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  1. Introduction

One of aims of this paper is to give the reader a general sense as to who the Turkomans or Turkmens are, without turning this analysis into a history assignment. However, much like any minority group(s) their history is a key part in identifying the issues they have faced in the past, which is unfortunate case with the Iraqi Turkmens. Within this part of the essay all emphasize will be placed upon historical events and in the latter part of the essay the importance and role of politics will be accentuated upon.

So, who are the Turkmens? For one, historians agree that the terminology of Turkmen, Turkoman, Torcoman, Turkcoman and Turkmend does not specify something different from Turkish ancestors but specifies the same as that of Muslim Oguz Turk who accepted Islam as their faith.[2] “The first mass flow and influx of Oghuz-Turkmen nomadic tribes to Iraq was associated with the Seljuk invasions. However, it is well known that the penetration of some Turkic groupings to Iraq took place in the time of the Caliphate and even before.”[3] Petrosian advances this approach by identifying that the current community of Iraqi Turkmen have ties to four possible segments: “1. The descendants of the Turkmens settled in the area around the 10th century A.D. at the time of the Seljuks and before. 2. The offsprings of the Turkmen tribes settled in Iraq in the 11th-13th cc. 3. The descendants of the Azeri Turkish speaking groups from Maragha planted as garrisons by Shah Ismail Safavi (1502-1524) and Nadir Shah (1730-1747). 4. The Turks and Turkmens migrated here at the Ottoman period.”[4]

The debate that revolves around the label of “Turkmen” is one of the common issues that cause confusion for researchers and general readers. More often than not, it creates an interesting topic of discussion on the originality or labelling of the term. According to Kerkuklu, the term Turkmen can be identified and explained with the support of two historians in Y. J. Diny and K. Kahin. “Linguistically, the name Turkmen, as a whole word, has no meaning in the Modern Turkish Dictionary other than ‘a Turkish clan’. As a compound name, it can be divided into two words, Turk and men. The word ‘Turk’ is used as a synonym to the word ‘Turkic’ of the international literary usage. The word ‘men’ means ‘I’. Figuratively, it refers to bravery. Accordingly, the word ‘Turkmen’ can be explained as “I am a Turkish man” or “We are Turkish brave men”.[5]

Departing from the previous notion, geopolitics and population has been an issue that Turkmens have been all common with, that frankly has shaped the course of their struggles over the years. Currently Turkmens do not have any legitimate geographical control within Iraq; however they claim that there are parts of Iraq which they have inhabited for years. Güçlü claims that Iraqi Turkmens live in the area extending from northwest to southeast of Iraq,which they call Turkmeneli.[6] They live in Mosul-Yunus Prophet, Arbil, Altunkopru, Kirkuk, Tazehurmatu, Kifri, Karatepe, Kızılarbat, Hanekin, Mendeli, Bedre and Sahraban regions towards the east and southeast starting from the town of Telafer in the west of Mosul and the villages around it.[7]

Furthermore, Turkmen’s largest population concentration is in the city of Kirkuk. Turkmens over the years shaped the city with their unique language, cultural and ethnic identity. Moreover, Turkmens have accumulated considerable cultural heritage in cities such as Baghdad, Mosul, Kirkuk and Arbil. All of the former cities have sentimental value for Turkmens but the one that has the greatest attachment is Kirkuk. According to Kayili, the reason behind this is their long inhabitancy in the area and most importantly because of its oil wells, for it produces the richest and highest quality oil in both Iraq and the world.[8] Moreover, Kirkuk is the granary of Iraq because they do not have irrigation problems; they function as a kind of buffer zone between Arab and Kurdish settlements; they have wide agricultural lands and a gentle climate; and they have rich mines such assulfur, uranium and phosphorus.[9]

Moreover, for Turkmens the discussion of population has been and is still a continuous area of uncertainty for almost a century now. Much like Turkmens in neighboring countries of Syria and Iran, they present a high population figure of themselves, however the governmental officials think otherwise. This point will be elaborated on in the latter part of this section. In the case of Iraqi Turkmens, the only official census on ethnic groups that was conducted by governmental officials was in1959. The census projected that 567.000 of the 6.3 million of Iraq’s population were Turkmen according to the results of the census announced in 1959.[10]  The issue with this figure is that it was obtained over 50 years ago, and the population of Iraq has credibly increased since then. The issue at hand is, when governmental officials make their decision be it domestically or internationally they refer to the existing form of data.

One might ask as to why have not a recent census on ethnic groups have not been conducted? The answer can be understood in into two important parts; 1-) During Saddam’s regime “Baghdad set the policy of ‘Arabization’ in motion as soon as Saddam Hussein’s government came to power.”[11] In order to successfully carryout this plan the Ba’athist army helmed by Saddam Hussein brought Arab families from the south in an attempt to wipe out all evidence of a non-Arab presence by ‘Arabising’ all aspects of life, and the non-Arab couples attempting to get married were pressured into adopting Arab names.[12] 2-) Since 2003, where Iraq witnessed the elimination of the Ba’athist Party along with Saddam Hussein, Iraq has adopted a federalist form of governance. However, due to heavy attacks of terrorism and intensive war zone in Iraq especially in cities of Turkmeneli it has been rather difficult if not impossible to really conduct any reliable/accurate form of population census in the region. Both of these issues will be expanded upon in the upcoming section.

However, in the absence of the governmental census, Turkmen scholars amongst themselves have estimated a figure in which in their knowledge believe to be a fairly close estimate in identifying the population of Turkmens in Iraq. Dr. Saatçi suggests that it is difficult to declare an exact population figure for Turkmens in Iraq. The exact population of the Iraqi Turkmen has always been manipulated and denied by ruling authorities. None however could deny the existence of Turkmen in Iraq. We assume, along with many researchers, that the percentage of the Turkmen relative to the entire population is between 9-12 %. This figure is calculated against the total population of Iraq which is estimated to be around 32 million. Independent sources accept this number as somewhere between 2 and 2.5 million.[13] The figure between 2 and 3 million seems to be a more realistic figure; however there have been suggested figure from 3.5 to 5 million.

