vendredi 4 mai 2007


Iraqi Turkmen Representatives and other Members
of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO)
at the United Nations in Geneva, during the UNHCR’S 61st Session
March 2005


The following is one of the written statements presented and distributed by the
Iraqi Turkmen Representatives (*) from Belgium who attended the
UNCHR 61st Session in Geneva in March 2005.


Although the Iraqi Turkmens are the third largest ethnic group in Iraq, representing 12% of the country's population, they have suffered from assimilation policies and have seldom enjoyed their cultural rights.

In the early 1970s many of the limited cultural rights they had been granted were taken away, education in their Turkish mothertongue in the primary schools was stopped. They could no longer publish their Turkish language newspaper and their radio and television broadcasts were cancelled.

They were treated as second class citizens and were deprived from their basic human rights. In 1997 when the “nationality correction” process was introduced some Turkmen residents from Kerkuk, Tuz Khurmatu and other Turkmen towns and districts were obliged to change their Turkmen identity and register as Arabs in order to buy a house or find a job.

All these cultural and identity repressions have had serious consequences on the Turkmen community as whole. Turkmen culture was not allowed to flourish and people were not even allowed to speak their mothertongue in government offices in their region, Turkmeneli.

Although oil-rich Kerkuk is one of the major cities in Iraq (containing 40% of Iraq's oil wealth!), it was the only large city in the country which did not have a University; students residing in the Turkmen region “Turkmeneli” were obliged to go and study in Baghdad, Musul or Suleymaniya.
After the fall of the Ba’ath regime the Turkmens hoped that their cultural rights would finally be respected and that the Turkish language would again be considered one of Iraq’s official languages. Their disappointment was great when the new Iraqi constitution recognized only two official languages: Arabic and Kurdish.

Thus, Turkish, a language spoken by over 12% of Iraqi citizens and one of the world’s major languages was simply ignored in the “new democratic Iraq”!

When they took over the city of Kerkuk in April 2003, the American supported Kurdish peshmergas imposed the use of the Kurdish language in all government offices in Kerkuk and in other Turkmen cities, they removed all signs which were not in Kurdish and put up Kurdish signs in the streets and even in the city’s hospitals.

The Turkmens are opposed to the Kurdicisation of their region "Turkmeneli" and they refuse the annexation of Kerkuk, their capital city and main cultural center, to the Kurdistan Region.
They do not want to suffer the same fate as the 300.000 unfortunate Turkmens of Erbil who have been sacrificed by the Ba’ath regime when their city was given as a 'present' to Mullah Mustafa Barzani in return for his acceptance to end the Kurdish rebellion in 1970.

During the January 2005 national Iraqi elections, the ballots and all other official documents were printed in two languages only: Arabic and Kurdish. The Turkmens protested against this discrimination and demanded that Turkish be recognised as the third official language in Iraq and that the Turkish language would have its place on future official Iraqi documents and forms.

If their language continues to be denied the place it deserves in Iraq and especially in Turkmeneli (the region in the north of Iraq which is mainly inhabited by Turkmens), the Turkmens fear that they will continue to be subjected to assimilation and marginalization policies, this time not by the Ba’ath regime, but by the Kurds in the so-called “democratic Iraq”.

For Iraq to be recognized and accepted by the international community as a truly democratic country all its citizens, whatever their ethnic origin, should have the right to keep their cultural identity, therefore, Turkish must be recognized as one of Iraq's official languages together with Arabic and Kurdish.

Merry Fitzgerald,
Committee for the Defence of the Iraqi Turkmen Rights
Geneva, March 2005.

(*) Dr Hassan Aydinli and Mrs Merry Fitzgerald

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