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Turkey, UAE exchange insults in a historic war of words

December 21, 2017 at 4:57 pm

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech in Ankara, Turkey on 12 October 2017 [Turkish Presidency/Yasin Bulbul/ Anadolu Agency]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hit back at the United Arab Emirates foreign minister for a Twitter post insulting an Ottoman military leader.

Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the foreign minister of the UAE, retweeted a post accusing Fahreddin Pasha, the famed Ottoman governor of Medina from 1916 to 1919, of having committed crimes such as theft, vandalism and kidnapping against the local Arab population, with the caption saying: “These are Erdogan’s ancestors and their history with Arabs and Muslims.”

Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for the Turkish President, responded first by accusing the UAE of spreading divisive propaganda and turning Arabs and Turks against one another, writing that “it was Fahreddin Pasha who bravely defended Medina against the British plans then.”

Without mentioning Al Nahyan, Erdogan himself responded during a speech at the presidential palace yesterday saying: “The pathetic person who is slandering us: Where were your forefathers when Fahreddin Pasha was defending Medina? Arab people are our brothers. That said, the enmity of some leaders in Arab countries is meant to hide their own incompetence and even treason.”

Read more: The Saudi-UAE media attack on Erdogan

Fahreddin Pasha, more commonly known as Fakhri Pasha, is a legendary figure in Turkey and is seen as a war hero and defender of Islam. He was most known for his defence of the holy city of Medina during World War One, as the British and their Arab allies laid siege to it as part of the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire. It is still a historic point of tension between some Arabs and Turks to this day.

This row is the latest factor in the decline of relations between Turkey and the UAE, which have been deteriorating since the Emirates’ support of the overthrow of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi by coup leader and current President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and its boycott of Qatar earlier this year.