News / Middle East

    Erdogan: From 'Rock Star' to Mixed Reviews From Arabs

    Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters in Ankara, Jun. 9, 2013.
    Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters in Ankara, Jun. 9, 2013.
    Reuters
    Two years ago, Tayyip Erdogan was mobbed by adoring crowds in Arab capitals and Turkey seemed set to expand its trade and influence across the region on the back of his support for the upstart democrats of the Arab Spring.
     
    Today, his crackdown on protests at home has sickened some of those who hailed an unlikely liberator from the land of their former Ottoman overlords; they now scorn the prime minister as little better than the dictators they ousted.
     
    Yet Erdogan still has many Arab fans; his popularity has divided just as the coalitions that overthrew leaders in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya have split into feuding camps. And with fellow Islamists in the ascendant, the Turkish leader can still count on a warm welcome, even if headline writers no longer greet him as the “rock star” of the Middle East or “king of the Arabs”.
     
    In Tunisia, cradle of the regional uprisings, Erdogan was received by its Islamist government last week while Turkish police fought protesters on the streets of Istanbul. But there was little of the enthusiasm among Tunisians that greeted him in 2011 as the model for combining Islam, democracy and prosperity.
     
    “Erdogan was just a flash in the pan,” said Haykel Jbeli, a young subway train driver in Tunis. “After he talked so much about human rights, the events on Taksim Square have unmasked his true face. He's a hypocrite. He'll never be a model for us.”
     
    In Cairo, where liberals fear President Mohamed Morsi will impose Islamic laws favored by his Muslim Brotherhood, activist Khaled Dawoud said Erdogan's derision toward secular Turks and use of force on the streets had turned many Egyptians against a man hailed as a hero on Tahrir Square in 2011, when he was among the first world leaders to tell Hosni Mubarak his time was up.
     
    “We no longer see him as the moderate Islamist who wants to continue with the existing model of democracy,” said Dawoud, who took part in protests this week against Islamist control of Egypt's Culture Ministry. “The people see Erdogan right now as a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. "There's a sense that we're facing similar attempts to rebuild dictatorship in the name of religion, whether in Egypt or in Tunisia and of course right now we can see it in Turkey.”
     
    For Hamma Hammami of Tunisia's secular Popular Front, “Erdogan is a dictator” like the ousted Zine El Abidine Ben Ali: “He's no different from the leaders in Egypt and Tunisia.”
     
    Erdogan has the right
     
    Nine months ago, a Pew survey of Arab public opinion found Erdogan to be the most popular leader, outscoring King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia who has special status as guardian of the holy city of Mecca. And many Arabs still hold him in high regard.
     
    In Benghazi, seat of the Libyan revolt that toppled Moammar Gaddafi and now beset by factional fighting, student Ali Mohammed, 25, said: “Erdogan has the right to try to stop demonstrations. Turkey's economy is being hurt, tourism is affected, so if the government feels this is in danger, they have the right.”
     
    While 27-year-old accountant Adil al-Drissi said, “It is wrong,” and that the protests could spell the end of Erdogan's rule, engineer Ahmed Musa, 31, reflected the admiration Libyans have for Turkey's economic success story under him.
     
    “Erdogan has done a lot for Turkey and those calling for him to step down are crazy,” he said. “Why do they want this?”
     
    In Tunis, Monem Layouni, whose bushy beard is a mark of his Islamist views, praised how the Turkish leader had clashed with Ankara's historic regional ally Israel.

    “Erdogan is an example, who made his country a model for democracy and Islam,” he said.
     
    Another former friend who has felt Erdogan's wrath is President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, and the Turkish leader remains popular with the rebels still fighting in what has turned into by far the bloodiest of the Arab uprisings.
     
    Leena al-Shami, a prominent activist who fled Damascus for Istanbul just a few weeks ago, objected to comparisons Turkish liberals have drawn between their own struggle on Taksim Square and those of Arabs living under authoritarian rule.
     
    “Seeing at first hand the police firing water cannon at the demonstrators on Taksim, giving them relief from the summer heat, and seeing them go and party at night, I couldn't stop myself smiling,” she said. “If that was the Assad regime, its forces would have killed hundreds, if not thousands on Taksim.”
     
    She worried that, having opened Turkey to Syrian refugees, Erdogan could be forced from office, exposing them to hostility.

    “We are beginning to fear there could be a backlash against the Syrian refugees if Erdogan is forced to step aside,” she said.
     
    Khalid al-Dakhil, a Saudi political sociologist who has studied Turkey's regional strategy, said the unrest at home may hamper Erdogan's hopes of playing a major role in a post-Assad Syria - hopes, he said, that have already been dented by the reluctance of Arab and Western powers to fully back the rebels.
     
    But while Erdogan might be distracted and had lost the “aura of immunity” from opposition that he enjoyed, Dakhil thought it unlikely the protests would cost him power altogether.
     
    Opportunities and risks
     
    In any event, there is little evidence that troubles at home, or the poor opinion of disenchanted Arab liberals, will deter Ankara from expanding its economic and diplomatic presence in its old Ottoman backyard, a move that has accompanied a cooling of its long efforts to join the European Union.
     
    In Tunis, where Erdogan and dozens of Turkish business leaders agreed a range of investment deals last week, commentator Amel Belhadj Ali denounced a new “colonization” of North Africa. She asked: “Do we risk becoming an Ottoman dependency again?”
     
    One risk to Erdogan's strategy of influence in the new Arab democracies may come if his Islamist allies suffer a backlash.
     
    Hassan Nafaa, professor of political science at Cairo University and a critic of the Muslim Brotherhood, said the crackdown on dissent in Turkey had turned Egypt's non-Islamists against Erdogan, making the success of Ankara's present Egyptian policy dependent in turn on the success of Egypt's Brotherhood.
     
    “If the Muslim Brothers ... come up with a solid system and bring stability, maybe this will bring the ambitions of the Turkish government closer,” Nafaa said. “But if the Muslim Brothers lose, they will lose at the same time.”

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Tariq from: Pakistan
    June 13, 2013 9:22 AM
    This article is in line with the Western campaign against those Muslim leaders whom they see with skepticism. They start making a case with a nod to its sleepers complemented by such media juglary giving aspersions dipped in their own prejudice. I like Erdogan as much as you like you present president elect. Muslim have a Ummah concept and if the man is good for his nation he is deemed good in the whole Muslim world.

    If Erdugan start supporting prostitutes, gays, and free sex, he would be portrayed as West's hero. Erdogan has done wonder and with election coming closer the seculars have become panicky as they can't win in election, chaos has become their only option. Erdogan is a serious person don't expect he would give any one a walk over. He is adored in most of the Muslim world. This piece is more of a propaganda tool than an honest scribble. The writer seems much below the standard intellect.

    by: KS12 from: Turkey
    June 12, 2013 10:55 PM
    Turks are NOT Iranians..!!! we will NOT live under Islamic tyranny...!!! Turks have pride... its Iranians who like to live in the sewer.

    by: Altiglou from: Turkey
    June 12, 2013 6:56 PM
    what are you talking about... Arab slaves, remnants of the Ottoman Empire Arab slaves in Turkey are Erdogan ONLY supporters. The rest of Turkey (whites) hates him and his Arab slaves in Turkey. Educated Turks refuse to live their lives like Iranians... slaves to Islamic Mullahs and other filthy degenerates.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora