Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced the appointment of Ahmet Kavas, who sympathized with the al-Qaeda terrorist organization, as Turkey’s new ambassador to Senegal during a recent official visit to the West African country.
Addressing the Turkey-Senegal Business Forum in Dakar, President Erdoğan underlined that the appointment would contribute to the improvement of bilateral relations, adding that he introduced Kavas to Senegal President Macky Sall at their official meeting in Dakar on January 28, 2020.
Kavas, a theology professor, founded the African Researchers Association (AFAM) in 2016 and served as ambassador to Chad between 2013 and 2015. In February 2013 he faced criticism after declaring on Twitter that “Al-Qaeda is not a terrorist organization” and accusing France of intentionally exaggerating the terrorist threat in Mali. Kavas’s posts were interpreted by lawmakers and journalists to mean that he viewed the global terror group as a legitimate resistance movement.
“The word ‘terror’ is a French invention. Not the work of Muslims,” he also tweeted as French forces entered Mali in a bid to halt the encroaching Islamist fighters. Turkish lawmakers launched a parliamentary inquiry aimed at forcing the ambassador to explain himself and his sympathies for al-Qaeda.
According to the Hürriyet Daily News, he also argued that Turkish religious imam-hatip schools “could be the best recipe if Africa wants to overcome its poverty and other maladies.”
Kavas has taught courses at the research center of Turkey’s highly controversial charity group, the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), which was identified as an arms smuggler to radical terrorist groups in Syria and Libya.
Following the announcement, the IHH Humanitarian and Social Research Center (İnsani ve Sosyal Araştırmalar Merkezi, INSAMER) described the appointment of Kavas as an indication of President Erdoğan’s strategy to develop Turkish-Senegalese relations: “By signing seven bilateral agreements with Senegal, Turkey is demonstrating its intention to develop its relations with Senegal, and for that reason Erdogan announced the appointment of Prof. Ahmet Kavas, an expert on Ottoman Africa and Francophone Africa, as Turkey’s new ambassador to Senegal.”
In 2012 a German federal court banned the IHH since the Turkish charity was contributing funds to Hamas. Today, the IHH works with the Turkish intelligence agency and is a tool in the hands of the Erdoğan government. The IHH was accused of smuggling arms to al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadists in Syria and Libya and acts as a revolving door for installing religious fanatics and zealots in government jobs.
Kavas’s AFAM receives generous funds from Turkish authorities for its activities. AFAM recently carried out a short-term training program for African journalists, officially known as the Africa Media Representatives Training Program (AFMED) between October 21 and November 12, 2019 in Istanbul and Ankara.
While AFMED was financed and supported by the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB) diaspora agency and the state-run Anadolu news agency, the IHH and the African Coordination and Training Center (AKEM) of the corrupt Deniz Feneri charity contributed to the training program.
AFMED was attended by 20 participants from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Chad, Ethiopia, South Africa, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia and Sudan. According to its web page, the program aimed to enhance mutual cooperation between Turkey and African countries by supporting experience-sharing in the field of media. To ensure this, it “offers both practical and theoretical training of 3 weeks’ duration and includes stakeholders’ visits, internship opportunities in the leading institutions of Turkey.”