by Ali Kocak
The Reality of the Turkmen Population in Iraq
The dilemma of the Turkmen population in Iraq has become a real irony. Although in the era of post Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian diversity has become well-recognized in the United States and in the world, the Turkmens are being slipped off the pages despite their claim of being the third largest nationality in Iraq, and they are banging on the door for national recognition and self - determination.
On the one hand, the Turkmens claim that their population in Iraq is more than 3 million (13% of Iraq’s population); but on the other hand most of the major media and the scholars in the United States present them in very diverse numbers ranging anywhere from 100 thousand to a million [Graham Fuller, 72 Foreign Affairs, 121 1992-1993], or up to 1.5 million [Inquiry Magazine, February 1987 London].
This ambiguity and the diversity in the numbers makes us wonder and ask what is the reality of the Turkmens and their population in this melting pot which makes up Iraq’s diverse ethnic and sectarian mixture. The reality of this diverse distribution and the share of the Turkmens in this mixture have long been suppressed throughout the years. The Turkmens claim further that even in the post Saddam era, for intentional and unintentional reasons, they have been undercounted and their significant presence in Iraq has been forgotten.
To understand the reality of the Turkmens in Iraq and the source of their claim, one may need to consider reviewing some historical facts: In accordance with decisions made during the Lausanne Treaty, a Committee was established to investigate the Social, Economic and the Ethnic structure of the Mosul Province.
The established Committee concluded with the following reports: The only official newspaper published in Kirkuk was in Turkish. British political officers, among the local languages, were able to speak only in Turkish. The population of Altinkopru, Tuzhurmatu, Taze hurmatu and the 75% of Karetepe were inhabited by Turkmens. The population of Taze hurmatu and Tavuk were made up of Turkmens, though in the villages there were some Kurdish inhabitants.
The commission, in their report, also considered and reflected observations made by British traveler Oliver in 1809 about the area. Based on the observations, the Committee reported that the distribution of the population in the Mosul Province was as follows [Dr.Fazıl Hüseyin, Musul Meseles (Mosul issues), S.95 Baghdad 1967]: Christian: 7000 - 8000 Jews: 1000 Arabs: 25000 Kurds: 15000 -16000 Turkmens: 15000 -16000.
The first draft and the original constitution of Iraq were written in three languages: Arabic, Kurdish and Turkish. According to article 74 of Iraq’s constitution, published in 1931, Turkish should be the court language in areas in which the Turkmen population is in majority. The first census in Iraq was conducted in 1947 and it showed a population of 4,816,185 [The New York Times, September 14, 1957] However, the first census which included the ethic structure of Iraq was conducted in 1957 and showed the total population of Iraq as 6,300,000, while the Turkmen population was estimated to be 567,000 [Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, Volume 24, Number 2, October 2004, pp. 309-325(17)].
After the “1958 revolution”, the new government estimated the Turkmen population, based on 1957 census results, to be 570,000 and in 1965, according to Iraq’s Ministry of Planning, Department of Statistics, the Turkmen population was estimated to be 780,000. According to the statistical data provided by the Iraqi Government, Iraq’s life statistical results showed the following: Population density per square kilometer was: 42 person /km2 Average Birth rate: 4.5% Average population increase: 3.7% Average births per woman: 7 children Death rate: 0.87%.
In reference to the statistical data provided above, Iraq’s population was estimated to increase from (11, 505,000) in 1976 to (18,100,000) in 1988 [Iraq’s Ministry of Planning].
Based on these data and projections for the years 1921, 1926, 1947, 1957, 1959, and 1965, the estimated percentages of Iraq’s ethnic structure were as follows: Christians: 3% , Turkmens: 16%, Kurds: 18%, Arabs: 63%. The distribution of ethnic groups in Iraq’s total population (18,100,000) in the year 1988 was estimated as below: Christians: 546,000 Turkmens: 2,880,000 Kurds: 3,240,000 Arabs: 11,444,000.
In accordance with the data presented by Iraq’s Ministry of Planning, the population of Iraq in the year 2000 was shown to be 20,000,000. Based on this figure and the previous estimation, the Turkmen population in the year 2000 was estimated to be 3, 200,000. 15% of this population inhabits Arbil and 85% live in Kirkuk and Mosul, with some in Baghdad.
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