In the memories of Turks, Yemen has a very vivid place. Young Turkish soldiers went to Yemen and did not come back. Whenever a Turkish person listen to Yemen Song (Yemen Türküsü) begins to shed tears because of this very vivid memory. At the same time, Yemen also means coffee for Turks. “Kahve Yemen’den gelir” (Coffee comes from Yemen) song is another very well- known song among Turkish society. The best coffee is grown in Yemen, but cooked the best in Turkey. After First World War, Yemen’s break off from Turks was not accepted at all in the minds of Turkish people. Time has passed, circumstances have changed, Yemen is no longer just a coffee. Nowadays Yemen-Turkey relations have started to develop in a new dimension.
The ongoing war in Yemen is very closely concern of Turkish intellectuals and politicians. Turkish society in which the majority is Sunni Muslims, see Yemeni civil war as unacceptable. In general, all over the world, the war between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition is seen by many inside Yemen and outside as a war between the Iranian-led resistance bloc and the Saudi-led moderation; the Shiite bloc versus Sunni bloc. In Yemen, Saudi Arabia is backing the regime against the opposition. On the other side, Iran is supporting Shiite proned Houthis. Turkish society and state naturally tend to see themselves in the Sunni axis. But the fact is that Saudis are not waging a war on behalf of Turkey and associating this war with the Ottomans is truly ridiculous.
After Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lent support to the Saudi-led military operations against the Houthis in Yemen, some of Turkish intellectuals in Turkey jumped on an argument that Yemen still belonged to the Ottomans. Many Turkish media’s journalist spoke of Ottoman sacrifices for Yemen and the country’s strategic value. The view of Yemen belonging to the Ottomans, lives in the historical memories of conservatives, Islamists and nationalists in Turkey. They are looking at today’s developments from the historical perspective and ignoring Yemen’s own internal dynamics and processes. Yemen Song (Yemen Türküsü) is a requiem for the Ottoman soldiers who never came back from Yemen. During the Ottoman period, Yemen was not only a destination of no return for soldiers, but also a land of exile for erring governors, soldiers and judges.
Those kinds of perpespectives have been existing in the heads of neo-Ottomanist intellectuals and politicians for a long time. In the neo ottomanist mindset, it is also possible to see the understanding which imagines the people living in the Muslim world, are looking forward to Turkey as a great saviour. Such a point of view regarding to Yemen is not correct and healthy.
Ottoman Empire collapsed and no longer exists. Today, 52 new states with different political systems emerged on the territory of the Ottomans. Almost every state has created its own nation. In the majority of these nations, it can not be said that they have very positive perception of the Ottomans. Therefore, when Turkey wants to develop foreign policies regarding those countries, it is very significant to be realistic and rational. Those countries and peoples, historically could be the former Ottoman countries and people. But right now, they are free, equal and independent members of international political order.
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