Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality yesterday inaugurated a first-ever workshop for the city's Arab intellectuals and dignitaries.
A number of former Egyptian and Yemeni politicians, several academics from Tunisia, Palestine and Iraqi, as well as former bureaucrats, writers, artists, and activists participated in the two-day event to discuss their experience in the city and Turkey.
Organizers said that they want to integrate the Arab minds in Turkey with the country's intellectual life and develop joint projects.
Ayman Nour, a former Egyptian lawmaker and founder of al-Ghad Party, who left Egypt after the 2013 coup; former press adviser of Mohamed Morsi, Ahmed Abdul Azez, and former Yemeni Health Minister Najib Ghanem were among the prominent Arab figures at the workshop.
Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputy Yasin Aktay, Bilal Erdoğan, son of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and Dr. Burhanettin Duran, a Daily Sabah columnist and the general coordinator of Turkish think-tank SETA, were among the Turkish participants.
"As Muslims, we have to meet so that we can solve our problems; bypass any sectarian, racial, language barriers and not blame each other all the time for the challenges we face," Erdoğan said at the workshop.
Erdoğan said Islamic world suffers from "an intellectual hunger" and this can be eliminated by "meetings between intellectuals." He emphasized the need for translating more Arabic works to Turkish "so we can rediscover the intellectual resources."
"Arabs living in Turkey are our brothers and sisters," said Yasin Aktay. He pointed out how the fraternity between the Muslims from Mecca and Medina in the time of Prophet Muhammad forged the Islamic civilization and added that "I believe your hegira [migration] here will help us grow based on that principle."