The hand sign, known as “Rabia” or “Rabaa” was originally used in 2013 in solidarity with Muslim Brotherhood supporters of Egypt’s ousted president Mohammed Morsi (from the Muslim Brotherhood party). Morsi’s allies camped out in Rabaa Square in Cairo, Egypt, where they violently confronted police in defiance of then general (and now president) Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
A year after Morsi assumed power, and after numbers of protesters against him were in the tens of millions, el-Sisi and the military took control of the country.
Morsi came to power in a contested election that his detractors claim was won by strong-arm tactics used by the Brotherhood, tactics which included intimidation and preventing voters from getting to polling stations. While president, he increasingly grabbed power for himself beyond the executive branch, causing the Egyptian people to turn against him.
After the Rabaa Square showdown, where both police and protesters shot each other, the Rabia sign became the iconic symbol of the Brotherhood.
Erdogan flashes the sign frequently and in public. Rabia, which literally means “four,” has now become part of the AK party’s bylaws, which say the sign has been amended to stand for the party’s newly-adopted four principles: “one homeland, one state, one flag, one nation.”
The influence of Erdogan’s and the AK party’s increasingly Islamist influence on Turkey is also felt in other areas, particularly in the education of the next generation of Turks. At a public school in Istanbul, elementary students sang an Islamic hymn in Arabic in honor of “Reading Day,” a day that is normally used to celebrate the skills of children who have just learned to read in Turkish.
There was no mention of modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who was a professed secularist, even though Reading Day occurred one day before the official day commemorating Ataturk.
Turkish news outlet Birgun reports, “Religion education has been one of the top priority (sic) of the Ministry of Education under the 15 years-long AKP rule in the country, while fields of science and arts have been considered with much less value.”
Following those guidelines, the Turkish Ministry of Education decreased lessons in art and philosophy to one class per week while lessons in the mandatory “Religion Culture and Values Education” increased.