The queen and the pioneer

President Gül paid an official visit to the Netherlands this week, to commemorate 400 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries. The Queen and the President both disappointed and surprised me.

You could say the visit was a bit overshadowed by our national clown and racist politician, Geert Wilders. He was against the visit to begin with, because of Gül being President of an ‘Islamic country’ – that’s how ridiculous it gets these days in Holland. But Wilders is officially supporting the Dutch government, making sure it has a majority in Parliament to carry out policies. So even though Wilders is not in the government, what he says has to be taken into account by the government. So if he shouts something to humiliate Gül or Turkey, the government cannot lash out at him too hard, so afraid are they of losing his support and thus their decision-making power in Parliament. The government has been taken hostage by Wilders, you could say.

President Gül openly took exception to Wilders’ racist ideas. (He was not taken seriously by some; you can read an opinion article I wrote on that here.) I’m pretty sure the Queen does not agree with his views either, but in the Dutch monarchy, the Queen has no power to speak out about her own opinions. She has to always stay above party politics. But in the end, the Queen did speak out. At least, that’s how I interpret the news that came in on Wednesday, the second day of the visit: the Queen has decided to pay an official visit to Turkey, as early as June. It surprised me, and I applaud her for it. I think it is a way for her to take a stand against shallow, populist opinions.

Maybe I will get a second chance to meet the Queen and the President in June. I thought I was going to shake hands this week, but that didn’t happen. Quite a hilarious story, actually.

I’m also in the Netherlands for a few days, partly in relation to Gül’s visit. Gül and Beatrix opened an exhibition on Tuesday in Amsterdam: ‘Dutch pioneers in Turkey’. The exhibition consists of 18 portraits of Dutch people who live as ‘pioneers’ in Turkey: a big picture and a short text. I was one of the pioneers, and therefore invited to the official opening.

I invited my mother to come with me. We are both totally not lovers of monarchy or in any way fans of the Dutch royal family, and I even support abolishing the monarchy. But I’m a curious woman, so I thought it would be interesting to experience how such openings go, what instructions you get about addressing the Queen and the President, things like that. Besides, I love dressing up, and saw a great opportunity here.

So we showed up right on time at 5.30. We were a bit surprised that nobody checked our invitation and that we got no instructions whatsoever. The invite was strictly for two, but when we saw the relative chaos, mum and I concluded we could easily have taken dad along too. Anyway, we wait for what’s to come, till a friend of mine shows up, also dressed up, also with her mother. She says: ‘Hey, did you hear? The Queen and the President aren’t here, they opened the exhibition at 3 with a very small group of invited guests. This is only for the other people involved.’ Many people misunderstood and were surprised.

So that’s how it goes. As just a simple pioneer, you can’t make it to Group 1; you only make it to Group 2. Small disappointment, but mainly very funny. We had a good laugh, a few drinks, and a great evening anyway, of course.

Want to go see your favourite correspondent hanging on a museum wall in Amsterdam? The expo will be open till 26 August, and can be seen in Amsterdam Museum. All information here! 

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