vendredi 17 septembre 2010





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An international symposium titled “Turkey – Iraq Relations:
History and Openings towards the Future”, which was collaboratively
organized by ORSAM, Atatürk Research Center and Iraq Embassy
Cultural Attache’s Office, was held in Ankara between
9th and 10th June 2010.
Many academics, experts, researchers and strategists gave
presentations during the symposium.

Minister Mehmet Aydın: “Let’s rewrite the history of the Middle East together.”


The opening remarks of the symposium was given by the Minister of the State Prof. Dr. Mehmet Aydın. Mr. Aydın touched upon the importance of the process in which states and societies get to know each other, and added that this process is a continuous action which renews itself. He said that history can never be consumed and therefore the history of the region has to be rewritten in consistence with the aforementioned process. Aydın added that: “the history of this region is not written by the minds of this region. This history was written by the third parties. First of all, sound knowledge must be produced. No matter how much knowledge you may know, there is always more to learn. We should seek each other’s counsel, correct the wrongs in a chivalrous way, and include them in the books once again. We shall read about what you have written on Turkey-Iraq relations and you shall read ours as well. Together we shall correct the wrong pieces of information. We shall transfer this knowledge to our children and that knowledge shall contribute to the culture. The history courses that my generation has taken should be reviewed in a substantial way. It is a fact that each nation-state established the structure of the system on differences rather than commonalities, in order to emphasize the difference between one another. We built our former relations on differences. However, we shall build on commonalities now.

Aydın said that “the destiny of the Middle East is not in its hands” and added that “External intervention and meddling create much trouble. However, we, ourselves are guilty. Unless we can build our knowledge of the past on solid grounds, unless we plan our future depending on the knowledge we attain, and unless we can apply those plans, someone comes and gets everything torn apart in a small touch. We are excluded from a number of issues ranging from the drawing of our borders to our cultural life. Those who have history like we do, well not reach salvation unless they face their history and learn from it. “ Aydın touched upon the issue of axis shift and said those: “this region is at a crossroads. We are aware of this. Therefore, we shall reflect upon our relations and produce our own knowledge. Those who cannot understand this judge us with aiming to resurrect the Ottoman Empire, which has been extinct. However, our good relations in our neighborhood are a boon for the West and European security as well. There is no reason to get disturbed. Turkey-Syria relations and Turkey-Iraq relations will further develop. Such development is to the advantage of third parties as well. It is in the interest of Israel that the relations within the region get better. Future and well-being of Israel depends on the stability of all the states in the region. It is not possible for a state to be safe, secure and in peace, who is on hostile terms with its neighbors. Aydın hoped that the following meetings will prove to be successful as well.

Prof. Dr. Eraslan: “Time has confirmed that Ataturk was right.”

The Director of the Atatürk Research Center Prof. Dr. Cezmi Eraslan said that peoples of Turkey and Iraq have centuries old common values and there is a fraternity between them. Eraslan touched upon the issue of the attitudes of the founders of Turkey towards the Arabs and remarked that “In the Misakı Milli document, which is the first basic text of Turkey, the right of self determination our Arab brothers in the places that they form the majority is recognized”. Eraslan told that Mustafa Kemal Pasha defended the idea of gaining independence first, then going into a cooperation in several instances that a union with the Arabs was suggested, and he put that Turkey sought for peace in its region after it was founded, consistent with the application of the “Peace at Home, Peace in the World” principle. Eraslan reminded the words of Atatürk during the Saudi King Faisal’s visit on 7 July 1931: “Apart from the effect of the geographic and economic factors that affect the developing relations among nations, common interests and policies towards peace and stability cause Turkey and Iraq to get closer to each other”. Eraslan said that the time has confirmed Atatürk’s words. Eraslan told that this symposium contributed to the efforts by both two nations aimed at learning their own history through original sources, and he remarked that they are ready for further joint efforts.

Kanbolat: “Future has not been written yet. It is us intellectuals’ responsibility to write it”

The Director of ORSAM, Hasan Kanbolat emphasized in his speech at the beginning of the symposium that the intellectual dialogue is needed alongside with dialogue in political sphere, in order to understand the transformations in Iraq’s and Turkey’s recent history and make the mutual perceptions healthier. Kanbolat said that: “Men of letters, historians, sociologists, political scientists and International Relations experts from both countries must spend a great deal of effort. We consider this meeting as a part of an effort that is aimed at mutual understanding. We believe that the symposium will create the means for intellectuals from both countries to get to know each other. Cooperation among the intellectuals will bridge the gap between peoples of the two countries. Examining the historical dimension of the relations between the two countries will shed a light on the history and provide us with a better understanding of the future probabilities. Increasing cooperation between Turkish and Iraqi academics will reinforce the bridges between the peoples. The future has not been written yet. It is us intellectuals’ responsibility to write, organize and establish it. We need to change the course of the developments if we don’t want to face the worsening of the relations. We need to research on the ways to make our peoples live in better conditions. We need to get rid of our biases. Civilization requires consensus, trying to understand and accepting the differences. We need civilization more than anything.”

