December 30, 2006

Kirkuk


Its often easy to forget that there are three different groupings in Iraq- the Shia, Sunni and Kurds. We concentrate on the Sunni and Shia and the different dangers that they represent and often forget the Kurds. The Kurds in general have been allied with the United States and coalition in Iraq, in general they have been much the more peaceful of the three major groups inside Iraq. Having said that there are two major reasons why the Kurd presense exacerbates the problems of Iraq- the first is that any strong Kurdistan or any break up of Iraq into a Shia zone, a Sunni and a Kurd would lead to Turkish intervention. Turkey looks very askance at the Kurds because as an ethnic group they stretch into south eastern Turkey and have posed a terrorist threat to the state there. Human rights abuses are common from Turkish forces and an independent Kurdistan would pose a danger to Turkey in providing its rebellious Kurds with a locus of inspiration for their own struggle. Similar things can be said to a lesser extent about Iran.

The other major source of potential problems in the Kurdish sector is Kirkuk. Kirkuk is an emensely valuable city, sitting on a large oil field which at one point was majority Kurdish. Over the last fifty years, Saddam Hussein and his predecessors installed Arabs into the city and noone is quite confident who now dominates. Nouri Talabany, a Kurd MP of the the Iraqi National Assembly, gives some evidence for my worries in this article from the Middle East Quarterly. Talabany reccomends nothing like the ethnic cleansing going on in parts of Iraq between the Shia and Sunni, but he does argue that the Kurds should have primacy amongst the groupings in Kirkuk, he wants the Kurds to take the political lead.

He grounds this desire upon a presumed population composition- he may be right but no census has been taken in Iraq, in the elections the Kurds won 60% of the vote in the province which includes Kirkuk- his other arguments are based on the Kurd's historical claim to Kirkuk. I always blanche slightly at historical claims- the truth is that humans have moved around for centuries so that many peoples share historical claims to any site. Interestingly Yücel Güçlü makes a historically based case for Turkoman control of Kirkuk in the same issue of the Middle East Quarterly. Güçlü does work for the Turkish government, so there may be an element of mischief in what he writes, but it illustrates the problem with claims over Kirkuk in a present day Iraq where people are moving around very swiftly. Historical claims in this context are always very difficult particularly in an area where I suspect nationalities are invented and projected backwards rather than actually existing in the era from which ownership is now being claimed.

I don't want to get into a debate about who owns Kirkuk. But the competing Arab, Kurdish and Turkoman claims to it illustrate the difficulties of splitting Iraq up into different zones. We all know about the difficulties in the South and we are all aware of ethnic conflict there, but if we were to split Iraq, we would risk opening up ethnic conflict in the north, a region that has until now been relatively stable. Civil War has flared up in the South, the North could easily join it and if you think its bad now, that would be much worse.

8 comments:

james higham said...

Important post this. Have to digest it tomorrow. Time to hit the hay.

Anonymous said...

You may be interested to read the following regarding Kerkuk and the Turkmens:

URGENT APPEAL FROM THE IRAQI TURKMENS

TO THE EUROPEAN AUTHORITIES AND DECISION MAKERS


On behalf of the 3 million Iraqi Turkmens (representing 12 % of the Iraqi people) who constitute the third largest ethnic group in Iraq along with the Arabs and Kurds, I am writing to you to bring to your attention the misfortune of the Turkmens of Iraq who are not only suffering from the illegal war and the occupation of their country by the US and UK forces since the 19th of March 2003 but also from the tragedy of having their region, “Turkmeneli” * and all their towns and cities occupied and controlled by the Kurdish armed militias who have collaborated with the US invasion forces to occupy the north of Iraq.



Indeed, the Kurdish armed militias or “Peshmerga”, belonging to the Kurdish political parties (PUK and KDP) of Mrs. Talabani and Barzani, have been authorised by the US invasion forces and the American administration to extend their hegemony beyond the Kurdish autonomous region in the north-east of Iraq, further to the south and to the west to the “Turkmen region”, to occupy this region and to control all Turkmen towns and cities such as Kerkuk, Tal Afar, Tuz-Khurmatu, Altun Kopru, Dakuk, Khanakin, Kifri etc…



Among the ethnic groups which compose the Iraqi people, the Turkmens are the only ethnic group who do not have any militia or paramilitary armed organisation and they are for this reason defenceless and very vulnerable in today’s Iraq which is at war and in turmoil under foreign military occupation and local militias rules and ambitions.



