Turkish government’s new method of diplomatic retaliation: Changing street signs

Turkish government has used e new method of diplomatic retaliation to punish the states that it has tension in bilateral relations: Changing the street names and signs. In this framework the new street signs were installed on Tuesday at the intersection near United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Embassy in Ankara after the two streets were renamed to honor an Ottoman military governor of Medina.

According to a report by pro-government media, the street where the UAE embassy is located was renamed after Ottoman commander Fahreddin Pasha, who defended Medina during World War I, while an intersecting street was renamed to “Medina Defender Street.”

The renaming came after UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan shared a post that accused Ottomans of committing crimes against the locals in Medina during World War I. Nahyan retweeted a post on his official account from an Iraqi man living in Germany, according to his profile, which said: “Did you know that in 1916, Turkish Fahreddin Pasha committed a crime against the people of Medina, stole their properties, and put them on a train en route to Damascus and Istanbul? Also the Turks stole the handwritten books in Mahmoudia Library and took them to İstanbul. This is the history of Erdoğan’s ancestors and what they did to Muslim Arabs.”

The remarks received harsh criticism from top Turkish politicians, including Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who said the Ottomans had done nothing but serve to protect the holy cities of Islam.

A few days after the Emirati minister’s provocation, Mustafa Tuna, an appointed mayor of Ankara, decided to rename the 613th Street, where the UAE embassy is located, as a reaction to the incident. The decision to rename the streets was taken unanimously Monday by Ankara Metropolitan Municipal Council.

The name of “NATO Yolu Street” in Zile district of Turkey’s Tokat province had also been changed to “Ata Street” by the Assembly of Zile Municipality which is under the administration of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by Turkey’s autocratic President Erdoğan.

The Zile Municipality Assembly has explained the reasoning of the name change by stating that it was decided to change the name of “NATO Yolu Caddesi” in Zile district center because NATO’s “Trident Javelin” exercise at the Joint Warfare Centre in Norway was shown Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of Turkish Republic, and President Erdoğan’s photographs as enemy force leaders.

The İstanbul Municipality had also unanimously approved the renaming of 192 streets across the metropolitan area that may bring to mind the Gülen movement which was inspired by the teachings of the US-based Turkish-Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen, on December 2017.

During the fourth session of the municipality’s December meetings, changes to the street names were approved by members of the municipality from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) after alleged complaints from the public, according to report by pro-government Hürriyet daily news.

According to the report, among the revised names was “Gülen Street” in the Eyüp district which became “Martyr Ömer Halisdemir Street,” along with 25 other streets bearing the word “Gülen.” The late soldier Ömer Halisdemir is regarded as a key figure in thwarting the attempted military takeover.

As part of the changes, a street bearing the name of former Turkish international footballer Hakan Şükür’s in İstanbul’s Tuzla district has also been changed to “Martyr Halil Kantarcı Street.”

In addition, four street names including the word “parallel” have also been changed, based on their alleged reference to the “Parallel State Structure,” a term previously used by the government under the rule of autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to refer to the Gülen movement in the aftermath of Dec. 17/25, 2013 corruption scandal that incriminated him, his cabinet ministers and family members.

The report said that other versions included names allegedly linked to the Gülen movement including “Zaman,” “Samanyolu,” “Sızıntı,” “Aksiyon,” “Cihan,” “Himmet,” “Hizmet” and “Dumanlı.”

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