One of the areas that need to be emphasized increasingly is external efforts contributed by Turkmens, most noticeably through the various associations abroad. This essay does not aim to identify the population of Turkmens living in Iraq or the ones that lives abroad. Rather how Turkmens through their respective associations are contributing to explain who Iraqi Turkmens are and most importantly how does the culture and ethnicity of the nations they live in influence their actions within their associations? Furthermore, the majority of Iraqi Turkmens have fled Iraq as either refuges and or immigrants, to name a few nations (Sweden, Great Britain, Denmark, Netherlands, Turkey, and Canada, etc.). In his publication, Ibrahim Sirkeci had conducted a survey on Turkmen migration and amongst the 1000 surveyed; the result was that “36 percent of households were reported to have at least one member who migrated abroad.”[14] This figure shows that there is a fair number of Turkmens living abroad and they are contributing to the Turkmen issues through publication of books (Mr. Mofak Kerkuklu, Prof. Dr. Suphi Saatci, and Ersat Hurmuzlu), websites (Biz Turkmeniz, Iraqiyoon, TANIS), and cultural associations (Canadian-Iraqi Turkmen Cultural Association, Iraqi Turkish Cultural and Assistance Association).

Moreover, the methodological approach for this essay is through a deductive approach, where I will test out the empirical data through theoretical frameworks. This will allow the essay to support a theoretical thinking, as well as for gaps and problems, for example, where theory does not quite or entirely work when applied to the real world.[15] In other words, this is a positive thing, since it allows the research to push forwards, refining, sharpening, adding, removing theories, gradually building up a body of knowledge, which is tried and tested.[16] In term of this essay, the theoretical framework is how the Turkmen associations are using the persistent empirical data on Turkmens in demonstrating the struggles of their people throughout their history and how the associations are trying to address these issues.

Furthermore, the importance of the study is to aim and eliminate the image that minority groups like Turkmens in Iraq cannot affect or contribute to their nation. I believe that cultural build-up connectivity starts in social places like homes, school and associations. By the end of the essay, I hope to show that Turkmens can be relevant in providing a colorful cultural output to Iraq and to the global world through its love of artistry. The obstacles for minority groups like Turkmens are persistent but like all obstacles with hard work and dedication, they can be overcome, and lastly to enlighten a new era for Turkmens through organizations, politics and be able to interpret itself through its actions with the support of its associations.

Lastly, the essay will be divided into four sections: the first section will expand on the former argument dealing on the issue of historical relevancy and geopolitics. The second part will identify one of many struggling issues for Turkmens such as their right to practice their language and establishing an educational system within Iraq. The third part will enhance on the historical inception of the Turkmen Cultural Associations (TCA). The fourth part of the essay creates a connection between certain historical events and political scarcity for Turkmens and the TCA, and how each association is trying to address them within their migrated lands. The last part of the essay draws upon possible future and in which TCA can broaden their capability and demonstrate to their domestic communities the uniqueness and relevancy of Turkmens within and outside of Iraq.

2.1. Enhancing on the Areas of Struggle for Iraqi Turkmens

The Turkmen people of Iraq have faced great hardship and struggles throughout their modern history (World War I to present). Within this section of the essay, it will be evident that the most critical areas of struggles for Iraqi Turkmens have been through historical, geopolitical legitimacy, and human rights violations. Moreover, over the last decade or so one issue that has exponentially surfaced is the restriction of functioning and expanding Turkmen educational institutions within Iraq. The existing educational problems will be extended upon in the latter part of this section but for now, the essay will shift its attention to the inception of the historical and geopolitical struggles for the Iraqi Turkmens.

In order to efficiently understand the historical and geopolitical struggle one must look at pivotal points in history and unravel the decision made at the time, which consequently has had a negative influence for Turkmens. There are five points of areas of emphasis:

1-) 1920-1930: The fall of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of the British: an area of unprecedented for the Turkmens.

2-) 1932-1958: The establishment and rule of the Iraqi Monarchy,

3-) 1958-1968: The fall of Monarch and the rise of a republican Iraq,

4-) 1968-2003: The Tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein under the Ba’athist party, and

5-) 2003-Present: A new beginning under a new Federalist Iraq.

2.1.1        1920-1930: Out with the Ottoman Empire and In with the British

The fall of the Ottoman Empire subjected to the result that Mosul and Kirkuk once within the borders of the Ottomans were now under the supervision of the victors of World War I England and France. In the Ankara Agreement of 1926, Mosul had been allowed to the new established Iraqi state under the mandate of England.[17] From that point on the fate of the Iraqi Turks residing in Mosul and Kirkuk were no longer under the influence or an area involving Turkey.[18]

The value and importance of Mosul-Kirkuk has been unmatched in the region in terms of culture and civilization not only for Turkmens but also for one of greatest civilizations in the world in Mesopotamia. “However, the protection of the human and cultural rights of the Turks living in Iraq was not on the agenda, instead it had been left to the initiative of the Iraqi administration.”[19] This is one of the central reasons as to why the Turkmens have struggled over the years; the lack of international pressure on the domestic governments to meet the legal expectations of providing fair living conditions for all of its Iraqi citizens including Turkmens has not been constant or existent.

2.1.2        1932-1958: The Establishment and Rule of the Iraqi Monarchy

As a result of the struggle of the people of Iraq, particularly of the Iraqi Turkmens, Britain conceded to terminate British mandate in Iraq in 1932; and Iraq was ruled as a sovereign monarchy between October 3, 1932 and July 14, 1958.[20] Within this phase of history Turkmens were still facing many of the issues stated in the former section with the accomplice of additional new issues like proving their existence through population, the right to practice its cultural language and tradition as granted to them under the Universal Declaration for Human Rights signed and accepted by Iraq in 1948.

In one of the cases, the Iraqi administration was reluctant to present an ethnic census and rather identify the Turkmens as other ethnic groups. For many years, the Iraqi administrations carried out assimilation and destruction policies against the Turkmens. The policies included procedures like political and cultural pressure, forced migration, Arabization, and expropriation of real estates in the Turkmen regions (Kirkuk, Mosul, Telafer etc.) and the distribution of these estates to the partisans of the regimes (Arabs).[21] It is important to note that the constant pressure of Arabization was exerted from the start of the British mandate up until the removal of Saddam Hussein. Since the departure of Ba’athist regime, a new wave of identity superiority has surface in the exertion of “Kurdification”.

