Islah, Turkey's long arm in Yemen

Ω Efthimios Tsiliopoulos
Islah, Turkey's long arm in Yemen

As many as 200 mercenaries from Yemen have been sent to Libya by Turkey to fight on behalf of the Tripoli government. According to the Yemeni news agency, a militia affiliated with the Islah party in Marib sent fighters to Turkey under the pretext of hospital treatment. They were then transported to Tripoli.

The source added that Khalifa Haftar's forces had arrested several mercenaries from Yemen who were fighting for the Saratz government earlier this year. The latest news confirms reports that Turkey is significantly increasing its involvement in the war in Yemen, providing training and material support to the Islah party. Erdogan hopes to gain control of key facilities and resources if Islah manages to secure control of parts of the country's war-torn country.


The Islah party was founded in 1990 and is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen. Although initially treated negatively by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates after the death of former King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Arabia has restored relations with the party due to its role against the Houthis during the civil war in Yemen. .

Since 2018, however, Islah's relations with the Emirates have deteriorated rapidly. In addition to its relations with the Muslim Brotherhood, the party has a tribal and Salafi background. Many of the officials are women, including Nobel Laureate Tawakel Karman, who founded the Women's Journalists Without Chains in 2005 and became the first citizen of Yemen and an Arab woman to win the Nobel Prize in 2011. Karman was expelled from the party in 2018.

The growing attention given to the possibility of significant Turkish intervention in the war in Yemen comes after the success of the Sarraj government in Libya, due to the massive support provided by Ankara. Recent reports raise questions about whether Turkey is considering expanding its involvement in Yemen as part of a "representative war" against the Emirates and Saudi Arabia or to gain control of potential military bases. or resources in this geostrategically vital area.

Competition between regional powers has intensified significantly since Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed ties with Qatar and tried to block it in 2017. Turkey is known to be providing vital support and supplies to Qatar to face the pressure.

The Muslim Brotherhood and the Sokotra archipelago

Ankara has been embroiled in a clash with Abu Dhabi over Yemen's Sokotra archipelago, a pocket of geostrategic importance that is considered the "gateway" to any invasion of the country. Turkey wants to maintain the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in this region, which would allow it quick access to the rest of Yemen.

The Emirates seek to protect the archipelago from Turkey's ambitions. To that end, they submitted it to their "full sovereignty," a Yemeni government official recently said, accusing the Emirates of "attempting to separate the province" from Yemen and of establishing military bases under the pretext of protecting it from Turkey and Qatar.

If it is now verified that Turkey intends to increase its involvement in the war in Yemen and is now recruiting a large number of fighters from Yemen to send them to Libya, it will prove that Erdogan's expansionist geopolitical ambitions exceed all limits.

Turkey's ambitions in Libya

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Turkey has recruited more than 15,000 Syrians to fight in Libya. Russian websites recently reported that Turkey had cut off support to at least one of the Islamic groups in northern Syria because it refused to send fighters to Libya.

For its part, the Sarraj government has accused Haftar of hiring foreign mercenaries. On Saturday, June 27, Libya's permanent representative to the United Nations called for sanctions against Russian and Sudanese mercenaries fighting for Haftar's side. It is estimated that the Islah party in Yemen may be deepening its political and military alliance with Turkey and may be sending fighters to fight on behalf of Ankara in Libya.

In return, it seeks to secure economic and military support from Turkey. In particular, the Turks want to help Islah in its conflict with the militia backed by the Emirates in southern Yemen. Also, according to the Yemeni News Agency (close to the Houthis), Islah is trying to consolidate its military alliance with Turkey.

In this context, it is sending fighters to Libya, having assured or hoping to ensure that Turkey intervenes militarily in Yemen to support Islah against the Saudi-Emirati coalition, which has turned against this party, as well as against the Muslim Brotherhood.

All indications are that Turkey has no intention of backing down in Libya, even if it needs to risk a war with Egypt. In this context, its alliance with the ubiquitous Muslim Brotherhood, as well as the search for foreign resources and military bases, may push it to become more deeply involved in the war in Yemen.

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