Arabic media review

Arabs worriedly watch Turkey simmer

Political conference in Iraq tries to stop the bloodshed; repenting Sunni sheikh lauded by columnists

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

A young woman waves a national flag at paramilitary police at the entrance of a road leading to the prime minister's office as Turkish youths shout 'Tayyip, resign!' and clash with security forces in Ankara, Turkey, Saturday, June 1, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Orhan Ozbilici)
A young woman waves a national flag at paramilitary police at the entrance of a road leading to the prime minister's office as Turkish youths shout 'Tayyip, resign!' and clash with security forces in Ankara, Turkey, Saturday, June 1, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Orhan Ozbilici)

Anti-government demonstrations across Turkey lead the news in the Arab dailies on Sunday, with some newspapers reporting that the regime of Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan is in real peril.

“The Istanbul protests move from ‘uprooting trees’ to a threat against the government,” reads the headline of the Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat.

“The protests that erupted in Istanbul and spread to the capital, Ankara, and other Turkish cities changed from protests against the uprooting of trees to an attempt to uproot Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan from power. Secularist oppositionists entered the stage and moved the protests to a number of neighborhoods in Istanbul and outside it,” reads the report in the daily.

An advisor to Erdogan tells the paper that there is no “Turkish Spring” and that such talk is unrealistic since Turkey is no dictatorship but rather conducts free and fair elections.

Reporting on the “popular and spontaneous” nature of the protests, the London-based daily Al-Hayat leads with the headline “Erodgan withdraws before the ‘Istanbul Spring.'”

The paper quotes Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoabi criticizing Erdogan and claiming that his oppression of the demonstrations reveals his “detachment from reality.”

The Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera reports that a public park sparked a clash between Turkey’s Islamists and secularists. The outlet explains that 73 years ago, secularists destroyed an Ottoman fortress and built a park in its stead. Now, Erdogan wants to rebuild the original Ottoman fortress.

Turkish authorities arrested nearly 140 demonstrators in the city’s Taksim Square, the channel reports, but withdrew on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya focuses on the larger picture, reporting on the arrest of 939 citizens in 90 separate demonstrations across Turkey. The outlet begins its televised report with an admission by Erdogan that police had used excessive force against the demonstrators at Taksim.

“Scenes of clashes move from Arab streets to Turkish streets,” says reporter Rula Khatib amid scenes of police firing gas canisters at hundreds of demonstrators in Istanbul.

A-Sharq Al-Awsat translates an op-ed by the editor of the Turkish daily Hurriyet, Murat Yetkin.

“It would be a big surprise, perhaps the first of its kind, if Erdoğan, with his natural determination, were to bow to the protesters’ will and revise the project to keep the area a park,” writes Yetkin.

“But his determination and the disproportionate toughness of police has managed to turn a pacifist and modest protest into a public protest movement. And the protestors favor neither Tiananmen nor Red Square as examples for their act as it is about to complete its first week now. They prefer to be likened to the Occupy Wall Street protestors – that is why they like to be called ‘Occupy Taksim’ now. Will their fate be the same as OWS? Maybe so…”

Iraq tries to heal its wounds

A political summit headed by Shiite Iraqi leader Ammar Al-Hakim, head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, is underway in a bid to stop the sectarian bloodshed in the country.

Al-Jazeera lowers expectations from the meeting, held at Hakim’s home, but claims that the mere gathering of Iraq’s political leaders under one roof may be a step in the right direction.

Meanwhile, Arab dailies circulate new numbers published by the UN on Saturday indicating that May was the bloodiest month in Iraq since the beginning of 2008, with 1,045 fatalities and 2,397 injuries in 560 terrorist attacks.

In a complimentary article, Al-Hayat lauds Hakim’s “soft diplomacy” and his success in assembling “dozens of political and religious leaders around one table, in an initiative that could produce a breakthrough in the political stalemate.”

Two columnists support one sheikh

A-Sharq Al-Awsat features two editorials on Sunday praising statements by prominent Egyptian-born Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi.

Qaradawi stated that his attempt at rapprochement with Shia Islam and Iran was futile given its current support for the regime of Bashar Assad.

“Qardawi’s statements: A brave stand,” reads an op-ed by Abdul Rahman Rashed, who utilizes the elderly cleric’s words to blast Hezbollah.

“A Sheikh at the level of Sheikh Qaradawi offering public and honest admissions that he was wrong in everything he did is a very important event,” writes Rashed. “The battles waged in the past 20 years were based on the notion of building an Islamic world of governments, parties and personalities. This romantic project was predicated on a huge number of lies and fables that united the deceivers and the deceived,” writes Rashed.

Meanwhile, his colleague Tareq Homayed wonders whether Qaradawi’s followers will also apologize and stop cooperating with Iran.

“The duty today is to not be led on by Iran’s goals and to warn against its sectarian project,” writes Homayed.

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