What is Happening Between Turkey and Darfur?

26 March 2010
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In 22 March 2010 Turkey made the first contribution to Darfur in a conference that was organised by Islamic Conference Organization. Ankara promised to donate 60-75 millions to projects of water, education and agriculture till 2015. In the International Darfur Donors Conference which has been organised in Cairo by the ICO in co-chairmanships of Turkey and Egypt, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu claimed that the situation in Darfur affects the entire region negatively. Representatives from more than 80 countries participated in the conference. Furthermore executives of the NGOs, the Red Crescent, and the Red Cross were present in the meeting.

In International Darfur Donors Conference Davutoğlu claimed that, one country cannot solve the problems of Sudan and that is why Turkey supports the efforts of the international institutions for the solution of the Darfur problem. Despite that, the aim of the conference was to collect 2 billion Dollars; 850 millions were collected at the end of the day. The money is collected for the people of Darfur who were displaced from their homes during the civil war, and to build villages, roads, cement factories. Among the donors like the USA, China, Russia, Britain and France; Turkey was the first country which made the contribution.

Well then what is the importance of Darfur? What attracts numerous people from 80 countries to a conference which is about Darfur? What made Turkey to donate millions of Dollars to this region?

Geographically Darfur lies on the West of Sudan. Historically since February 2003 a massive ethnic cleansing campaign is going on which caused the death of more than 70,000 civilians. The battle in Darfur caused hundreds of people to leave their homes.  In Darfur conflict, both sides are Muslim. The nomad Janjaweed militants who have the explicit support of the Sudan government has been slaughtered the sedentary natives of Darfur. Literally Janjaweed means a man with a gun on a horse. Khartoum organized the militants who were chosen among the ethnically Arab Baggara people, provided them money, armed, educated and organized them. Briefly the tension is between the sedentary African farmers and nomad Arab shepherds. This ethnical discrimination and long lasting struggle for nature sources then turned into armed conflict.

Since, the international media started to pay attention to the conflict in Darfur in 2004, “Darfur has become not a political or military crisis but a humanitarian crisis” (1). The United Nations established an Investigation Commission to inquiry the mass massacres and rapes in Darfur in October 2004. Then a comprehensive report had been prepared there months after the Commission’s establishment. As a result of the various fieldworks and interviews with the eye witnesses; it was decided that what was experienced in Darfur was not genocide but crimes against humanity which were committed by the Sudanese government and the men with a gun on a horse.

The bloodshed in Darfur is now attracted wide attention. However much of the public debate is about whether calling the violence in Darfur as genocide or not rather finding a solution. Actually the USA’s evaluation for Darfur is very crucial. The violence in Darfur is qualified as genocide by the American political sources. The importance of this situation can be understood better if it is considered that the events that were happened in Rwanda had not been accepted as genocide by American Secretary of State.

The Relationship between Islamic Conference Organization and Turkey

It is noteworthy that Darfur is mostly a Muslim country. This is the point which Turkey contacts with Darfur through ICO. ICO was established by Saudi Arabia in 1969. Turkey was both suspicious and reluctant about becoming a member but in the very same year that the ICO had established Turkey became a part of it. Because Ankara did not want to look like it was underestimating this new organization in a time that Egypt dominated the Arab league.


ICO was providing a multidimensional balance to the Arab Peninsula. This was an effort to “express Turkish society’s Islamic identity through the medium of foreign policy” (2). It is also known that the President Abdullah Gül worked in Jeddah for the Islamic Development Bank which is one of the specialized institutions of the ICO. For Turkey, one of the benefits of participating into the ICO is becoming a more international player. At international level, Justice and Development Party (AKP) had the chance to show that the government is following a more multiregional strategic policy which includes the Middle East. Nationally the AKP could show its core supporters that the party is standing still close to them and the government was not dominated by the orders that are coming from the West. With regard to Darfur, it is a fact that the ICO must take more responsibility in the region to end the conflicts.


Turkey and Darfur: An Overview

The relations between Turkey and Darfur was started to develop after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, in April 2006. The visit was organized for an Arab League summit and the emerging violence in the region. The visit was a symbol for showing that “Turkish foreign policy was now more inclusive” (3). Turkey should divide its foreign policies into numerous branches: Middle East, Balkans, Caucasia, Central Asia, enlargement in NATO. “The fact that President Bush and Prime Minister Erdoğan have consulted on the situation in Darfur in their meeting in October 2006 indicates the diversification of common agenda” (4).

