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Erdogan’s image in the spotlight

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

When protests suddenly kicked off at Taksim Square in Turkey’s Istanbul, plenty thought it was a situation akin to Tunisia, Egypt and Syria at the beginning of the revolutions there. Hasty opinions made themselves heard; an Egyptian said he hopes that Erdogan falls while Syria’s information minister mockingly advised Turkey’s premier.

Dailies circulated photos of famous Turkish actors and actresses participating in the protests. Dailies of new Islamist parties said protests in Turkey are a result of an Iranian-Israeli conspiracy. Even Erdogan himself said the protests were being mobilized by his rival, the Republican Party.

Each person analyzes what’s happening as per his or her political stance. Iran and the Syrian regime think it is divine help

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Since we did not expect a revolution to erupt in Egypt and since we never imagined that a revolution would erupt in Syria, we have learnt to observe such events in much the same manner as we watch football games and horse races. We wait for the end to see the result.

Taksim Square in Istanbul is not Tahrir Square in Cairo or Irada Square in Sanaa. However, the attention given to it was the same as the others. Some were occupied looking for a reason that justifies the “environmental uprising” against Erdogan.

Syria’s secret wish

Each person analyzes what’s happening as per his or her political stance. Iran and the Syrian regime think it is divine help that comes at a difficult time to save the neighbor in danger, embattled Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. If a revolution erupts in Turkey, suppressing the revolution in Syria will be easier. This is what they wish. There are also the Israelis. Despite the reconciliation and the apology made and despite Turkish officials’ visits to Tel Aviv, the Israelis think that Erdogan represents a problem and that he will continue to seek popularity at their expense. There are also the Arab liberal parties. The truth is, they are not against Erdogan but against the Arab Islamists who attribute his success to their intellect. Arab liberals see that the Turks’ uprising is an important symbolic collapse. They see it as an uprising against the religious camp that rides the wave of democracy to achieve its aims. Tunisia’s and Egypt’s Islamists seized power by exploiting liberal intellect and democracy. After seizing power, they began to fight it. They want to change this intellect to make it suit their extremist dictatorial view of power.

The truth is, the Turkish Islamist party and the Arab Islamist party are different on the levels of philosophy and practice. We do not have real evidence that the Islamist government in Turkey has coup intents. The practices of Erdogan’s party and government are closer to the intellect of Arab liberals than they are to the intellect of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and other countries.

Thus, is there anything to fear when it comes to the opposition youth’s practices in Istanbul? Turkey is not Egypt. And it is certainly not Syria. Tayyip Erdogan’s government is not Ben Ali’s government in Tunisia or Saleh’s government in Yemen. Turkey is a country governed by elections, and Erdogan seized power through these elections. He was re-elected and he won with a majority of votes. No one questioned his legitimacy. On the another hand, Erdogan does not completely adhere to the rules of democratic work like Britain’s premier or Germany’s chancellor do. He jailed journalists, pursued competing media outlets and attempted to restrict people’s freedoms. Perhaps this is what led his rivals to gather against him in Taksim Square under the excuse of rejecting to uproot trees.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on June 5 2013.

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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.