The UN and the Assyrians of Iraq
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Assyrian International News Agency
Representatives of the non-Kurdish Arab, Turkoman and Assyrian groups in northern Iraq believe that Article 140 supports Kurdish interests
(AINA) -- The UN recently issued two documents. Both documents are important and related in one way or another to the Assyrians and their future on their ancestral lands in Iraq (Mesopotamia) in general and in northern Iraq (Assyria) in particular.
On October 11, 2007, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) issued its eleventh report on the human rights situation in Iraq, covering the period from April 1 to June 30, 2007 quarter. The report states:
Having been forced to abandon their homes, many are living in dire conditions without access to adequate food supplies and basic services, with children being particularly vulnerable to disease.
It warns of growing displacement stating that,
Large-scale displacement of Iraqi civilians continued due to the ongoing violence, including direct death threats, abductions or killings, in many parts of Iraq." The report notes that the, "UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that some 2.2 million Iraqis are currently refugees abroad, around half of whom are in Syria.
Meanwhile, in northern Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) continues its totalitarian policies against non-Kurds and against those who are not supportive of the two powerful Kurdish political parties, The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Barzani and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) of Talabani.
In regards to Freedom of Expression in the three northern Iraq provinces under Kurdish control, for example, UNAMI states:
UNAMI urges the KRG authorities to respond to individual cases raised with them involving threats against or arrest of media professionals in the Kurdistan region, including those who had reported on public interest issues. The authorities should clarify the legal basis and reasons for such arrests, and any persons detained should be accorded their rights under the law. No person should be held unless charged with a cognizable offence and referred to court.
Furthermore, in regards to the Situation of Minorities in northern Iraq, the report states:
During the reporting period, UNAMI continued to receive renewed claims of persecution and discrimination of Assyrians and Turkoman in Kirkuk and Mosul by armed groups.
The Assyrian Christians, the indigenous people of Iraq, face complete extermination; they face policies of ethnic cleaning. The Kurds continue to open offices for their political groups and militias in purely Assyrian towns. The KDP forces Assyrians to raise Kurdish flags even on private Assyrian homes at times.
The KDP does not allow businesses to acquire historic Assyrian names or display business banners in the Assyrian language (AINA, 3-10-2007). In Bartella, an Assyrian town near Mosul, efforts are being made to build a Hussainiyya (a Shi'aa mosque) by individuals who built another mosque during Saddam's era. This is being planned despite the fact that this town is within the region that is under Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution. The Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) raised this issue during a recent meeting with Dr. Hunayn al-Qaddo, Iraqi Member of Parliament and Head of Minorities Council. Of course, Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution (based on Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law) demands from the elected Iraqi executive authority to complete the normalization of Kirkuk and other disputed territories through census and referendum by a date not exceeding December 31, 2007. In other words, the future of Nineveh Plains and whether it should be annexed to the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq is at the balance. Now, whether this process will be completed in the next couple of months as instituted in Article 140 is to be seen, still, the plan is in motion.
While members of the special committee that is implementing Article 140 are meant to be impartial, different ethnic groups accuse the committee of being biased and influenced by Kurds. Many of these accusations have come from representatives of the non-Kurdish Arab, Turkoman and Assyrian groups in northern Iraq who believe that Article 140 supports Kurdish interests. Under the pretext of reversing the forced Arabization campaign, between 100,000 to 150,000 Kurds have entered Kirkuk (many even from outside Iraq), thus altering the city's demographics in their favor. The KDP and PUK have planned this earlier through their Peshmerga (Kurdish irregular armed forces) as they entered government buildings and destroyed government records (including grant deeds records and other records) after the collapse of Saddam's regime in 2003. Thus, it is much easier for Kurds to make claims as suits their national interests.
The implementation of Article 140 today would most likely result in a Kurdish majority and Kirkuk will most likely be annexed into the KRG. On October 21, 2006, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was compelled to appoint a Turkoman to the committee after the Turkomans complained vigorously that Article 140 only served Kurdish interests, (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 22, 2006), the Kurds protested and were very angry. Why are the Kurds angry? Why not have an Assyrian and a Turkoman on the committee? Why are the Kurds controlling all committees, councils, etc.? Are they the only oppressed minority in Iraq? How about the Yezidis and the Shabaks? How about Iraq's indigenous people of modern Iraq, the Assyrians?
On May 8, 2007, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament met with Mr. Massoud Barzani, President of the KRG region in northern Iraq. Mr. Ablahad Astepho, representative of the Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO) -- European Office, attended the meeting. Although only members of the Foreign Affairs Committee had the right to question and participate in the debate and discussion, the Assyrian European lobby was given the opportunity to present prepared and written questions that addressed Mr. Barzani. After a general introduction on the situation of Iraq, questions were posed to Mr. Barzani, almost a half dozen of which dealt with minority rights, especially those of the Assyrians and Turkmen under the control of the KRG. The questions put forth were of concerns regarding where the non-Kurds would fit into the planned referendum for the contested city of Kirkuk.
Mr. Barzani responded by stating that the new Kurdish regional constitution will guarantee the rights of all groups living in the region and that all groups will be able to vote freely and according to their own conscience in the referendum for Kirkuk. Additionally, Mr. Barzani underlined that his "government was adamant to adhere to the unity of Iraq as long as every party respected the Iraqi Constitution" and argued that "separation of religion and state is necessary" for a functioning Iraqi state. Mr. Barzani talks the talk but does not walk the walk. He and the KRG are fully involved in, for example, allowing churches and clergymen to meddle in Assyrian political and national matters and is undermining and marginalizing the officially elected ADM representatives through the 2005 national elections. The latest Kurdish region draft constitution preamble neglects to mention the Assyrians and their rooted history in northern Iraq. It separates the Assyrian people into "Assyrians and Chaldeans" and its wording is very vague in regards to many rights.
I need to stress that the KRG's acts of discrimination, persecution and oppression against the Assyrians, as an ethnic and not as a religious group, have continued since its original establishment in 1992, but intensified since 2003 US invasion. The KRG uses individual Assyrians that are members of the Kurdish political parties, sympathetic to Kurds or sold out to the KDP to represent the Assyrians. It was proven that the KDP had rigged the Iraqi national elections of January and December 2005 (AINA 1-31-2005, 2-10-2005).
Many ballot boxes from areas populated by Christians and Yezidis were stolen without any action or response by local, regional or central authorities. The KRG is marginalizing the winner in those elections, the ADM, and for all practical purposes kept it out of the political process. The KRG filled certain ministerial cabinets with Assyrians that support the KRG, are members of the Kurdish political parties or those who have failed to show in the two elections. Such ministers include Sargis Aghajan, Nimrod Baito Youkhanna and George Mansour. The Barzani's KDP enlisted Assyrians in the Kurdish ticket running in the 2005 elections, such as Abd al-Ahad Afram Sawa, Fawzi Hariri (later a minister) and Romeo Hakkari, in order to have a pro-Kurdish Assyrian in the Iraqi National and in Northern-Iraq Kurdish Regional Parliaments and/or governments to counter the true Assyrian voice represented in the ADM.
These practices are clear. There is a reason why the KDP and Barzani rely on these individuals.
The UN General Assembly on September 13, 2007 adopted a non-binding declaration upholding the human, land and resources rights of the world's indigenous people, brushing off opposition from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. The vote in the assembly was 143 in favor and only 4 against. Eleven countries, including Russia and Colombia, abstained. The declaration, capping more than twenty years of debate at the United Nations, also recognizes the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination and sets global human rights standards for them. It states that native peoples have the right "to the recognition, observance and enforcement of treaties" concluded with states or their successors. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the Philippine chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, joined UN chief Ban Ki-moon in hailing the vote. "It marks a major victory for Indigenous peoples," said Tauli-Corpuz, adding that the document "sets the minimum international standards for the protection and promotion of the rights" of native peoples.
This was a historic vote. The Assyrians, as the indigenous people of Iraq, could benefit immensely from it if they take advantage of properly. But on September 23, 2007, Mr. Nimrod Baito Youkhanna, Secretary General of the Assyrian Patriotic Party (APP) and Minister of Tourism in the KRG, at a presentation in Stockholm, Sweden, stated that the Assyrians are not the only indigenous people in Iraq and that the UN resolution was not to include the Assyrian people since the Assyrians are not endangered or are not facing extinction. This he stated despite what the Assyrians are facing today. He also rejected a report by Ms. Margareta Viklund, member of the Assyrian Swedish Association, after her recent visit to Iraq where she talked about the situation of the Assyrians and showed that they are facing persecution by the KRG. The Kurdish minister denied these allegations and stated that they are flat wrong. If the KRG, KDP and other Kurdish institutions are involved in pushing such unfair practices, interfering in internal Assyrian affairs, church included, how would the Assyrians guarantee that what happened in 2005 Iraqi elections for example would not be repeated in the upcoming census and referendum in Kirkuk and other disputed territories, including the Nineveh Plains?
The Pro-Kurds Assyrian ministers through the Ankawa Conference of March 12-13, 2007 and its so-called national congress set-up by Sargis Aghajan and Sami Behnam al-Malih are planning everything in their power to annex the Nineveh Plains to the KRG. This would end the historic status of this Assyrian region, as Dohuk and other Assyrian regions have been lost to the Kurds in the last few decades in northern Iraq.
On October 13, 2007, Ammar al-Hakim, the heir apparent of Iraq's top Shiite politician, came out strongly in favor of giving more control to Iraq's religiously and ethnically divided regions. This call appeared to echo growing support among some in Washington, including Sen. Joseph Biden. Biden, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who has been the most prominent advocate of a plan in Congress that would break Iraq into three self-rule entities: Sunni Arab, Shi'aa Arab and Kurdish. Biden sponsored a non-binding resolution laying out the plan that won Senate approval last month on a 75-23 vote.
Sen. Biden's suggestion to break up Iraq is the choice of many in US Congress and others around the world. If this became the path of the new administration in 2008, the implementation of Article 140 is more important than ever. The United States needs to assure that its, and Israel's, strong allies, the Kurds, will have a sizeable region to control in northern Iraq, an area which will include oil rich fields of Kirkuk and Diyala and strategic outlet to the Tigris River through the Nineveh Plains. Thus, the annexation of these regions to the KRG must take place before the suggested three divided regions are drawn.
Assyrian political groups must exploit the two latest UN documents: The UNAMI report and the UN Indigenous People declaration in order to secure legitimate Assyrian rights on their own historic and rooted lands.
REMINDER : on 9th May 2007 Dr. Hassan Aydinli, Iraqi Turkmen Front Europe Representative addressed the following letter to Members of the European Parliament:
To the attention of:-
Mr. Jacek SARYUSZ-WOLSKI, Chairman of the Committee of Foreign Affairs
Mr José SALAFRANCA, MEP
Mr Jan Marinus WIERSMA, MEP
Baroness Emma NICHOLSON, MEP
Mr. Cem ÖZDEMIR, MEP
Mr. André BRIE, MEP
Mr. Philip CLAEYS, MEP
Ms. Jana HYBASKOVA, MEP
Mr. Istvan SZENT-IVANY, MEP
Mr. Joost LAGENDIJK, MEP
Mr .Vittorio AGNOLETTO, MEP
Ms. Pasqualina NAPOLETANO, MEP
Comments regarding Mr. Massoud Barzani’s declarations at the European Parliament in Brussels on 8th May 2007 by the Iraqi Turkmen Front's Europe Representative.
