Black Friday in Ankara/Istanbul: Somalia Condemns Turkish Military Coup

People react near a military vehicle during an attempted coup in Ankara, Turkey, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Tumay Berkin TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People react near a military vehicle during an attempted coup in Ankara, Turkey, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Tumay Berkin TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

It was another day of mourning for Turkey after Friday night’s attempted military coup to remove President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan from office which has claimed the lives of 161 civilians and police officers and injured 1000 within the cities of Ankara and Istanbul.

On Friday night, Ankara and Istanbul were hit by bombs, air strikes and gunfire as a faction of the armed forces allegedly tried to seize power. Tanks took up positions on key bridges in Istanbul, troops were on the streets and jets appeared in the skies over Ankara on Friday evening.

A faction of the army declared that a “peace council” was now running the country, and that there would be a curfew and martial law. The faction then said it had launched a coup “to ensure and restore constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms.”

In response, President Erdoğan urged the people in a televised address to take to the streets to oppose the uprising.

The Turkish parliament and presidential buildings were attacked overnight. MPs hid in shelters. President Erdogan’s government said the coup had been foiled by the Turkish people “in unity and solidarity.” Some 1,563 soldiers have been arrested and the coup is over, officials say, but this has not been confirmed.

According to The Red Crescent, 800 people are in hospital in Ankara and 200 more in Istanbul.

Somali connection

Somalia has ordered organizations linked to a U.S.-based Turkish cleric shut down after Turkey’s president said Fethullah Gulen was involved in Friday’s coup attempt.

FILE - In this March 15, 2014 file photo, Turkish Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen is pictured at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, United States. Police conducted raids in a dozen Turkish cities Sunday, detaining at least 24 people — including journalists, TV producers and police — known to be close to a movement led by a U.S.-based moderate Islamic cleric who is a strong critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It was the latest crackdown on cleric Fethullah Gulen's movement, which the government has accused of orchestrating an alleged plot to try to bring it down. (AP Photo/Selahattin Sevi, File)
Turkish Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen is pictured at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, United States, March 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Selahattin Sevi, File)

The decision came in an extraordinary session of the Somali cabinet on Saturday. The government ordered Turkish citizens working for Gulen-linked organizations to leave the country within seven days. The government said the services the organizations provided, such as education and health care, will continue under new administration.

The cabinet said the decision was in response to a request from the Turkish government.

The two countries have close ties. President Hassan Mohamud was one of the first world leaders to oppose the coup attempt as it developed.

“It is unacceptable to reverse the democratic path that the people of Turkey enjoyed in the recent times of their history. This was unfortunate and we are very glad to hear that the evil forces who tried to turn Turkey into a violence ground have been defeated,” he said.

On Saturday, hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Mogadishu in a government-organized rally against the military coup attempt.

Fethullah Gulen denied involvement in the coup attempt and called the decision to involve him in said coup as “irresponsible”. He was a former ally of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan , but had a falling out years ago. Gulen now lives in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. His movement advocates service and interfaith dialogue and has millions of adherents in Turkey and abroad, but some have argued that his movement has a hidden agenda for influence and power.

“Our position on what happened in Turkey is never to support the forceful change of a democratically elected government,” Somalia Foreign Minister Abdusalam Hadliye Omer told VOA’s Somali service.

Somalia will likely have suffered had the coup succeeded, as Turkey provides them with about $25 million a year in aid.

Omer said the Turkish people and their government have provided Somali close to one billion dollars’ worth of aid, investment and infrastructure rebuilding since 2011.

“It’s very important for us to stand with Turkey, it’s a big country, and they are our friends.”

Since 2011 Erdoğan visited Somalia three times, including a trip last month to Mogadishu where he inaugurated what was said to be the largest Turkish Embassy in the world.

Turkey has also refurbished Mogadishu’s sea and airport and has built schools and hospitals as well as roads in Mogadishu. Several thousand Somalis are studying in Turkish schools under sponsorships by charities.

Omer dismissed criticism on social media by some Somalis who suggested that the Somali government should “mind its own business.”

“They want us to wait and see who wins and then speak out?” he replied when asked if the government was quick to take sides.

“We were making our position clear. When Erdoğan was coming to Mogadishu he didn’t ask any one permission, we owe to them,” he said.

(With information from VOA)