Erdoğan urges aid for Somalia, criticises capitalism
Aug 18, 2011 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Aug 18, 2011 12:00 am
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan appealed on Wednesday for aid for drought-struck Somalia, criticizing millionaires who drive luxury cars and the "Western world's" arrogance for ignoring the plight of the poor.
In a speech sprinkled with references to Islamic piety and criticism of Western capitalism, Erdoğan told the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) the famine in Somalia was "a litmus test" not only for Muslims but for the whole of humanity.
"If you ride a luxury car you should be generous enough to people who are struggling with hunger," Erdoğan told foreign ministers from the 57-nation OIC at an emergency summit in Istanbul to galvanise support for Somalia and drought-struck neighbouring regions.
"I hope the efforts (of the OIC) will mobilize the sleeping consciences. We hope the Western world, which likes to boast about its per capita income, shows its support for Somalia."
Turkey, a rapidly growing economy and multi-party democracy that has applied to join the European Union, is widely regarded as a model for growth for countries in the Muslim world and in the developing world.
The OIC summit, held during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, also offers host Turkey a chance to show its commitment to Africa when other emerging powers are scrambling for trade and investments in the resource-rich continent.
"What can we say to people on the other side, making trillions of dollars, capitalising on others? What kind of civilisation is this?" he said, raising his voice at times.
"We come from the community of the Prophet, who says you cannot sleep peacefully if your neighbour is hungry. The Somali people are looking at us. Can we turn our gaze away?"
Erdoğan will travel to Somalia on Thursday with his family. He plans to visit relief camps and will be joined by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and his family.
Visits by foreign dignitaries are extremely rare in Somalia, which is plagued by war, anarchy and the risk of starvation among some 3.7 million Somalis.
Turkey is behind other emerging countries such as China, Brazil and India in the race for new markets in Africa, but under Erdoğan's AK Party government, Turkey has boosted trade with the continent and opened several new embassies there.
Davutoğlu later heads to South Africa and Ethiopia as part of an African tour aimed at raising Turkey's diplomatic presence in the continent and expanding business ties.
Erdoğan, who recounted stories of Somali refugees forced to leave behind their dying children on days-long treks to relief camps, said Turkey would open six field hospitals in Somalia and send 20 tons of medication and 10 tons of food.
Somalian President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, who will accompany Erdoğan to Mogadishu, praised Turkey's role.