Turkey G-20 presidency overshadowed by restrictions on media and free enterprise

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has made it a habit to use the Rabia salute — used to show demonstrate solidarity with former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi — at almost every opportunity he gets, has virtually nationalized the four-finger sign, with each finger representing one of his and”new Turkeyand” principles: one nation one flag one state and one homeland.
Made by raising four fingers with the thumb resting on the palm, the Rabia sign became the symbol of protests against the military coup in Egypt led by then-General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, causing the ouster of Morsi on July 3, 2013.
Then Prime Minister Erdogan, who assumed a tough stance against Sisi and fiercely criticized the coup against Morsi at many platforms, adopted the four-finger Rabia sign and turned it into a habit of saluting people at Justice and Development Party (AK Party) rallies. He flashed the sign for the first time during a rally on Aug. 17, 2013 in the northwestern province of Bursa in a show of support for the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi.
According to Erdogan, the sign was not only about andquothis Egyptian brothersand” but also about humanity. Speaking at the closing of the AK Partyand’s 21st Consultation and Evaluation meeting in November 2013, Erdogan slammed those who accused him of overusing and exploiting the salute, saying: andquotThis sign is not only a sign of the rights of Egyptians, but is also a sign of raising your voice to injustices, oppressions, crackdowns, massacres and coups all around the world.andquot
According to many Arab newspapers including the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya, the Turkish government turned the coup in Egypt into a matter of internal affairs and thereby and”become the regional hub for the Muslim Brotherhoodand’s international organization.and” Erdogan on countless occasions defended the Muslim Brotherhood, saying Turkey is always ready to welcome banned Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
Erdogan took his support for the brotherhood a step further when he broke into tears on a televised program on andulke TV late in August of 2013 when senior Muslim Brotherhood politician Mohammad al-Beltagyand’s letter to his daughter, who was killed by Egyptian security forces in a crackdown in Cairo on Aug. 14, was read at the end of the program.
However, the tough stance taken by Erdogan and the Turkish government on Egypt, Iraq and Syria, countries that are important to Turkey given their strategic location, has contributed significantly to the countryand’s reduced power in the region. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and , Egypt began to accuse Turkey of giving strong support to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups in the region. The deteriorating relations with these countries and others in the region led to Ankara losing its effectiveness in the Middle East.
Upon growing reactions and deteriorating relations with regional states, Erdogan seems to have reduced the harshness of his stance against Sisi. The Turkish president for instance turned his back on his once-close ally Morsi and remained silent after Morsi was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
What is more striking, Erdogan seems to have nationalized his most favorite sign as well. Even the pro-government Takvim daily acknowledged the change in Erdoganand’s Rabia sign on Nov. 11 in a news piece on a photo of Erdogan released officially after his talk with US President Barack Obama before the G-20 summit. The photo shows a sculpture of the Rabia sign.
and”Erdogan challenged his enemies and sent a message to the world with the Rabia sculpture on his desk: and’One nation, one flag, one state, one homeland,and” reported the pro-government daily.
Erdogan actually hinted of the concept of his four-finger salute during a speech at a rally in Batman in May. During his address to the public, Erdogan had said: andquotWe say one nation, one flag, one motherland and one state. This is Rabia. No one should try to divide our country.and”
The president continues to use the Rabia sign at almost every event he attends. However, he avoids directing any kinds of tough criticism at the Egyptian government or bringing the issue of Morsi to the public agenda.
This shift has been attributed by many to the alleged influence on Ankara and Erdogan of Saudi businessman Yasin al-Qadi, who was listed as a supposed financier of Al Qaeda by the US and UK governments in October 2001.
According to a leaked recording dates back to March 2014, a voice said to be that of al-Qadi tells someone on the line said to be Erdoganand’s son Bilal to warn his father about his intense public criticism of Saudi Arabia. Al-Qadi allegedly asks Bilal if he can possibly speak with his father for a short time and tell him not to use harsh rhetoric.
Saudi Arabia backed the military intervention against Morsi.
According to veteran journalist Abdullah Bozkurt, Erdogan juggled with the Rabia sign when his government came under fire for negotiating with armed terrorist group the Kurdistan Workersand’ Party (PKK).
and”His speeches are also accompanied by carefully rehearsed dramatic gestures to interact with the audience. For example, he used the Rabia sign, meaning four or the fourth in Arabic, which has become synonymous with the anti-coup protests in Egypt for months, following the ouster of Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi from the power by the military. When his government came under fire for negotiations with armed terrorist group the Kurdistan Workersand’ Party (PKK), sparking fears of secession in Turkey, he quickly revised that sign to mean one nation, one language, one state and one flag,and” Bozkurt wrote in his Todayand’s Zaman column in July of last year.
Associate Professor at Fatih University Savai Genandc told Sundayand’s Zaman no matter if Erdogan makes the four-finger Rabia salute or dons the Palestinian shawl, the president is mainly concerned with gaining the support of the Turkish public who are sensitive to this issue, rather than seriously taking single concrete steps concerning the situation in the region.
and”By flashing the four-finger Rabia sign at every opportunity he gets, he brings amazing joy to his supporters. The public is extremely sensitive to issues in the Arab world and Erdogan is very skillful in transforming this sensitivity into votes. The majority of Turks see Erdogan as the hero of the Egyptian and Palestinian people. Erdogan knows that and is playing politics,and” Genandc stated.

Mustafa Varank, a senior aide to the president, posted a photo showing Erdoganandrsquos talk with Obama on the phone on Nov 10.

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN

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