From time to time, campaigns spread on social media in Saudi Arabia calling for a boycott of Turkish goods.
The frequency of these campaigns has increased in the past two years, especially in light of the escalation of political tensions after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside his country’s consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
In conjunction with the second anniversary of Khashoggi’s killing, boycott campaigns topped the Twitter site in the country, accompanied by slogans and phrases urging citizens to stop dealing with everything Turkish.
The campaigns sparked controversy among the Arab tweeters, who treated the news according to their orientations and positions on the Gulf crisis and Erdogan’s policies in the region.
Followers of these campaigns wonder if they are run under official, non-public directives, or are they just individual initiatives?
Personal initiatives or an official campaign?
The campaign began this year with a tweet by the Chairman of the Council of Chambers of Commerce, Ajlan Al-Ajlan, calling for a popular boycott of Turkish products and services based on imports, through investment and tourism.
After a few days, hashtags appeared in support of Al-Ajlan’s suggestion, as the hashtag “# Campaign_ Boycott_Turkish Products” #Popular_Campaign_for_Turkey ”lists the most frequently discussed topics on Twitter in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The Saudi prince, Abdul Rahman bin Musaed, who does not hold a political position in the country, is one of the most prominent supporters of the boycott campaigns.
Saudis say the campaign was launched in response to “Turkey’s hostile practices against their country, leadership and people.”
They describe the campaign this time as a “popular gift” and say that it “differs from its predecessors in terms of response.”
Some of them also call for the field application of the campaign.
Meanwhile, a second team underestimates the importance of these calls, which they consider “merely limited movements that will not go beyond the virtual world and fake campaigns to distract the Saudi people from their basic issues.”
Activists in other Arab countries responded to the campaigns to boycott Turkish goods with campaigns and counter-tags such as (the Popular Campaign to Support Turkey).
The owners of this approach condemned what they called “the economic war waged by Arab countries against a Muslim country in support of the nation’s causes,” as they said.
As the campaign escalated, some asked a question For alternatives in case goods are boycotted Turkish products that enjoy high quality and low prices compared to other products in the Gulf market.
Some predicted the possibility of Israeli goods entering the Gulf markets. The owners of those expectations based their vision on the official rapprochement between Israel and Riyadh’s allies.
On the other hand, others reminded of the Turkish intervention in Syria and Libya, saying that “the boycott weapon is the best to confront the Turkish trends against the interests of Arab countries.”
What is its reflection on the ground?
A third party wonders about why Saudi Arabia hesitated to take an official position to cut ties with Ankara and publicly boycott its goods.
On this, political analysts say that “Saudi Arabia avoids the sanctions that could be imposed by the World Trade Organization, in the event that any official action is taken in this regard, so it resorts to pressure on its citizens at home to stop dealing with Turkey in various ways.”
In an interview with the official Anadolu Agency, in early October, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu described the news of a ban on their goods in Saudi Arabia as “unconfirmed.”
He said, “Saudi officials refuted these reports, adding that” Ankara will follow up on whether the embargo will be imposed during the current month.
The Saudi government media office also denied imposing restrictions on Turkish goods.
But observers believe that the campaign is proceeding on an “organized path, with strong support from the authorities,” they are unlikely to demand “Prince bin Musaed and the Chairman of the Council of Chambers of Commerce to boycott any country economically without getting a green light from the higher leaders.”
In a related context, Saudi economic experts and activists are trading statements by Turkish politicians and merchants as they talk about the negative effects of the Saudi boycott campaigns on their goods.
A week ago, a joint statement by the heads of the 8 largest Turkish trade groups revealed that they had received complaints from Saudi companies, stating that Riyadh required them to sign documents obliging them not to import goods from Turkey, according to Reuters.
Turkish opposition politician Mehmet Guzelmansour believes that “Turkey does not have the luxury of losing any market in the Middle East in light of the decline in the value of the lira and the negative repercussions of the Corona pandemic.
As for the Turkish political analyst, Hamza Tekin, he downplayed the negative repercussions of the Saudi boycott campaigns on the Turkish economy, noting that “the most important Turkish exports go to other countries.”
Is the province expanding?
Most of the expectations are that the media war between Saudi Arabia and Turkey will escalate in the coming months, especially after Saudi Arabia allowed the passage of Syrian cargo trucks after years of prevention.
Analysts indicate that the boycott may push Turkey to form a new economic and political alliance in the region, similar to what happened after the blockade of Qatar.
Therefore, economists warn that the boycott campaign could negatively affect the Turkish and Saudi markets alike.
Saudi Arabia is the 15th largest export market in Turkey. Sales of carpets, textiles, chemicals, grains, furniture and steel in 2020 totaled $ 1.91 billion in the first eight months of the year.
This represents a decrease of 17% compared to 2019. Some attribute the decline in the volume of trade exchange between the two countries to reasons related to the outbreak of the Corona virus, which affected global trade, not just political tensions.
But Saudi statistics show that the value of Turkish imports has been in continuous decline since 2015.
The volume of trade exchange between the two countries is estimated at $ 5 billion annually.
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