Turkish President RecepTayyip stirred controversy on Wednesday when he indirectly criticized the United Arab Emirates foreign minister for retweeting accusations that Ottoman forces looted the holy city of Medina during World War One.
Erdogan appeared to be responding to a tweet shared on Saturday by UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahayan, which said Ottoman troops led by Fakhreddin Pasha stole money and manuscripts from Medina in 1916.
The tweet also said Turkish forces abducted residents of Medina and took them to Istanbul. “These are Erdogan’s ancestors, and their history with Arab Muslims,” read the tweet, originally posted by a user identifying himself as an Iraqi dentist from Germany.
Medina, now part of Saudi Arabia, was part of the Ottoman territory for centuries until the empire’s collapse at the end of World War One.
In a speech to local administrators, Erdogan said Fahreddin Pasha had not stolen from Medina or its people, but strived to protect the city and its occupants during a time of war.
“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,” he said.
The Anadolu news agency later confirmed that Erdogan’s remarks were indeed directed against the UAE minister.
Erdogan’s comments sparked a wave of anger among social media users. The Iraqi dentist’s original tweet was retweeted thousands of times, while the UAE foreign minister’s post was retweeted 17,000 times.