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The Turkmens of Iraq are concentrated in the northern Iraqi provinces of Mosul, Erbil, Kerkuk, Salahaddin and Diyala. There are also significant numbers of Turkmens in the central provinces of Baghdad, Wasit.
The Turkmens are the third largest ethnic group in Iraq after the Kurds and Arabs. The number of Turkmens is estimated at 3 million or 13% of the Iraqi population. They form a cultural buffer zone between Arabs and Kurds. The Turkmen region has large natural resources such as Oil, gas and Sulphur. In addition, there is an abundant production of wheat and cotton.
A dialect of the Turkish language.
The Turkmens are a distinct society and the third largest nationality in Iraq. They are distinct in language and culture from both their neighbours, the Arabs and Kurds. Yet, the Turkmens are continuously denied political rights and systematically faced assimilation.
The Turkmens, originally came from central Asia. They are descendants of the Turkic speaking Oghuz tribes who began settling in Iraq about 1500 years ago where they inhabited all of Iraq. They had a significant role in the administration of Iraq and established 6 states, The Seljuks, Atabegs, Ilkhanids, Jalairids, Qara Qoyunlus and Aq Qoyunlus.
Brief Recent History:
October 30, 1918, at the end of First World War, the Mosul province was still within the borders of the Ottoman Empire. The British troops occupied the territory after the cease-fire on November 11, 1918. Turkey refused to accept this act and demanded the return of Mosul province. The Turkmens and Kurds resisted British authority by participating in the popular 1920 Iraqi revolution and refused the British installed Hejazi Hashemite monarchy in 1921.
Turkmens were attacked on May 4, 1924 by the British army mercenaries (Levies) in Kerkuk, where many civilians were killed.
1925, Under the Constitution, the Kurds and the Turkmens had the right to use their own languages in schools, government offices and to have their own language press.
June 5, 1926, Turkey, under British pressure, accepted the integration of Mosul into Iraq.
1932, Entering the League of Nations, the Iraqi government declared that it will respect all minority rights.
But in 1933 began closing Turkmen schools and sent activists into exile.
1940 Arab tribes were settled west of Kerkuk.
July 14th 1959, Communists and separatist militias massacred Turkmen leaders along with hundreds of Turkmens in Kerkuk in an attempt to ethnically cleanse the city.
Revised census of 1957, showed the Turkmens as 9% of the Iraqi population.
January 24th 1970, The Baathist government granted cultural rights to the Turkmens.
But in 1972 prohibited the study in the Turkish language and restricted the Turkish media in Iraq to one weekly journal and one monthly magazine promoting Baath propaganda.
1973, In the Interim Constitution, no reference was made to the Turkmen population in Iraq.
January 16th 1980, Four Turkmen leaders were executed by the Baath regime and prohibited the public use of the Turkish language.
In the eighties, Turkmen activists were arrested, tortured and executed. Hundreds of thousands of Arabs were brought from central and southern Iraq and settled by the Baath government in Kerkuk and other Turkmen towns.
1990, the new Constitution states that “Iraqi people consist of Arabs and Kurds” only.
1991, the creation of the Safe Haven by the UN after the Gulf War, Included Erbil.
This, divided the Turkmens into two separate communities, a minority (15%) in the Safe Haven and the rest under Iraqi administration.
The same year, Iraqi Turkmens became member of UNPO.
April 24th 1995, The Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF) was formed in Erbil as an umbrella organization to include all Turkmen parties and movements such as INTP, Turkmeneli Party, Independents Movement and 2 non political organizations.1996, Assault on the Safe Haven” by the Iraqi army, the headquarters of the INTP was attacked and destroyed. Tens of Turkmen leaders were executed.
2003 April 10th, U.S. forces entered Kerkuk and all Turkmen towns.
Turkmens suffered from various degrees of suppression and assimilation that ranged from political persecution and exile to terror, massacres and ethnic cleansing.
During the British and monarchy era, despite 1925 constitution and 1932 League of Nations declaration, cultural rights were gradually taken away, activists were sent to exile. Arab tribes were settled west of Kerkuk.
During the early republican era, Communist and separatist groups committed the Kerkuk Massacre of July 14.th, 1959 which aimed at terrorizing and ethnically cleansing the Turkmens from the city.
During the Baathist era, the Iraqi administration granted some cultural rights to the Turkmens on January 24.th, 1970, including education in the Turkish language in primary schools, daily radio broadcasting for two hours and TV broadcasting for half an hour in the Turkish language, these rights were gradually taken away by the authorities and by 1972, all Turkish schools were closed.
The assimilation of the Turkmens already became a state policy in 1971 when the General Assembly of the Baath Party decided to complete the Arabization of Kerkuk by 1980.
Administrative boundaries were changed in 1974 to divide Turkmen concentrations.
Since the mid 70s, Arabs enjoyed special incentives and rights encouraging them to move to historically Turkmen areas including the oil-rich city of Kerkuk.
In the latter half of the 1970s, the names of several Turkmen villages and places were given Arabic names.
The Iraqi Turkmens are represented in the UNPO by Dr. Muzaffer Arslan the founder of the Iraqi National Turkmen Party (INTP).
Turkmens have the following political organizations:
1- Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF) which is an umbrella organizations of several parties: INTP, Turkmeneli Party (TP), Adalet part (AP), Islamic Movement of Iraqi Turkmens (IMIT) and the Independents Movement.
2- Turkmen Nationalist Movement (TNM),
3- Turkmen Wafa Movement,
4- Islamic Union of Iraqi Turkmens(IUIT).
Non political organizations are: Turkmeneli Cooperation and Cultural Foundation (TCCF) in Turkey, Turkmen Brotherhood Center (TBC) in Iraq and Iraqi Turks Culture and Solidarity Association in Turkey.
Several other civil society organizations.
On October 7.th 1997, Turkmen organizations arranged a "Turkmen Assembly" in Erbil, northern Iraq. The assembly gathered most of the Turkmen organizations, and determined the cultural, educational, information and social policies for the Turkmen people.
The groups who attended the assembly have adopted the "Declaration of Fundamental Principles. A 30 member council was created from various Turkmen organizations.
In order to maintain the identity of the Turkmens and to ensure social solidarity worldwide, several associations and foundations were established in Denmark, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Turkey, Canada, the USA and Australia.
(*) UNPO: Unrepresented Nations & Peoples Organization