The Controversial Actions of Erdogan’s Daughter: Criticism for Anti-Israel Post

The verified account on X carrying the name of Esra Erdogan, a self-described “rights activist” who shares the same name as Turkish President Erdogan’s daughter, flattered South African President Cyril Ramaphosa for his country’s decision to bring Israel to the International Court of Justice. However, the bigoted wording she chose caused a disruption. In her tweet in Arabic, published Saturday at 6:10 AM, Erdogan wrote, “Black in color.. White in Heart”, along with a white heart and South African flag emojis. The tweet gained 1.7 million views despite the original writer having only 131 thousand followers. A “white heart” appears in Islamic traditions as well as in popular culture in the Middle East as one that is pure and immune to temptations, which was presumably Erdogan’s intention in her controversial publication. However, the contrast made between a pure “white” heart and the South African President’s skin color did not escape the readers’ attention. User Idriss Ayat, a Kuwaiti resident apparently originating in Niger, commented in a post viewed by almost 550 thousand users, describing the phrase as a type of ‘verbal racism’ that inwardly condemns blackness. Another denunciation came from Saudi Arabian therapist Nawal Al-Hawasai, who commented that the tweet is shameful and condemned the persistence of racism. Erdogan responded to the criticisms by insisting there was nothing wrong with her tweet, and she later retweeted herself twice, causing an uproar in neighboring Greece during the May 2023 elections in Turkey. Some users doubted the legitimacy of the account, pointing out that such proficiency in Arabic cannot be expected from a native Turkish speaker. Roughly 14 hours after the publication of the original post, the Turkish Directorate of Communications Center for Countering Disinformation published an official statement on their website decrying “Israel’s disinformation” and claiming that pro-Israel “propaganda” accounts are “trying to manipulate public opinion by using the resemblance in the name of a social media user”, and denying that the account belongs to Esra Albayrak, and rejecting the notion that the content can be perceived as racist. However, the verified account has caused a large impact and ultimately led the Turkish authorities to publicly disavow the account, remaining oblivious to the fact that the content can be deemed as racist.