After months of positive statements by senior officials in Ankara and Cairo, the process of reconciliation between Egypt and Turkey has begun to take concrete steps, in preparation for a high-profile diplomatic meeting, in June.
On March 18th, Ankara decided to review the state’s sponsorship of the Egyptian refugees, who are operating Arabic-speaking TV stations to attack the Egyptian state. The Turkish officials explicitly asked the Egyptians working at the Istanbul-based TV stations to stop attacking the Egyptian state and the Egyptian president.
As expected, this move raised a wave of panic among the members of the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters, who live in Turkey, about what may happen to them if the reconciliation between Egypt and Turkey is accomplished. What enhances this state of panic is the fact that Egypt and Qatar are actively progressing on their own reconciliation process, which started in January. In the past decade, Qatar has been the main financial sponsor of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Turkey has been hosting and sponsoring these anti-Egypt TV stations, which are funded by Qatar, since 2014. Turkey used them as a weapon in the media war, which erupted between Turkey and Egypt, after Erdogan’s objection on the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood regime from power, in 2013. The Egyptian refugees in Turkey, who are running these stations are a weird mixture of the members of the Muslim Brotherhood group, which is designated in Egypt and other Arab countries as a terrorist organization, and some drama actors and media presenters who had failed to achieve any professional success in Egypt.
Turkey already hosts a large number of political refugees from all over the Middle East region. Yet, Erdogan’s regime gave more advantage to the Egyptian refugees, who recently describe themselves as political opposition, by allowing them to operate media platforms and practice political activities that directly target the removal of the Egyptian President El-Sisi from power, in avenge to his role in removing the Muslim Brotherhood from power.
Turkey, also, hosts the leaders of HASM militia, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union. HASM was formed by young Egyptian members of the Muslim Brotherhood, in 2013.
The leaders of HASM fled to Turkey, in early 2015. From their safe residences in Turkey, the leaders of HASM continued to command operations implemented by the young members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who could not flee Egypt, at that time. HASM operations, in Egypt, targeted state officials and policemen and their innocent families. In June 2015, HASM assassinated Egypt’s Attorney General, Hisham Barakat. According to recorded confessions of the perpetrators, the assassination was planned, instructed, and funded by HASM leaders, who are based in Turkey.
There are expectations, or perhaps wishes, among the Egyptian people that Turkey will hand over the aforementioned Egyptian refugees to the Egyptian state, in order to hold them accountable. A large number of them are already convicted in criminal cases inside Egypt. But in reality, we have to admit that this is not doable.
The Turkish state cannot simply send refugees, of any origin, back to their countries, because this may expose Turkey to international criticism and accusations of failing to preserve refugees’ right to safety. This may shake the image Turkey is portraying about itself as a safe country for millions of refugees. This image helped Turkey affect a lot of European decisions and moves in the past decade, especially with the rise of the number of refugees fleeing the civil wars in the Middle East.
Most probably, Turkey will classify the Egyptian refugees on its land, into three categories, and deal with them accordingly:
- The first category will include the leaders of the terrorist militia HASM, whom Turkey should be willing to extradite to Egypt to get rid of their heavy burden. Keeping HASM militia, for years, did not only hurt Turkey’s relationship with important Middle East countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates; but also, is risking Turkey’s relationship with the European Union, NATO, and the United States.
- The second category will include the famous media and political figures, whether they are members of the Muslim Brotherhood, political activists, or artists. Turkey may allow them to choose between staying in Turkey without practicing any media or political activities that targets Egypt, or leaving Turkey to any other country, wherein they can continue to practice their anti-Egypt activities.
- The third category will include the lesser-known youth, who have fought major differences with the leaders of the Egyptian TV stations in Istanbul. They do not have valid residency permits that could protect them if Turkey decides to kick them out. Turkey may choose to deport them back to Egypt based on what the current negotiations for reconciliation between the two states settle on.
Eventually, it is up to the Turkish state to decide on how to get rid of the Muslim Brotherhood, who will become a useless burden after the ongoing process of Turkey-Egypt reconciliation succeeds. In all cases, the Egyptian state is not willing to carry this burden and does not want the Muslim Brotherhood to come back to Egypt. Egypt only wants them to stop using media platforms, especially those based in Turkey, in targeting the security and stability of the Egyptian state. Egypt wants Turkey to get the Muslim Brotherhood out of the scene so the two countries can realize the full potential of their unique alliance, especially on geopolitical and economic issues. Reviewing and controlling the anti-Egypt content of the Istanbul-based TV stations is a good first step in the right direction.
This article was prepared by Dalia Ziada in her personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of SEE or its members.