Turkey's EU affairs minister and chief negotiator for Turkish Accession to the EU, Ömer Çelik, criticized Belgian state minister for equal rights and fight against poverty, Zuhal Demir, on Sunday for her objections to after-school Turkish lessons for children of Turkish descent.
Çelik said Demir's objections to the Turkish language lessons for children of Turkish descent was a obvious call for assimilation.
Çelik's remarks come after Demir, whose parents are of Alevi-Kurdish descent and emigrated from Turkey to Belgium, objected to after-school Turkish lessons, claiming that the lessons will hamper Turkish minorities' integration process.
"Such a statement by a minister in charge of equal rights is utterly a shame. It is also wrong to couple the term ‘integration' with such a statement. This is a sheer call for assimilation in the most unrefined way possible," Çelik wrote on his official Twitter account.
Demir is a parliamentarian of the Flemish nationalist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) in Belgium. According to a news report published by Het Laatste Nieuws (HLN), around 50 students of Turkish descent in Ghent receive Turkish language lessons after school with teachers funded by the Republic of Turkey. Supporting this activity is against the process of integration, said Demir, adding that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan provides Turkish lessons to hamper Turkish people's integration into Flemish society.
Çelik described Demir's attempt as an "enlightened despotism" for assimilation policies. "Today, the threat to European democracies is not from outside but from within. This oppressive mentality threatens democracy," he said.
Last year, Demir while on the program "De Afspraak," which aired on state-run Canvas, commented on Turkey and terrorism. When she was shown a photograph of her attending a pro-PKK meeting, she said it was quite normal. Demir also said she marched at the PKK rally in Brussels in November 2016 but at the same, denied having sympathy for the terror group. The PKK is listed as a terrorist group by the EU, the United States and Turkey.
After the controversial claims on TV, Demir made further controversial statements on March 2017 saying, "Muslims should adopt our values. But [most] would not do it on their own initiative. Some require help or force."
Additionally, Çelik stated that for healthy integration, there should not be any obstacles for newcomers to learn their new country's native tongue or to improve their identity. Demir's anti-Turkey and anti-Islam stance is considered the main factor in her coming to the fore in the nationalist party and becoming a state secretary.
She also said recently that she wants to renounce her Turkish citizenship, indicating that she feels Flemish, in an interview she gave to De Morgen.
On the possibility that the Turkish government might refuse her application, she said, "But at least then I will have made it clear that the love affair is over."