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 Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama details troop deployment and other pieces of US plan More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

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.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid