Arab leaders have always taken positions that vary extremely from the position, feelings and ambitions of their people. During the 2008-2009 Gaza war, Israel killed and injured thousands of innocent civilians. Egyptian people at the time were tremendously supportive of the Palestinians in Gaza. They organized numerous protests and relief campaigns to back the Palestinians.
A few minutes on the Twitter accounts of Arab youth from different countries is enough to prove how they have a dramatically divergent stance from their leaders' positions on the Turkish operation in Syria. The Arab leaders gathered for an emergency meeting in Cairo on Saturday. They harshly condemned TUrkey's Operation Peace Spring in northeastern Syria.
However, most Arab youths are tweeting and sharing pro-Turkey posts in which they stress that Turkey has the full right to defend itself and remove the terror menaces spreading along its borders with war-torn Syria.
This stark difference comes as the Arab youth have been, for decades, incapable of choosing the ones who represent them at the highest political and diplomatic levels. They managed a big breakthrough in 2011-2013, but only to be violently crushed by their autocrat regimes. Thanks to Saudi Arabia's and the United Araba Emirates' (UAE) generous financial support the counterrevolution coalition rolled back the gains of the pro-change youths and organizations.
There are several reasons why we still notice pro-Turkey stance among Arab youths, even in the face of the Saudi and UAE-funded media onslaught and smear campaign against Turkey and its military campaign.
Firstly, Turkey has enjoyed a distinctive status among the Arab youth and the population in general, mostly due to Turkey's supportive position on many sensitive Arab issues, and the Palestinian cause in particular. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's recently raised the issue in the U.N.'s General Assembly when he showed a 1948-map of Palestine, before the Israeli occupation and called a stop to Israeli schemes to swallow the remnants of the Palestinian lands.
The second reason behind Turkey's soft influence among the Arab youth has to do with the country's stance during the Arab Spring, dating back to the early days of the outbreak of street protests against the long-serving dictators in the region. Turkey-backed the post-uprising Egypt, the anti-counter-revolution Libyans, it also stood with Tunisia in different stages of the sensitive transitional period.
Lastly, Turkey is still seen, by young Arabs, as a model for economic and social development plans as well as humanitarian diplomacy. Turkey hosts more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees, as well as thousands of Iraqis, Libyans, and Yemenis. It also hosts numerous students of many Arab nationalities.
In most cases, the Arab countries' official positions don't reflect the views of their people, and this is simply because of the gulf of differences between the interests of the country's leaders and their people.
* Ph.D. student in international relations at Yıldırım Beyazıt University