Turkey hosted the UN developing nations conference last May. Leaders from the worlds’ Least Developed Countries gathered . . . in Turkey, with the objective of helping millions live more abundant lives. Participants agreed on a ten-year development plan that would reduce by half the current 48 countries where the annual income is less than US$745 per person. Toward this goal, developed countries are being asked to grant total debt relief as well as to curb military spending, to fund peaceful development endeavours instead (May 2011).
In a solemn voice, Turkish President Abdullah Gül stated: “I declare open the 4th United Nations conference on the least developed countries”. Last year, I coined the phrase pseudo-Ottoman to describe Turkey’s new, self-confident posture on the world stage and it seems that hosting this event in Istanbul was more than just a fortuitous act. Dr. Abdiweli Ali, deputy prime minister of Somalia, expressed Turkey’s not-so hidden agenda behind hosting this event: “Least developed countries need a guide, a mentor, a patron that speaks on their behalf. Turkey is taking that role”. In my piece, I declared rather boldly: “Rather than attempting to establish Turkish hegemony in the region, Davutoğlu’s pseudo-Ottoman foreign policy aims at integrating the erstwhile Ottoman hinterland into the mainstream of Turkish politics today. Turkey’s foreign minister is trying to shine a light on regions and areas previously located in the darkness beyond Turkish recognition and comprehension”. Turkey’s desire to become the third world’s champion is clearly something completely new and totally beyond the experience of Turkish movers and shakers of yesteryear. Dr. Abdiweli Ali was not shy about expressing his enthusiasm for Turkey’s new station in the world: “I am a great admirer of Turkey and [an] admirer of Ottoman civilization. Turkey is strategically located between South and the North, between Asia and Europe. We think Turkey lays a service to fill that gap”.
Last year, Turkey appeared to be at the forefront of countries sending aid to flood-stricken Pakistan: ‘18 million Turkish liras (TL) has been collected in bank accounts within the scope of an aid campaign aiming at helping flood-hit Pakistan, doubling the previous number, [the] Prime Ministry said on Wednesday [25 August 2010]. A statement by Natural Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate of [the] Prime Ministry said that as of Wednesday, 15.8 million TL, 474,491 U.S. dollars and 667,547 euros have been collected in three separate bank accounts opened within the scope of a circular signed by the Turkish prime minister’. By late September 2010, Turkish donations to Pakistan had reached a staggering 183.9 million Turkish Liras, in addition to ‘244 tons of relief support that included vaccines, medicine, medical stuff’. At the moment, the drought in east Africa is another issue that occupies Turkey’s leadership: ‘Donations have reached 40 million Turkish Lira (nearly $22.5 million) in [an] aid campaign launched by Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs [or Diyanet] to help African people suffering from severe shortage of food and water’. As such, this crisis has provided Turkey’s Directorate for Religious Affairs (Diyanet) with an incredible opportunity to improve its image at home as well as abroad. The Diyanet official Zeki Sayar said that “donations have so far reached 40 million TL in the aid campaign launched by our directorate, the Turkish Religious Foundation [Diyanet Vakfı] and the Turkish relief agency Red Crescent [Kızılay] to help dr[o]ught-hit African nations. Our target is to reach 100 million TL by the end of the Ramadan Feast [, 29 August 2011]. Africa lives through the worst [drought] of the last six decades. Millions of people face death because of famine. Our people rushed to African people’s assistance. Muslim people’s holy month of Ramadan has a great impact on the aid campaign. Ramadan is the month of solidarity among people”.
