Why are Arabs disappointed with Erdoğan?
Even though everything seems fine to those who rely on the argument that there is a "parallel state," unfortunately the truth is different.
The circles and figures that had previously expressed support for the democratic transformation in Turkey during Justice and Development Party (AKP) rule are now feeling disappointed by a serious reversal in a number of fields, from democracy to media freedom.
Those who live in a dream world believe that there is a clear reason for the change in attitude of former AKP supporters in the West: They want to hinder the rise of Turkey on the global stage. Therefore, they suggest that Turkey should not pay attention to warnings from the West, because Turkey is a popular country and actor in the Middle East and the Muslim world. For this reason, the positive responses and reactions from this region should be taken into account, given that they view Turkey as a model country.
This was the case up until two years ago. Based on survey results and my personal impressions, I wrote a few columns on the growing popularity of Turkey and the AKP in the region. But today there are serious concerns in the region about the policies of the ruling party, even though the majority of the people still love Turkey out of historical, cultural, religious and economic ties. As people's expectations had been high, their disappointment is great.
Turkey, which had previously bragged about maintaining good ties with all parties and countries in the region, now does not have ambassadors in some of those countries. It appears that interference in the domestic politics of some countries has been costly, despite the fact that this was done out of idealist motivations. Turkey has been alienated from Egypt. We are not strong enough to ensure the release of Muslim Brotherhood (MB) members, and we have no political leverage on the Egyptian administration to make it adopt a lenient approach towards the MB, which has been declared a terrorist organization.
Ankara, failing to strike a deal between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition in Syria, has also been unable to topple Assad. The course of future events in Syria still remains unclear, despite the ongoing chaos that has claimed thousands of lives so far. The normalization efforts to improve ties with the administration of Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki still appear to be inconclusive. Ankara feels ambivalent because of its engagement with the Iraqi Kurdistan region, which will allow a more direct flow of oil to the world. With the exception of Qatar, the Gulf States are concerned about the AKP's relations with Iran, its Egyptian policy and its discourse of political Islam. Domestic issues, including corruption allegations and the decline of democratic reforms in Turkey, are also sources of concern.
In a column on why our Arab allies are disappointed with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Abdul Rahman al-Rashid, head of the Al Arabiya network, has elaborated on the change in how Turkey is perceived. Rashid notes that the Arabs, who expect a savior all the time, had viewed Erdoğan as the next hero after former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah. Erdoğan attracted people's attention because of the successes in Turkey; he paid attention to conflicts in the region; despite the failure of the Mavi Marmara incident, Erdoğan won the hearts of Arabs in the region. He was strongly opposed to Assad in Syria. But now everybody feels disappointed, because Turkey has done almost nothing, despite its bold statements and threats. Besides, the corruption probe has revealed that the money Iran has been spending to support the Baath regime in Syria was allegedly laundered in Turkey. The policy through which Turkey attempted to be influential in Egypt, by supporting the MB, failed. Despite President Abdullah Gül's efforts to rectify relations, the Turkish envoy was expelled from Egypt.
Particularly after the corruption and bribery probe, in which even some ministers were implicated because of alleged involvement in gold trading with Iran, the reaction to Erdoğan in domestic politics has also grown. Although his ardent supporters have tried to protect Erdoğan by arguing that the police and judiciary have been infiltrated, that they are controlled by the Hizmet movement and that the media is against the ruling party, there has been no answer to the following questions: If the judiciary was so corrupt, why was it able to bring the military servicemen who had plotted a coup against Erdoğan to account? If the judiciary and the police had been doing wrong, how did Erdoğan rule the country for 12 years? If the Hizmet movement were evil and controlled by the US, why did the AKP enter into an alliance with it? Not only are the judiciary, the media, the police and the opposition opposed to Erdoğan, who has reshuffled and reassigned many police officers and judges in order to obstruct the corruption and bribery charges, but so are some members of the ruling party. He has also taken measures to make the judiciary part of the executive body. With this move, he has irritated all the other parties. Now the Arabs are disappointed once more, because they may lose their dream of a Turkish leader who will save them and whom they love, despite the fact that he has not waged war against Israel or Bashar al-Assad or reinstated former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi to his position.
By Abdülhamit Bilici