9th May 2007
Dear Mr. Chairman,
Dear Honourable Members of the European Parliament,
As an Iraqi Turkmen and representative of the Iraqi Turkmen Front in Europe, I was looking forward to listen to Mr. Massoud Barzani’s “exchange of views” with the Members of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee on 8th May 2007 in Brussels. I was hopeful that Mr. Barzani’s declarations would contribute to calm the situation and reduce the ethnic tensions which are building up dangerously in the north of Iraq since the invasion and the occupation of the country by the Anglo-American forces in March 2003, when the U.S. Administration allowed the Kurdish militias of Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani to penetrate and take control over the entire Turkmen region in the north of Iraq, as a reward for their collaboration in invading the north of Iraq.
Kurdish crimes and exactions against the Turkmens in Iraq
After listening to Mr. Barzani’s opening statement in which he started by saying: “we the people of Kurdistan have never been part of the problem but we have always been part of the solution” I was shocked, because this statement is not only far from the truth but it is also deceitful, as Mr.Barzani and his party ‘KDP’ never stopped creating problems for the Turkmens of Iraq since the revolution of the 14th July 1958 in Iraq, when his father, Mr. Mustafa Barzani, returned from his exile in the Soviet Union and started his project to create a Kurdish State in the North of Iraq, incorporating in his project most of the Turkmen region with its towns and cities in the governorates of Erbil, Diyala, Mosul and Kerkuk with special emphasis, of course, on the oil-rich Turkmen city of Kerkuk, despite the fact that at that time Kurds represented only a small minority of its inhabitants. The same can be said of towns like Dakouk, Tuz Khurmatu, Altun Kopru, Kifri, Khanakin, etc… and even of Erbil where according to the official governmental records the total population of the city in 1961 was 282.487 inhabitants and only 100.668 (36%) of them were Kurds! (Ref: “The National Government and the Issue of the North”, Publications of Dar Al-Jumhuriyah, Baghdad 1965).
Naturally and rightfully, the Turkmens rejected this unjustifiable and unacceptable project of an overextended Kurdish State incorporating most of the Turkmen Region and its major towns and cities, consequently the ethnic tensions rose between the Turkmens and the Kurds and the trust disappeared between these two communities in Iraq and tensions have never eased up to now.
The Turkmens have been put under intense pressure, suffered from discrimination, have been marginalised, faced forced displacements, confiscation of properties, loss of jobs, downgrading, administrative transfers, arbitrary arrests, imprisonments and killings at the hands of the Kurdish Democratic Party members led by Mr. Mustafa Barzani who allied himself with the Iraqi Communist Party and dominated the Iraqi politics between 1958 and 1963.
1- On 14th July 1959 Mr. Barzani’s party members and their Communist allies in Kerkuk committed terrible atrocities against the Turkmens, killing 25 and seriously injuring 130 of their activists, community leaders and intellectuals, in order to subdue the Turkmens’ resistance to Mr. Barzani’s political project.
2- In August 1996 Mr. Barzani and his Kurdish opponent Mr. Jalal Talabani disagreed sharply over their respective shares of the money that they were collecting from contrabands and from transit taxes that they imposed at the border gate between Iraq and Turkey and this led them to engage in fierce fighting for the control of the Kurdish Region in the north-east of Iraq.
While the militia of Mr. Barzani were losing the fight and were on the brink of losing their last positions in Erbil, Mr. Barzani implored the Iraqi President and the Ba’ath regime in Baghdad to come to his rescue!
Effectively, the then Iraqi President, Mr. Saddam Hussein, agreed to send his Special Forces to the north of Iraq – despite the fact that at that time the region was declared ‘safe haven’ by the Anglo-Americans and that it was forbidden for the Iraqi forces to go in - to save Mr. Barzani from defeat and humiliation.
Swiftly, in three days, the Iraqi Special Forces defeated Mr. Talabani’s militia in Erbil and in Suleymaniya, forcing the remaining few combatants to flee to Iran, and they restored Mr. Barzani’s power in Erbil on the 30th August 1996.
On 31st August 1996, Mr. Massoud Barzani to thank his ‘saviour’, the Iraqi President and his Ba’ath regime, ordered his militia to collaborate with the Iraqi Special Forces and guided them to the headquarters of the Iraqi Turkmen Front and all the other Turkmen offices and institutions: schools, Radio and TV stations and buildings belonging to the Turkmens in Erbil. During these operations they arrested or killed all the Turkmens that they could catch, they took thirty-four of them as prisoners to Baghdad after destroying or confiscating all the documents and files they found in the buildings. To-date these thirty-four unfortunate Turkmen activists remain unaccounted for.
