September 21, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10807

Kuwaiti Intellectuals Call For Boycott Of Tourism In Turkey, Expulsion Of Turkish Ambassador After Assault On Kuwaiti Tourist, While Pro-Erdoğan Islamists Downplay Incident And Accuse Pro-West Turks Of Sowing Discord Between Arabs And Turks

September 21, 2023
Kuwait, Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 10807

In response to a recent attack on a Kuwaiti tourist in the Turkish city of Trabzon that left the man unconscious for several hours, many Kuwaiti intellectuals and influencers have taken to social media to strongly condemn the attack and address the escalating issue of racism against Arabs in Turkey. Some have called on their fellow Kuwaitis to consider boycotting tourism in Turkey, and even urged their government to immediately expel the Turkish ambassador.

Simultaneously, supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, together with Islamist figures, have sought to downplay the incident, characterizing it as an isolated event. Furthermore, they accuse instigators of such attacks of being pro-Western people attempting to undermine Erdoğan's policies by sowing discord between Arabs and Turks.

In response to these developments, the Kuwaiti Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement[1] in which the minister personally reached out to the assaulted citizen during his hospitalization for medical treatment. The statement also confirmed that local authorities had promptly arrested the attacker and initiated the necessary legal procedures against him. Furthermore, the ministry condemned hostile acts against Kuwaiti tourists in Turkey.

Meanwhile, local law enforcement officials visited the Kuwaiti tourist in the hospital, offering their apologies and presenting him with a bouquet of flowers as a goodwill gesture. Dr. Ayşe Hilal Sayan Koytak, the former Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to Kuwait, underscored[2] that this incident would not undermine the longstanding close friendship between Turkey and Kuwait. She further emphasized that "those responsible for this attack will face the necessary legal consequences."

This report will present examples of the condemnation of the attack, as well as the growing anti-Arab sentiment in Turkey expressed by Kuwaiti intellectuals and influencers and explore the proposed responses and actions they recommended. Additionally, it will examine the reactions of Islamist figures and supporters of President Erdoğan, with their attempts to downplay such incidents, their perspectives on those behind the incidents, and their motives.

On social media platforms, dozens of Kuwaiti intellectuals condemned the attack and expressed their frustration and disappointment in their government's reaction. Some have demanded an apology from the Turkish president and the expulsion of the Turkish ambassador.

In a fiery video statement posted on the X (formerly Twitter) account of the Kuwaiti online news website, which is followed by over 224,000 people, Kuwaiti political activist Abbas Al-Sh'abi urged the Kuwaiti prime minister Ahmad Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah to react to the incident, saying that the repeated hostile acts against Kuwaitis in Turkey show disrespect toward Kuwait. Al-Sh'abi then proposed that the Turkish ambassador to Kuwait should be summoned and expelled from the country. "If you will not do so," he said, "then, by the name of Allah, you have no value." Addressing Kuwaiti members of the Parliament, he said: "This ambassador should not remain in the country, even for five minutes. This is a message from a citizen concerned about the country and all the people of the country... What happened is considered humiliation for all of us, the Kuwaiti people and the government. You must make a decision to expel the ambassador to serve as a lesson to others."[3]

Kuwaiti social media influencer Meshal Al-Nami, who has over 364,000 followers on X, shared a video under the hashtag #Turkey_Is_Not_Safe_For_Arabs. In the video, he argued that there is a growing anti-Arab sentiment in Turkey. He provided examples of comments in Turkish praising the attacker as support for his argument. Al-Nami also urged Arabs not to visit Turkey, and ridiculed those who dismissed this incident as an isolated event.

Expanding on his suggestion for Arabs to boycott Turkey, he stated: "I have presented these events to remind you of them, along with the reactions they elicited, and the decision is yours to make. For your information, the assault on the Kuwaiti citizen occurred in plain view and within earshot of the police. As I mentioned earlier, in countries with integrity, authorities stand up for assault victims. In countries where justice is only served after an incident gains attention and causes an uproar, as in this case following the intervention of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the embassy, Turkish police were prompted to take action and apologize to the Kuwaiti citizen. Indeed, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of others who have been subjected to assaults and have not received justice."[4]

On September 16, 2023, a prominent Kuwaiti writer, Ali Fadalah, posted a video on his X account, which boasts over 146,000 followers. In his video,[5] he strongly criticized his fellow countrymen who chose to visit Turkey. Fadalah accused both the Turkish government and its people of showing disrespect towards Kuwaitis. He asserted that part of the problem is the absence of a tourism police force in Turkey. Furthermore, he recommended that Kuwaitis consider alternative destinations to visit: Azerbaijan, Montenegro, Bosnia, and others, citing their affordability, appeal, and atmosphere. Fadalah questioned the rationale behind selecting Turkey as a tourist destination, given the daily assaults and accompanying videos, a phenomenon not observed in other countries, such as Egypt. He noted that Egyptians refrain from mistreating or harming tourists due to the existence of laws protecting tourists in Egypt.

Some Kuwaitis are dissatisfied with the apology issued by local Turkish officials to the Kuwaiti tourist. They have proposed boycotting Turkey and accused the Turkish people of anti-Arab racism.