Iraq Cultural Advisor Prof. Dr. Muhammed El Hamdani gave a speech in the beginning of the symposium and said that Turkey-Iraq relations go deep in history the borders that were drawn afterwards could not hamper the fraternity, and that there is a commonality built on 1200 years together. Hamdani told that: “We lived shoulder to shoulder in the past. Great powers separated us. Then what must we do for the future? We need to get rid of misunderstandings. We must build a future in which we can live together”.

In the afternoon session of the first day, Turkish-Iraqi relations during the Seljuk-Ottoman eras were approached. Zemnun Yunus El Taii, Director of Musul Research Center, made a presentation about the administrative, financial and security regulations in Mosul during the Tanzimat Period. Taii told that the Ottoman presence left its marks in all Iraqi cities, which had effects that are still felt, and that the practices of the Tanzimat Period had positive outcomes.

Prof. Dr. Gülay Öğün Bezer told in her presentation about the Turkish-Iraqi relations in the Seljuk Era that the Turkish presence in Iraq started in the Abbasid Era, when Turkish soldiers were recruited; the Turkish presence gained political and military importance in the middle of the 11st century during the migration of the Oguz people; and after the Battle of Dandanakan in 1040, Tugrul Beg focused on the region. Bezer remarked that Tugrul Beg had an attentive relationship with the Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad and he made sure that the Caliph would not interfere in his sovereign area and gain political power. Bezer claimed that the Seljuks and their followers made good use of migrating Turks and told about the settling and construction practices, which, according to Bezer, constitutes one of the main sources of Iraq’s cultural and historical richness.

Osman Said, director of Science and Culture Forum in Fallujah, remarked that Baghdad and Istanbul are twins in science and Baghdad experienced a high level of development since the Ottomans conquered it. Said told that many madrasas and mausoleums were built and repaired in Baghdad in the Ottoman era, which eased the difficulties of the Ottomans’ decline, thanks to the high number of theologians and scientists in Baghdad. Said emphasized that scientist from the late era of the Ottomans helped build the state structure of Iraq.

Dr. Hut: “The Ottoman Empire struggled against Iran, not against the Shiites”

Assoc. Prof. Davut Hut from the Marmara University told in his presentation about Iraq in Abdulhamit II era that Iraq constitute a buffer zone between the Ottoman State and Iran and therefore the pressures by Iran had been influential in Ottoman’s administrative approach towards Iraq. Hut expressed that it would be wrong to state sectarian principles as the reason of the Ottomans’ approach towards the Iraqi Shiites and the prime reason is Iran’s political initiatives on the Shiite society. Dr. Hut reiterated that the policies of Mithat Pasha and Abdulhamit II had widespread influence on Iraq despite some side effects, and those policies reinforced the Ottoman control of the region, which has started to wane.

Prof. Nuri: “Arab Nationalism is an Abused Concept”
Turkey-Iraq Relations in the 20th century was the subject of the second session. Prof. Dr. Dureyd Abdulkadir Nuri, Deputy Iraq Culture Attache, said: “Turks lived alongside the Arabs when they arrived at Iraq... Turks are modest as a gift of creation. The word, “Servant” etched to the insignia of the Ottoman sultans. Turks never used force in an unjust way. They did not pursue material gain. They resisted the pressures of Zionism”. Nuri said that he is against the term of Arab Nationalism and told that “It is few in number that adapts this ideology. This is a concept, which was always abused from behind the curtain”.

Prof. Dr. Kursun: “Turkey and Iraq Do Not Know Each Other”

Prof. Dr. Zekeria Kursun from Marmara University, emphasized that Turkish and Iraqi societies do not know each other, which constitutes a serious problem. Kursun said: “Modern Turkish society does not know the Iraqi society. Intellectuals and authors do not know. During the nation-building and self-determination both sides forgot about the other. However, until the 1950s, statesmen from both countries talked in Turkish”. Kursun cited that “A supreme commission consisting of Turkish and Iraqi social scientists must be formed. We shall determine the main priorities in many fields, from history to society. What matters most is the mutual translation of the scientific books. We need to make Arabic, Turkish and Persian the languages of the intellectuals. We need to agree on the concepts to be used. We need to learn about each other from ourselves, not from third parties.”

