From Spain to Turkey, the rise of the far right is a clash of cultures not civilisations

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05/06/2019

Vox and other extremists are making huge political gains for the first time in years. Their success risks tearing societies apart. I spent part of my childhood in Ankara and part of it in Madrid. Commuting between Spain and Turkey in the early 1980s was a strange experience. Spain had recently returned to democracy after years of dictatorship, and Turkey had experienced yet another military coup. Both countries were at the fringes of Europe, neither part of the EU. It was said that “Europe finishes at the start of the Pyrenees”, but if the mountain range between France and Spain was regarded as a border, another frontier was the waters of the Bosphorus. It often felt as though I was travelling from one end of Europe to the other. The Spain that I experienced was vibrant, welcoming and warm-hearted. Despite the occasional pro-Franco mutterings of an older generation, Spain embraced democracy. How I wanted my motherland to follow suit.

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