Iraqi Turkmen Front Ankara Representative, Dr. Hicran Kazanci: Barzani can negotiate with Turkey, we cannot
04 October 2010, Monday
The Turkmen and the Kirkuk issue were the topics of discussions with the new Iraq Turkmen Front Ankara Representative who was appointed in July; this is an issue which was popular in Turkey in the beginning of the Iraq War; during the years the subjects are hardly mentioned. Hicran Kazancı, the newly appointed representative made a bold confession and did not spare his words in listing the mistakes made in the past.
The contacts between Ankara with Northern Iraq Kurdistan Regional Government Leader Mesut Barzani have increased recently. As an organization representing the Turkmen living in cities under Barzani's control do you meet with Barzani?
-On a State level, Turkey communicates with the Kurds, because this is a requirement mandated by the foreign policy which is influenced by national interests. We do not have high level contact with the Kurdish administration. There used to be contact on a parliamentary level, however, during the last term, the ITF Leader could not get together with Barzani. We do not want anyone to think that we are refusing to have a dialogue. The fact is that in order to start a dialogue they impose a condition to recognize that Kirkuk belongs to Kurdistan. If they forgo this condition we are ready to discuss all matters to resolve the problems of Kirkuk.
The Turkmen and Arab total populations equal more than the Kurdish population and this political fact disproves their political theory. In order to resolve the problems, there must be a fair sharing of power. Let us leave the ownership of Kirkuk on the back burner for a bit and concentrate on the other issues. Kirkuk can be dealt with later.
It seems that the knot is tied within the Kurdish Regional boundaries. Where do you consider the regional border to end?
-We have no problems with the Kurdish people, only with some of the extreme demands of some political groups. We observe a target to extend the Kurdish region. As it has been throughout history, the borders of the Kurdish region are bordered by Erbil, Süleymaniye, Zaho, Dohuk. Nobody denies that the area outside Mosul and Kirkuk north of the 36th parallel is a Kurdish region. This border together with the 36th parallel was implemented by the USA for political reasons. When there is an effort to extend this area there will be instability.
Rumors include the annexing of not only Kirkuk but the Hamrin Mountains. This in unacceptable not only to the Turkmen living in the area, but also the Arabs, Yezidi, Christians.
Is the representation of Turkmen in the regional government satisfactory?
-During the 90's, Arbil was within the liberated zone and there were schools providing Turkmen education. After that what happened to our rights? Among over 100 members of parliament we have three and one minister in the Kurdish region. In the whole of Iraq, the Kurds are the second main element; regardless they are provided with 17% budget from the Iraqi central government. They also have commercial revenues from both Habur and the Iran border check points. In Northern Iraq we are in a similar position as Turkmen, we are the second main element. But do the Kurds grant us the rights provided overall Iraq? So far no vested rights have been given in Arbil.
IF THE KURDISH REGİON HAD BEEN ACKNOWLEDGED IN 2003 WE COULD HAVE SAVED KIRKUK
Why are the Turkmen so far behind in contemporary Iraqi politics?
-The Turkmen were unable to establish a bond with the actors in Iraqi politics. In 1991, during the Saddam regime the 36th parallel emerged without including Kirkuk. In 2003, Saddam is overturned and we are once more unprepared. It becomes clear that no investments have been made for the Turkmen in Kirkuk beneath the 36th parallel. During the years 1991-2002, we always spoke about a Turkmeneli region inclusive of Kirkuk. Up until 2003 our slogan was "Arbil is Turkish and shall remain Turkish". Forget about getting Arbil, we started to think about saving Kirkuk. All this is a result of a strategic error. In a meeting between US representative Zalmay Halilzad in 2003 in Selahaddin with the opponents of Saddam, our representative made a mistake.
When our people fundamentally rejected the Kurdish region, the Turkmen were completely excluded from the process. For instance they could have said, "we acknowledge the region north of the 36th parallel". Today simply for this reason we are unable to produce a strategy for Kirkuk's status. If we had been a part of the process then we could have liberated Kirkuk.
You speak as if Kirkuk is lost. Do you not trust the referendum that will follow the census and determine the future of the city?
-The census has been foreseen for the last week of this month but its postponement is inevitable. In our opinion without implementing article 23 of the constitutional law, no census nor referendum can take place.
