Next to us,
we Saudis, and within our strategic security sphere, lies a
country biting the dust for more than two decades.
Its collapse began when its last “effective” government,
which was neither successful nor popularly elected, fell.
Even if that government had survived to this day, it
surely would have been swept away by the Arab Spring.
Together with our neighbors in the region, we looked
after it on one or two occasions, and then moved away.
Even the Americans ran out on it after a solitary
attempt to save it in the wake of the war to liberate
Kuwait. At the time, George Bush Sr. may have wanted to show
his country was also ready to intervene and help a
poverty-stricken Muslim country, unlike oil-rich Kuwait. It
turned out to be a bitter American experience.
referring to Somalia.
Country in need
Who wants to
help Somalia? Its people are unruly, plagued by differences
and internecine strife, and ruled by warlords. Al-Qaeda
infested many of its citizens’ minds, adding to miseries and
divisions even in single households.
In the end,
Somalia became the hotbed of high sea piracy. The world came
to shun both the state and its people. Somalis got to be a
source of concern for Saudi Arabia and its Gulf partners
after a rise in their illegal immigration across Yemen
through a transnational network of organized crime in the
smuggling of migrants.
Everyone lost hope in Somalia
and no one believed the failed state would recover anytime
Or so it seemed.
There is now a glimmer
of hope looming on the horizon.
organizations now say Somalia is on the mend. Its markets
are beginning to recover, together with trade and
construction activities. People who visited Somalia of late
say there is money moving around in the impoverished
Turkey in Somalia
So, what happened?
The answer is Turkey and its Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan, who is now the most popular leader there,
with Somali mothers and fathers eager to name their newborns
“Recep,” “Tayyip” and “Erdogan.”
So what is Turkey
doing in Somalia and why? Is it on “a pilgrimage or selling
beads” there -- which is a common expression used by Mecca
residents well-grounded in combining godliness and
One school of thought worth monitoring
is known as “Turkey’s moderate Islam,” which combines
advocacy with spreading the teachings of religion, economic
development and trade.
It is capitalized on by
dynamic Turkish businesses in carving out new markets.
There is a Turkish scholar, author and educator named
Fethullah Gülen, who founded the Gülen movement that is
believed to have 1,000 schools around the world and more
than 10 million followers in Turkey alone. He currently
lives in self-exile in Pennsylvania.
I was in Turkey
some 25 years ago, trying to cover the rise of political
Islam, when I first heard his name. But I didn’t get to meet
him as he always shunned publicity and the media.
had left Turkey for the United States when he was committed
for trial in 2000 after the leaking of a video urging his
followers to “move within the arteries of the system,
without anyone noticing your existence, until you reach all
the power centers. You must wait until such time as you have
got all the state power.”
Originally charged with
trying to undermine the secularity of the Turkish state,
Gülen was acquitted in 2008 but continues to live in
seclusion in Pennsylvania.
The Gülen movement is
operating in Somalia through aid relief and development
agencies, offering young Somali men and women scholarships
for religious studies in Turkey. They would eventually
replace Somali graduates of hard-line religious schools
funded by Gulf charities.
By the time he flew to
Somalia in August 2011, Erdogan had arranged for more than
1,200 Somali students to arrive in Turkey on full
scholarships to study sciences, engineering, medicine and
law at a cost of $70 million.
He then raised from
Turkey’s private sector more than $365 in donations to
Somalia, over and above his government’s $49 million
Today, Turkish traders and aid workers
move freely across Somalia without needing to worry about
being killed or kidnapped.
In contrast, U.N. and
international aid workers remain holed up in their Somali
offices or hotel rooms.
Is this happening because
Turks, being Muslims, are familiar with the Somali people’s
character and norms?
‘Turkey Shocks Africa’
Harte raises the question in her recent article, “Turkey
Shocks Africa,” on which I relied to pen this think piece
and which I strongly urge you to read.
Turkey have a comprehensive plan – denied by the government
– to marry advocacy and trade, thus help Turkish
entrepreneurs and businesses gain favor among Somalis?
Or is energy-starved Turkey eyeing opportunities offered
by the prospective find of 10 billion barrels of crude oil
in Somalia’s northeastern Puntland province?
Alternatively, is Turkey mounting a smart charm offensive to
increase its overall exports to Africa, which rose to $10.3
billion last year from $2.1 billion in 2003?
is now challenging China on African markets, but with a more
humane face than the alienating method favored by the
Regardless of Turkey’s motives, what
happened benefited both the Turks and the Somalis.
And what about us?
It’s wrong to portray the Turks as
competitors. They are friends who did what we should have
done. It’s therefore good to catch up with them and
participate in this benefaction. After all, we spearheaded
the concept, “The Hajj…and the sale of beads.”
This article was first
published on Dar al-Hayat newspaper on Jan. 19, 2013 and
translated by Arab Saga
Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi
journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the
upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a
media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi
Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has
written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers,
including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was
editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a
foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait,
Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a
political commentator for Saudi-based and international news
contained in this article are solely those of the writer, and it does not represent the
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