On 1st September 1996, Mr. Massoud Barzani rushed to Baghdad where he was shown on the television not only kissing Saddam Hussein but also kissing the same Iraqi flag that he now forbids to put up in the region under his control.
3- On 22nd August 2003, while the Turkmens of Tuz Khurmatu were celebrating the restoration of Imam Murtatha Shrine which had been damaged during the war, the Kurdish militia attacked these peacefully celebrating Turkmens, killing five of them and badly injuring nine, for no reason at all. When the news of this crime reached the Turkmens of Kerkuk they came out to protest and ask for a commission to investigate and punish the criminals. During this demonstration the Kurdish militia in Kerkuk once again opened fire on the unarmed civilian Turkmen demonstrators, killing three and injuring twenty-one of them. The pictures and names of these victims were published in Turkmeneli Newspaper issue 592 year 9, published on 27th August 2003.
The above are only a few examples of the crimes committed by the Kurdish militants and armed militia against innocent and unarmed Turkmens.
Then, Mr. Barzani said that Iraq is facing two big problems today, the first one terrorism and the second one sectarian conflicts. I was again shocked that he did not mention the two real big problems of Iraq which are:
1) the occupation of the country by Foreign Forces since March 2003 who are directly responsible for bringing terrorism and inciting sectarian conflicts and
2) the occupation of the Turkmen Region in the North of Iraq by the Kurdish Peshmerga who were authorized by the American occupiers to penetrate, control and impose their hegemony over the Turkmens, denying them their basic Human Rights.
The New Iraqi Constitution
Mr. Barzani mentioned the New Iraqi Constitution, conditioning his support for the unity of Iraq to the acceptance of other Iraqis of all the articles of this Constitution, even though this Constitution was written under Foreign Military Occupation and mostly by non-Iraqis. He insisted on Article 140 that was written and imposed by the Kurds and which was added at the last minute to the New Constitution.
Article 140, as you know, deals with a very important and sensitive issue, not only for the Turkmens of Iraq but for ALL Iraqis, except perhaps for the Kurdish minority, as it was thought and written by the Kurds and their foreign consultants to suit the Kurds’ special agenda and self interest, to facilitate for them the “kidnapping” of Kerkuk, its annexation to the Kurdish Autonomous Region, legalising for them by the same means the “grabbing” and control of the huge oil wealth of this historically Iraqi Turkmen city and the Turkmens’ capital city and main cultural centre since at least 900 years.
One of the anomalies of this article 140 of the “New Permanent Iraqi Constitution” is that it imposes a fixed time limit for its implementation, stating that it must be completed before 31st December 2007.
Furthermore this article 140 deals with the normalisation process of the situation in Kerkuk governorate, process which consists of three major events, each one with its time limit:-
1- The return to Kerkuk of all its forcefully displaced inhabitants by the Ba’ath Regime during the Arabisation process of the province by that regime and the recuperation of their confiscated lands and properties to be completed before 31st March 2007.
2- A new population census for the original population of the province to be held before 31st August 2007.
3- A referendum for the future of Kerkuk to be attached to the Kurdish Autonomous Region or not, to be voted before 31st December 2007.
This article with its imposed time limits in a supposedly New Permanent Constitution is unheard of; it is a Kurdish innovation in the Iraqi Constitution.
Massive influx of Kurds in Kerkuk after the occupation of the Turkmen Region by the Kurdish militia
On 10th April 2003, when the Kurdish militia entered Kerkuk with the blessing of the American occupiers, their first action was to take control of the two most important offices, namely the Civil Population and the Property Registration Offices. They stole all the registers and put the offices on fire in order to loose the traceability of the original population of Kerkuk, of its legal landlords and property owners.
