Somalia has ordered organizations linked to a U.S.-based Turkish cleric shut down after Turkey’s president said Fethullah Gulen was involved Friday’s coup attempt.
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 has condemned it. He was a former ally of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 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.
“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 provided 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.”
FILE - From left, Turkey's first lady Emine Erdogan, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud at a new Turkish embassy in Mogadishu, Somalia, June 3, 2016.
He said President Erdogan’s visit to Mogadishu on August 2011 has “opened the eyes of the world toward Somalia” following the deadly famine.
Since 2011 Erdogan 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 Erdogan was coming to Mogadishu he didn’t ask any one permission, we owe to them,” he said.