Mr. Samer Muscati
Human Rights Watch
Middle East & North Africa Division.
Kerkuk, 9th November 2009.
Dear Mr. Samer Muscati,
It is only yesterday and by pure chance that we heard that your organization “Human Rights Watch” is going to hold a conference in Erbil City (Northern Iraq) on November 10th 2009 on the topic of “Human Rights of the Minority Groups in Northern Iraq”.
We the undersigned, representing the Turkmen Community in the north of Iraq, namely: the Turkmen Human Rights Activists, the Turkmen Civil Society Organizations, the Turkmen Political Detainees & Martyrs Organization, the Independent Turkmen media representatives and the Turkmen jurists, regret that none of our organisations has been informed by Human Rights Watch of the holding of this conference or of its programme.
We assume that this coming conference in Erbil which follows your fact finding mission in the north of Iraq, particularly in the plains of Ninewah and in the Sinjar region a few months ago, will be dealing with your findings concerning the human rights violations committed by the Kurdish regional authoriy against the Chaldeo-Assyrian and Yezidi minorities in the north of Iraq.
You will remember that at the time when you were investigating human rights violations in the north of Iraq, we made several attempts to meet with you in order to inform you about the human rights violations committed by the Kurdish authorities against the Turkmens who live in the Kurdish autonomous region as well as in Kerkuk province and in parts of Mosul, Sallahedin and Diyala provinces which came under the Kurdish militias’ control after April 2003.
We invited you to come and visit us in Kerkuk to assess in situ the human rights situation. We informed you that a Turkmen delegation was prepared to meet with you and provide you with documents proving human rights violations committed against the Turkmens, but you told us that your mission was coming to an end and that you were on the point of leaving Iraq, adding that you would be in touch with us soon after your return. Unfortunately, that was the last time we heard from you.
Despite the shortcomings of your last mission to the area as far as we Turkmens are concerned, we continue to fully appreciate your efforts to investigate the human rights violations against the minorities in the north of Iraq.
We are conviced that Human Rights Watch organization’s activities in the north of Iraq and its reports on human rights in the region are of utmost importance as the region is the common homeland of several ethnic and religious communities (Kurds, Turkmens, Arabs, Chaldeo-Assyrians, Yezidis and Shabaks).
Indeed, Human Rights Watch being a well recognized organization, its reports on human rights violations are read and taken into consideration worldwide.
For the second time in less than six months you are visiting the Kurdish autonomous region and its capital Erbil, where you are going to hold a conference on Human Rights of the Minority Groups in Northern Iraq and the eventual violations committed by the Kurdish regional authority against them.
We regret the choice of Erbil for your conference as it is extremely difficult if not impossible for us Turkmen representatives living outside the Kurdish autonomous region to reach Erbil and attend the conference, because of the numerous checkpoints which are tightly controlled by the Kurdish militias and/or security forces. Our past experiences have proven that Kurdish militias confiscate any documents of importance especially those relating to human rights violations by the Kurds against northern Iraq’s other ethnic communities, and that the bearers of such documents are arrested and punished.
We take this opportunity to give you some examples of human rights violations by the Kurdish authorities against the Turkmens in Erbil:
1. The imposition of the Kurdish language in Turkmen schools
2. Obliging Turkmen students to follow courses glorifying the Kurdish language and nationality to the detriment of their own Turkmen language and nationality
3. Demolishing Turkmen cemetaries in an attempt to erase the proofs of the Turkmens’ presence and of their long history in Erbil
4. Changing and Kurdifying the names of Erbil’s Turkmen neighbourhoods, mosques and other monuments .
Normally, the Turkmens who constitute the second main ethnic community in the north Iraq must obtain and should enjoy the same rights that the Kurds have obtained and are enjoying for being Iraq’s second main ethnic community, but unfortunately the Turkmens’ rights in the north of Iraq continue to be denied, they continue to be marginalized and discriminated by the Kurdish authorities.
As we highly value Human Rights Watch’s activities we would have very much appreciated to receive official invitations from you to attend the conference in Erbil in order to address the conference and present our grievances and suggestions in total freedom, without psychological pressures and security threats.
For your information there are safe places to hold conferences in Kerkuk, where the UN has opened an office and where the US and the UK have opened consulates. Pretending that Kerkuk is not safe to hold such a conference is a pretext to exclude the Turkmens and prevent them from presenting their cause and the human rights violations committed against them to the international community.
We Turkmens, have always been peace loving people who value human rights, we firmly believe that in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country like Iraq all the communities should enjoy full and equal rights.
We reiterate our readiness to assist at your conferences if they are held in Kerkuk, Baghdad or any other location outside the Kurdish autonomous region.
We thank you once again for your efforts to defend human dignity and human rights worldwide.
Hoping to hear from you soon,
Rushdi Huseyn Ali,
Activist in the field of Human Rights
Director of Turkmen Civil Society Organization
Hashim Rashad Muhtaroglu,
President of Turkmen Political prisoners and martyrs Organization
Turkmen Independent Media Representative
Safwat Saleh Sabbar,
Norhan Rushid Saadetin,
Vice-President Committee for the Defence of the Iraqi Turkmens’ Rights in the EU