For decades, since the creation of the Iraqi State in 1921, the Turkmens of Iraq and their plight have been completely ignored by the international community, they have been the least listened to outside Iraq and the least defended by their own government. Indeed, for decades the Turkmens have been denied their basic human rights in Iraq in total indifference of the international community.



The disregard of the Turkmens’ historical role and achievements in Iraq, the denial of their true representation as the third largest ethnic group and consequently their marginalisation in Iraq have been initiated by the British colonial authorities at the end of WWI in 1918, for geopolitical and economical reasons only. It was meant to facilitate the separation of “Mosul Vilayat” or “Mosul Province” (now representing five Iraqi provinces: Mosul, Kerkuk, Erbil, Duhok and Suleymaniya) from the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) in order to control the huge oil reserves of Kerkuk which was then inhabited mainly by the Turkmens as it has been for centuries their capital city and cultural centre.



Since then, and despite the formal independence of Iraq from Great Britain and the end of the British mandate in 1932, the successive Iraqi governments have applied towards the Turkmens the same policies of marginalisation and discrimination as those which were initiated and applied by the British in 1918 and for the same geopolitical and economical reasons!



After the Iraqi revolution of the 14th of July 1958 and the return to Iraq of the Kurdish activist Mullah Mustafa Barzani from his exile in the Soviet Union, the situation of the Turkmens has dramatically and drastically deteriorated because of the hegemonic ambition of Mullah Mustafa Barzani and his plan for an independent Kurdish state in the north of Iraq for which the oil wealth of Kerkuk was not only a necessity but the main motivation.



The existence of the Turkmens in the north of Iraq side by side with the Kurds and their presence in great numbers in Kerkuk where they for centuries represented the majority of the inhabitants, were seen and felt by Mullah Mustafa Barzani as obstacles to the realisation of his dreams for an independent Kurdish state and the control of Kerkuk’s oil wealth.



This is why the Turkmens have been targeted in Iraq since 1958 by Mullah Mustafa Barzani and his Kurdish followers allied to the Iraqi communists who dominated Iraqi politics from July 1958 up to February 1963.



During this period (1958-1963) a mass migration of the Kurds, from their villages and towns in the north-east of Iraq to the Turkmen region and especially to Kerkuk city, was organised and implemented in order to increase Kurdish presence in Kerkuk and alter the demography of this large Turkmen city.



Also during this period the Turkmens suffered dual marginalisation and discrimination from the Kurds and from the Iraqi communists who dominated the regime in Iraq, they faced internal deportation, exile, arbitrary arrest and detention, confiscation of properties and agricultural lands and worst of all, the massacre of 120 of their intellectuals and community leaders by the Kurds in Kerkuk on the eve of the first anniversary of the revolution on July 14th, 1959.



After the coup d’état of the 17th of July 1968 which brought the Ba’ath party to power in Iraq, efforts were made to end the Kurdish rebellion in the north east of the country and generous incentives were presented by the Ba’ath regime to Mullah Mustafa Barzani in 1970 to put an end to his rebellion by offering him an autonomous Kurdish region with Erbil (another Turkmen city) as its capital, in total disregard of the Turkmens’ interests in Iraq and particularly of those of the 300.000 unfortunate Turkmens of Erbil, who have been sacrificed by the Ba’ath regime and were offered as a “present” to Mullah Mustafa Barzani in return for his acceptance to end the Kurdish rebellion.



However, despite sacrificing Erbil, the Kurdish rebellion did not end in 1970 as it was supposed to, it only ended temporarily after the Algiers Agreement between Saddam Hussein and the Shah of Iran in 1975 to resume later during Iraq-Iran war!



Today, no one is even questioning why Erbil, this originally Turkmen city with its 300.000 Turkmen inhabitants, was given by the Iraqi regime to a Kurdish rebellion leader. No one bothers to ask what happened to these 300.000 unfortunate Turkmens since Erbil became the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region. The reason is that the Turkmens of Erbil are now dominated and discriminated by the Kurds, they are either kurdified or considered as second class citizens in the Kurdish autonomous region presided by Mr. Massud Barzani.



In the 1970s as it became more and more clear that Mullah Mustafa Barzani’s ambitions and plans were to take over Kerkuk, control its oil wealth and declare an independent Kurdish state, the Iraqi government (Ba’ath regime), in order to maintain Iraq’s territorial unity and to counter Barzani’s ambitions and plans, started an extensive arabisation policy in the Turkmen region with special attention to Kerkuk and it’s surroundings.



This arabisation policy of the Ba’ath regime has stripped the Turkmens from their few remaining basic rights. They were denied the right to speak the Turkmen language in the government offices, they were forbidden to purchase real estate in Kerkuk, they were compelled to register themselves as Arabs during the general population census as the existence of the Turkmens as a community in Iraq was officially denied in the new Iraqi constitution written under the Ba’ath regime which stated that the Iraqi people were composed of Arabs and Kurds only!



The Turkmens have opposed Ba’ath regime policies from July 1968 to March 2003 and vigorously contested the regime’s authoritarian arabisation policy. They have suffered a great deal and paid a costly price for their opposition, they lost hundreds of their political activists and intellectuals, thousands of Turkmens have been forced to internal deportation and faced confiscation of their lands and properties, numerous Turkmen villages have been destroyed and thousands of Arabs from the south of Iraq have been paid large sums of money to come and settle in the Turkmen region to replace the deported original Turkmen inhabitants and take over their lands and properties: a brutal and horrible ethnic cleansing policy imposed by the Ba’ath regime on Iraq’s third largest ethnic group, the unfortunate, unarmed and defenceless Turkmens.



One of the Turkmens’ most painful tragedy was that during the Iran-Iraq war (1980 to 1988) while tens of thousands of young Turkmens were enrolled and all the Turkmen reservists were called back to serve in the Iraqi army to fight against the Iranians, their families in Turkmeneli were discriminated and thousands of them were forcibly displaced and all their properties were confiscated under the pretext that they were opposing the war and were members of the outlawed “Da’wa” political party!



Today, after almost four years of foreign occupation and regime change in Iraq, and despite the US administration’s propaganda that they brought ‘democracy’ in Iraq and that the Iraqis are now ‘liberated and free’, the reality is that the situation and the living conditions of the majority of the Iraqis and especially those of the Turkmens have dramatically deteriorated.



Indeed, they are forced to live under foreign occupation with all the humiliations that result from such occupation, they are exposed to all the dangers of the war, killing and injuring, arrest and imprisonment, limitation of movement and freedom, shortage of food and medicines, lack of goods and basic services etc…



After the destruction of all the infrastructure of Iraq by the US, UK and Australian invasion and occupation forces and the killing of more than 650.000 Iraqi civilians since the start of the war in 2003, thousands of Iraqi civilians continue to be slaughtered every month, they live in constant terror and they lack the essentials to lead a decent life: security, potable water, electricity, food, jobs, medical care, education and freedom.



As for the Turkmens, in addition to their share of misery and humiliation resulting from the foreign occupation of Iraq, they also suffer since this occupation (and because of it) from the Kurdish hegemony in the north of Iraq and the occupation of all the Turkmen region by the Kurdish militias who are tightly controlling the Turkmens, discriminating against them and behaving as conquerors in the Turkmen region.



It is worth mentioning here that since the Kurdish occupation of the Turkmen region on the 10th of April 2003 up to now, not a single Turkmen has recovered his rights or recuperated his property or agricultural lands which were confiscated by the Ba’ath regime, not a single Turkmen has been compensated, not a single Turkmen village which was destroyed has been rebuilt, contrarily to the Kurds who have not only recuperated all their lands and properties and received compensation but have also taken over all the properties belonging to the Turkmens which had been confiscated by the Ba’ath regime!



Pretending that Kurds only have been victims of the Ba’ath regime and have suffered deportation and property confiscation in Kerkuk, the Kurdish political parties of Messrs Talabani and Barzani have organised the transport of some 600.000 Kurds from the Kurdish autonomous region to Kerkuk and their installation there since the fall of Kerkuk (on the 10th of April 2003) in the hands of Kurdish militias!



These newcomers to Kerkuk have been given financial support and incentives to come and settle in Kerkuk, they have been issued forged identification cards and documents showing them as Kurds originally from Kerkuk who have been forcefully displaced by the Ba’ath regime, even though the great majority of them had never been, lived, worked or possessed any property in Kerkuk!



These cheatings by falsification of the official records concerning the forcibly displaced Kurds from Kerkuk and the issuing of forged identification cards to these 600.000 Kurds newly installed in Kerkuk have been facilitated by the fact that the Kurdish militia looted both the Population and the Property Registration Offices of Kerkuk and confiscated all their archives and records the very first day they entered and occupied Kerkuk on the 10th of April 2003!



Taking advantage of the invasion and occupation of Iraq by the foreign powers, the Kurdish parties led by Messrs. Talabani and Barzani and their militias have realised the old plan of Mullah Mustafa Barzani by taking control of Kerkuk, kurdifing the city and controlling its oil wealth to the detriment of the Turkmens.



This clearly proves that what has changed for the Turkmens since the regime change in Iraq is simply the substitution of Ba’ath hegemony to Kurdish hegemony, which is not only unfair but it is also unacceptable by the Turkmens who want to live free in their Turkmen region in a free, peaceful and democratic Iraq.



One of the biggest blunders of the American administration in 2003 was to adventure in an illegal war against the Iraqi people following an ill-thought ideology conceived by a group of extremists known as the “neo-conservatives” who pushed for the war with a plan based on lies and distorted intelligence about Iraq’s alleged WMD, with hidden objectives of regime change in Iraq, weakening the country and controlling its oil reserves, regardless of Iraqi interests.



To realize their objectives, the neo-conservatives invented a new and artificial classification of the Iraqis stating that the Iraqi people are composed of Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis, whereas in reality the Iraqi people are composed of ARABS, KURDS and TURKMENS, who are either MUSLIMS or CHRISTIANS.



By confusingly mixing the ethnicity of the Kurds with the religious affiliations of the Iraqi Arabs, the American administration has encouraged these ethnic and sectarian groups with their armed militias to take the lead in the governing process under the banner of “Democracy”.



The world has since then seen and witnessed the tragic consequences of this Machiavellian plan and policy of the American administration on the innocent Iraqis!



We, the 3 million Turkmens of Iraq, together with our 17 million Arab and half a million Chaldeo-Assyrian compatriots, representing a majority of 82% of the Iraqi people, are wondering why we have been left out and not mentioned at all in this new “American designed classification” of the Iraqi people, while the 4.5 million Kurds, who only represent 18% of the Iraqi people have been given the leading role and the dominant position in the occupied Iraq.



We, Turkmens, denounce and reject this new and artificial classification of the Iraqi people deliberately designed to provoke ethnic and confessional conflicts in order to weaken our country and to divide Iraq in small entities to facilitate its occupation.



We also denounce and reject the continued marginalisation of the Turkmens in Iraq by the new regime and by the “new constitution” which is based on texts elaborated by the occupation authority tolerating “if not initiating again” the marginalisation of the third largest ethnic component of the Iraqi people.



We therefore ask for the revision of this “new constitution” in order to reflect the true nature and exact composition of the Iraqi people to fulfil the will of all the Iraqis without dividing them in categories and different classes of citizens.



We call on the international community to intervene and to help preventing the crisis looming ahead concerning Kerkuk and its belonging as well as its future status which is supposed to be decided by a referendum planned for December 2007, to be held in Kerkuk only, the result of which would not reflect the reality due to the alteration of the ethnic composition of this city by the Kurdish parties who brought, as mentioned above, over 600.000 Kurds and registered them as inhabitants of Kerkuk precisely for the purpose of voting in this planned referendum in order to legalise their control over the city and its annexation to the Kurdish autonomous region!



Kerkuk has never been a Kurdish city despite the misleading arguments, false claims and dubious practices of the Kurdish political parties. It is historically a Turkmen city, and should therefore not be controlled by the Kurds or be annexed to the Kurdish autonomous region.



To put an end to the violence in Iraq and in order to bring back peace to our country, we, Turkmens of Iraq urge the European decision makers, European Commissioners and European Parliament Members to play an active role in restoring law, order and security in our country. We ask them to address the urgent needs of the imperilled Turkmen population and urge them to devote their political influence, moral authority and their financial help toward them and toward ensuring that all individuals in Iraq, irrespective of their ethnic background or religious affiliation are given the tools they need to succeed in establishing a fully functioning and sustainable democracy.