This article firstly foresees normalization followed by a review of the population of Kirkuk which has increased since 2003. Before 2003 the population was around 700 thousand. After 2003 it was 1.300 thousand. Those arriving were put under the title "forced migration during the Saddam regime". We have no problem with them but the issue was used for political purposes. Neither reliable census results nor numbers for the Saddam period or its aftermath are available.
For political reasons, all the census results from the Saddam era show a low number of Turkmen. As long as equal conditions for Kirkuk and its environs cannot be achieved, a census will not produce realistic results. Kirkuk forms an important balance not only for Iraq but for the regions other countries and all major international actors.
Kirkuk is not only an intersocietal problem of Kirkuk, it is also a problem between Arbil and Baghdad. The transposition of Kirkuk to any one party will have an impact on world stability. This can be resolved through shared political reconstruction and dialogue.
USA GAVE PERMISSION BUT WE WERE UNSUCCESSFUL IN ARMAMENT
During the 2003 period, there was talk about efforts for Iraqi Turkmen being armed by Turkey by various means. It was even suggested that the incident which went down in history as the "Sack incident" in Suleymaniye was the result of explosives training received by Turkmen. As a result, armed Kurdish peshmerga became the official security forces of the North.
Whatever happened to your armament efforts?
-In 2006 when I had a meeting with the US commander in Kirkuk I official stated my desire for the establishment of an armed forces. He asked how I planned to do this. There were approximately 1000 Turkmen in the Peace Monitoring Forces (PMF). 400 remained which I proposed be organized under "revival councils". They would safeguard their own neighborhoods but not get involved in any US army operations. This idea was approved by the US but our side did not take any action.
Nowadays, militia forces have been banned but our numbers in the Iraqi army and police forces could be increased. 500 Turkmen are wanted for the police force but only 50 people apply. When us Turkmen fail to apply for the position they are occupied by Arabs and Kurds. It is unfortunate that those who are not armed are still under attack in Iraq. That is still the valid power policy in the Middle East. When you are powerless your politics remain weak.
IF KANDİL IS BEYOND CONTROL, TURKEY SHOULD BE GIVEN FREE HANDS
"We have observed some positive developments on the part of the Kurdish government regarding PKK. I am aware that both Barzani and Talabani put pressure on BDP regarding the initiative issue. The US has withdrawn its combat forces from the region. For this reason, stability in Iraq is an important issue for both the US as well as the neighboring countries. In order to protect the structure established by the US from deteriorating, the PKK must be disarmed and pacified.
There are approximately 1000 Syrians and Iranians in the PKK terror organization. When the organization is neutralized both Syria and Iran will benefit from stability. Everybody, particularly Iraqi Kurds have an obligation to take action. Even if they are unwilling to do so, this is obligatory. Instability in the region will primarily harm the Kurds. If the Kurdish regional government is unable to control Kandil, then Turkey or the US could be authorized to take custody of the terrorists. If their forces are insufficient to maintain control, Turkey should be allowed to go in and enforce security."
NO STRANGER TO ANKARA
Hicran Kazancı is one of the young names put on display by Iraqi Turkmen. Mr. Kazancı, who was appointed Iraq Turkmen Front (ITF) Ankara Representative is not a stranger to Ankara. Kirkuk born Kazancı was introduced to Ankara for the first time in 1995 when he came to Ankara University Institute of Science to complement his university studies started in Mosul with a Masters and Doctorate degree. After the downfall of Saddam, he returned to his native country and carried out various duties in Turkmen politics including foreign relations consultancy to present Head of ITF Sadettin Ergeç. When the chair of Turkey representative was offered to him he had no second thoughts in returning to the apple of his eye of his student life. The head spinning political traffic of Ankara and the heavy traffic of state officials abroad have prevented Mr. Kazancı from carrying out his courtesy visits. He is waiting for an appropriate time to meet with President Gül, Prime Minister Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Davutoğlu.
What we consider to be a delay, Mr. Kazancı passes over as "Turkey has a multi aspect foreign policy agenda, it's normal". When asked "Could it be that the Turkmen who were the prime subject in Ankara during the first days of the Iraq war have been forgotten?" the reaction is nothing short of opening a pandora's box.
What Mr. Kazancı said may be the first time that a Turkmen politician has had a sincere confrontation with recent history. He forms courageous sentences and is far from the attitude of "Let this go no further" that we are accustomed to with Turkmen.