The Kurds’ next action was to bring a maximum number of Kurds from other provinces in the north of Iraq and even non-Iraqi Kurds from neighbouring countries to change the ethnic composition in Kerkuk Province, in preparation for the elections and the referendums. It is important to mention that up to now, the Kurds have brought and installed more than 600.000 Kurds in Kerkuk and other Turkmen cities!
To prove the veracity of our assertion that non-Iraqi Kurds have been brought in and installed in Kerkuk as “Kurds who were supposedly expelled by the Ba’ath regime” is the scandal which was discovered and denounced by the Swedish Migration Minister, Mr Tobias Billström in February 2007, when it was found that the Iraqi Ambassador to Sweden, a Kurd, named Ahmed Bamarni had been issuing Iraqi passports to non-Iraqi Kurds from Syria, Iran, Turkey and Lebanon.
It was mentioned by the Swedish authorities that the Iraqi Embassy in Sweden alone had issued twenty six thousand (26.000) passports to non-Iraqis and that all of these passport holders were supposed to be born in Kerkuk!
This organized cheating was repeated in other Iraqi Embassies in Vienna (according to Mr. Sheren Hashim Aqrawi, a Kurdish engineer living in Germany and a researcher in Human Rights in the European Union) Damascus, etc.
Concerning the forcefully displaced inhabitants of Kerkuk by the Ba’ath Regime, Mr. Barzani declared that: “250.000 Kurds, including Turkmens (sic!!!) were expulsed from Kerkuk”, while in actual fact and according to the Ration Card Data Base considered by the United Nations to be a reliable source for information on the Iraqi population, some 12.000 inhabitants (Turkmens and Kurds) were expelled from Kerkuk under the previous regime, one third being Turkmens.
On 10th April 2003, Kerkuk had 810.000 inhabitants and today, four years after the occupation of Kerkuk by the Kurdish militia and the massive influx of Kurds to Kerkuk, the population of Kerkuk is over 1.5 million inhabitants, and ALL the newcomers are Kurds.
Draft Constitution for the Kurdish Region
Mr. Barzani spoke about the Kurdish Region under his control, he was proud to say that in his region there is stability, economic progress, development and democracy, he mentioned that he already prepared a Draft Constitution for his region, to be proposed to the inhabitants of that region for their acceptance by referendum. According to him this Constitution will respect all Human Rights, including women and children. But he did not mention that:
Article 6 of that Constitution considers all the non-Kurds (Turkmens, Kaldeans, Assyrians, Armenians and Arabs) inhabiting the north of Iraq simply as “Minorities” and consequently with lesser rights than the Kurds who are considered as the “Main and Principal” inhabitants of the region. Neither did he mention that in
Article 2 of his Constitution he defines Iraqi Kurdistan not only as the actual Kurdish Autonomous Region but that it includes the entire Province of Kerkuk and all the Turkmen Regions of Mosul and Diyala such as Tel Afer, Mendeli, Khanakin, Kifri, Badra etc. as well as the Kaldo-Assyrian districts and towns such as Kara Kosh, Bashika, Tilkef, etc. and that
Article 3 of his Constitution forbids the creation of any other autonomous region inside the limits of his over extended Kurdistan, as defined in Article 2!
When Mr. Barzani finished his opening statement eleven Members of the Foreign Affairs Committee put their questions to him, most of these questions were concerning the Human Rights of the ‘other communities’ living in the North of Iraq like the Turkmens and Kaldo-Assyrians who came under control of the Kurdish parties and militia after the occupation of Iraq, what will be the future of these communities, will they be considered simply as minorities or will they be considered equal to the Kurds who are the majority in the region.
Many questions were also put to Mr. Barzani about Kerkuk, its oil wealth, its future, the application of Article 140 or its postponement, and then the question was put to him about his relations with Turkey and about the presence of the outlawed terrorist organisation PKK in his region.
Mr. Barzani did not reply to the questions in the order in which they were put to him, he answered globally and collectively to some of the issues which were brought to his attention, repeating himself in answering some of the questions and omitting to answer some others.
