7/19/2024
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A Decade of Partnership: The First Somali Diaspora Conference in Istanbul and Personal Reflections
By: Shamsa Sheegow  
Saturday July 6, 2024

 

Ten years ago, I had the profound privilege of attending the Somali Diaspora Conference in Istanbul, an event that symbolized the beginning of a deep and enduring partnership between Turkey and Somalia.
As I arrived in Istanbul, the warmth and hospitality of Turkey enveloped me. From the moment I landed at Sabiha Gökçen Airport, the beauty of Istanbul and the kindness of its people made huge impression on me.
The conference was opened by Turkish Ambassador to Somalia, Mr. Cemalettin Kani Torun, with a heartfelt greeting: “Ladies and Gentlemen, brothers and sisters; Welcome to Istanbul. Soo dhowaada!” These words set the tone for an event characterized by solidarity and hope.
Turkey's engagement with Somalia had been growing since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s landmark visit to Somalia in 2011—a visit that changed everything.
President Erdoğan was not the first leader to visit Somalia since the civil war erupted, but his visit was profoundly different. Accompanied by his family and key members of his cabinet, President Erdoğan’s presence in Mogadishu broke a longstanding isolation.
Unlike other foreign dignitaries who remained in highly protected zones, he moved through the city, touching the hearts of many by visiting internally displaced persons (IDP) camps and embracing the suffering Somali children. Images of these moments, capturing Erdoğan and his wife comforting starving children, resonated deeply within the Somali community worldwide.
Moved by these acts of compassion, the Somali diaspora, including myself, organized gratitude campaigns and visited Turkish embassies with flowers to express our heartfelt appreciation.
Personally, I had the honor of meeting President Erdoğan during that conference, a memory I cherish deeply. Meeting him and witnessing his genuine concern and commitment to Somalia was transformative. Erdoğan’s humility and dedication were evident when he met with a delegation of blind Quran Hafids, reminding us all that true blindness is of the soul, not the eyes.
A decade later, Turkey's commitment to Somalia remains unwavering.
Turkey continues to be a critical ally in Somalia’s journey towards stability and prosperity.
Recently, this partnership took a significant step forward with the signing of a defense pact aimed at protecting Somali waters. This agreement is crucial for safeguarding Somalia’s maritime sovereignty and ensuring the security of its vital resources.
In addition to defense cooperation, Turkey has been instrumental in mediating regional tensions. Amidst Ethiopia's attempts to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the self-declared independent northern region of Somalia, Turkey has been striving to mediate between Somalia and Ethiopia. This diplomatic effort underscores Turkey's role as a peacemaker, committed to maintaining the territorial integrity of Somalia and promoting regional stability.
Reflecting on the past ten years, it is evident that Turkey’s support has been a beacon of hope for Somalia. The bonds forged through shared hardships and mutual respect have strengthened over time, creating a partnership that is both strategic and heartfelt.
President Erdoğan’s words from a decade ago still resonate with me: “Wa itasimuu bihablillahi jamee’ an walaa tafaraqoo” (And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided). As I look to the future, I remain deeply grateful for Turkey’s unwavering support.
The journey towards peace and stability is ongoing, but with allies like Turkey, there is confidence that Somalia will continue to rise.
Tüm yardımlarınız için teşekkür ederiz (Thank you for all your help)!
May the bond between Turkey and Somalia continue to flourish, bringing about a brighter, more prosperous future for both nations.

Shamsa Sheegow: A Somali social and climate activist, is the founder of Badbaado Deegaan (Save The Environment). A tree planting organization with focus on Somalia. She is also the Author of the novel Geeltoosiye.
Connect with her on X @SpotOnSomalia.
Link to the book: How to buy :: shamsasheegow (webnode.se)


 





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