Furthermore, the pressure exerted by the British mandate and King Faisal I was to make sure that the descendants/roots of the former Ottoman Empire did not have any chance or means to utilize their environments and gain dominance in the region and in this case in Iraq ever again.[22] The Iraqi administration inserted their ideas into action and from 1936-1958 any course of activity resulting in the creation of any Turkmen association(s) around the practice and publication of cultural and social act was strictly prohibited.[23]

In addition to the former, under the rule of Nuri Said (Former Prime Minister) in 1958, the right to attain a Turkish education was prohibited.[24]These are just a few of the discriminatory actions inflicted by the monarchial rule of Iraq. Prior to Nuri Said’s action, in 1950 the Iraqi administration wanted to limit and or restrict any educational institutes where the teaching instruction would be in Turkmen in Kirkuk and other occupant Turkmen areas (Tuzhurmatu, Telafer). By 1954, in Tuzhurmatu all the books that were in Turkish were burned.[25]

Another area of significance was economic instability for Turkmens. Arguably, one of the key treaties that were signed during the time was the Baghdad Pact (Feb 25th 1955). The treaty was an insurance of security and defense but most importantly, it was an economical partnership between Iraq and Turkey. During this period, the Baghdad pact was in no way considering or recognizing the situation of the Iraqi Turkmens.[26] Meanwhile unemployment was one of the biggest concerns for Turkmens, and even if they were employed they would have to overcome great obstacle to maintain their position. For example, in the case of employment by the state they would be transferred to places outside Turkish enclaves in an effort to dilute concentration of the Iraqi Turkmens. Any one dared to resist was severely punished.[27]

Furthermore, in Kirkuk the chances to attain a position at oil manufacturer was hard but it was even harder for Turkmens, even with the ones that had attained the proper education and skill set to fulfill the requirements of their job. However, the Iraqi administration in order to reduce the potential power and the influence of Turkmens in the oil-rich region, only the Arabs were selected for employment in the new workshop set-up in Kerkuk.[28] None of the Turkmen who had applied for employment were accepted. Previously, 80% of the employees were Turkmen. This shows the discrimination of the Iraqi government against the Turkmen.[29]

2.1.3        1958-1968: The Extermination of the Monarchy and the Rise of the Iraq Republic

On July the 14th 1958 a coup d’état lead by Gen. Abd el-Karim Kasim overthrew the monarchy and declared inception of the Republic of Iraq. Most importantly on the radio station Kasim declared Iraq to be constituted with three main ethnic groups, and the Turkmens were one of them.[30] For the first time, there was an official attachment between the Iraqi administrative authorities and the Turkmen people.

It was evident that in this phase of Iraq’s history Turkmens were starting to witness rights of existence and credibility, which paved the way for a steady life style. This resulted in-grants to certain rights (cultural associations, media outlets) they had fought for over the years, however these rights where obtained at heavy cost through horrendous actions of ethnic cleansing in 1959. Before the essay emphasizes on the newly established rights and organizations granted to the Turkmens in Iraq it is important to survey the political effect 1959 Kirkuk Massacre.

The Turkmen martyrs where mostly high ranked politicians, academicians and students. In the words of Maryon Farooq, “Kirkuk Massacre on the 14th of July, 1959 (that was carried out by the Kurds against the Turkmen civilians), stated that the Turkmen are the dominant population in Kirkuk, whereas the Kurds are the recent settlers that immigrated from the North.”[31] The Kerkuk massacres in 1959 were unforgivable crimes that were committed by the Kurdish communists against innocent civilians in the Turkmen city of Kerkuk.[32] According to Kocsoy, the massacre lasted for three days and three nights (July 14-16th 1959), in some cases Turkmens were being buried alive. The sights of agony and despair of mothers and wife’s as they looked over their martyrs.[33] Overall, the massacre claimed the lives of several hundred Turkmens.

On the conclusion of the first day of the massacre, it was evident that the Kurds had previously planned the massacre and had accomplished their objective: Turkmen citizens of the city were the sole victims with 25 dead and 140 wounded.[34] In some cases, Turkmens were picked up from their homes pretending that they were being taken to their place of work, were savagely shot dead on the street. The bodies of the martyrs were hung on electric poles.[35] Amongst others, the most active Turkish politicians and intellectuals were killed using very wild and savage methods. Many of them were pulled behind cars until they died in the major streets of Kirkuk City.[36] Interestingly, Demirci points out that while all of this was going on surprisingly no reaction was demonstrated anywhere around the world; the silence of the international community was sort of tacit candonement of the heinous crime.[37]

Once the Iraqi authorities regained control over the city of Kirkuk, Kasim went on public radio to indicate his condolences to the Turkmens in his speech where he protested against the massacre and made the case that such events must not occur in a civilized society such as Iraq. “Kasim described the crimes perpetrated on the Turkmen as barbaric and comparable to the blood thirsty crimes committed by Hulaghu Khan, who had sacked Baghdad in 1258. He said, neither Hulaghu in his time nor the Zionists had committed such atrocities.”[38] In another speech, delivered after a few days, on the occasion of the opening of a new studio for the Iraqi Radio Station, he suggested naming the studio: “Turkmen Studio” as a gesture of sympathy to the Turkmen for what they had suffered.[39]

The speech delivered by Kasim was essential for Turkmens as it gave them clearance from the Iraqi authority to freely and proudly open new cultural and educational organizations. On August 28 1960, the first Turkmen Teachers Union was established. The Union over the years played a significant role in pressuring governmental authorities to allow primary education be instructed in Turkish.[40] Furthermore, universities in Iraq should allow Turkmen cultural clubs and encourage the diversity of ethnicities and culture in Iraq.

In addition, under Kasim’s authority Turkmens were granted the right to enjoy and display their culture proudly to a certain extent. In 1960 for the first time within the borders of Iraq, Turkmens officially created a political and cultural organization called Turkmen Brotherhood in Baghdad. In a year’s time, they opened a branch in Mosul and Arbil.[41] The facilities prime goal was to support and create a cultural norm for Turkmens in Iraq. Likewise, in 1959 the first organization to officially represent Turkmens was established in Ankara. It was called the Irak Türkleri Kültür ve Yardımlaşma Derneği (ITKYD) (Iraq Turkish Cultural and Assistance Association). However, the festivities did last long, in 1963 Kasim was assassinated and the Social Ba’athist party seized political power in Iraq under Abd El-Salam Arif. Under Arif’s regime there was not much mobility, however in 1966-1967 with the help of the Turkmen Brotherhood, a bunch of university students created a weekly newspaper called “Iraq” that would be printed in both Turkish and Arabic and distributed to the public.[42] However, Arif was killed in a helicopter crash in 1966. His brother Abd El-Rahman succeeded him as the president. The period of relative tranquility would not last long. It ended with the coup d’état of July 1968.[43]

2.1.4        1968-2003: The Tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein under the Ba’athist Party

Once Hussein and the Ba’athist party were in power they were accepting of the minor ethnicities as they declared a package for the right of minorities in 1970. Some of the notable rights that were given to Turkmens were establishments of primary school and the promotion of the Turkish language in school curricula’s, weekly and monthly newspapers in Turkish and Television rights on Kirkuk TV.[44] In addition, in 1970 Kurds were granted autonomy under the new Iraqi constitution.“It was defined in the 1970 constitution that Iraq was composed of two major nationalities, “Arabs and Kurds”. The official language was Arabic, and Kurdish language was accepted as the official language along with Arabic in Kurdish regions. The Turkmen were neglected in the constitutional platform. The structure and attitude of the Iraqi constitutions conflicted clearly with articles of the 1932 declaration that allowed the Iraqi Government to join the international society.”[45]

It was not much longer, that the Ba’athist party started converging against the constitution on minority rights that they once created. Moreover, the Ba’ath party rule, commencing in 1968, opened one of the darkest chapters in Turkmen history. The Ba’ath party forced people to sign petitions asking for the closure of Turkish language schools, and to appoint Arab administrators in Turkmen areas.[46] “Arabization” once again was being implemented in the hopes of the Ba’ath party to eliminate all minor ethnicities in order to create a nation with one superior ethnicity and culture group as Arabs. In one instance, the Iraqi government started a new strategy to replace all Turkmen teachers with Arab teachers; they also sent all Turkmen teachers to non-Turkmen areas. An all-out assimilation campaign against Turkmen was unleashed. Turkmen youngsters with university degrees were given jobs in non-Turkmen areas.[47]

On different point, the Ba’ath party to a certain extent was achieving its vision; however, the Turkmens continually resisted to the changes implemented upon them by the Iraqi authorities, even if the consequences were a severe form of punishment. In fact, Saddam’s regimes created and maintained the policy whereby the Turkmen were compelled to abandon their territories and were forced to change their ethnic identity, as their villages were destroyed. The Turkmen opposing cruelty and pressures had been arrested or executed without any legality.[48] Since 1970, Turkmens have been forced out of the Turkmen region, and the ethnic composition of the region was forcibly altered. A Ten-year programme to eradicate all Turkmen presence in northern Iraq started in 1975 and 1985.[49] In Iraq’s judicial system, the Turkmen were ignored; the several Iraqi constitutions did not mention the Turkmen

Stoel a UN reporter stated that Arabs enjoined special incentives and rights encouraging them to move to historically Turkmen areas including especially the oil-rich cities of Kirkuk and Mosul. In addition, the government changed the name of the Turkmen cities (Kirkuk became Tamim) and in the 1980s, Turkmen societies, institutions and properties were all said to have been officially “Arabized.”[50] Furthermore, Saddam Hussein’s regime had produced various legislations in order to change the demography of the area. They wanted to dilute the concentration of Turkmen within the Arab society. The Turkmen in Kerkuk were forbidden to possess and operate at any petrol station in Kerkuk and around the surrounding areas.[51] As Demirci quotes, “In order to encourage Arab settlement in and around Kirkuk, the government offered 15.000 Dinars (Est. $30,000) in cash support to each of the Arab settlers. In addition they granted 700 to 10.000 Dinars ($1,400 – 20,000) to set up farms.”[52] Moreover, the government went as far as to offer money to young Arab men as they were encouraged to marry Turkmen girls with offers of 10,000 Iraqi Dinars. As male Turkmens would out number their females, the significance of this practise in altering demographics character of the area need no elaboration.[53]

The Ba’ath regime in the constitutions of 1968 and 1990 not only denied the presence of 3 million Turkmen but also embarked on a long-term plan to strip Turkmen of their constitutional rights and to achieve a complete Arabization.[54]The 1980’s saw the execution of countless Turkmen leaders and elders who were, often falsely accused of spying for Turkey or Iran. During the Iran–Iraq war, dozens of Turkmen villages were totally bulldozed to the ground. [55] After the war the Turkmen cities (Telafar, Kirkuk) were heavily migrated by Kurds and Arabs.

The Iraqi government was not hiding the fact as to what they were doing and recklessly continued its policy of ethnic cleansing in the Turkmen and Kurdish regions during this period with the objective of displacing large numbers of the inhabitants.[56] Moreover, Turkmen and Kurd citizens were subjected to arbitrary raids, inspections, intimidation and forced deportations during the ethnic cleansing campaigns of the government. Even children were taken as hostages as part of a deliberate government strategy to force their parents to depart from their places of residence.[57]

In a similar situation the massacre, caused thousands of Turkmen to migrate to the borders of Turkey and Iran, (at the beginning of April 1991); Nearly 17.000 Turkmen reached the Turkish borders, under difficult circumstances. Due to the fact that Turkey granted the right of refuge to Turkmen and Kurds who escaped from Iraq, nearly 15 thousand Turkmen were settled into Semdinli, Yüksekova, and about seven thousand Turkmen had to take refuge in Iran.[58] Some of the Turkmens returned back to Iraq and some stayed in Turkey and Iran. Once the war between Iran and Iraq concluded, Turkmens once again tried to stabilize a political and cultural environment for themselves. The ITF (Iraq Turkmen Front/ Irak Turkmen Cephesi (ITC)) took office by appointment. In order to form the Turkmen political movement. this protocol played an important role for the reintegration of the Turkmen who were about to be disintegrated, and became the starting point of the road to the Turkmen General Assembly.[59] During the time when ITF main office was on Arbil the KDP (Kurdish Democratic Party) unleased several military attacks on their buildings in 2000, which forced them to transfer their office to Kerkuk.

Iraq as republic went through a lot of changes, and Turkmens faced many obstacles (as seen above) yet they maintained a certain amount of strength to resist Ba’athist pressure. However, one thing that remained was unrecognition of Turkmens and prohibiting them to publicly display their ethnicity, be it in practice of language or to wear their cultural attire. On 6th September 2001, in an unprecedented move, the Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council – which ranks higher than the so-called Iraqi Parliament – passed Resolution No. 199 giving all non- Arab Iraqis over 18 the right to change their ethnic identity to that of Arab.[60] Such a decision was contrary to all the principles of human rights and was politically motivated. Its purpose was to compel all non- Arabs in Iraq to adopt an Arab ethnic identity. This law legalized the regime’s policy of ethnic cleansing directed against Kurds, Turkmen and Assyro-Chaldeans.[61]

2.1.5        2003-Present: A New Beginning under a New Federalist Iraq.

At the beginning of the era the KDP were still reluctant to make deals or even recognize the Turkmens for that matter. In2003, KDP officials who hosted the opposition meeting maintained their negative attitude towards the Iraqi Turkmen in this meeting. KDP officials claimed small numbers for the Turkmen population, which cannot be taken into consideration.[62]

However, this did not last long as the Turkmen participated in the parliament and local elections on 30 January 2005 with three organizations as ITF, Turkmen National Movement, and Joint Iraqi Alliance for the Shiite Turkmen through a quota for the Shiite list. Provincial councils were established in every province within the framework of administrative restructuring, however the Turkmen were granted lower representation rights.[63] At the end of the election, ITF received 73791 votes. Thus, ITF could get three deputies in the Iraqi parliament, which has 275 seats, 5 Turkmen out of 141 deputies from the Joint Alliance of the Shiites.[64]

2.2   The Foundation and Brief Aims of Turkmen Cultural Associations (TCA)

One common theme among all association(s) pertaining to culture is that they have a set of identity albeit ethnic, religion, and/or language oriented. In general, TCA claim that their goal is to explain and show the uniqueness of Iraqi Turkmens. Notably outside of Iraq, there are several associations and foundations that have been established such as Denmark, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, United Kingdom, Canada, France, USA and Australia.[65] More importantly, all of the organization including Canada, Netherlands, and Turkey are not officially conjoined with one another, but have consistent contact with one another.

A common point among the associations is that they want to be seen as an organization that wants to practice its culture outside of Iraq. Second, be able to wear its cultural attire, speak its language, and practice its tradition without any discrimination. The best example of this is the associations in Netherlands and Canada. Through their website (Tanis) and interview with the former Head of the Canadian-Iraqi Turkmen Cultural Association (CITCA) Mr. Seyfeddin Kureci suggested that the region they lived in encouraged them to practice and combine the two distinct cultures together. Mr. S. Kureci said that in Canada they wear their ethnic Turkmen attire on Eid, special community events, and other special events (Summer Cultural Awareness Festival Week). I asked Mr. S. Kureci why is it relevant for Turkmens to wear their cultural attire to the events they join. He replied simply by saying “firstly when we wear our Turkmen attire we have this level of appreciation for the country that we live in where it does not discriminate or judge a person on what they wear…Secondly, by displaying the unique outfits it draws great interest from Canadian people and arouses their interest in knowing more about Turkmens and encourages them to research as to who they are.”[66]

When analyzing the TCA separately, it is important to identify their level of commitment they have to their jobs and the high intensity to proudly wear their cultures on their sleeve. However, even with this there is one area that is of issue and that is their cautious behavior in getting involved in the political sphere. What makes it unique and sometime its weakening point is it’s over attachment to its roots, which often refrains it from developing into a noticeable association. To elaborate further on this issue the fear comes from the thought that what Turkmens might do outside the borders of Iraq might affect them when they return back to their homeland or affect someone they know living in Iraq. A great example of this was during Saddam’s regime where a sense of proudness or action of ethnic superiority author than Arabic (specifically Ba’athist) was prohibited. Some Turkmens fought the constant pressure of Arabization by fleeing to Turkey where the culture, language, and religion was similar to theirs.

However, this carried on even after the fall of Saddam’s regime where Turkmens within Iraq are constant victims of terrorist attacks in Kirkuk, Baghdad and Mosul. In Arbil even though terrorism is under control as it rarely occurs, there still is discrimination from the Kurdish authorities towards ITF. While interviewing the current head of ITF (Arbil Branch) Mr. Azat Kureci, he explained that “The Kurdish authorities were reluctant to give us the permission to open a branch in Arbil, hence from 2005-2012 there was no official political representation of Turkmens in Arbil.”[67] This sense of restriction and oppression has negatively affected the cultural organization abroad because they cannot effectively contribute any political support. The restriction placed upon political groups within Iraq places a heavy burden and the cultural association to act on behave of them, which was the case for ITKYD.

Before I go onto the next section and provide and analysis on ITKYD there is one last point that has caused problems for Turkmen living in Iraq and abroad and is need to be addressed if Turkmens want advance, socially, culturally, and politically. There is this sense of negative self-imagery amongst Turkmens that they are infectively and powerless and cannot accomplish any sort of significance for their community. However, Mr. Mehmet Tutuncu president of ITKYD, suggested that Turkmens especially the ones who live abroad as slow gaining self confidence and actively contributing to their organization. Furthermore, Mr. Tutuncu said that Turkey has been a constant supporter of our association since our inception and continues to provide financial, social, and political assistance and reminds us that we are apart of a wider Turkish brotherhood.[68]

2.2.1        Where it all started? The First Step Taken In Turkey

ITKYD was created in 1959, by a group of Turkmen idealists residing in Turkey. It was the first Turkmen association to officially represent Turkmens within and/or outside of Iraq. Six months after ITKYD the first Turkmen Brotherhood was created in Baghdad, Iraq. Some of its fundamental goals during its start: quoted by President of ITKYD Mehmet Tütüncü was to help Turkmen student register for universities, help businessmen adapt to their new environment; and most importantly to create a cultural bridge between its neighbouring country in Turkey and introduce itself to the public.[69] One of the earlier issues ITKYD faced was low level of seriousness the Turkish authorities had with protecting Turkmens in Iraq. The 1955 Baghdad Pact with Iraq was strictly an economic and political strategic agreement between the two nations and the rights of the Turkmens in Iraq was not relevant enough to appear on the agenda.