On September 17, 2023, Kuwaiti blogger Hanan Al-Kathimi wrote on her X account, commenting on the photo of the Kuwaiti tourist sitting between the two local law enforcement officials who visited him in the hospital and apologized to him: "This is mockery, not an apology! As a Kuwaiti citizen, I do not accept what has happened to our fellow countryman in terms of humiliation and assault. As Arabs, we should boycott Turkey because we are people of dignity and self-respect! What I see in this situation is a complete disgrace! The Turkish people have been built on hating Arabs; they call Arabs 'donkeys,' and if you were to hear some of their songs, you would regret the day you traveled there!"[6]

Kuwaiti lawyer Hassan Rashid Al-‘Atifi demanded that Turkey issue a public apology or face the consequences of a Kuwaiti tourism boycott of Turkey. On September 17, 2023, he wrote on his X account, which has over 17,000 followers: "Turkey, if it does not take a clear and public stance and issue an official statement condemning the assault on the Kuwaiti citizen, I believe puts itself in an embarrassing position. This will have repercussions on all tourists. An apology, accountability, and punishment are needed; otherwise, there will be a public boycott of Turkey, which it can ill afford right now. I hope they address the matter firmly and decisively."[7]

In reaction to these sentiments and proposals, along with hundreds of similar ones shared on various social media platforms, pro-Erdoğan Arab Islamists, including some Kuwaitis, pushed back. They described the incident as an isolated event, and accused "racists" in Turkey and Erdoğan's political critics of seeking to undermine Turkey's position in the world. They are driven by secular and liberal agendas, these commentators assert.

Accusing "racists" in Turkey of being funded by Freemasonry and pro-homosexual lobbies, Turkish journalist Sarah Ardogan shared a video showing the arrest of the Kuwaiti tourist's attacker on her X account on September 17, 2023, and commented: "Video: The arrest of the assailant of the #Kuwaiti_tourist in #Trabzon by the Turkish police. Arabs and Turks are brothers, and the divisive voices supported by Freemasonry cannot separate them. The Turkish government has confirmed that it will take strong action against anyone who promotes racism against Arabs, including the voices of extremists and LGBTQ supporters."[8]

Nasser Duwailah, a former member of Parliament with pro-Muslim Brotherhood views, reiterated a similar argument in a post published on his X account, which is followed by almost 900,000 people. On September 17, 2023,he wrote: "There is an organized campaign against tourism in Turkey this year, and unfortunately, events have led to the creation of an abnormal situation. Despite the Turkish government's efforts to facilitate all means of accommodation for Gulf tourists, a systematic plan continues to widely publicize individual events. The problem will negatively impact tourism in Turkey in one way or another, despite the efforts of the Turkish people and government to stimulate tourism. This includes providing necessary care for tourists, arranging security, and protecting them from racist individuals who failed in the elections and sought revenge against tourists."[9]

In an interview on the Turkey-based Egyptian Islamist channel Watan TV, which aired on September 18, 2023, Turkish political analyst Dr. Yusuf Katip Oglu downplayed the attack on the Kuwaiti tourist, describing it as an isolated incident. He condemned reports and commentaries on the growing anti-Arab sentiment, accusing them of exaggerating an isolated incident and being unfair to Turkey and to the Turkish people.

Dr. Oglu argued that because President Erdoğan has revived the concept of the Ummah among Muslims, he has been targeted by colonial powers in Europe, together with the U.S., which want to fragment and divide Arabs and Muslims. He stated, "The focus now is on sowing the seeds of discord in terms of racism and exclusionary thinking, renewing the issue of ethnicity... and these are things that Turkey does not know. Unfortunately, the media is focusing on them, including Arab media that promotes anti-Turkey rhetoric. This indicates that politicized media is an extension of Western media, which seeks to spread seeds of hostility and animosity between Turkey and Arab and Islamic countries."

Furthermore, he mentioned that Turkey's new constitution will consider racism a crime, stating, "This is what President Erdoğan and the current government are striving for, especially in the new constitution, which aims to enhance Islamic thought in educational curricula. The real link is the absence of a distinction between Arabs and non-Arabs. What matters most is religion, not ethnicity."[10]

Kuwaiti journalist Talal Yosef, the editor-in-chief of Jeblah News website, also downplayed the incident, stating that such events occur in different parts of the world. He claimed that this incident received widespread media attention because "there is a group that wants to sow discord between the Gulf and Turkey."[11]

In addition, some Kuwaitis acknowledged the growing anti-Arab sentiment in Turkey while simultaneously accusing Kuwaitis of overreacting to the incident with irrational demands. Kuwaiti YouTuber Abu Taym Wa Saba published a video on his X account on September 18, 2023, accusing the Kuwaiti tourist of violating the rules and refusing to pay his bill at a restaurant. Elaborating on his position, Abu Taym Wa Saba said: "We condemn the racism of the Turks, but it is individuals like these who provoke reactions like the one that occurred with the tourist. It should not be assumed that Turks are racist without reason. While I emphasize that it is wrong to treat others with racism, certain behaviors, such as those exhibited by the Kuwaiti tourist, can incite such reactions. I affirm that what happened to him was undeserved, but those who behave similarly deserve to face consequences."[12]


[1], September 17, 2023.

[2], September 17, 2023.

[3], September 18, 2023.

[4], September 17, 2023.

[5], September 16, 2023.

[6], September 17, 2023.

[7], September 17, 2023.

[8], September 17, 2023.

[9], September 17, 2023.

[10], September 18, 2023.

[11], September 18, 2023.

[12], September 18, 2023.

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