The Turkish expansion in Somalia raises a lot of controversy regarding its nature, goals, and impact on the Middle East and Africa, which are already plagued by Turkey’s blatant interferences.
Turkish practices in poor countries, including Somalia, bear a lot of similarities with the Ottoman era.
Turkey’s moves in Somalia have not been limited to supporting and financing militant armed groups but have even extended to the integration of these groups into what is known as “Erdogan’s mercenary army.” This army of paid-for fighters has been deployed across the Middle East, and directly responds to the Turkish President’s military objectives.
Turkey is one of the prominent regional countries supporting militant armed groups in Africa. This way, Ankara methodically exploits its incursions into African countries to achieve its colonial goals in the Arab and African regions, mainly through military means.
Turkey has intervened in Libya, Syria, Iraq and recently Azerbaijan by using armed groups from Syria and Somalia as cannon fodder in support of the Turkish army and in view of implementing Erdogan’s schemes in these countries.
Talks about Turkey’s increasing use of Somali mercenaries in Libya and military theatres in which Turkey is involved, have come at a time when several reports indicate a prevailing state of discontent among Syrian mercenaries who were transferred by Ankara to the Libyan capital, Tripoli, and the Azerbaijani capital, Baku.
Last July, private sources revealed that Turkey and Qatar had agreed to transfer Somali forces to Libya, after undergoing training in Qatar. Such claims were later 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, where he met the Qatari Emir, Tamim bin Hamad. Observers have seen in this visit an attempt to build an army of Somali mercenaries to fight in Libya and replace Syrian fighters there.
These Turkish actions have raised concerns among Somalis. Professor Abd al-Rahman Dagari, a Somali expert in international relations, has recently warned of Turkey’s recruiting of Somali youth in the ongoing conflict in Libya, during an interview with the local Shabelle radio in Mogadishu. He also called on the Somali leadership to investigate on alleged Turkish attempts to drag the Somali youth in the Libyan war.
Additionally, a number of Somali students revealed the truth behind Turkey’s free scholarship scheme, which is actually used by Ankara to expand its military influence in conflict areas across the Middle East.
A Somali student has accused Turkey of deceiving a group of Somali students by sending them to Ankara under the pretext of providing scholarships to them. In reality, the students were trained by Turkey to fight in proxy battles and conflicts in the region.
The student in question wrote on Twitter, “I came back from Turkey after I refused to participate in the military trainings. They told me it was a scholarship.”
He pointed out that the scholarship scheme was nothing more than a military training, noting that his friends signed a pledge not to reveal their locations after they had entered the training camps. They were then quickly informed that they would soon be sent to Libya.
This is not the first time that Turkey has attempted to lure young Somalis with citizenship, scholarships or large salaries in exchange for joining the military recruitment centres established by Ankara in Turkish municipalities and Syrian border areas. These recruitment centres are meant to form powerful armed groups that would be used as a strong shield for the Turkish army in its areas of influence in Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Azerbaijan.
A Somali mother has recently appeared in a video, which went viral on social media outlets, talking about Somali youths who went to Turkey after signing fake work contracts. She added that such contracts were a deceptive attempt to recruit those youth and drag them in Turkey’s battles in the region.
She said, “We have been missing our children 9 months ago. We were told that they would go to Turkey for work, but instead, our children were taken directly to wars and we heard that they do not have any means of communication or cell phones.”
She also stated, “Our children cannot reach us, but we have heard that they are undergoing military training. We don’t mind if they are trained to become soldiers in order to serve their countries, but we do not know where they are, they are neither in Turkey nor in Somalia.”