Regional media round on 'arrogant' Turkish PM

Protestors clash with Turkish riot policemen near Taksim Square in Istanbul
Image caption The crackdown on protests in Istanbul last week triggered nationwide unrest

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan comes under a barrage of criticism from the media in Turkey's Middle Eastern and European neighbours over the government's handling of the mass protests in Istanbul and several other cities.

Most commentators agree that the demonstrations are a revolt of secularist and young Turks against Mr Erdogan's authoritarian style and Islamist-leaning policies, and are a shot across the bow for his domestic and international ambitions. But many also reject parallels with the Arab Spring.

For Syria's state media, the unrest appears to be a pretext to humiliate Mr Erdogan, who is a strong supporter of the Syrian opposition.


Syrian state TV has devoted extensive coverage to the protests, taking the opportunity to lambast Mr Erdogan, who has repeatedly called on President Bashar al-Assad to resign.

Describing the Turkish government as "fascist and extremist", the channel - which is tightly controlled by the authorities - says the unrest has "tightened the noose around Erdogan and his cabinet" and "dashed Erdogan's dreams".

Accusing the prime minister of "arrogance and snobbery", al-Baath, the newspaper of Syria's ruling party, says the protests have exposed what it calls Mr Erdogan's attempts to gain regional influence by appealing to Islamist sentiment.

Al-Alam TV, the Arabic-language channel run by the Syrian government's close ally Iran, similarly adopts a sympathetic line towards the protesters and condemns "Turkish police violence".

In contrast, Qatar-based al-Jazeera TV, appears to be downplaying the Turkish protests, routinely putting the story lower down its running order and highlighting reports of "calm" on the streets.

'Taksim is not Tahrir'

In Israel, whose relations with Turkey have been strained by the deadly Israeli military raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in 2010, press commentators are also critical of Mr Erdogan.

Image caption Mr Erdogan has been criticised for being out of touch with Turkey's people

In Yedioth Ahronoth, Nahum Barnea accuses the Turkish leader of being "intoxicated with power" and of using his continued strong support in rural Turkey to impose a form of "despotism of the majority". But in another article, he rejects any similarity to the Arab Spring revolutions, saying: "Taksim [Square in Istanbul] is not Tahrir [Square in Cairo]. Turkey is not Egypt."

In an editorial, the English-language Jerusalem Post worries that the protests could prompt Mr Erdogan to "divert attention from himself by directing reinvigorated vitriol against Israel".


There is more criticism of Mr Erdogan elsewhere in the Middle East press. In Jordan's al-Ra'y, Mohammed Kharoub chides him for refusing to cancel a visit to Morocco and "snobbishly" dismissing the unrest as a "storm in a teacup".

In Lebanon, an article in al-Anwar says the domestic unrest is a shot across the bow for Turkey's growing regional ambitions under Mr Erdogan. "Erdogan needed an immense shock to realise the difficulty of playing the role of a sultan and attempting to revive the Ottoman symbols under a new Ottoman Empire," Rafik al-Khouri writes.

Reality check?

In Germany - home of Europe's largest ethnic Turkish community outside Turkey - most commentators agree the protests represent a revolt of younger, more secular-minded people against Mr Erdogan's Islamist-tinged Justice and Development (AK) Party. "The generation of 25-to-35 year olds is rebelling against the old-style Turkish and Ottoman tradition of authoritarian government as well as against its renewal on Islamic-conservative grounds," writes Michael Stuermer says in Die Welt.

In a front-page commentary in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Rainer Hermann says the demonstrations are a reality check which Mr Erdogan "has needed for a long time" in order to realise "that the success of a democracy cannot just be gauged by what it achieves for the majority but also by how it treats minorities".

'Despotic Islam'

In France, commentators believe the unrest is a warning sign for the seeming ascendancy of Islamist-influenced politics.

A front-page editorial in centre-right Le Figaro by Pierre Rousselin says the protests have highlighted the "authoritarian drift of this conservative Muslim", while an editorial by Francois Sergent in centre-left Liberation says they show that societies "are not prepared to accept an Islamist straitjacket which destroys their areas of freedom". This a "lesson for Erdogan but also for all the regimes which, from Egypt to Morocco or Tunisia, espouse despotic Islam", he adds.

But Mr Erdogan receives some support from neighbouring Azerbaijan, which has strong linguistic and cultural ties to Turkey. In the opposition paper Azadliq, political analyst Vafa Quluzada lists his achievements, including Turkey's strong economic and social development, and a "very successful" foreign policy.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites