“A person who seeks to create disorder and we are dealing with him as a terrorist.”

Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, November 16, 2020

Turkey has accused Muhammed Dahlan with a number of crimes. An attempt to overthrow the government in 2017, financing terror groups and has also accused him of plotting against governments in the Middle East and Africa. Turkey has aggressively competed with the UAE/KSA axis up until November of 2021 when UAE Crown Prince Mohmand bin Nayhan visited President Erdogan to discuss investments. Turkey is aligned with Qatar to form an alternative path for developing nations from Afghanistan to Somalia. To counter this, the UAE insists that this alignment is part of the political Islam movement that divides nations and creates terrorism. 

Beginning with the Arab Spring, Turkey and the UAE have had a harsh rivalry leading to direct conflict in Libya in the summer of 2020 when Turkish drones ended the expansionist dreams of MBz in Libya. On a softer level, East Africa has been a focus region for both spheres. Often creating overlapping and conflicting spheres of influence. While Turkey has repeatedly accused the UAE with destabilizing Middle Eastern and African countries, the UAE accused Turkey of fomenting terrorism. Mohamad Dahlan was tasked by the Abu Dhabi ruling family with being their main interlocutor in Africa. Directly putting Dahlan and his proxies in the cross hairs of Turkey.

The Wanted: Turkey Hounds Dahlan for financing the coup attempt.

Unlike most nations, Muhammed Dahlan’s is known in Turkey not for his Palestinian political efforts in Gaza but attempting to overthrow the Turkish government . The accusation that Dahlan financially aided the Gulen Movement which was accused of orchestrating the 2016 coup attempt. Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu accused Dahlan with “running a terror cell.” On February 16, 2020 Dahlan was added to Turkey’s most wanted terrorist list and Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu would not rule out Dahlan’s role in the murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi who’s grisly murder by Saudi operatives were recorded in the Saudi embassy. 

Turkey requested Interpol to issue an arrest warrant for Dahlan. Yet, this request was rejected. Proof that Dahlan with his many international connections is able to walk the fine line between aggressor, fixer, banker and paymaster without suffering any consequences. 

Turkey is in the cross hairs of Dahlan and the UAE, as part of their harsh rivalry in several Middle Eastern and African countries. Turkey supported Arab Spring movements in Yemen, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia and Libya, it shook the confidence of family autocracies like the UAE and KSA. The UAE’s direct hiring of Dahlan as a Security Advisor for their Middle Eastern and African foreign affairs is a result of this need for self-preservation. 

These fairly recent nations that survive on petroleum experts have the funds and will to preserve the installation of democratic regimes at any cost. Driven by the fear that any future populist wave, internal intrigue or foreign adventuring would shake its authoritarian rule. Although countries like the UAE hire thousands of foreign advisors, former Oslo Accords peacemaker Dahlan has appeared as the UAE’s dark shadow in disputed regions fought over between Turkey and the UAE. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz noted that Dahlan, as the former leader of Fatah, had a $700,000 bounty put on his head on the very day that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was visiting Turkey. The paper described described Dahlan as a “shadowy wheeler and dealer” a far cry from Israel’s choice to bring about a secure Palestine. 

Dahlan’s traces in Turkey are not subtle. Two former Palestinian soldiers were arrested in Istanbul on the charges of international espionage against Turkey. Their names were Samir Samih Shaban and Zaki Yusuf Hasan. The latter was found hanged in his cell a week after his detention. His case was closed since it was a ‘suicide.’ The other soldier’s case still is open with confidentiality order. They were arrested after lengthy surveillance by Turkish intelligence. Allegedly, the two were tasked by Dahlan to surveil UAE’s dissidents, including Jamal Kashoggi, who was believed to be murdered in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018. An anonymous source told the Anadolu Agency that the two were also collecting information about dissident Egyptians.  

