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

    Saudi Arabia’s New Female Politicians in the Other Room 

    Many in Saudi Arabia say elected representatives should share unsegregated spaces; according to a recent survey, more than half the Saudi population, both men and women, prefer to work in a segregated place

    Russia Not ‘Apologetic’ for Syria Airstrikes

    With Moscow criticized for targeting armed opponents of President Assad, Russia’s UN envoy says his country ‘acting in a very transparent manner’

    Pakistan Warns of Islamic State's Growing Reach

    Aftab Sultan, General Director General of Intelligence Bureau (IB), briefed Senate Committee in closed hearing, saying that IS-linked groups have been expanding in Pakistan

    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.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.