Tuesday, 23 October 2012, 06:18 GMT
Turkey's New Love Affair with Somalia

The Kurdish Globe
By Abdirahman M. Dirye

In 1993, the U.S. sent 30,000 troops to Mogadishu seashore to provide relief and protection to thousands of starving Somalis.

The Somali crisis took place two decades ago, and the Turkish role in providing aid to the suffering people of Somalia is within recent memory. To many, the Turkish role in relief efforts looked more like token participation rather than genuinely humanitarian concern, despite ordinary Somalis, deep appreciation for the Turkish premier's high-profile visit to Mogadishu during the height of the famine. Many Somali intellectuals looked on Turkey's role with suspicion. Meanwhile, Western nations have been taking Somali refugees in since the crisis, resettling them in their countries and providing amnesty. It is even possible to find resettled Somalis in Saudi Arabia, in spite of the countries horrific human rights record; but in Turkey, it is almost impossible to find a Somali with a Turkish passport or resettled as a refugee, despite the high population of Somalis living there. Somalis are well aware of those who were their friends during their darkest days. "Friends in need are friends indeed", and during the crisis, a number of African nations united to aid in the struggle against Somalia's scourge, Al-Shabab, in order to restore peace and security.

In 1993, the U.S. sent 30,000 troops to Mogadishu seashore to provide relief and protection to thousands of starving Somalis. Due to an increasingly complicated security situation, a number of U.S. Marines died in the conflict, drawing the events to world-wide attention. Where was Turkey during this time of crisis, It is quite certain that without AMISOM's sacrifices, the Turkish premier could not have even set foot on Somali soil.

The annual expenses of the AMISOM are estimated to be millions of dollars. Turkey seems incapable of providing breakfast for the AU forces struggling to restore law and order in Somalia, while other countries, particularly those from the EU, have, in contrast, assumed an enormous burden of responsibility. Somalis' inflated expectations of Turkey have to be deflated sooner or later, not least because the International Crisis Group (ICG) has warned of a new Turkish love affair with Somalia and questioned its dubious role in post-conflict Somalia. Istanbul has created a false vanguard-image of itself in alleviating Somalia's disasters, while in fact its role is quite minimal; it is in fact the U.S. and the EU that have primarily been keeping millions of Somalis alive through the remittances of their countries. I am not by any means against Turkish aid to my fellow country-men and women, but I feel that they should properly commit to international efforts to build a New Somalia with an effective judiciary system, or otherwise aid in facilitating the split of Somalia into Somaliland and Mogadishu. I also call upon Turkey to cease the politicization of religion in the area to take advantage of Somalis, shallow faith, and instead to make genuine efforts to help the Somali people.

Across a number of Muslim countries, Somalis have been gravely mistreated; Saudi Arabia, for example, immediately deports Somali asylum seekers to Mogadishu - the burning city - without providing any opportunity to fly to more stable cities such as Hargeisa or Bosaso. Turkey's behavior is not much better. Somalis are humiliated in no airport more than Istanbul's.

Egypt, a country claiming to be devoutly Muslim, has never sent a single Egyptian soldier to provide support in Mogadishu; the only visible Egyptian help comes in the form of Arabic poetry teachers, who can be found in the stable region of Somaliland. Egypt's failure to provide military aid is particularly galling when one considers the idleness of its huge reserve forces, which freely patrol the borders of the State of Israel with nothing more to occupy their time than appearing in front of Israel's high-tech security cameras.

Somalia wants to develop business and diplomatic ties with nations from around the world in mutually beneficial projects, without opportunism and exploitation souring relations. In light of Somalia's openness to friendly relations, it is wholly unfair that Turkey exploits the good will of victims whose survival directly depends on feeding centers run by Western NGOs. The survival of the Somali people during the twenty-one years of its struggle would be unthinkable without the generous help of Western nations. It is time for Turkey to contribute as well.

Dirye is a Somaliland Activist and Hargiesa Tribune Columnist. Email: mrdirye@gmail.com