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Model of Muslim democracy loses its lustre in eyes of Arab onlookers 4 juin 2013

Posted by Acturca in Middle East / Moyen Orient, Turkey / Turquie.
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Financial Times (UK) Tuesday, June 4, 2013, p. 3

By Borzou Daragahi in Cairo and Michael Peel in Abu Dhabi

The popular protests against the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan have gripped an Arab world that looked to Turkey as a model of Islamic democracy, write Borzou Daragahi in Cairo and Michael Peel in Abu Dhabi .

Images of police firing teargas on protesters in Turkey’s cities have filled airwaves and newspapers in the Arab world, reviving memories of the Arab spring two years ago.

« Like many Turks, I think I feel betrayed because the Turkish model was supposed to be the most democratic in the whole Muslim world, » says Karim Benabdallah, a Tunisian activist and blogger. « I have defended the Turkish system for years when we talk about democracy in the Muslim world. It’s supposed to be democratic but it isn’t. »

Turkey broadly backed the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria, using the space created by the toppling of dic-tators to promote its strategic and economic interests, as well as the ruling Justice and Development party’s vision of a tolerant Islam .

While Turkey has good commercial relations with many countries in the region, especially Iraq and the Gulf states, Mr Erdogan and his Islamist party are not universally popular.

The protests have raised questions about Turkey’s trajectory. Even the foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, seen as an architect of Ankara’s policy of support for the Arab uprisings, warned that the unrest was damaging Turkey’s image.

Reactions across the Arab world reflect stark divisions along sectarian and ideological lines. Supporters of the regime in Syria gloated over the unrest in Turkey, which is supporting rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad. Syria issued a travel warning to its citizens visiting Turkey.

Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, called on the Turkish government to show restraint. His relationship with his counterpart has deteriorated over Ankara’s links with the government of Iraqi Kurdistan and over what Baghdad sees as unwarranted criticism by Mr Erdogan of the way it managed Iraq’s transition after the December 2011 US military withdrawal.

Ali al-Dabbagh, a politician and former spokesman for Mr Maliki’s government, said Iraq now wanted to « put its nose » into Turkey’s affairs in retaliation at Ankara having done the same. « I don’t think Turkey’s is the right model to be imp-osed on the Arab world, » he said.

But many supporters of Islamist governments in the region have echoed Mr Erdogan’s description of the protesters as a disgruntled minority bent on sabotaging Turkey.

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