Prof. Dr. Allaf: “We Need to Create a Generation Nourished on Facts”

Prof. Dr. Ibrahim Halil Al Allaf, director of Center for Regional Studies in Iraq, claimed that perceptions of the Arab world towards Turkey have changed after the March 1st Decree, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey has taken a historical decision, a great majority of Turkish people is against the invasion of Iraq, and Turkey has spent efforts for the independence and stability of Iraq since the beginning. Allaf said that “Turkey is an element of stability in the region. We have our best neighborly relations with Turkey. Our historians need to get together and work on common terms and concepts. We need to create a new generation nourished on facts and common culture.

Retired Ambassador Bilal Şimşir shared his assessments on the principles and practices of the treaty between Turkey and Iraq, which demarcated the border in 1926. Şimşir said that the relations, which were initially problematic, normalized in a short time. He also remarked that some border security issues still prevails as they did in the past.

Dr. Saad Abdulaziz Muslit from Mosul University said that an infusive cooperation rather than a discriminative one is needed and he cited “We should develop political consultation, and cooperation in economy especially in industry.”

“Attention to the Water Problem”

On the second day of the symposium, the future of Turkey-Iraq relations was handled. Prof. Dr. Osman Horata, the chair of the session, stressed that common energy projects, common cultural heritage, common foreign policy decisions and the water issue will go to the forefront in the future of the relations and said “The most important problem that can trouble the two countries might be the waters of Euphrates. If brave decisions are taken and implemented with a good will, this problem can disappear”.

Assist. Prof. Serhat Erkmen, ORSAM Middle East Advisor and Head of the Department of International Relations in Ahi Evran University reminded that Turkey was the only country that had the most obvious stance towards the invasion of Iraq and Turkey spent a great deal of effort for reconciliation efforts that included all groups after the invasion. Erkmen claimed that regional dynamics such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, the lack of solution in Palestine and Lebanon and Iran-USA tensions might influence Turkey-Iraq relations besides the dynamics of bilateral relations, and he predicted that the common strategic mentality between Ankara and Baghdad will continue. Erkmen claimed that, besides all these, common stance in fight against terrorism and water problems might continue to trouble the relations.

Dr. Basil Al-Gurayri from Iraq Center for Strategic Studies, remarked that Turkey, thanks to its latest regional initiatives, has become a central power, which pursues policies that solve problems rather than creating them. He also claimed that the great powers sought to punish Turkey for its policies in 2003; however time has confirmed that Turkey was right. Gurayri argued that Turkey was determined not to watch passively. Gurayri claimed that the water issue is not only and economic issue for Iraq, the water is the lifeblood of Iraq, therefore both countries must agree on it as fast as they can.

Asst. Prof. Veysel Ayhan, ORSAM Middle East Advisor from Abant Izzet Baysal University, Department of International Relations claimed that Turkey did not want a structure in Iraq, in which a group oppresses the others, rather Turkey hoped for a solution in Iraq, in which different groups can live together. Ayhan said that “What makes Turkey different from other countries in relations with Iraq is that Turkey does not exclude other groups while keeping relations with one of them. For Turkey, the stability in Iraq requires a structure to be built, in which participation by all groups to the political system is possible”. Ayhan remarked that from the First World War to 2005, the agenda of the region has been determined by external powers, and he claimed that “The problems were sought to be solved in Western capitals, and this brought more problems. We need to solve our problems ourselves”.
Dr. Cumeyli: ‘Let’s Arrange the Instruction Books Reciprocally’

Dr. Adnan Cumeyli talked at the last session, general evaluation, and declared that there is a need for a joint work to arrange the instruction books in both countries and said that the need Turkey’s archive because Iraq’s were looted at the invasion.

Prof. Dr. Gökhan Çetinsaya said that the necessary works should have been done about the 400 year old Ottoman heritage and the universities both in Iraq and Turkey are insufficient about this work. Çetinsaya explained that, like building a modern Turkey after Tanzimat Period, there have been some period like that in Iraq too and said that people born in 1880’s and grew up in Ottoman system built the modern Iraq. He added that the strategic benefits of Turkey and Iraq lead them to help each other, and Turkey has the understanding of ‘safety for everyone’. Çetinsaya emphasized that both Turkey and Iraq needs a political background to make the pluralism and different groups live together.