Furthermore, ITKYD was the first Turkmen association to look at issues dealing with civil societal and higher education students in Turkey. The Turkmens who migrated to Turkey were assisted socially and culturally in order for them to get use to their new atmosphere. ITKYD created several initiatives to correspondence, maintain, finance and provide moral support, to Turkmens that immigrated to Turkey and the ones coming in the future.[70]

Lastly, ITKYD has a functioning website that can be viewed in the preference of Turkish and Arabic. In addition, there are numerous amounts of books, magazines, brochures and publications for the public to view. In addition, at certain periods of the association, many people are benefiting from courses that are open to the public. On various days of the year, memorial, and other important days and weeks are marked through seminars, panels, symposia’s, thus providing a voice of  Turkmens in the  Turkish public. Furthermore, along with the branch in Istanbul it has three other branches in Turkey in Ankara, Konya, and Izmir. During our interview, Mr. Tutuncu emphasized that in order to understand and appreciate the ITKYD one has to analyse the associations’ development in three relatively important phases. The first phase is suggested to be from 1959-199, the second phase would be from 1991-2003, and the third and last phase would be 2003-present.

2.2.2        Phase 1: 1959-1991

During its inception, one has to keep in mind the political unrest that was shaping up in Iraq. Saddam Hussein was coming into power, Arab nationalism was at its highest point in terms cultural and ethnic domination in Iraq. There was this sense of oppression and restriction that the founding members of IKTYD felt was necessary to open a Turkmen association to identify to Turkey the suffrage the Turkmens had endured since the fall of the Ottoman Empire on the earlier parts of the Twentieth Century. Their main effort as outlined in the previous part was to get new refugees and immigrants attuned with the new culture in Turkey.

However, through the 1970’s and 1980’s Iraq went through a changing political process “The reign of Saddam Hussein” had begun and the rights of oppression of Turkmens was reintroduced. Due to political instability in Iraq many refugees fled to Turkey for a better hope of living condition through education and jobs. Turkey was a safe place for most Turkmens due to the similarities in culture, language, history, and religion it attracted a fair amount of refugees. In addition, one of the issues that really attracted Turkmens to Turkey was the high unemployment rate of Turkmens in Iraq. Mr. S. Kureci even pointed out that he had attained a BSC in chemical/petroleum from Mosul University but due to his ethnicity was unable to get a job position, unless he changed his ethnic status.[71]

This in turn caused the ITKYD to reform its vision and participate in politics which current president Mr. Tutuncureminded me was not an area of much interest for the Association. This inconsistency continued for another decade until the Gulf War and the Invasion of Iraq into Kuwait. Mr. Tutuncu quotes “one thing to note even though Turkmens were crossing borders from Iraq to Turkey we ITKYD had no contact or any sort of mutual relationship with Iraq. Why is that? Because we didalong with the Turkish government did not approve of its dictatorial method of governance.”[72]

2.2.3        Phase 2: 1991- 2003

The second phase was a critical stage for both ITKYD and the Iraqi government. At the beginning of phase, Iraq had just got out of the Gulf war and faced some political dilemmas in the Middle East most noticeably with its neighboring countries like Iran. Furthermore, by the end of the second phase Iraq and its people started witnessing the depletion of the Saddam power, which gave way to the second Gulf War. The depletion of Saddam’s regime provided many difficulties for the Iraqi people but it mean even greater struggles for minority groups like the Turkmens. For one ITKYD had seriously started to be heavily involved in the political sphere and due to the heightened elements of wars Iraq inflicted on its self.

Furthermore, during this period many Turkmens fled because of the political pressure instilled by Iraqi authorities. The reason of flee: Infringement of right as Turkmens, and unidentifiable justification of death sentence for threatening or undermining the rule of governance. In addition, the role of ITKYD once again sifted to administrative role: by finding a place to live, registering kids to school, generally helping Turkmens adapt to a new life style at the same time the association was continuing its normal routine practise of publicly displaying the Turkmen culture.

2.2.4        Phase 3: 2003-present

The third and final phase was a period where Turkmens re-identified itself in the public eye, from the former act of oppression that was instilled by Saddam Hussein. The end of Saddam Hussein’s regime created new opportunities, which were confined during his rule. One of which was to finally incorporate the vision of creating the bridge between Turkey and Iraqi Turkmens.

Up until 2003, ITKYD was the only cultural association that politically/culturally surfaced the voice of Turkmens to the global world. The political pressure instilled on it made it more affiliated with politics than culture. However, after 2003 Iraq Turkmen Front (ITF) once again officially started covering all the political affiliated issues pertaining to Turkmens in Iraq. This relief of burden allowed ITKYD to finally focus on its main vision of reintroducing the Turkmen ethnic group to Turkey and to the world.

The new sense of identity and hope given to the association within Iraq and IKTYD paved the way for other association abroad to form and fallow in the footsteps of IKTYD and ITF to identify that there is a Turkmen problem and culturally and ethnically, the oppression does exist. In order to get rid of this oppressive attitude the Turkmen associations needed to address the global world of the issue and provide plausible solutions to the problem.

