A Saudi Twitter campaign to boycott Turkish-made products has damaged businesses in Turkey

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Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made an offensive statement recently saying that Arab countries in the Gulf will not exist for long but Turkey will always remain powerful. Erdoğan thinks he can attack other countries with immunity and without response, but he can’t always get away with it.

Erdoğan’s statement was circulated in Saudi Arabia’s local media for days and calls for boycotting Turkish products was initiated by Saudi businessmen and journalists. For the past few days, hashtags that call on Saudis to boycott Turkey have been trending on Twitter and hundreds of thousands of tweets have been written against Turkey and Erdoğan.

Although the Saudi public boycott of Turkish goods has started recently, it is already hurting businesses in Turkey. Last week, eight major Turkish business groups urged the Saudi government to intervene and resolve trade problems. Contractors, food and textile exporters are among the impacted sectors. In their statement they warned from what they called “negative repercussions on trade relations”.

Prior to that statement, a Turkish official with knowledge of the matter, blamed what is happening on the Saudi government. The official claimed that businesses in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) are forced to terminate its agreements with Turkish traders and coerced to not sign any new contracts. The Turkish official did not rule out taking the case to the World Trade Organisation if the issue remains unsolved in the near future.

However, a Saudi official denied to Reuters that the government placed a ban on importing Turkish products. But the head of the non-governmental Chambers of Commerce Ajlan Al-Ajlan has called on Saudis to boycott Turkish goods in response to Erdoğan’s continual offensive approach against Saudi Arabia.

Furthermore, Prince Abdulrahman Bin Mussad, a member of the Saudi royal family and a famous public figure, has also called on his 7.9 million followers on Twitter to boycott Turkey as to send a message to the Turkish regime that its foolish policies against regional countries have severe consequences.

In general, calls to boycott Turkish goods are everywhere on social media, and not only by Saudi citizens, but Arabs from Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE joined the campaign and they all have emphasised that they do not want to support the economy of a country that kills Arabs and threatens to occupy Arab lands. They also spoke in solidarity with Armenia which is facing these days a brutal war by Turkey and Azerbaijan.

The hashtag "boycott Turkish products" has been leading the Saudi trend since Thursday and Twitter influencers have demanded local businesses to not import or sell Turkish-made products. Later on Saturday and Sunday, major Saudi stores and supermarkets announced that they will stop selling Turkish-made products.

Although Turkey only exports what is worth $2.64B to Saudi Arabia, any decline in the trade magnitude is a huge problem for any economy and will certainly force companies to lay-out thousands of workers. Beside other countries could follow the Saudi approach.

Mehmet Guzelmansur, an MP from Hatay province, warned that his county is already living difficult times because of the Covid-19 pandemic and such a major boycott will severely damage many local businesses. He added that bankruptcy will hit exporters, manufactures, packers and transporters, which means a huge increase in what he called “the army of unemployed workers in Turkey”.

It is also important to mention that thousands of Saudi tourists visit Turkey every year, and that number could decrease dramatically if the political tension remains between both countries, which will be another blow to the Turkish tourism sector which is already bleeding because of Covid-19 this year.

Saudi Arabia is the biggest economy in the Middle East, and it is unwise to lose trade relations with such a partner as it will have a bigger impact then what Turkey could have anticipated. Just days ago, Mango, a Spanish fashion retailer which has 55 stores in Saudi Arabia and manufacturing facilities in Turkey decided to look for alternative manufacturers to keep its business operations in the KSA.

Moreover, Morocco, has amended a trade deal allowing it to raise duties by up to 90% on Turkish goods which dumped the Moroccan market for years and damaged local businesses. Other reports suggest that Algeria might follow Morocco and raise taxes on Turkish goods to prevent Turkey from taking advantages from previous trade agreements.

It is clear that Turkey is in a bad position between its neighbours as it is considered by many as an expansionist threat to the stability of the region. It has bad relations with Arab and European countries, and it only counts on Qatar’s money to stabilise its crumbling economy while its Muslim Brotherhood agents in the region keep igniting conflicts everywhere with the hope that they could control Libya or Syria and make the dictator happy.

What the public in Saudi Arabia are doing will impact the Turkish economy, but more work in needed by others to make this campaign the beginning of the end of Erdoğan’s era. Governments in Europe might be afraid of Erdoğan’s threats of sending thousands of Syrian refugees, but the people of Europe should join the boycott campaign so as to not support a country that violates human rights and invades sovereign states.

Every individual can play a vital role in this campaign for the future of the region, otherwise, dictator Erdoğan will continue his offensive plans against many countries. Twitter is a good place to spread the message that buying Turkish products is like buying ammunition for a regime which has one of the worst human rights records in the world. Let us all boycott Turkish products until it changes its trajectory of aggression.

Saudi boycott of Turkish productsAbdulrahman Taleb, is a British-Arab researcher in Middle East North Africa studies.

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