Is Dahlan working against Turkish interests? In 2015 Dahlan told the Atlantic Treaty Association in Brussels, “I am not against Turkey. But I am against not exposing the facts of those who are not confronting ISIS those who are providing it with financial facilities trading in oil with it or smuggling weapons to it.”  Dahlan has also come down squarely as supporting groups and nations who support the UAE, KSA, Israel and Egypt’s battle against mortal enemy, the Muslim Brotherhood. 

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John Doe
Samir Samih Shaban and Zaki Yusuf Hasan after their detention.
Samir Samih Shaban and Zaki Yusuf Hasan in Istanbul.
Samir Samih Shaban and Zaki Yusuf Hasan in Istanbul.

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John Doe


While the Syrian case was complex, Egypt was the first post-Arab Spring country where the two rivals were at each other’s throats. Dahlan was allegedly involved in former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s ouster and in installation of current president, Abdelfettah el-Sissi. Also, Dahlan began using Egypt as a media base. Several Dahlan-linked TV channels constantly attacked the Erdogan government and even released an interview with Fethullah Gulen, US-based leader of the Gulen Movement. 

The second post-Arab Spring rivalry was seen in Libya, facing a proxy war between the two. Turkey supported Libya’s internationally recognized government and even allegedly employed Syrian mercenaries and its unarmed drones against UAE-backed Khalifa Haftar, the UAE has been trying to instate Khaftar as Libya’s new Qaddafi. Allegedly, Dahlan was responsible with providing weapons to Khaftar forces. 

Turkey viewed Somalia as a gateway to East Africa providing humanitarian help and building TurkSom, their largest foreign military base to train a third of Somali’s soldiers. . Turkey’s style of openly engaging developing nations to great fanfare was evidenced when President Erdogan made a great show of Somali’s new statehood by arriving with his family in Mogadishu in August of 2011 and starting regular air service between Mogadishu and Istanbul via Turkish airlines. 

This rivalry permeated to surrounding countries, including Sudan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. For instance, in Sudan, Turkey backed the transition council while the UAE supported the coup leader, Abdelfettah al-Burhan, involving Dahlan as a mediator between al-Burhan and neighboring countries’ leaders and even Israel. 

Turkey has been instrumental in rebranding Dahlan from an internationally supported political hopeful to a person of interest in clandestine activities. Whether this changes with Erdogan’s reproachment with
the UAE remains to be seen. 

Ethiopia, Sudan and Eritrea are at odds over al-Fushqa region.

While the Syrian case was complex, Egypt was the first post-Arab Spring country where the two rivals were at each other’s throats. Dahlan was allegedly involved in former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s ouster and in installation of current president, Abdelfettah el-Sissi. Also, Dahlan began using Egypt as a media base. Several Dahlan-linked TV channels constantly attacked the Erdogan government and even released an interview with Fethullah Gulen, US-based leader of the Gulen Movement. 

The second post-Arab Spring rivalry was seen in Libya, facing a proxy war between the two. Turkey supported Libya’s internationally recognized government and even allegedly employed Syrian mercenaries and its unarmed drones against UAE-backed Khalifa Haftar, the UAE has been trying to instate Khaftar as Libya’s new Qaddafi. Allegedly, Dahlan was responsible with providing weapons to Khaftar forces. 

Turkey viewed Somalia as a gateway to East Africa providing humanitarian help and building TurkSom, their largest foreign military base to train a third of Somali’s soldiers. . Turkey’s style of openly engaging developing nations to great fanfare was evidenced when President Erdogan made a great show of Somali’s new statehood by arriving with his family in Mogadishu in August of 2011 and starting regular air service between Mogadishu and Istanbul via Turkish airlines. 

This rivalry permeated to surrounding countries, including Sudan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. For instance, in Sudan, Turkey backed the transition council while the UAE supported the coup leader, Abdelfettah al-Burhan, involving Dahlan as a mediator between al-Burhan and neighboring countries’ leaders and even Israel. 

Turkey has been instrumental in rebranding Dahlan from an internationally supported political hopeful to a person of interest in clandestine activities. Whether this changes with Erdogan’s reproachment with the
UAE remains to be seen. 

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