2.3          A New Wave of Patriotism/Nationalism

Along with IKTYD, one of the best ways to reach out to the public on the Turkmen issue is by creating seminars, conferences and debates. One of the associations that has really benefited from this is TANIS in the Netherlands. The Turkmen “Tanis” society in Netherlands organized a panel on the subject of Kirkuk referendum 2007 and its reflection on Iraq and Iraqi Turkmen. The panel was attended by many media members of Netherlands including Arab, Turkish and foreign journalists and guest attendants.[73]

Furthermore, TCA like the ones in Canada, and the Netherlands are also involved in the community by creating activities and participating in cultural events through folklore dance group, theater plays (In the past they have participated in National Kids Day promoted by Turkey). Mr. S. Kureci quoted “Every year we hold a ceremonial amongst ourselves in remembrance of the 1959 martyrs is Kirkuk. … The last couple of years we have attracted more people and even in some cases we have attracted local media outlets and political affiliates to remember an important part of our history.”[74]

On different point, The Turkish government is a consisted supporter of ITKYD through administrative help such as issuing residency, and giving university scholarships. The association is approved and entitled with an honorary status by the Council of Minister in 1994.[75] This status gives the association special status in Turkey which privileges ITKYD to have funding without taxation, however due to the economic incapability and size of the association it has refrained from this advantage. As stated earlier through the support of the Council of Ministers ITYKD has broadened its borders to three new cities (Izmir, Ankara, and Konya) while Istanbul serves as the main branch.

Furthermore, the current phases has created a healthy environment for Turkmens to be heard regarding their historical and geopolitical issues, and are starting to gain relevancy both in Iraq and globally. New life has been brought back into both inside and outside of Iraq. Inside of Iraq new form of political and cultural associations have been created, for the first time they have their own television outlet (Türkmeneli TV). Outside of Iraq there is this gradual growth in the creation of new Iraqi Turkmen Cultural Associations in Sweden, Denmark, and Germany. It has now been a decade since Turkmens and their fellow Iraqi people have been freed from the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein, many new changes have occurred but yet many obstacles remain in front of each cultural organization albeit domestically and internationally. None is more important than their cooperation with one another.

2.4          Looking Towards the Future

Mr. Tutuncu and Mr. S. Kureci both agreed that one of the issues with each of their associations is their level of engagement with one another. They suggested that the minimal level of engagements is due to minimal level of participatory of Turkmens within their associations and each association has its own sets of goals and efforts and are not intangibly unionized or attached in any form other than their Turkmen culture.

However, they were inclined to say that if either association has issues, they will assist one another and if they were in the visiting country, they would pay a visit to one another. Most importantly, they insisted that they were more entertained with getting in-tuned with their culture and not too worried with the formalities and acting like governmental institution. They send published books, pictures, and articles relating to the events they have organized to one another.

2.5          Conclusion

In conclusion, Iraqi Turkmen have faced many obstacles along the way dealing with issues of demographic existence, population, political and human rights issues. Above all the events that have occurred they are still regarded as a minority ethnic group in Iraq, however through the establishment of Turkmen Brotherhood in Iraq, ITKYD in Istanbul and various other organizations around the world Turkmens have broadened their horizons into promising areas. The aim of these associations is most importantly to maintain a keep in practice their culture in the foreign lands they live in.

Unlike most association pertaining to ethnicity and culture, TCA’s were heavily relied upon to be engaged in political dilemmas. Most often domestic and international TCA’s struggled to be heard in trying to preserve their ethnic lifestyle within their homeland Iraq or as Turkmens call it (Turkmeneli). The fall of Saddam’s regime prompted new nationalism among Turkmens living abroad to create associations to keep in touch with their culture and their homeland.

Turkmen Cultural Associations (apart from ITKYD) are a new chain of changes that has come to formulate a sense of identity. Turkmens through these associations can educate and introduce to the global world of how eager they are to explain its history, culture, language, and ethnicity for the world to enjoy, so that they may not be another minor ethnic group living in globalized world.



Books and Journals:

– Al-Hirmizi Arshad, The Turkmen Reality in Iraq, İstanbul: Kerkuk Vakfi (Kerkuk Foundation), 2005.

– Al-Hirmizi Ershad, The Turkmen and Iraqi Homeland, İstanbul: Kerkük Vakfı: 2003.

– Burnett Judith, Doing Your Social Science Dissertation, London: Sage Publications, 2009.

– Demirci, Fazıl, The Iraqi Turks Yesterday and Today, Ankara: Turkish Historical Society, 1991.

– Demirci Güçlü, “Irak Türklerinin Demografik Yapısı-Demografic Structure of Iraqi Turks”, in Türkler Ansiklopedisi (Encyclopedia of Turks), Ankara: Yeni Türkiye Yayınları, Volume:20, 2002.

– Hürmüzlü Erşat, Türkmenler ve Irak, İstanbul: İzzettin Kerkük Kültür ve Araştırma Vakfı, 2003.

– Kayili A. Gökhan, The Iraqi Turkmen (1921–2005), İstanbul: Kerkük Vakfı, 2008.

– Kerkuklu Mofak Salman, “Turkmen of Iraq” (Dublin/Ireland 2007).  

– Koçsoy Şevket, Irak Türkleri ve Türk-Irak İlişkileri: (1932-1963), İstanbul: Boğaziçi Yayınları, 1991.

– Petrosian Vahram, “The Iraqi Turkomans and Turkey”, Iran & the Caucasus, Vol. 7, No. ½, 2003.

– Saatci Dr. Suphi, “Conference Report Iraqi Turkmen: The Human Rights Situation and Crisis in Kerkuk”, Qardashlik Journal: March 2007.

– Saatci Suphi, Tarihten Günümüze Irak Türkmenleri, İstanbul: Ötüken Neşriyat A.Ş., 2003.

– Şentürk Medayi, A Bibliography of Iraqi Turks, Ankara : Başbakanlık Dokümantasyon Daire Başkanlığı, 1994.

– Sirkeci Abrahim, “Turkmen in Iraq and International Migration of Turkmen”, Ankara: A report for Global Strategy Institute, January 2005, p. 7.

– Umar Zubaida, “The Forgotten Minority of Iraq”, Inquiry (London), February 1987.

– Van Der Stoel Max, Violations of Human Rights in Iraq: Turkomans, United Nations Commissions of Human Rights: 1994.

– Yakuboglu Enver, Irak Türkleri, Istanbul: Boğaziçi Yayınlar.


– Interviewed: Mr. Kureci Azat on the Reopening of ITF in Arbil. Via Skype: Nov, 5th, 2013.

