Er­do­gan’s grow­ing ap­petite for Africa

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

AL­THOUGH Re­cip Tayyip Er­do­gan is con­sid­ered the most pow­er­ful leader of Turkey since Mustafa Atatürk, he fre­quently chooses to visit Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries with which Turkey has weak ties, as well as small Euro­pean and African states.

Er­do­gan has vis­ited Sub-Sha­ran Africa 10 times in less than 18 months. This week, Er­do­gan will be vis­it­ing Mozam­bique, An­gola and Mada­gas­car at a time when the Turk­ish lira ap­pears to be 2017’s worst-per­form­ing cur­rency.

Er­do­gan’s Africa visit has po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic mo­tives. Turkey has strong re­la­tions with Africa. Is­tan­bul hosted the “Turkey-Africa Co-op­er­a­tion Sum­mit” in2008 which was at­tended by 49 coun­tries. The sec­ond Turkey-Africa Part­ner­ship Sum­mit took place in 2014 in Mal­abo, Equa­to­rial Guinea.

To­day Ankara runs 34 em­bassies on the con­ti­nent, even in some coun­tries which have almost no Turk­ish cit­i­zens, like Namibia. Turk­ish Air­lines flies to 51 des­ti­na­tions in 34 coun­tries across the con­ti­nent, dou­ble Emi­rates’ African net­work.

Turkey’s bi­lat­eral trade vol­ume with Africa reached $17.5bil­lion in 2015, and trade vol­ume with Sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa reached $6bn the same year. But what is the real mo­ti­va­tion of Er­do­gan’s visit in these tur­bu­lent days for Turkey?

Er­do­gan is ex­pand­ing his witch-hunt against the Is­lamic Gülen Move­ment (Hizmet) to Africa.

While the Turk­ish lira re­places the rand as the world’s most volatile cur­rency and the most crit­i­cal Cyprus meet­ing is in process in Geneva, Er­do­gan’s Africa visit is not sur­pris­ing for the cit­i­zens of Turkey.

Er­do­gan has made most of his fa­mous crit­i­cal state­ments dur­ing his trips abroad, and has been out of Turkey at times when the coun­try has faced se­ri­ous so­cial tur­moil, such as dur­ing the Gezi Park protests.

But this time, the is­sue is not op­po­si­tion protests or chal­leng­ing the coun­try’s sec­u­lar army. Turkey faces an ex­is­ten­tial problem as Er­do­gan chal­lenges Rus­sia and the US at the same time. This is in ad­di­tion to the PKK (the Kur­dis­tan Work­ers’ Party) whom Turkey has been fight­ing for 40 years, and the Is­lamic State, which has car­ried out deadly at­tacks in ma­jor cities almost weekly.

Al­though Er­do­gan en­gages Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, Rus­sia might plan to take re­venge for the killing of their am­bas­sador and the jet down­ing. But those who fol­low Er­do­gan will know that these chal­lenges never pre­vent him from fight­ing his per­sonal en­e­mies.

Er­do­gan wiped out the power of the sec­u­lar elite and army dur­ing his 14 years of rule. But his ha­tred to­wards the Gülen Move­ment has a dif­fer­ent di­men­sion than other op­po­nents as he blames Gülenist bu­reau­crats for or­gan­is­ing the 2013 cor­rup­tion case against his fam­ily and in­ner cir­cle.

Er­do­gan has openly stated that his gov­ern­ment will fo­cus on fight­ing Gülenists abroad this year as the AKP (the Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party) has com­pletely shut down all the Gülen-af­fil­i­ated in­sti­tu­tions in 2016 in Turkey.

Er­do­gan’s pow­er­ful AKP formed the Maarif Trust un­der the Turk­ish ed­u­ca­tion min­istry to take over Gülen schools abroad and this trust has suc­ceeded in tak­ing over some of the move­ment’s schools. Er­do­gan’s team care­fully se­lect the coun­tries which they be­lieve he can con­vince to co-op­er­ate.