Prof. Dr. Bayat: “The English were afraid of a Turkish-Arab Alliance’

At the general evaluation session, the researcher in the Organization of the Islamic Conference-IRSICA, Prof. Fazıl Bayat, said that it was intentionally alleged by the English that the hostility between Arabs and Turkish, but they tried so hard to make this accepted by public polls and was actually successful. Bayat said these: ‘I’ve attended conferences at different Arab countries. Some of the terms they use drove me crazy. They say especially ‘Ottoman invasion’ and ‘Ottoman colonialism’. There was a congress that I’ve attended too in Damascus. All of the professors said that ‘Ottoman had frozen us for 400 years’. I’ve asked them this question: ‘What is frozen is either eaten or chucked out. Have they eaten you or chucked you out?’ I couldn’t get any answers. Those people have hostility in them. Is there have been really something to make it that way? I will give two examples. The Ottoman Empire spread over Arabic countries in 1516 and it continued for years. But we cannot put a clear date about when they leaved. Ottoman leaved Algeria in 1835 and this follows other countries too. Baghdad belonged to Ottoman until 1917. Ottoman flags were waved. Ottoman troops were withdrawn and occupation forces seized the city. A big meeting was held at the Ottoman barrack. They invited the people: ’Ottoman flag will be down and English flag will be up there. Come and watch the ceremony’. People ran through there but they all watch the ceremony crying. It is a person from Baghdad who records this historical anecdotal. Think about it, should Arabs have a hostility to Turkish, would those people had cried? This is the first example. The other one is this: When Ottoman withdrew in 1918; they brought the son of Şerif İhsan Pasha, who was educated up by Ottoman, as a king. First they made him chief executive and then king. The Arab nationalists there said ‘What have we done’. But it’s no use crying over a past mistake. They had agreed with English, they had been a part of their game, and there had nothing left. At that time the War of Independence in Anatolia was going on by Atatürk. They sent a delegate to Atatürk by there. They said ‘Let’s make a new Arab-Turkish country.’ This takes place even in English resources. I ask you, if there had been hostility would they want this? Churchill, the Minister of Defense at that time, hears this and delivers a speech. He says that for years their policy was to create hostility between Arabs and Turkish and after this time they will never accept that Turkish and Arab come together and make an alliance. Besides, after this English and French shared the region. They have found writers for rent to spread the so-called hostility between Arab and Turkish. They made writers to write thousands of books and articles. Now, what are in the Arab libraries are those writings. Arab historians show their opinions by those books. They show those books as resources at first hand. Are they right? No, they are wrong. I’m an Iraqi and I’m asking you Turkish: We are always blaming Arabs, and they are always referring to English sources. What are we doing as Turkish? Turkish Historical Society published some books in English, French, and Russian, but what about Arabic? You write them, show them the truth. They want the truth. It is our mission to show them the right way. Yesterday Mr. Basil said that we should institutionalize our relations and added that our governments can do this. This may be true for Turkey. If Turkey had taken a decision, it will continue for years. But it is not true for Iraq. I’ve worked in Representation Ministry at Saddam period. A sentence is still in my mind: ‘We change the constitution with a decision. Can’t we change a decision that you have said?’ I mean there may be institutes or there may be not, we should address to people. We should change the mistakes in their minds.’’

Assoc. Prof. Özlem Tür, ORSAM Middle East Advisor from METU, reminded the slogan of Foreign Minister Davutoğlu, “common destiny, common history, common future”, and said that many efforts focused on whether the interior dynamics of the region can bring about a new period, independent from the outside intervention. Tür claimed that in Turkey-Syria relations, the water issue has degraded into a technical issue when the political and economic relations developed. She argued that a similar situation is possible in Turkey-Iraq relations as well.


The joint organizers of the international symposium titled “Turkey-Iraq Relations:
History and Openings towards the Future” has decided on the following points.

1. Continuing bilateral scientific contacts between universities and research centers in regular intervals,

2. Reviewing the phrases in school textbooks and studying together in order
to correct mistaken phrases, and establishing a joint commission for the task,

3. Publishing the symposium papers in Turkish, Arabic and English, and distributing them to the universities and research centers in the two countries,

4. Holding the following Turkey-Iraq relations symposiums in Baghdad and
Mosul by expanding the subject and participation, under the Iraq Ministry of
Higher Education hosting,

5. Promoting the widespread teaching and learning of Turkish and Arabic in our countries,

6. Spending efforts to make possible the mutually sharing of historical
resources and archival materials by attaching the necessary importance to
our common historical legacy,

7. Establishing contacts with the relevant authorities in order to start
scientist exchange programs.

Prof. Dr. Cezmi ERASLAN
Director of Atatürk Research Center

Prof. Dr. Muhammed El-HAMDANİ
Iraq Cultural Attache in Ankara

Director of Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies

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