– Interviewed: Mr. Kureci Seyfeddin on the Inception of Canadian-Iraqi Turkmen Cultural Association. Via Skype: October, 27th, 2013.

– Interviewed Mr. Tütüncü Mehmet on the Inception of Iraq Turkish Cultural and Assistance Association, Istanbul: October 24th, 2013.


– ITKYD, “Dernek Hakkinda”, (Ankara, 2009).

– Tanis. 2007.


Turkmeneli (The Land of Turkmens


[1] Enver Yakuboglu, Irak Turkleri, Istanbul: Boğaziçi Yayınlar, 1976, p. 182.

* The opening line of the essay is quote of poetry (as Turkmen called Hoyrat) and it is an AB rhythmic poetry. In this particular case, the poet is explaining its love for the city of Kerkuk (One of many inhabitant Turkmen cities). His love for the city is so much that he would please his death before losing the city to anyone else.

[2] Mofak Salman Kerkuklu, “Turkmen of Iraq” (Dublin/Ireland 2007), p. 8,   

[3] Vahram Petrosian, “The Iraqi Turkomans and Turkey”, Iran & the Caucasus, Vol. 7, No. ½, 2003, p. 280.

[4] Petrosian, p. 281.

[5] Kerkuklu, p. 9.

[6] See Appendix A, for Turkmeneli Map.

[7] Güçlü Demirci, “Irak Türklerinin Demografik Yapısı-Demografic Structure of Iraqi Turks”, in

Türkler Ansiklopedisi (Encyclopedia of Turks), Ankara:Yeni Türkiye Yayınları, 2002, Volume:20,

p. 614.

[8] A. Gökhan Kayili, TheIraqi Turkmen (1921–2005), İstanbul: Kerkük Vakfı, 2008, p. 5.

[9] Kayili, p. 6.

[10] Zubaida Umar, “The Forgotten Minority of Iraq”, Inquiry (London), February 1987, p. 37.

[11] Kerkuklu, p. 31.

[12] Kerkuklu, p. 33.

[13] Dr. Suphi Saatci, “Conference Report Iraqi Turkmen: The Human Rights Situation and Crisis in Kerkuk”, Qardashlik Journal, March  2007, p. 19.

[14] Abrahim Sirkeci, “Turkmen in Iraq and International Migration of Turkmen”, Ankara: A report for Global Strategy Institute, January 2005, p. 7,

[15] Judith Burnett, Doing Your Social Science Dissertation, London: Sage Publications, 2009, p. 64.

[16] Ibid, p. 65.

[17] Medayi Şentürk, A Bibliography of Iraqi Turks, Ankara: Başbakanlık Dokümantasyon Daire Başkanlığı, 1994, p. XXV.

[18] Şevket Koçsoy, Irak Türkleri ve Türk-Irak İlişkileri : (1932-1963), İstanbul: Boğaziçi Yayınları, 1991, pp. 127-128.

[19] Ibid, p. XXV.

[20] Fazıl Demirci, The Iraqi Turks Yesterday and Today, Ankara: Turkish Historical Society, 1991, p. 17.

[21] Şentürk, p. XXVI.

[22] Koçsoy, pp. 128-129.

[23] Suphi Saatci, Tarihten Günümüze Irak Türkmenleri, İstanbul: Ötüken Neşriyat A.Ş., 2003, p. 209.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Erşat Hürmüzlü, Türkmenler ve Irak, İstanbul: İzzettin Kerkük Kültür ve Araştırma Vakfı, 2003, p. 45.

[26] Saatci, 2003, p. 212.

[27] Demirci, 1991, p. 17.

[28] Kerkuklu, p. 43.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Demirci, 1991, p. 19.

[31] Kerkuklu, p. 94.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Koçsoy, p. 131.

[34] Arshad Al-Hirmizi, The Turkmen Reality in Iraq, Istanbul: Kerkuk Vakfi (Kerkuk Foundation), 2005, p. 106,

[35] Demirci, 1991, p. 22.

[36] Kerkuklu, p. 109.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ershad Al-Hirmizi, The Turkmen and Iraqi Homeland, İstanbul : Kerkük Vakfı: 2003, p. 77,

[39] Ibid.

[40] Hürmüzlü,  p. 55.

[41] Ibid, p. 56.

[42] Ibid, p. 58.

[43] Demirci, 1991, p. 25.

[44] Ibid, pp. 27-28.

[45] Kayili, pp. 34-35.

[46] Kerkuklu, p. 28.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Kayili, p. 42.

[49] Kerkuklu, p. 81.

[50] Max Van Der Stoel, Violations of Human Rights in Iraq: Turkomans, United Nations Commissions of Human Rights: 1994, p. 19.

[51] Kerkuklu, p. 43

[52] Demirci, 1991, p. 32.

[53] Ibid, p. 33.

[54] Kerkuklu, p. 81.

[55] Ibid, p. 28.

[56] Al-Hirmizi, 2003, p. 100.

[57] Ibid, p. 63.

[58] Kayili, p. 52.

[59] Ibid, p. 61.

[60] Kerkuklu, p. 77.

[61] Ibid.

[62] Kayili, p. 63.

[63] Ibid, p. 76.

[64] Ibid, p. 77.

[65] Kerkuklu, p. 72.

[66] Interviewed: Mr. Seyfeddin Kureci on the Inception of Canadian-Iraqi Turkmen Cultural Association. Via Skype: October, 27th, 2013.

[67] Interviewed: Mr. Azat Kurecion the Reopening of ITF in Arbil.Via Skype: Nov, 5th , 2013.

[68] Interviewed Mr. Mehmet Tütüncü on the Inception of Iraq Turkish Cultural and Assistance Association, Istanbul: October 24th, 2013.

[69] Interview with Mr. Tutuncu, 2013.

[70] ITKYD, “Dernek Hakkinda,” (Ankara, 2009),

[71] Interview with Mr. S. Kureci, 2013.

[72] Interview with Mr. Tutuncu, 2013.

[73] Tanis. 2007,

[74] Interview with Mr. S. Kureci, 2013

[75] Interview with Mr. Tutuncu, 2013.

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