This trip was also a reflection of the permanent guest status of Turkey in the Arab League. Lastly this was proving that Sudan was the new area of Turkish investment. The rapprochement between Turkey and Darfur was surprising because Sudan has never been seen as the new route for international expansion. But the new world order now requires multiregional and multidimensional external policies. For to keeping up with these new developments in worldwide politics an Africa opening was necessary for Turkey.

On the other hand, Turkey lost prestige when Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir was welcomed at Esenboğa Airport in 21 January 2008 with a state ceremony. Although Al-Bashir is accepted by worldwide public opinion as the head criminal of the violence in Darfur; he was entertained in the Presidential Palace by the government officials. This divergent act made Turkey loss publicity in world arena. International Criminal Court that judges Slobodan Milosevic and found him criminal; the institution whose jurisdiction was accepted by whole world demanded Omar Al-Bashir to be arrested. This means that by entertaining such a person in Turkey, who was decided by international law as one of the most notorious criminals, seriously harmed the reputation of Turkey in international community.

Such a strong country like Turkey can take more responsibility with its politics and civil society without leaning its back against ICO or Arab League. In this context it is not hard to imagine what would be the duties of Turkey in Darfur. Ending the conflict must the first necessity. It is very crucial that for the victims of violence who left their homes turn back to their old places one by one. Besides, aids should be distributed in Sudan decently and Sudanese people can have received these aids properly.

As Turkey always makes an emphasis of its status as a bridge between the East and the West, should have show that this metaphor has share of authenticity. Otherwise Darfur would be another bitter experience for Turkey like Bosnia. This crisis concerns the whole world but primarily it should be in Islamic world’s domain of interest.

If widespread deaths continue in Darfur, this situation will shake African Union and United Nation’s worldwide prestige. Also other states which are ambitious to become the world leaders will become less influential in world politics. In this sense Turkey should take the lead by acting rapidly and it should make a sudden move in diplomatic arena.

The initiative that Turkey would start can be two directional. First Omar Al-Bashir can be convinced to accept the importance of the international peace for the sake of the emergent situation in Darfur. While doing this, silent diplomacy can be followed rather than a discreet one. As a result negotiation can be achieved.

This time would be different than Turkey’s negotiator role in Lebanon. Because, Turkey’s potential leader situation in Darfur would be built by Turkey’s very own initiative. If Turkey can find a way through this hell like conflict, that would be strengthen the perception of Turkey’s “creativeness in foreign politics and diplomacy has been increased and fix the disappointment that was created as a result of the apathy of the Arab world to the destiny of their ethnical brothers and sisters in Sudan” (5). Furthermore Turkey’s efforts will show the world that “humanitarian attempts and conscience does not only belong to Western Europe and Northern America”.


The requirement of post-Cold War era is a new public diplomacy which includes a multi-regional, multi-dimension political strategy. In these challenging times which every country tries to become the most powerful one in its own region, Turkey is doing its best. Since the beginning of the 21st century transnational organizations like the EU, NATO, and the UN are becoming more important. Besides these, in the Middle East, the Arab League and Islamic Conference Organization are the important formations. Turkey became one the most powerful countries in the region. It started to take more responsibilities day by day in the Middle East.

In this respect it seems right for Turkey to preserve the peace in Sudan which was provided by the UN and to support the Sudanese people who are desperately in need for help. It would be expedient for Turkey to undertake an active role in Darfur as in Afghanistan and Somali. But here, it is important for Turkey to avoid from the behaviours which supports or dignifies criminals like Omar Al-Bashir.

Turkey should show that its real intention is to become the bridge between East and West by taking initiatives. Otherwise it would be possible to have Bosnian like experience would be possible. Erdoğan’s African opening is promising when it is compared with Islamic world’s carelessness. Turkey’s act in the last ICO Conference was a good start for Darfur.

Endeavouring to much for Darfur can display Turkey’s sensitivity in the world affairs. If the conflict in Darfur could be solved this would be an apparent symbol of the solidarity of the world nations and for Turkey being a leader of such a peace operation will bring in a considerable prestige for the state. At the same time, Turkey’s position as a leader in Darfur is important in the sense that balancing the power between the EU and the USA also in the Arab and African continents. Using initiative in Darfur will enable holding off an equal distance among the important actors of the world politics.



1. Prunier, G. (2006): The Politics of Death in Darfur in Current History. Vol:15, No:691, pp:195-202

2. Robins, P. (2007): Turkish foreign policy since 2002: between a ‘post-Islamist’ government and a Kemalist state in International Affairs. Vol: 83, No: 1, pp: 289–304

3. ibid.

4. Davutoğlu, A: Turkey’s Foreign Policy Vision: An Assessment of 2007

5. http://www.tumgazeteler.com/?a=1722423

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