We therefore demand and recommend the following:



The immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Coalition occupation troops and their foreign mercenaries and contractors, if needed, their replacement preferably by troops friendly to Iraqis from Islamic countries.


Replacing the existing government with a Technocrat-Bureaucrat government composed of expert personalities in their fields.


Application of compulsory military service and recall the professional officers of the disbanded Iraqi Army to form the new Iraqi army replacing the existing one which is made of the Kurdish and Shiite militias namely the Peshmerga and the Badr brigades.


Disallow the formation of any political party based on ethnicity or sectarian affiliations.


Cancel the referendum on Kerkuk, planned for December 2007, to prevent the expected ethnic explosion in the north of Iraq and suggest the power sharing between Turkmens, Arabs and Kurds for governing not only Kerkuk province but all the provinces forming the north of Iraq namely: Mosul, Kerkuk, Erbil, Duhok and Suleymaniya where these communities have shared interests.


As the Turkmens not only face problems in Kerkuk but also in Erbil, Altun Kopru, Tal Afar, Tuz Khurmatu, Khanaqin, Kifri etc… they should be granted the “Self Governing Right” and be allowed to form the “Turkmeneli Autonomous Region” based in Kerkuk - Tal Afar- Tuz Khurmatu areas in northern Iraq to protect and guarantee their rights against the transgressions of the Kurdish regional government and the Iraqi Central government.


Revoke the status discrimination in Iraq since 1958 for regarding the Kurds as “partners” and the Turkmens as “minority”. Either elevate the Turkmens to “partners” level or downgrade the Kurds to a “minority” status.


Involve the neighbouring countries by making them guarantors for the integrity, safety and the reconstruction of Iraq.


Just compensation of the Iraqi people by the invaders and occupiers of Iraq namely the U.S., U.K. and Australia for the deaths of at least 650.000 innocent Iraqi civilians and for the reconstruction of the infrastructure of Iraq which they destroyed during their invasion and occupation of Iraq.


That the European values and principles of “Equality, Justice and Fairness” be applied for all in Iraq.


We thank you for your urgent attention.



Yours sincerely,







Dr. Hassan Aydinli

Iraqi Turkmen Front’s

Europe Representative

Belgium.

Gracchi said...

Thank you Anonymous- I have to say that I'm completely ignorant but this is interesting information. I will definitely do some reading around this issue over the next few days and any other Turkmen related info will be greatly welcomed. One question that I find intriguing is what is the relationship between the Turkmen and the Turks- is there any indeed.

Anonymous said...

to GRACCHI:

I suggest the reading of :

Journalist SCOTT TAYLOR's book: "AMONG THE OTHERS"
ENCOUNTERS WITH THE FORGOTTEN TURKMEN OF IRAQ. Printed in Canada (Esprit de Corps Books)

Anonymous said...

TO GRACCHI:

You will find many reports on the following Turkmen website:

http://www.turkmen.nl/

Anonymous said...

The Iraqi Turkmen are the descendants of the Turkic OGOZ TRIBES who migrated 'in several and successive waves between the 7th and the 13th century to the West of their territories up to Anatolia and Mesopotamia where they settled.

The Turkic peoples are: the Turks of Turkey and the Balkans, the Azeris of Azerbaijan and Iran, the Turkmens of Turmensistan, Iran, Afghanistan and the Turkmens of Iraq. They are all members of the Oghuz group of turkic languages.

Gracchi said...

Thank you so much- I'm just finishing another article as I speak so I'll do that and then head over to take a look at the Turkmen stuff- it sounds very interesting and is a field I know nothing about. The historical comment about the Turkmen movement in sounds about right though- from memory that seems to be the time that the Seljuk and later Ottoman dynasties arrived int eh Middle East so I can beleive that. Will do some research though- thanks for your contributions.

Sh. Pashalar said...

As a city Kerkuk, it has never been a Kurdish city, there are no even one reliable reference which mentions that Kerkuk city had been with Kurdish majority in all its history. As a province, almost only the English officers, who lived in Iraq after Ottomans Empire, have claimed that the Kerkuk province was with Kurdish majority.