the public street near the Turkish consulate. Several people were injured. They were taken to hospital,” Ilse van de Keere, spokesperson for the Brussels police told AFP. 

A hundred protesters remained outside the embassy Thursday evening, van de Keere told Belgian paper Le Soir. 

ANF News, a Kurdish outlet with ties to the PKK, reported that three Kurds were among the injured, some suffering from serious stab wounds. 

The Prime Minister of Belgium, Charles Michel, tweeted in French his condemnation of the violence, saying his government has “zero tolerance for spillovers in connection with the Turkish referendum. I strongly condemn the violence in front of the embassy.”

Turkish citizens living in Belgium and eligible to vote in Turkey’s referendum on constitutional amendments are able to do between March 27 and April 9 at the Turkish consulates in Belgium and Antwerp. 

There are around 3 million Turks living abroad in 57 countries who can vote in the referendum, according to state-run Anadolu Agency.

Restrictions on Turkish officials campaigning for the referendum in Europe have strained already fractious ties between Europe and Turkey.

Rallies planned by Turkish authorities and expected to be attended by Turkish ministers in Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands in advance of the referendum were blocked with the European authorities citing security concerns.

Turkish leaders reacted, accusing Europe of supporting the ‘no’ campaign and siding with terrorists. 

“They set aside diplomacy. They do not have the urge to hide their intentions any cannot hide the discomfort they feel from Turkey, which is growing stronger,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a campaign rally in Istanbul, accusing European nations of overtly supporting the ‘no’ campaign. 

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim accused European nations of siding with terrorists. “The events happening in Europe show us that the big plan is in Europe. Germany, Austria and Switzerland are meeting together and hosting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) well,” he said at a referendum campaign event.

Voting on the referendum in Turkey will take place on April 16. The constitutional amendments, if approved, will see the current parliamentary system replaced with a powerful presidency. 

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