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News 19 Jul 16

Bosnia's Muslims Keep Worried Eye on Turkey

Bosniaks - Bosnian Muslims - many of them admirers of President Erdogan, are keenly following latest developments in Turkey, where a military coup was quashed at the weekend.

Rodolfo Toe
BIRN
Sarajevo
 
 A group of Bosnian residents protesting in support of Erdogan on Saturday in the capital, Sarajevo. Photo: Anadolu.

Bosnians are closely following political developments in Turkey, where President Recep Erdogan succeeded in crushing an attempted military coup on Friday night.

“Turkey is really important for Bosnia, so what happens in Ankara or Istanbul has a big impact on our country," Sead Murtic, a 59-year-old resident from Sarajevo, told BIRN.

“The Turkish government and citizens have helped our country a lot in the past … of course, we were deeply concerned after we found out what was happening on Friday," Samir Zubovic, a 20-year-old student from Sarajevo, added.

Interest about what happens in Turkey is huge in Bosnia for both political and historical reasons, observed Boro Kontic, the director of Mediacenter in Sarajevo, a network dealing with freedom of the press and promoting independent journalism.

“In Bosnia, or at least in some regions, there is some kind of historical sentiment [of attachment] towards Turkey, which is also reflected in the attitude of some of the media," Kontic noted.

In divided Bosnia, this warm attitude is not spread all over the country, however, and is largely restricted to Bosniaks [Bosnian Muslims].

Newspapers and media targeting Bosnian Croats, like the Mostar-based Dnevni List, or the Bosnian Serbs, like the Banja Luka-based paper Nezavisne Novine, show far less interest in the topic, Kontic noted.

“The Party of Democratic Action, [the SDA - the biggest Bosniak party] based part of its election campaign in 2014 by reaffirming a kind of connection with Turkey and with President Erdogan,” Kontic recalled.

In recent years, Turkish influence in Bosnia has grown. Commercial exchanges between the two countries and investments from Turkey in Bosnia have all increased.

Ankara has also cemented cultural ties with Muslim Bosnia, partly by funding the restoration of the country's old Ottoman-era heritage, as BIRN reported.

Bosnia formed part of the Ottoman Empire for centuries until Austria-Hungary occupied it in 1878 and annexed in 1908.

After news of the failed coup broke, Bosniak politicians rushed to express solidarity with Erdogan.

The Bosniak member of the Bosnian Presidency, SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic, called the attempted coup "a menace" which might interrupt "the development of democracy in Turkey.

“Erdogan ... has strong support here, amongst us in Bosnia," Izetbegovic told Turkish Anadolu news agency.

A small rally in support of President Erdogan was organised in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, on Saturday.

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