by Merry Fitzgerald
Europe-Turkmens of Iraq Friendship Association
When speaking in the name of the people of Tel Afer at the European Parliament in Brussels during the Iraqi Turkmen Conference on 27th March 2007, little did I know that on that same day the martyr city of Tel Afer was once again the scene of horrible acts of violence and killings of more than 150 innocent Turkmen civilians.
The Western media reported that a truck packed with 1,814 kilograms (4,000 pounds) of explosives detonated in a Shi`a area of the city and that this was the deadliest single attack since the invasion of Iraq 4 years ago. They also reported that Shi`a gunmen, including police, went on a ‘revenge shooting rampage’ afterwards, killing at least 45 Sunni men.
But according to the Shi`a Turkmen Council in al-Mosul, it is the Kurdish parties who carried out the 27th March bombings of civilians in Tel Afer, sparking “retaliatory” massacres later that night.
The Association of Muslim Scholars of Iraq (AMSI) reported in a dispatch that “the Shi`a Turkmen Council, one of the more important Turkmen party in al-Mosul, had issued a statement blaming the pro-American Kurdish separatist leadership for carrying out the bombings of civilian targets in Tel Afer on Tuesday March 27th, 2007. Those bombings killed some 70 people (*) and prompted pro-Iranian Shi'a sectarians to massacre over 70 Sunnis in "reprisal."
(*) The latest reports of those bombings mention that some 152 people were killed and 185 were wounded.
AMSI reported the Turkmen Shi`a Council as saying that the bombings served the interests of the Kurdish movement that aspires to steal what it called the “Turkmen region” of Tel Afer.
Demonstrators who took to the streets after the Tuesday bombings placed the blame for the atrocities directly on the Kurdish separatist leaders and their American military backers, saying that it was they who let the explosives-laden truck to pass and then detonated it by remote control – maintaining that there was no “suicide driver” as the news media widely reported.
The Turkmen statement denounced the Kurdish separatist militia, the Peshmerga, saying that Peshmerga gunmen prevented puppet police from stopping and inspecting the truck bomb. The Council also denounced the fact that some Shi`a parties were ignoring testimony about this evidence out of partisan motives.”
I disapprove and abhor the use of the terminologies ‘Shi`a’ and ‘Sunni’ when they are utilized in this context as they only serve to exacerbate divisions between Iraqi Moslems. I also deplore the targeted killings of innocent Iraqi Turkmen civilians who are being ethnically cleansed in order to change the demography of their region, the Turkmeneli region of Iraq.
The Turkmens of Iraq (are Sunnis and Shi’as - more or less half -half) have never discriminated among themselves on the basis of their Islamic religion. They have no interest in killing each other and for many centuries there have been intermarriages between Turkmens of both sects of Islam. These fratricidal killings do not serve Turkmens’ interests… cui bono? for whose advantage?
The evil coalition of the US neo-cons, UK new-labour and their Australian followers, led by the war criminals Bush, Blair and Howard - who waged an illegal war of aggression against the Iraqi people leading to the occupation of their country in April 2003, after having intentionally destroyed the entire infrastructure of the country - have actively instigated ethnic and confessional divisions between the Iraqi people in order to destroy the fabric of the Iraqi society and divide Iraq in small entities and cantons.
At first they turned the Kurds against the Arabs and the Turkmens, then the Arabs and the Kurds against the Turkmens, and then they divided Arabs and turned their Shi’as against their Sunnis. Now they are trying to divide the Turkmens between Sunnis and Shi’as and they are also provoking clashes between different Arab Shi`a groups. It is clear that their aim is to destroy the fabric of the Iraqi society, where Iraqis - Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens, Chaldeo-Assyrians, etc - have been living side by side in harmony, respecting one another for many centuries. (1)
The Turkmens of Tel Afer have been victims of the worst humanitarian conditions since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. While thousands of them have been forcibly evicted from their houses and from their city the Kurdish parties of Messrs Barzani and Talabani continue with their policy of ‘kurdification”, they are bringing in thousands of Kurds and are settling them in the areas Turkmens were forced to leave. What the American military call operation “Empty Tel Afer” has resulted in the devastation of thousands of civilian lives.
The siege of Tel Afer is an example of American and Kurdish brutal incursions into densely populated areas under the pretence of “fighting terrorism”. The real terrorists are those who use heavy artillery bombardment, aerial bombing raids, who destroy power lines and water systems and who continue to terrify families with their house-to-house searches and raping women. F. Zeyn el-Abidin, a Turkmen Member of the Iraqi Parliament, declared that the American military had blocked access to the city and did not allow him to enter.
The crimes against humanity committed by the US military never reach, in full details, the American newspapers and are barely mentioned in the other Western media. How many in the West know that the US has used chemical weapons such as white phosphorus in Tel Afer? Who in the West knows that not one foreign fighter was captured during the siege of Tel Afer, despite US and Kurdish parties’ claims that the city was a ‘haven for foreign terrorists’?
Rumsfeld, a war criminal, had given the siege of Tel Afer his personal blessing and the operations were carried out ‘on his orders’. (As he also had encouraged the looting and burning of Iraq’s Ministry buildings, museums, libraries, universities, etc. when his invasion army reached Baghdad in 2003, declaring that “Iraqis were learning to practice democracy”).
While the US made carnage was going on in Tel Afer, Bush, the war criminal, declared on 20th March 2006, when addressing the City Club of Cleveland: “The operation (in Tel Afer) accomplished all this while protecting innocent civilians and inflicting minimal damage on the city”!!! Are the Americans so stupid and gullible to believe all the lies coming from their leaders, or is it that they simply don’t care about the massacre of Iraqis perpetrated by their military?
Everyone who saw the terrible photos taken by photographer Chris Hondros - which were taken on January 18, 2005, when a Turkmen family of 8 who were travelling in their car were shot at by the US troops, killing Camille and Hussein Hassan, the parents and injuring 5 of their children - has understood how little the US military value Iraqi lives.
The residents of Tel Afer who were under siege, who have been displaced, maimed, arbitrarily detained and whose loved ones have been killed or have disappeared are weeping tears of blood, they are crying in the desert, but no one hears them, no one pays attention to their cries for help.
On May 13th, 2005, I remember writing an article under the title: “Telafer, ville fantôme, ville oubliée” (Tel Afer, a ghost city, a forgotten city) (2) after reading an appeal from a resident of Tel Afer, saying that for over eight months their city was under siege, that they had no water and no electricity and that the occupation troops did not allow humanitarian aid to reach their city. I am neither a politician nor a journalist but as a human being and advocate of human rights, I was so alarmed that I did not know what to do, so sent this article to several newspapers to alert them, but I guess my cry of despair for the poor people of Tel Afer did not reach their ears either…
Where is the U.N. who is supposed to protect civilians and condemn violence against civilian populations? Where is the International Community and where are the Human Rights defenders? Have the Iraqi people ceased to be considered as Human Beings by the UN and by the International Community?
The January 2005 election in Iraq has not ended the occupation, it has allowed the Kurdish warlords, Barzani and Talabani, to unjustly install their hegemony over Turkmen territories and cities, with the blessing of the US occupiers.
Someone has to stop these arrogant Kurdish militias who think they have nothing to fear and can go on using brutal force on the defenceless Turkmens who are the only community in Iraq without weapons and militias.
My only hope is that the European policy and decision makers will hear the cries of distress of the people of Tel Afer and of all the Turkmens of Iraq who are being targeted and ethnically cleansed under the foreign occupiers and their Kurdish allies whose plan is to divide Iraq.
(1) In an interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, Sami Rasouli, an Iraqi American who helped establish the Muslim Peacemaker Team gives a different assessment of the situation in Iraq, contradicting that given by the Bush administration and the mainstream media.
Amy asked Rasouli to comment on these latest figures as well as the recent attack in Tal Afar, “the worst attack -- having the worst casualties since the invasion of Iraq.”
He replied saying:
“Well, I heard Senator McCain talking about the progress, which I kept hearing this from the President and the rest of the administration’s officials in the last four years. But speaking about Tal Afar as an example, I was a member of Muslim Peacemakers Teams, among others, accompanied with Peggy Gish and Michele [Naar-Obed] from CPT, or the Christian Peacemakers Team -- this is sometime in January 2006 -- we visited the second Grand Ayatollah in Najaf, Sayed Mohammed Saeed al-Hakim, and he told us this story after we introduced ourselves as Peacemakers. He said Tal Afar is populated by all kind of people that form the beautiful mosaic formula of the Iraqi fabric society, which Sunnis beside Shias -- and by the way, I’m a Shia, and my wife is a Sunni, so this is a normal intermarriage in Iraq within the Iraqi society.
“So, sometimes in September 2005, the people of Tal Afar faced heavy bombing from the U.S. air raids, and they had to leave the city seeking refuge. Those are families, women and children seeking refuge -- next city, which is Sinjar. And Sinjar is populated by Yezidis, and falsely known in Iraq as Satanic worshippers. And those Yezidis were ready to receive and offer refuge for the Sunnis and Shias who fled the city of Tal Afar, and they offered them homes, food, mattresses, other needs, and assured them that they would leave if they don't like them to be with them, because they held a different religion. So they left to stay with their relatives, the Yezidis, and allowed the Shias and Sunnis to stay in their homes until the crisis would be over in Tal Afar.
“And since then -- actually since May 1, 2003, when the President announced major military operation combat was over -- they still in the state of fleeing their homes -- it's not only in Tal Afar -- across the country. There are over two million Iraqis have got displaced in Iraq in their home own land, became refugees. There are people from Tal Afar that are still in Najaf and Karbala, and we met them, and we tried hard, as the members of the Muslim Peacemakers Team, to offer them refuge, shelter, food and others donated by the Iraqis themselves. They still share with them what they need. And, by the way, Iraqis still are surviving for that Food-for-Oil Program or Oil-for-Food Program. And it's not enough, but they try to survive within the insecurity and hardship conditions of the occupation.
Par Merry Fitzgerald
Comité de Défense des Droits des Turkmènes Irakiens Belgique
13 mai 2005
Depuis plus de huit mois la ville de Telafer, située à 80 km à l’ouest de Mossoul et dont les 250.000 habitants sont majoritairement turkmènes, est devenue une ville fantôme.
Les habitants de cette ville sont sans électricité et sans eau depuis plusieurs semaines.
Sous prétexte de rechercher des terroristes les américains et leurs alliés les milices kurdes ne permettent pas aux convois d’aide humanitaire de pénétrer dans la ville. Les habitants restent cloîtrés dans leurs maisons de peur qu’on leur tire dessus, ils ne sortent que pour chercher de quoi se nourrir, leurs enfants ne vont plus à l’école.
Les habitants de Telafer se plaignent que les troupes d’occupation ont endommagé leurs maisons et leurs lieux de travail. Durant les dernières ‘opérations’ plus de 40 civils innocents ont perdu la vie. Les ‘gardes nationaux’ occupent plusieurs quartiers de la ville.
Craignant de nouvelles attaques américaines certains résidents ont quitté la ville et vivent sous des tentes, dans des conditions tout aussi dangereuses et précaires.
Les hôpitaux manquent cruellement de matériel médical et de médicaments et certains quartiers de la ville manquent de nourriture.
Un député turkmène du Parlement irakien, Feyha Zeyn el-Abidin signale que les militaires américains ont bloqué l’accès à la ville et qu’ils ne lui ont pas permis d’y pénétrer.
La situation qui prévaut à Telafer depuis plus de huit mois inquiète beaucoup le représentant du Parti du Front Turkmène, Ahmet Muratli, qui a lancé un appel au Président Jalal Talabani et au Premier Ministre Ibrahim Jaafari, leur demandant d’agir au plus vite pour mettre fin à cette situation catastrophique.