January 23, 2012

Turkey in Uganda

Mutlu Tönbekici

I've been in Uganda for the last 4-5 days to see the schools of the Gulen Movement. As my colleagues missed the flight, I'm the only one here. But this turned out to be a good thing. As they welcomed me as the most precious guest and I could visit the houses of the Turkish people working here in the Turkish schools not like a journalist but a relative from Erzurum or Manisa.

There are 160 Turks living in Uganda and the vast majority of them are the ones working in these schools and their families. They have been here since 1995. Turkish Embassy was only opened one and a half year ago. I understood that the followers of Gulen don't just run schools. Every year, they bring thousands of bureaucrats, businessmen, students and teachers here or they take them to Turkey. Just to be beneficial to Turkey, they try to pave the way for some business relations. They have worked like the unofficial representative until the embassy was opened. Now they cooperate with the embassy on several initiatives and projects.

To tell you the truth, they are not living under great conditions. It takes devotion to be here. Honestly, they suffer. Electric is unstable, so is the water, their houses are not in favorable conditions. Turkey's so far away, there was no direct flights until last year. But still the ticket prices are too high. The roads in Uganda are disastrous, streets are full of mud, well the nature is beautiful but the cities are really worn out and far from being hygienic. Despite all this, they live here with great altruism, they have babies and get them educated here. They go to the hospitals here and still they try not to complain. They are calm, patient and they live their lives not knowing whether they will go back to their homeland at all (I believe they don't even hope to). They cook some Turkish meals and turn this place into a little Turkey.

What I'm trying to say is that: one must understand the reason persuading these people to stay here and try to do something for Turkey (and of course for Islam) despite all the hardship, and the reason all millions of others to support these initiatives. It is not something, which can be explained by some ideological slogans. I'm trying to comprehend this as well.

Published [in Turkish] on Vatan Daily, 03 December 2011, Saturday
English version retrieved from Hizmet News

More articles on Uganda