vendredi 14 août 2009

Attack against Turkmen existence in Iraq: Tazehurmatu

by Hasan Kanbolat, Director of ORSAM

As the guest of honor in the conference named “The role of Turkmens in a New Iraq,” held in Baghdad on June 20, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said, “Turkmens were forced to change their identity due to pressure from the Baath regime,” and noted that they “have made great sacrifices for their country.”

While he underlined that these kinds of problems needed to end, he announced that foreign military forces would not be allowed in Iraqi settlement areas and warned that violence could increase because of some circles that did not want foreign forces to withdraw while emphasizing the country's need for unity and collaboration. A leading member of the Islamic Revolutionary High Council and representative of the Shiite Alliance, Shaikh Taqi al-Mawla said Turkmens wanted to adopt a more important role and asked that Turkmens be given their constitutional rights. Also pushing for the districts of Tal Afar and TuzKhurmatu to gain the status of “province,” al-Mawla said Kirkuk belonged to all Iraqis.

Just hours after talking about the possibility of an increase in violence, Tal Afar and TuzKhurmatu gaining “province” status and about oil-rich Kirkuk, a place Kurds want to dominate, a bomb exploded in downtown Tazehurmatu. A suicide truck bomb exploded as worshippers left the Shiite Rasul al-Azam mosque, killing 70 people and wounding close to 200 people.

Tazehurmatu is a predominantly Shiite Turkmen district. Turkmens from Tazehurmatu are intellectual people who have protected their Turkmen identity. The rate of female participation in politics and elections in Tazehurmatu is much higher when compared to other parts of Iraq. Just recently, a march was held in Tazehurmatu protesting the increasing presence of Kurds in the area. Tazehurmatu is an area where only one ethnicity (Turkmen) and one sect (Shiism) is prevalent, making it an ill-suited place to start an ethnic or sectarian conflict.

The real issue, however, is that Tazehurmatu is a border district to Sulaimaniya, which belongs to the Kurdish administration and is within range of Kurdish regional expansion. This is a known scenario. In the past, the same situation emerged in the predominantly Turkmen district of Tal Afar. In a conflict sparked between the Sunnis and Shiites in Tal Afar, which falls under the jurisdiction of the province of Mosul, 3,000 people were killed, 6,000 were injured and around 5,000 families (30,000-35,000 people) fled the area; the economy collapsed. The same game that was played in Tal Afar is being played in Tazehurmatu. The game is starting conflict to foment violence and instability and thereby ruining the economy and forcing the Turkmens to flee. In this way a Turkmen presence is removed in an area that has the potential to become a province and is in close proximity to the Kurdish administration.

The bloodiest attack of this year in Iraq was the attack in Tazehurmatu. But the incident did not get the attention of the world media it deserved. Although Tazehurmatu is a Turkmen-rooted settlement area, the attack did not get much attention from Turkey, which is actually a very sensitive country when it comes to the Palestine issue in the Middle East. When a Palestinian suffers the slightest injury, everyone in Turkey takes a stance. However, Turkish people and politicians have not shown the same sensitivity to Iraq and the Iraqi Turkmens as they show to the Palestinian cause and Gaza. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's visit to Iraq, which was scheduled to commence on June 22, has been postponed indefinitely. Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal has said he will visit Iraq in the fall. Visits by these two leaders are going to be a ray of hope for Iraqi Turkmens, who sincerely believe in the unity and democratization of Iraq.

*This article was first published in Today's Zaman on 23 June 2009.

June 24 2009
Hasan Kanbolat, Director of ORSAM

Aucun commentaire: