The Turkmens are the third main ethnic group in Iraq and the second main ethnic group in the north of Iraq. Their population is estimated at 3 million (12% of the Iraqi population).
Northern Iraq has been the homeland of the Iraqi Turkmens for over a millennium. The Turkmen region TURKMENELI lies between the Arab and Kurdish regions of Iraq, it stretches from Tel Afer in northern Iraq near the Syrian border to Mendeli near the Iranian border. The Turkmen population in Iraq is concentrated in the Provinces of Musul, Erbil, Kerkuk, Salaheddin, Dyala and Baghdad. Their biggest concentration is in Kerkuk, their capital city and main cultural centre since more than 800 years. Turkmens have played a constructive and important role in Mesopotamia (Iraq) where they established states and principalities and governed the region during centuries.
Since the creation of the Iraqi State in 1921 as a consequence of World War One which caused the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and the inclusion of the actual north of Iraq (Musul Vilayati) into the Iraqi State, the Turkmens are systematically discriminated, marginalized and oppressed in Iraq for geopolitical and economical reasons as the Turkmen region contains huge oil and gas reserves, concentrated around Kerkuk, Khanaqin and Ayn Zala. For these economical and geopolitical reasons the successive Iraqi governments have tried to assimilate the Turkmens and purposely underestimated their number and true representation in Iraq, considering them as a small minority!
Since the occupation of Iraq by the Anglo-American forces on 9th April 2003 the situation of the Turkmens has deteriorated even more and more dramatically as a result of the U.S. decision to allow the Kurdish parties (KDP and PUK) and their militia to penetrate, occupy and control Kerkuk and all other important Turkmen towns and cities of the Turkmen region, as a reward for their collaboration during the invasion of Iraq. Since then, the Turkmens are subjected to even harsher policies of discrimination, marginalization and oppression, but this time by the Kurdish Parties which are now controlling the entire north of Iraq and for the same economical and geopolitical reasons.
The Kurds claim that Kerkuk is a Kurdish city; they are now actively busy kurdifying it, their aim is to annex Kerkuk to the Kurdish Autonomous Region in order to benefit alone from its oil and gas wealth. To achieve this goal the Kurdish parties have brought over 600.000 Kurds from the Kurdish autonomous region as well as from Syria, Iran and Turkey and settled them in Kerkuk and its surroundings, some of them in the houses vacated by fleeing Arabs, some others in government buildings, military camps, military personnel housing and compounds in and around Kerkuk and the remaining are still waiting in their makeshift houses and slums established on the lands belonging to the Turkmens. All of this is in preparation to annex Kerkuk to the Kurdish region through a referendum at the end of 2007 called for by the infamous Article 140, which was conceived and written by the Kurds and which has been incorporated under the pressure of their lobby in the “New Iraqi Constitution”.
For the above reasons, Turkmens denounce the Kurdish hegemony in the north of Iraq as well as Kurdish influence and manipulations of Iraqi politics since 2003, they reject Article 140, they are against the annexation of Kerkuk and other Turkmen town and cities to the Kurdish Autonomous Region, they demand the revision of the New Iraqi Constitution in order to be recognized as the third main community in Iraq, with rights equal to those obtained by the Arabs and the Kurds.
The Turkmens, being more vulnerable today than ever before in their long history in Iraq, are calling on the European Union and the United Nations asking their urgent help, support and protection in order to obtain their rights, achieve their objectives and preserve the existence of their community and their culture in Iraq.
Committee for the Defence of the Iraqi Turkmen Rights - Belgium
TANIS Association for Iraqi Turkmens - The Netherlands.
Brussels, 1st July 2007