Turkey’s relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood

29 - Oct - 2013

Since the June 30 revolution in Egypt, Turkey has become the regional hub for the Muslim Brotherhood’s international organization. Istanbul has played host to many meetings planning what steps are to be taken against the military-backed Egyptian government after the July 3 ouster of President Mohammad Mursi.

These Ankara sponsored events were part of Turkey’s attempt to outlaw “the foreign legitimacy” of the new Egyptian leadership, a move made in addition to its previous role as a political boot camp after the January 25 revolution.

Turkey’s defense of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the tears of Recep Tayyip Erdogan when the Egyptian security forces attempted to storm the sit-in of Rabaa al-Adawiya, proved Erdogan’s ties with the Muslim Brotherhood’s international organization and their mutual interest in restoring “the era of Islamic rule,” seen by the Brotherhood as the basis for protecting “the Islamic nation.”

After the end of the Ataturk party’s rule, and the start of the democratic party’s era, the Brotherhood started collaborating with Necmettin Erbakan, who in 1969 founded Milli Görüş, the Turkish Muslim Brotherhood.

In 1996, Erbakan attempted to facilitate the rise of a new Islamic power, the Eight Islamic countries group, made up of Libya, Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Malaysia. Also, the Brotherhood fielded a strong presence at the 2006 celebration of 533 years’ occupying Constantinople.

Although Erdogan attempted to showcase the image of a civilized Islam, based on the Sufi teachings of Shamsuddin al-Tabrizi and Jalaluddin Rumi, the Turkish Islamists were fascinated by the Egyptian experience to an extent that they started translating the letters Hassan al-Banna, who founded the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and the teachings of 20th century Islamic theorist Sayyid Qutb, among others.

Even the Justice and Development party was, to a certain extent, considered a Muslim Brotherhood faction, giving business opportunities to Brotherhood businessmen for example. Erdogan was an open follower of the master of Islamists in Turkey, Necmettin Erbakan.

In that era, many Brotherhood leaders moved to Turkey which launched “historic reconciliations” between the Syrian and Egyptian regimes and the Brotherhood. This was done in order to create a favorable environment for forming Brotherhood branches, without much success before the Arab Spring.

Turkey and Brotherhood meetings

Many reports showcase Turkey’s role in supporting the Brotherhood with weapons and activists, including the Turkish Intelligence officer Irshad Hoz who was arrested in Egypt. Turkey received many fugitives after the June 30 revolution, in coordination with Hamas in Gaza and the state of Qatar.

In this context, Istanbul hosted two main conferences; the first was on July 10, it was held at a hotel near Ataturk airport and featured leaders from the Muslim Brotherhood’s international organization, such as Youssef Nada (the offshore tycoon who is one of the main supporters of the Brotherhood), Rashed al-Ghanoushi and Mohammad Riyad al-Shafaka, and representatives from the Hamas movement. This conference was held in the shadow of a globally popular conference held by the Turkish Saadet Party to support democracy.

The conference adopted a “patience strategy” from a study assessing the situation after “the military coup against the [legitimate leaders] in Egypt,” prepared by the Brotherhood’s International Center for Studies and Training. These strategies consist of launching awareness campaigns, bringing to trial the figures of the Egyptian Army, igniting the conflict within communities, calling for civil obedience and besieging the key government institutions.

The second meeting was a cover-up for the Muslim Brotherhood meeting in Lahore and it adopted an action plan to face what happened in Egypt. The meeting also studied the repercussions of what happened to the Brotherhood in Egypt on its brother organizations in Tunisia, Sudan, Jordan and Algeria. It also discussed the obstacles to their free movement in the GCC countries. The meeting witnessed a large attendance from the Brotherhood’s international membership, including participants from Morocco, Malaysia, Mauritania, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Kurdistan-Iraq.
In parallel, Istanbul hosted another meeting on September 25 and 26, and the Brotherhood participated as members of the “Islamic Parliamentarians union” and “parliamentarians for transparency.”

The future of the relationship

Turkey still seems to be supporting the line of “democracy restored through elections,” neglecting its previous slogan of supporting “the legitimacy made by revolution” which was adopted to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak.

This means that cold relations will not only occur between Turkey and Egypt, but concern will spread to other Arab countries which are against Turkey’s hosting of Brotherhood leaders and their meetings.

Although the Turkish leadership still considers that the alliance with the Brotherhood isn’t as harmful, at the national level, as ties with any other sort of Egyptian government, it still sees the rise to power of (Sunni) Islamic movements as an opportunity for the Justice and Development party to rise as a leader of modern Turkey and the post-revolutionary Arab region. This would allow Turkey to play a dominant role in regional politics by hosting the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood’s international organization as long as the Justice and Development party, under the leadership of Erdogan, remains in power.

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