Mr. Barzani’s attacks on the Turkmen Front
When talking of the Turkmens and their rights, Mr. Barzani naturally diminished their importance and their representation in continuation of his policy of marginalization of the Turkmens in the North of Iraq.
Even though none of the MEPs when putting their questions to Mr. Barzani mentioned the name of the Turkmen Front when they were asking about the Turkmens and their rights, Mr. Barzani did not resist the temptation to mention the Turkmen Front in order to attack them, accusing them of being a ‘handful of trouble makers’ and “of being dependent and used by Turkey”. He further accused them of not defending the rights and freedom but of being only interested in antagonising. He declared that he refuses to deal with the Turkmen Front until they adopt another position.
Being a Turkmen and the Representative of the Iraqi Turkmen Front in Europe I strongly condemn and reject such unjustified attacks and accusations by Mr. Barzani on the Turkmen Front, which is the true representative of the Turkmens of Iraq and which defends their liberty and their rights. These unjustified attacks and accusations by Mr. Barzani on the Turkmen Front remind me of the Israeli Prime Ministers who continue attacking the Palestinian resistance organizations who defend the rights of the Palestinian people.
Mr. Barzani kept on mentioning and attacking the Turkmen Front accusing them of being “a small group who are creating animosity but who are not important as they do not have the means to start a conflict”! He also accused them of lying when they say that 500.000 Kurds have been brought to Kerkuk to change its demography.
On the other hand, when talking of the outlawed terrorist organization PKK Mr. Barzani tried to embellish their image, considering them as a political movement and not as a terrorist organization. He said that the problem between Turkey and PKK is a political problem and that it cannot be solved by military means, if Turkey chooses a political solution to the problem he is ready to give his support and help, but if a military option is chosen he will not help.
Kerkuk issue and Article 140
Concerning Kerkuk and Article 140 of the Constitution and its postponement as it was recommended in a recent ICI report, Mr. Barzani continued claiming “that Kerkuk is part of Kurdistan and is a Kurdish city” and that its future will be decided by the full application of Article 140 of the Constitution that was approved by 80% of the Iraqi people and he was adamant that the referendum will not be postponed, as its postponement according to him would be anti constitutional and would endanger the unity of Iraq. These declarations and argumentation of Mr. Barzani concerning the city of Kerkuk are not helpful as the city has never been a Kurdish city; at the end of WWI the city was almost entirely inhabited by the Turkmens. The arrival of the Kurds in Kerkuk started in the 1940s and in the last reliable census which was done in 1957 the Kurds were a minority. Furthermore, at the end of WWI during the negotiations of the Treaty of Sèvres when there was a proposal to create a Kurdish homeland, Kerkuk was NOT included in the proposed state for the Kurds.
As for Article 140, Mr. Barzani kept saying it must be implemented because otherwise it will be a violation of the Constitution which was approved by 80% of the Iraqi people. By using this argument, Mr. Barzani is threatening the unity of Iraq and imposing a fait accompli on the Iraqis, as Article 140 with all its anomalies should never have been included in the Constitution, if the situation in Iraq had been a normal situation and not under Foreign Occupation and in the absence of security, no responsible non-Kurdish Iraqi politician or citizen would have accepted its incorporation in Iraq’s New Permanent Constitution.
Mr. Barzani kept repeating as a mantra “that the Constitution must be respected because 80% of the Iraqi people have approved it”, but he did not mention under which abnormal conditions this Constitution has been written and under which abnormal circumstances it has been voted for. Mr. Barzani hid the reality that 99% of the Iraqis who voted for the Constitution had never read it before voting for it and had never heard of Article 140.
Mr. Barzani sadly reminds me of Mr. G.W. Bush, who after having destroyed Iraq, killed at least 800.000 Iraqis, displaced at least 4 million Iraqis, brought terrorism to Iraq and ignited ethnic and sectarian conflicts, keeps repeating as a mantra: “that Iraq is now a democratic and free country and that 12 million Iraqis have participated in a democratic election”!
