World Bulletin / News Desk
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Sedat Aybar, the director of Africa Research Center (AFRIKAM) at Istanbul Aydin University, said Erdogan’s visits to African countries in 2017 had produced more significant symbolic outcomes compared to his visits there in previous years.
Aybar said a particularly noteworthy development was that Turkey had been given the renovation rights to the Suakin Island [in Sudan] upon Erdogan’s request.
“Hence, reconstructing this Red Sea island’s ruined Islamic monuments will be a significant manifestation that will help to substantiate the claim that Turkey is in Africa to stay. Consider this alongside [Turkey's] largest military base [abroad] that it opened in 2017 in Somalia,” he said.
Aybar sheds light on Turkey-Africa relations, which have recently begun to gain greater momentum with Erdogan’s visits to three African countries; Sudan, Chad, and Tunisia. As prime minister and president, Erdogan has visited a total of 23 African countries so far.
The Suakin Island made headlines with Turkey stepping forward to renovate the old Ottoman historical sites on it.
One of the oldest seaports in Africa, Suakin was used as a stopover by African Muslims on their way to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj pilgrimage. The Ottomans used the port city to secure the Hejaz province -- present-day western Saudi Arabia -- from attackers using the Red Sea front.
He said the island hosted many important Islamic structures -- mosques and shrines among them --, which are now in ruins.
“The island’s international status was settled with the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923. Once the proposed restorations have been completed, the island is expected to reawaken as an important stopover for the pilgrims on their route to Mecca,” Aybar added.
He also said the restoration of the historical buildings on the island would reactivate “Turkey’s clogged up memory chip vis-a-vis the continent,” particularly after the loss of its territories there nearly a hundred years ago.