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Turkey Enraged Over UAE FM’s Tweet about Ottoman Commander

The legacy of the Great War, or First World War, remains contested both for Arabs and Turks.

1916 Arab Revolt, masterminded and engineered by the British intelligence in the Arabian peninsula, ingrained in collective historical imagination and memory of modern Turks as the betrayal by their brothers at the most difficult time of the war against Great Powers. For Mecca Sharif, the war was a great opportunity to try his bid, after negotiations with the British Empire, for independence from Ottoman Turks.

How to interpret the 1916 revolt appears to be a lasting clash of different narratives and national perspectives. The divergence of the views shape generations of statesmen and politicians on both sides and often reveal the enduring schism in the historical interpretation of a key moment that proved to be a watershed in the historical trajectory of the Arabs of the Arabian peninsula, and modern Turkey.

History came again to haunt Turkey and an Arab country in the Gulf, United Arab Emirates (UAE) when UAE Foreign Minister retweeted a tweet claiming that Ottoman commander and his units “looted holy city of Medina” during the First World War.

It expectedly ignited a strong reaction from Ankara. Both President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his spokesman Ibrahim Kalin infuriated with the commentary.

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahayan shared a tweet which accused Ottoman Commander Fahreddin Pasha and his troops of stealing money and historical manuscripts from Medina.

“These are Erdogan’s ancestors and their history with Arab Muslims,” the tweet ended.

Ottoman Governor and Regional Commander Fahreddin Pasha fought against the advancing rebel Arab forces and the British troops during a siege of Medina.

On Tuesday, Mr. Kalin was quick to denounce the UAE foreign minister’s share of the tweet, which was originally posted by an Iraqi dentist in Germany.

Presidential spokesman Kalin accused Mr. Nahayan of spreading “a propaganda lie that seeks to turn Turks [and] Arabs against” each other. He defended the Ottoman pasha who he said fought against the British plans.

“Those miserable people who are delirious enough to shamelessly and tirelessly say Erdogan’s ancestors stole sacred items from there and brought them to Istanbul – it was to protect them from the people that came to invade,” Reuters quoted the Turkish president as saying.

Turkey’s relations with UAE are strained over Ankara’s embrace of Qatar in the face of Saudi-led blockade from the air, land and sea. The two countries have also clashing views about Islamist organizations, especially Muslim Brotherhood, across the region.

UAE staunchly opposes Brotherhood-like groups, citing that its transnational ideology and worldview is a threat against the nation-state in the region.

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