Turkey ‘geography of hope’: Princess Nesrine al-Hashemi

By Faruk Tokat

ISTANBUL (AA) – The granddaughter of late Iraqi King Faisal I sees Turkey as the remaining hope for leading the Islamic nation for a better future amid divisions in the Arab world.

In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Princess Nesrine al-Hashemi hailed relations binding Turkey and Iraq and talked about the views of her father, Prince Mohamed bin Faisal, about Turkey.

Q: How did Prince Mohamed bin Faisal, the son of King Faisal, view relations with Turkey?

A: Turkey has become a geography of hope as the Arab world is currently facing religious and political divisions and these divisions can be eliminated through cultural and scientific development.

In this regard, I have high hopes for the future of Turkey under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. My father Prince Mohamed bin Faisal, who died last week, would consistently speak of the evil powers targeting Turkey. A day before his death, we talked about the economic and political situation of Turkey. 'These evil parties seek to lower the Turkish flag. However, this flag will fly high forever' he said. Thanks to my father, who was speaking Ottoman Turkish, I loved Turkey and followed developments in Turkey.

In his last words, my father prayed for Erdogan and the Turkish people. I'm following his path as well. May Allah bless Erdogan with a long life, endurance and patience. Turkey is a country of hope. I'm not that hopeful for my own country, which was torn into pieces due to selfishness.

The Iraqi opposition had proposed kingship to my father, but he replied that this would not be good for the unity of the country and the Iraqi people.

Turkey responded to my father's good feelings. Turkey fulfilled his will to be buried near Ghazi Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (in Turkey) if it was not possible for him to be buried in royal graveyard in Baghdad. I would like to thank the Turkish government and people, especially President Erdogan, for their noble stance on this issue.

Q: Did Prince Mohamed have contact with Turkey?

A: We have roots here. We have a common past. I always remember my family's relations with Turkey. Although some people think Arab-Ottoman ties were severed after the Arab revolt in 1916, my father never cut his relations with Turkey. This is not correct as the revolt was staged against Cemal (Djemal) Pasha, not the Ottoman state.

Ghazi Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and my grandfather shared numerous photos. As a matter of fact, my grandfather entrusted my father to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk if something to happen to him. My father spent a period of his childhood near Mustafa Kemal. His relations with Turkey dated back to his ancestors.

In addition, my aunt and her children were buried in Turkey. Also, my father and grandfather were not the only ones who had ties with Turkey.

Ataturk and my grandfather shared strong bonds and they had good relations. He grew up in Turkey. When Sharif Hussein was in exile, his three sons (Abdullah, Ali, and Faisal) grew up and received their education here. My grandfather was a peer of Ataturk, their relations were beyond politics.

We are speaking of strong friendship, beyond political relations. These relations left marks on my father. My father's will was to be buried in the Royal Cemetery in Baghdad near my grandfather or near Ataturk in Ankara if this wasn't possible. His burial in Iraq was going to be politicized as you know the situation in Iraq. God wanted him to be buried here. My father would speak of Turkey's fondness towards Ahl al-Bayt.

Q: Iran and the U.S. are competing to control the decision-making process in Iraq. Is it possible for Iraq to return to its old strategic position in the Islamic world and be independent from international disputes, ethnic and sectarian conflicts?

A: If we are going to talk about the decline in Iraq as a result of the sectarian and ethnicity-based factionalism, I can't help mentioning the royal period.

Q: There is that saying, 'When the discrimination based on ethnicity and sect enters through the door, the stability gets out of the window.' Is it the case in Iraq today? What are your thoughts on this issue?

A: Ethnic and sectarian discrimination is a cancer devouring the ummah (nation). The true agenda behind this is to destroy Iraq. My grandfather, from his reign to the day he died, worked for the unity and integrity of the Iraqi people. He never asked people from where they came as it would reveal the individual's sect or political orientation.

Q: How was Hashemi Family's attitude towards people of different religions, races and ethnicities?

A: King Faisal would hand the job to the competent ones, without caring about religion or sect. Therefore, there wasn't factionalism in Iraq back then. It was the same during my uncle Ghazi Faisal's rule. However, some things changed during Faisal II, the son of my uncle. Nuri es-Said and Abdulillah were rather in charge. I point at the reigns of my grandfather Faisal I and uncle King Ghazi. Back then, Iraq was among the developed countries in various aspects, particularly education.

There was distance education in Iraq back then. My grandfather would bring the conference recordings and documents from the universities of England to Baghdad so that students could make use of them. […] There was a magazine on medical research in 1920. There were efforts to educate women. I mean, can you even imagine that a magazine named 'Laila' was published in Iraq in 1923?

Q: If the fate of Iraq completely changed and Hashemi Family was in the administration today, how would the current situation in Iraq change?

A: My grandfather would always say that the future of ummah was at the hands of the teachers and intellectuals. However, as illiteracy rules over today, it is only your position to which people show respect.

[…] If the Iraqis could read the Taif incident correctly, instead of hitting their backs with chains or punching their bodies, they would be free. If the Iraqi women understand Zaynab bint Ali's fight instead of hitting their chests, no country can rule Iraq, neither America nor Iran.

*Ali Murat Alhas contributed to this story from Ankara