A news ticker at Istanbul’s International Atatürk Airport displayed a message on Friday which reads, “Travel Warning! Did you know that Sweden has the highest rape rate worldwide?”
The headline was taken from a report from the Turkish newspaper Güneş and it comes days after Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom tweeted on Sunday, “Turkish decision to allow sex with children under 15 must be reversed. Children need more protection, not less, against violence, sex abuse.”
The allegation regarding child abuse, which have also been raised by a derogatory statement at Vienna International Airport in Austria aswell as the Swedish foreign minister’s comments, have revived European anti-Turkish sentiment and led Ankara to make an official complaint.
The statement was removed following harsh criticism, and Ankara expressed its “disappointment and denunciation.”
A written statement from the Foreign Ministry read, “We deplore and strongly condemn that an international airport, located in the center of Europe and used by passengers from different countries, was abused by a discredited newspaper to spread irresponsible, distorted and falsified messages which defame a friendly country and the nation.”
The Constitutional Court released a statement regarding the false claim late on Monday.
“The allegations are baseless,” said the court in the statement after explaining the legal aspects of the matter. “Sexual intercourse with and abuse of minors under 15 continue to be classified as crimes under Turkish law,” the statement added.
The news ticker is courtesy of Kronen Zeitung, an Austrian newspaper that was responsible for a sign urging people not to visit Turkey shortly after the foiled July 15 coup attempt, when the news update at the airport read: “Traveling to Turkey means you are supporting [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan.”
The statement, a quote from a story in Kronen Zeitung, was removed after the Turkish Embassy in Vienna complained.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström also faced criticism over her remarks.
Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu criticized Wallström’s statement, saying that contrary to her claims, Turkey is taking action against child abuse. He added that he will call her to tell her that Turkey is concerned by such statements. Çavuşoğlu added that Turkey accepts criticism, but lies and slander should not be confused as criticism, and that such remarks reflect rising Islamophobia and anti-Turkish sentiment in Europe.
“It is a scandal for a foreign minister to post such a tweet based on false news or speculation.”
The issue stems from a recent verdict from Constitutional Court that calls for different classification of prison terms for different age groups in cases of child sexual abuse.
Recently on Saturday, the Turkish Embassy in Vienna took action based on orders from Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu to remove a live ticker at the Vienna airport displaying a provocative statement falsely claiming that Turkey allows sexual intercourse with children under the age of 15.
In Turkey, the age of consent is set as 18, in line with the Civil Code.
The Turkish Penal Code classifies any kind of sexual activity with minors under 18 who are unable to understand the legal meaning and consequences of such actions as child sexual abuse.