Al-Shabaab and Turkey


By Hasan Kanbolat

By Hasan Kanbolat


No census has ever been held in Somalia. It is estimated that Somalia has a population of 15 million, Mogadishu 2 million and Somaliland 4 million. The average life expectancy is 40 years. Between 1991 and 2012, there were no state authority or government agencies in Somalia. Somalia has a coastline spanning 3,025 kilometers. Although it has the longest coastline in Africa, it does not have a navy.

To facilitate the creation of permanent stability, Turkey is helping Somali authorities establish a federal structure as a first step. Turkey has been working with Somalia since 2011. Turks and Somalis see each other as equals. Somalis do not see Turks as “white” men. Therefore, Turkey’s policies have been rapidly producing positive results. In the summer of 2011, the priority was to prevent deaths from famine. Starting in 2012, the rebuilding of state, economic and social structures became the priority. The Somali state needs buildings, infrastructure, good management and trained personnel. A Turkish task force will be created in Mogadishu. Turkish officers will train the Somali army. With assistance from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), the army will establish training facilities and military schools. The Turkish Religious Affairs Foundation (TDV) opened an imam-hatip high school in Mogadishu. İstanbul became a sister city of Mogadishu, while Gebze became the sister city of Garowe. Turkey continues to send food aid to Somalia to prevent famine. In early 2015, the Turkish Red Crescent Society (Kızılay) sent 10,000 tons of food aid to Somalia. In September 2012, the Somali federal government took office. For Somalia, 2015 will be a year of preparations for the transition to a federal structure. Somalia’s budget for 2015 is $214 million. With the exception of Turkey, the international community has failed to provide Somalia with sufficient resources. A new constitution will be drafted and a federal structure will be set in place in September 2016. Currently, a provisional constitution is in force. General elections are slated for 2016, after which a new government will be formed. The second and final step is to develop a permanent solution by creating a federal structure between Somalia and Somaliland. After permanent stability is secured in Somalia, Turkey will build a new parliament building as a gift to the Somali people.

Islamic rules are implemented in Somalia. Women wear headscarves, but they are part of daily life. Women are even employed as police officers. Al-Shabaab is the result of Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia and the resulting civil war in 2006. As stability is reinstated in Somalia, the territory controlled by al-Shabaab is shrinking. Al-Shabaab has already lost control of metropolitan areas. But it has greater influence and control in rural areas. For this reason, security is still a source of concern in places outside Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab knows that Somalis are appreciative of Turks who altruistically help Somalia. For this reason, Turks are allowed to freely travel to rural areas and marketplaces under Al-Shabaab’s control. It knows that any attack against Turks will elicit reactions from Somalis and this will eventually be to the detriment of the country. Al-Shabaab’s attacks on Turkish buildings in Mogadishu have different motives. Al-Shabaab is a jihadist hybrid Salafi organization that has adopted asymmetrical war strategies. Like other jihadist hybrid Salafi organizations, al-Shabaab is an asymmetrical organization that simultaneously serves the interests of diverse countries and intelligence organizations. Al-Shabaab is just an instrument. Therefore, the attacks against Turks in Mogadishu aim to disturb Turkey.



Hasan Kanbolat

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