For a long time, one of the key agen­das of Turk­ish am­bas­sadors has been to fight the Gülen Move­ment even though many am­bas­sadors have joined the open­ing cer­e­monies of Turk­ish schools a few years ago. Ex-pres­i­dent Ab­dul­lah Gül, Er­do­gan, former prime min­is­ter Ah­met Davuto lu, and almost all the ministers vis­ited Hizmet schools in Africa prior to the AKP’s fall­out with the Gülen Move­ment. Hizmet schools are reg­is­tered by lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and they fol­low the lo­cal cur­ricu­lum, with almost all the stu­dents be­ing lo­cal. That’s the rea­son why, in Pak­istan, Morocco and Sene­gal, par­ents and stu­dents or­gan­ised mas­sive protests against their lo­cal au­thor­i­ties in or­der to pro­tect their chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tional rights.

The Maarif Trust an­nounced from its web­site that they took over Hizmet schools in Gine, So­ma­lia, and are ne­go­ti­at­ing to take over schools in Su­dan, Mau­ri­ta­nia, Sene­gal, and Chad.

Since the Arab Spring, Erdo an’s in­ner-cir­cle have por­trayed him as a Caliph of the Mus­lim world and they met Mus­lim lead­ers in many coun­tries. We see to­day that the Maarif Trust is aim­ing to take over Hizmet schools in the ma­jor­ity Mus­lim coun­tries.

As in his pre­vi­ous vis­its, Er­do­gan will be very gen­er­ous to African lead­ers in or­der to shut down Hizmet schools. Turkey has strong eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal ties with Su­dan, So­ma­lia and other coun­tries who have de­cided to close down Hizmet schools.

The Hizmet Move­ment has been in the ed­u­ca­tion field for the past 40 years in Turkey, and 30 years abroad. Thou­sands of vol­un­teers who grad­u­ated from top Turk­ish uni­ver­si­ties con­trib­uted to ed­u­ca­tion in sev­eral coun­tries. For the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment, it would not have been easy to con­vince teach­ers to serve in African coun­tries with lower-liv­ing stan­dards com­pared to Turkey.

Former pres­i­dent Gül stated that Turkey’s Africa strat­egy is hu­man-cen­tred. The Hizmet-af­fil­i­ated Cham­ber of Com­merce Tuskon and Hizmet schools played a mas­sive role in build­ing re­la­tions be­tween Ankara and Africa. But now, things have changed, and we don’t see a fast-de­vel­op­ing Turkey which could have com­peted with China just eight years ago.

Since 2013, Turkey has be­come in­creas­ingly au­thor­i­tar­ian and is ac­cused of hav­ing re­la­tions with many armed groups out­side the coun­try. Any or­di­nary Libyan cit­i­zen knows that Er­do­gan sup­ports the op­po­si­tion in their coun­try and played a key role in top­pling the late dic­ta­tor Muam­mar Gaddafi.

Ac­cord­ing to sources, Er­do­gan will visit Mada­gas­car for three hours. It is ex­pected that he will re­quest Mozam­bique to close Hizmet schools op­er­at­ing in its ter­ri­tory. The irony is that Mozam­bi­can Pres­i­dent Filipe Nyusi’s son grad­u­ated from Ma­puto’s Wil­low School.

While Er­do­gan’s gov­ern­ment takes over Hizmet schools in Africa, a gov­ern­ment teacher Ay­din Erek­men has posed with his stu­dents hold­ing hang­ing ropes in their hands to de­mand the death penalty in Turkey. CHP (Pop­ulist Po­lit­i­cal Party) MP Mu­rat Bakan took this is­sue to par­lia­ment, say­ing: “Al­low­ing this man to teach is tan­ta­mount to mur­der.”

Er­do­gan has not forced any West­ern coun­tries to shut down Hizmet schools. Ger­many ar­rested Er­do­gan’s former ad­viser, and France’s Pres­i­dent François Hol­lande de­ported a Turk­ish of­fi­cial, ac­cus­ing him of spy­ing for Turkey.

He wants to close down con­ti­nent’s Hizmet schools

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.