Around 200 protesters rallied on Saturday in front of the Turkish consulate in Basra, southern Iraq, threatening to boycott Turkish companies if Ankara does not hand over Iraq’s fugitive vice president.
The demonstrators set fire to a Turkish flag, shouting, “No, No, Turkey!” and “Throw the Turks out!” amid a chill in ties between the neighboring countries.
Turkish consular staff did not visibly respond to the rally, an AFP journalist said.
“We condemn the acts and interference by the Turkish government in Iraqi issues,” said Hassan Hamdi al-Izzi, head of the United Syndicate of Workers, which organized the protest.
“They are trying to create sectarian conflict between the Iraqi people, and they are keeping the criminal Tareq al-Hashemi,” he added, referring to Iraq’s vice president, who is in Turkey and on trial in Iraq on charges of running a death squad.
Hashemi is staying in Turkey while on trial in absentia in Baghdad, and Ankara has said it will not extradite him.
He has dismissed the accusations as politically motivated.
Protesters also distributed leaflets that read: “We give Turkey 15 days to meet our demands. If not, we will target Turkey’s interests, represented by Turkish companies.”
The leaflet did not elaborate on what it meant by targeting Turkish businesses, but Izzi said it involved boycotting Turkish companies in Basra and campaigning for their ejection from the southern port city.
Ties between Iraq and Turkey have worsened in recent months, with the Iraqi foreign ministry most recently summoning Ankara’s envoy to Baghdad on Tuesday to complain about the conduct of two Turkish diplomats, including the consul in Basra.
It was the second time Turkish Ambassador Yunus Demirer was summoned in less than a month.
And last month, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused his Iraqi counterpart, Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite, of stoking sectarian tensions among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, and of monopolizing power.
Maliki fired back, saying such comments “will damage Turkey’s interests and makes it a hostile state for all.”