Withdrawal of Foreign Occupation Troops from Iraq
When asked how he envisages the withdrawal of the U.S. troops from Iraq, Mr. Barzani declared “that they cannot leave too early, that first they must ensure that terrorism is eliminated, because if it isn’t, terrorism will spread to Europe and America! “ This means that Mr. Barzani agrees with Mr. George W. Bush who shamelessly declared: “Iraq to be the battle field for his war against international terrorism”, and says to the American people that it is better to fight them in Iraq rather than fighting them in the United States, regardless of how many more Iraqis will be killed and how much more destruction he will cause to this unfortunate country.
The Turkmens consider that the presence of the Occupation Forces in Iraq is the source of all the problems in the country since 2003, they believe that their continued presence in Iraq will only increase the problems and will not bring any solution or peace. Therefore, the Turkmens demand the departure of all Foreign Occupation Forces.
The Turkmens want Peace and Security in Iraq and ask for the reconstruction of their country and for fair compensation for the damages suffered by ALL Iraqis. They hold those who declared the illegal war on Iraq in March 2003 responsible for the sufferings of the Iraqi people and for the destruction of their country.
Turkmen views, recommendations and requests
After carefully listening to Mr. Barzani’s opening statement and his answers to the questions that were put to him by the MEPs, I deplore the fact that I have not seen any sign of opening and moderation from Mr. Barzani who remained inflexible, repeating that Article 140 must be implemented. Unfortunately this will cause more trouble and will extend the conflict zone to the north of Iraq.
I also regret that Mr. Barzani refuses to engage in a dialogue with the Turkmen Front which is the true representative of the Turkmen people of Iraq and I reject his unfounded accusations.
The Turkmens of Iraq (3 million people representing 12% of the Iraqi population) despite being the third main ethnic group and third most important community of Iraq continue to be discriminated in Iraq. They are still considered as a minority in the new permanent constitution and not as the third main community of Iraq equal to the Arabs and Kurds.
The Turkmens are the only ethnic group who continue to believe in the virtue of democracy, they work towards having a free united and democratic Iraq, they reject violence, they never used force against other Iraqis, they do not have any militia and they do not have any weapons.
Therefore, in today’s Iraq they are very vulnerable and truly defenceless. They need the help, the support and the protection from the International Community and from the European Union in particular. Furthermore, the Turkmens demand the following:
a) for the revision of the New Iraqi Constitution in order to be considered equal and obtain the same rights as the Arabs and the Kurds of Iraq.
b) for their Community to be considered the Third Main Community in Iraq (and not a Minority) with rights equal to those of the Arab and Kurdish Communities.
c) if the Federal System is adopted in Iraq, the Turkmens demand the right to constitute their own autonomous region in order to defend and control the destiny of their Community.
d) concerning Kerkuk, their main cultural centre, the Turkmens demand the postponement of the Referendum and the revision or the cancellation of Article 140 of the Constitution.
e) for the normalisation of the situation in the North of Iraq, particularly in the Turkmen Region and specifically in Kerkuk Province, the Turkmens ask for the departure of all the illegal immigrants who were brought by the Kurdish parties in order to change the ethnic composition in the Turkmen Region.
f) the Iraqi Turkmen Front having been singled out and unjustly attacked by Mr. Barzani in the European Parliament would like to have the opportunity to respond to Mr. Barzani’s accusations.
ITF President, Dr. Saddetin Ergec, wishes to address the European Parliament
Dr. Sadettin Ergec, Member of the Iraqi Parliament and President of the Iraqi Turkmen Front, greatly appreciates the European Union’s efforts to bring peace and democracy to Iraq and would be grateful to be given the opportunity to address the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee in order to inform the Europeans about the Turkmen people’s plight resulting from the discriminations and the marginalization applied against their Community in Iraq since 1921.
I trust that the Honourable Members of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee will consider favourably the request of Dr. Sadettin Ergec to address their highly respected Committee in the near future.
Dr Hassan T. Aydinli,
ITF Europe Representative