Thursday, August 09, 2012
By NESRIN ROJKEN
MOGADISHU, Somalia -- With passable English and a number of bodyguards, a Kurdish businessman walks the ruined streets of Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, conducting his daily business.
Abdullah Aydin left for Mogadishu from Bursa, Turkey, but he is originally from the Kurdish city of Bazid. He left his hometown more than 40 years ago, but still has a Bazid accent. Unlike many other businessmen, Aydin has attracted Somali clientele. His Somali friends call him “Crazy Kurd.”
Aydin has worked in many countries such as Turkmenistan, Iraq and Kazakhstan, but moves when the markets of these countries fall into the hands of the Chinese. Regarding his business in Somalia, Aydin says, “Somalia is a new grazing land.”
He landed in Somalia six months ago. He recalls his first impressions, including the large number of armed men protecting his hotel. After he left the hotel, he hired a number of his own bodyguards and a few interpreters.
A few months ago, a Kurdish businessman from Malatya, Turkey came to Somalia, but was killed for his money. “He did not know how to protect himself,” says Aydin.
Regarding the political situation in Somalia, Aydin says, “The streets are getting calmer, but there are still some conflicts among the different groups of this society. Before, the fight in Somalia was between two tribes. Now the tribes do not fight. But there are a number of new groups fighting each other.”
“Somalia is not in a good situation,” he adds. “The country is ruined and the people are hungry. When we talk to them, they do not look at us as human beings; they see us as dollar bills.”
He said that each woman has several children which they raise on their own. Their husbands were not killed in the war, but have left them and remarried. The women work in the markets, and men “just walk around,” according to Aydin.
The lack of stability in the country has made everyone’s work difficult, Aydin says, especially businessmen.
As an example, he points to the underutilized abundance in a country. “You can find the best food here,” Aydin says. “Very good quality meat, delicious fish and the sweetest fruits are here. But no one takes advantage of them.”
He adds, “Ownerless goats and cows wander around but people go and buy powdered milk for their coffee. The Kurds make hundreds of products out of milk, but the Somalis do not know what yogurt, yogurt drink or cheese is.”
In August 2011, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Somalia and promised help. Aydin says that Turkish organizations and businessmen have now flooded the markets under the pretext of charity work.
Regarding this campaign in Somalia, Aydin says, “Turkey tells the Somalis ‘we are brothers, we are Muslims, and want to help you.’ In the beginning, the Somalis liked this. They had been paid by many international organizations, but Turkey was offering food, building schools and hospitals.”
“Now the situation is different,” he says. “The Somalis have voiced concern over Turkish help. They say their children have been taken to Turkey for education and come back looking the same as when they left, but their brains have been washed.”
In particular, Aydin points to Fethullah Gulen, founder of the Islamist Gulen Movement, who has built many schools in Turkey and foreign countries.
After years of civil war, the Somalis will vote for a new president, parliament and constitution on Aug. 20. That is, if the Mujahideen Youth Movement, known as Al-Shabaab, lets the process proceed. Al-Shabab is an Al-Qaeda affiliated movement and has control of middle and southern Somalia.
Aydin does not have any predictions for the Somalia elections. “No one can predict what is going to happen,” he says.
He also does not know how long he will stay in Somalia. “No matter how difficult life is here, I will not give up my business. I want to make some money,” says Aydin.
After 20 years of halting livestock exports, Somalia is once again preparing to export 240 animals to other Arab states. Moreover, a number of countries are reaching out to help Somalia promote its economy.
Aydin does not know if the country is on the path to growth or destruction.
He says, “This country is very beautiful and resourceful. The land can be plotted in two seasons of the year. The country is rich in minerals. But external powers have controlled all the resources and do not let anyone open their eyes.”