Michael MacKenzie
Jan 14 2018

Weekly media roundup: Macron, Iran, and a mysterious ship to Libya

Editor's note: Starting today and continuing every week, Ahval will offer its readers a weekly roundup highlighting the most striking Arabic headlines on Turkey. The aim is to provide a snapshot of varied perspectives on Turkey from its neighbours, allies and rivals in regions that are crucial to Turkey’s future.


The past week’s headlines were dominated by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s trip to France to meet the French President Emmanuel Macron, the Turkish response to the ongoing protests in Iran, and the Greek seizure of a vessel containing explosives from Turkey to Libya.

The Saudi-owned pan-Arab media giant Al-Hayat ran a headline story last Saturday on public opposition in Paris to Erdoğan’s visit, quoting a statement from French-Armenian civil society groups who claimed he had revealed “his true face – the face of a dictator” during his France visit.

The statement accused the Turkish president of ignoring human rights in his own country and ignoring the European standards on this issue, instead using his meeting with Macron as a platform to justify the harsh crackdown in Turkey.

The Armenian associations called on the French president to put more emphasis on these issues in his dealings with Erdoğan, and demanded a frank approach to the matter of the Armenian genocide. Denial of the genocide is illegal in France.

Thousands of Kurdish protesters also took to the streets, Al-Hayat reported in the same piece, demanding justice for the three Kurdish women, including PKK co-founder Sakine Cansız, who were assassinated in Paris in 2013.

Al-Quds Al-Araby, a London-based pan-Arab daily known for its strident support for the Palestinian cause, ran a piece by Bassam Badareen on Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu’s supportive stance toward the Iranian government, which is facing the largest wave of protests since 2009.

Al-Quds reports speculation from regional experts that the Turkish FM’s statement was motivated by fears that similar protests may break out on Turkish soil.

However, a far more plausible motivation behind Çavuşoğlu’s statement lies in the two countries’ common fears around Kurdish irredentism, according to Badareen.

Badareen’s article links this to the current protests, saying that the Turkish government fears prolonged protests could result in weaponry being supplied to Kurdish resistance forces within Iran, and located close to Turkey’s border.

The two countries collaborated last year to face down the former Kurdish Regional Government President Masoud Barzani when he made a bid to establish a Kurdish state after the September 2017 independence referendum in Northern Iraq.

Youm7, Egypt’s most popular news website, reported on a vessel that the Greek coastguard impounded after it was found to contain 29 containers of explosives.

The Tasmanian-registered vessel had loaded its cargo at the Turkish ports of Mersin and İskenderun, and its captain stated that it was headed to the Libyan city, which is controlled by rebel forces.

Youm7’s news report on Friday quoted a Libyan human rights organisation that had vowed to take up the shipment of explosives with the UN Security Council.

The National Human Rights Commission of Libya accused Turkey of supporting “radical Islamist extremist factions” in their country, and said that Turkish involvement in Libyan affairs had obstructed national reconciliation and a political solution to the civil war.

The commission said that the shipment constituted a “serious contravention of the UN Security Council’s arms embargo on Libya”, and called for an in-depth international investigation into the incident.