Arab groups have launched a campaign to thank Turkey for its humanitarian efforts in the region, particularly towards Syrians.
Led by the Arab Academic League and the Association of Renaissance Yemeni Turkish For Development, they met Friday in Istanbul to launch the Thanks Turkey campaign with a three-day festival, which will include art exhibitions, music recitals and academic conferences.
“We feel indebted to the Turkish people and the government due to their assistance in our current troubles,” spokesman Hamid Ahmar said.
He highlighted Turkey’s welcome to more than 2.7 million Syrian refugees and development and education programs across the Muslim world as examples of the country’s benevolence towards Arabs.
This “unprecedented help” is being led by the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), an agency of the Prime Minister’s office.
TIKA works in 140 countries and spends nearly $3.5 billion a year.
The agency provides safe water to around 3 million people across Africa as well as running cultural restoration and infrastructure projects in the Balkans, the Middle East and central Asia.
The Thanks Turkey campaign also issued a statement calling on Muslim states to stand with Turkey against current threats, including the economic sanctions imposed by Russia.
Ahmar said Muslim countries would initiate strategic cooperation in line with the agreements made at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Istanbul last week, where Muslim leaders agreed to form contact groups to focus on specific issues such as Syrian civil war and the Palestine-Israel problem.
“We have huge troubles,” Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan said Friday. “We did not create them but we need to solve them in solidarity with each other.”
He said Turkey would continue to help Iraqis fleeing Daesh, establish hospitals in Sudan and Gaza, dig water wells in Somali and Ethiopia as it has previously done.
Khaled Mashal, the leader of Palestine’s Hamas, praised Turkey’s approach to Muslims. “While huge countries did not accept refugees, Turkey accepts and hosts them,” he said.
Yusuf al-Qaradawi, chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, also heralded the campaign. Addressing young Muslims, he said: “Turkey is a great country. It has a long served Islam throughout history, opening its lands to oppressed peoples.”