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Book Review - Can the Ottoman Sultan restore the dream?

Turkey's use of the Muslim Brotherhood in its foreign policy is the subject of a new book from Nashaat El-Dihee, a former presenter on Turkey's state TV

Mahmoud El-Wardani, Monday 16 Jun 2014
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Al-Qami'I Al-Mutwadi'e ("The Ablutionary Repression") by Nashaat El-Dihee, Dar Al-Mahroussa Publishing, Cairo, 2014,166 p.

The significance of The Ablutionary Repression arises from the ongoing and deeply rooted relationship between Turkey and the Arab world, which dates back to the 16th century, when the Islamic Caliphate was transferred to Istanbul after a period of conquest by the Ottoman Sultan Selim I. It is from this perspective that Nashaat El-Dihee seeks to monitor the framework of Turkish policy in its regional and Arab sphere, and its relationship with Arab and non-Arab neighbours as well as Europe, the US and Israel.

What drove the author to write this book was his experience with the Turkish media, as he worked as an announcer and presenter in the TRT (the national public broadcaster of Turkey) bureau in Cairo, after Mohammed Morsi became Egypt's president in August 2012. Through his job, he noticed interference that started smoothly – like suggestions to host Muslim Brotherhood members in his programme Politics World, which used to cover international affairs and their influence on Egypt, in addition to hot topics in Egypt. For example, when he hosted Kamal El-Helbawi, a former Brotherhood leader and dissident, the TRT manager telephoned him and said: "We like El-Helbawi, but he is now a dissident from the group (i.e. the Brotherhood) and matters shouldn't be handled this way. If you wanted to host him or someone of his type, you must host one of the Brotherhood leaders because we clearly support the Brotherhood."

This intervention was repeated in different ways. At the same time, Turkish media presented biased coverage of the Brotherhood until 30 June 2013, the date of protests that eventually led to Morsi's ouster. From this date onwards, the official Arabic-speaking Turkish TV channel became a "Brotherhood mouthpiece, Brotherhood news bulletin, with news coverage round the clock describing what happened as a coup". At the same time, the channel's management began to intervene in his work in an unbearable way. He writes: "I was like a man who is carrying weights that are pressing on his chest and mind".

Eventually he submits his resignation on air. In his last programme, he looked at the camera and said that "Egypt is red line" and that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's comments on post-June 30 events were "unacceptable".

The job ends, but that doesn't mean that El-Dihee's interest in Turkish affairs also stops. In his book, he examines the Turkish standpoint towards the Arab uprisings in general, and the Egyptian ones of 25 January 2011 and 30 June 2013 in particular. He also traces the relationship between Turkey and Israel, which he sees as a strategic option not to be overlooked: Turkey, for all its historical significance and profound relationship with the Arab world, recognised Israel less than a year after its establishment. In 1958, Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion made an undisclosed visit to Turkey and signed a secret military agreement focused on military and intelligence cooperation. This agreement was followed with several agreements in addition to Turkey's strategic alliance with non-Arab countries, namely Iran and Ethiopia.

As for the Turkish standpoint towards 25 January, the author feels the "Brotherhood used the revolution as a bridge to rule Egypt" and that Turkey "used the Brotherhood to reach the heart of Egypt". For instance, El-Dihee says that Erdogan was looking forward to seizing control of the Suez Canal through Qatari financing and Brotherhood propaganda in order to execute a grand developmental project under the name of the Suez Canal Axis Development Project. Through this project, Turkey could extend its influence on the Suez Canal. Thus, as the author asserts, Turkey could court European countries at the expense of Egypt's national security and regain control of this vital waterway which was constructed when Egypt was still an Ottoman province.

The book also monitor's Turkey's role in the Brotherhood's international organisation, as Turkey almost became the state headquarters for the issuing of orders, the allocation of funds to bring Brotherhood leaders to Istanbul for meetings and the dissemination of the international organisation's news through Turkish media. The book details how high-ranking Turkish officials, such as the vice-prime minister and the intelligence chief, attended two important meetings of the international organisation, in July and September 2013.

For El-Dihee, Turkey's stance originates in preserving its interests, whether strategic or direct, and has nothing to do with the idea of freedom or revolution.

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