And in an effort to show the world that Turkey means business, the Prime Minister and his wily Foreign Minister are planning to go to Somalia in person. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave a speech on Wednesday, 10 August: “We will [be] prepared to help in Somalia [even] if we were the only ones helping the famine victims”. At the speech for his party, the AKP, ‘Erdoğan said he was going to visit Somalia with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, also accompanied by their families throughout the visit’. Turkey’s pseudo-Ottoman leadership will be going on a family outing to witness first-hand how Turkish benevolence is saving lives in the face of deadly famine and disease killing indiscriminately. The pro-government English-language Turkish daily Today’s Zaman adds that the ‘Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA) Chairman Serdar Çam has announced plans to open a new coordination office in Somalia, while he noted [that] Turkey was poised to help further by [aiding] Somalia become a stronger player in the fields of international trade, the economy, agriculture and industry. As the first humanitarian aid gathered by the combined efforts of TİKA, other government institutions and private enterprise landed earlier this week in famine-stricken Somalia [as well], Çam and aid teams led by Turkish Red Crescent Society (Kızılay) General Manager Ömer Taşlı visited refugee camps on Tuesday [, 9 August] to deliver aid packages to the Somalis, the Anatolia news agency reported . . . Çam said that the people of Somalia needed peace and comfort before the state can reach all its citizens and take care of their needs’. Çam even told the Anatolia news agency that “[a]s a society that feels deeply for the pain Somalis are going through, particularly in this holy month of Ramadan, we [, as representatives of the Republic of Turkey] are here to deliver food aid to the country and make sure it reaches people even in the farthest corners of the land”.
Last year’s disaster in Pakistan somehow managed to stay off the world’s television screens, as floods are slow disasters that gradually rise up and cause destruction and mayhem in slow-motion. But, famine, on the other hand, appears like much more a media-friendly calamity, offering the opportunity to beam horrendous pictures of starving mothers and babies across the world, with a glimmer of hope in the background in the shape of Turkish Red Crescent flag perhaps??? In early August, the President of the Turkish Kızılay (The Red Crescent) Tekin Küçükali stated publicly that Turkey would send ships and planes carrying aid to Somalia.
And on top of all that pseudo-Ottoman effort to bring relief to the starving Muslim nation of Somalia, ‘at Turkey’s instigation’, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) convened an emergency session ‘to discuss the crisis in Somalia, [which] has ended with the agreement of the 57 member countries on concrete steps for action to help the famine-stricken country’. The OIC released a final statement on Wednesday, 17 August, which read that “we have decided to form a task force composed of Kazakhstan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and the OIC Secretariat-General”, “In order to closely follow the situation in the horn of Africa, particularly in Somalia, and to take measures as necessary”.
Turkey’s efforts to persuade Syrian President Assad to halt his bloody crackdown on protestors and other hapless civilians has not yielded a lot of success. The European news broadcaster EuroNews reported on Thursday, 18 August, that Assad declared he had terminated his campaign . . . but the reality on the ground in Syria is still very far from clear. An Adjunct Professor, American University’s School of International Service Dr. Josef Olmert summarised that “Bashar Assad promised the UN General Secretary just yesterday [Wednesday, 17 August] that his security forces are out of the main cities of Syria. Hours later more Syrian civilians were murdered by “their” army. The same happened after the visit of Turkey’s Foreign Minister in Damascus. Bashar promised to have the army out of Hama, but in reality the massacre continued unabated”. Maybe concentrating on Somalia will bring Turkey some much-deserved international recognition after all . . . . Over the past months Turkey has tried to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians, between Iran and the rest of the world, between Syria and Israel, and following the outbreak of the Arab Awakening, the state founded by Mustafa Kemal was quick to present itself as a future role-model for Arab nation states yearning for freedom and democracy . . . Egypt, Yemen, Libya, and Syria have all continued their course without taking any account of the Turkish road to prosperity, so that the Turkish humanitarian intervention in the Horn of Africa might just prove to do the trick and turn Turkey into an international player of some importance . . . Or, will the world decide that starving Africans are not their main concern after all and lavish her attention on other, more pressing issues such as the U.S. downgrade, the looming Euro crisis, and next year’s American elections??? Will Turkey turn out to be the “guide, [the] mentor, [the] patron” the Third World needs to get out of poverty and into prosperity???
 C. Erimtan, “pseudo-Ottoman policy: Turkey’s new station in the world” Today’s Zaman (04 November 2010). http://tiny.cc/6qkki.
 Sevil Küçükkoşum, “Turkey could be a mentor for least developed countries”.
 “Erdoğan, Davutoğlu to visit Somalia with their families”.
 “Erdoğan, Davutoğlu to visit Somalia with their families”.