Is Turkey Training Somali “students” to fight in Libya?

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Turkey has pledged to allocate 200 free scholarships annually to Somali students since 2017.

This comes within the framework of the two countries’ cooperation in developing the educational field after signing bilateral agreements to raise the level of education in Somalia.

Recently, a lot of controversies have been raised about the scholarships among a group of Somali students. This has led some to ask about the Turkish scheme’s goals, at a time when Turkey says it has given special priority to education programs in Somalia.

Such scholarships were awarded to thousands of students to continue their educational careers.

Yesterday, a Somali student revealed on Twitter details of these scholarships. He revealed how it is being used by Turkey to achieve political and military gains in conflict areas in the Middle East and Africa.

Ali accused Turkey of deceiving a group of Somali students by attracting them to Turkey with the promise of university scholarships. Instead, the Somali students are given militarily training to participate in battles and conflicts in the region.

Ali said, “I came back from Turkey after I refused to enter military training. They told me it was a scholarship.”

He added in his tweet: “It turned out to be just military training. My friends’ phones were taken from them as soon as they entered the camps after signing a pledge not to reveal their locations. They will soon be sent to Libya.”

This was not the first story about Turkey’s tactics to lure young Somalis with promises of citizenship, scholarships, and large salaries.

Turkey is offering all this in exchange for joining the military recruitment centres that Ankara is establishing in Turkish municipalities and border Syrian areas.

Turkey aims to form powerful armed groups that will be a strong support for the Turkish army in its areas of influence in Syria, Libya, Iraq, and, most recently, Azerbaijan.

One of the Somali mothers complained in a video, circulating on social media earlier, that Somali youths went to Turkey after signing work contracts. After that, they discovered that it was a deceptive operation to recruit them to join Turkey’s interventions in neighbouring countries.

The woman said: “We have been missing our sons for 9 months. We were told that they would go to Turkey to work there, but instead of Turkey, they went directly to conflict areas and we heard that they had no means of communication nor cell phones.”

The mother of one of the Somali youths who went to Turkey is now without news of her sons. She says: “Our sons cannot reach us, but we heard that they are undergoing some kind of military training.”

“We have no objection if they are trained to become soldiers for the sake of serving their country, but we do not know where they are. They are neither in Turkey nor in Somalia.”

The talk about Turkey deceiving the Somali youth comes a few months after what private sources revealed about a Turkish-Qatari agreement to transfer Somali forces to Libya after they underwent training in Qatar. This allegation was denied by the Somali Foreign Minister.

The talk about the Turkish-Qatari agreement on sending Somali forces to Libya coincided with a visit by Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar to Doha to meet the Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad. Observers believe that this visit was meant to form an army of militants and mercenaries in Libya with Somali fighters.

These recent Turkish moves have raised the concerns of the Somalis. Earlier, the Somali expert in international relations, Professor Abd al-Rahman Daqri, warned about Turkey’s use of youth in the conflict in Libya, during an interview with the local Radio Shabelle in Mogadishu.

Daqri called on the Somali leadership to investigate what is being circulated about Turkish attempts to involve young Somalis in the Libyan war.