The Iraqi Turkmen Front, remade
13 May 2011, Friday
Ever since the Ottoman state lostIraq, Iraqi Turkmens have been viewed as an extension of Turkey. For this reason, they have always been subject to great pressure within Iraq.
There have been many attempts to eliminate both their cultural as well as their political identities. Their political leaders and intellectuals have been executed. They have been forced to struggle hard against policies of forced Arabization and Kurdification. These pressures placed on Iraqi Turkmen have paved the way for Turkmens to turn inwards and not be represented adequately in Iraqi politics. In the wake of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, the exclusion of Turkmens from Iraqi politics has continued. But as democratic initiatives began to take root in Iraq, the Turkmens, as one of the three founding groups in the nation, finally began to claim their rightful place in Iraqi politics.Within this framework, Turkmens successfully brought forward 10 MPs in the March 7, 2010 general elections in Iraq, and for the first time were represented by three government ministers. Hasan Turan, an Iraqi Turkmen, was elected parliamentary head of Kirkuk province.
An increased representation by Turkmens in Iraqi politics has also been reflected in the inner politics among the Turkmens themselves. The most influential Turkmen organization from the perspective of electoral representation inIraqis the Iraq Turkmen Front (ITC). And the inner ranks of the ITC have undergone a transformation. Following a decision made in the first week of May in the Iraqi Turkmen Parliament, the ITC will be reorganized. ITC President Saddettin Ergeç has turned over his duties to MP and ITC Kirkuk City President Erşat Salihi, while it has also been announced that Ergeç is now the honorary president of the ITC. When one looks at the new names within the ITC, one sees they fully represent Turkmen-inhabited regions ofIraq. It is significant that names like Ali Mehdi and Hasan Turan, who both help head up influential Turkmen parties such as the Turkmen Party and the Turkmen Justice Party, are part of the ITC.
In addition to a change in ITC heads, there is also a new governing board of the ITC in place, which will oversee operations until the new congress. With the new seven-person government board and the new system, the governing board and the central decision board will have regular monthly meetings as the “Central Decision Governing Board.” All important political decisions are to emerge from these meetings. Another important decision with regards to the ITC’s inner workings was made with regards to the Turkmen parliament. Although this parliament previously worked within the ranks of the ITC, it has now been separated out from the ITC, and has been made into an autonomous institution encompassing all of the various Turkmen political organizations. It could be then said that the full and complete formation of the new ITC will take place only after the law, still in rough form, concerning political parties inIraqhas been completed and passed.
Taking a brief look at the recent history of the ITC, we see it was formed in 1995 in Arbil to prevent chaos and disorganization in the Turkmen political movements in the region; in other words, its aim was to provide a roof for varying Turkmen political movements. In 1995, the first ITC president, Turhan Ketene, was replaced by Sinan Çelebi, the current industry and trade minister for the Kurdistan Regional Authority. In 1997 the First Turkmen General Assembly took place, and Vedat Arslan, who was also previously a minister for the Kurdish Regional Authority, was elected as ITC president. At the Second General Assembly in 2000, Sanan Ahmet Ağa was elected as ITC president. After the US invasion of Iraq, the Third General Assembly took place in Kirkuk, between Sept. 12-15, and at this Faruk Abdullah Abdurrahman was elected president.
There was also a decision made to transfer the ITC headquarters toKirkukat that point. Influential in this decision was the formation of the Kurdistan Regional Authority, and the acceptance by the ITC of the name “Kurdistan,” as well as the fact that Kirkuk was shown by both the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) as lying within the borders of their regional leadership. But the movement of the ITC general headquarters from Arbil to Kirkuk caused a vacuum within the Turkmen political movement in Northern Iraq. With support extended from various Kurdish groups there were separations that took place from the ITC.
At the fourth and fifth General Assemblies of the ITC, which took place in 2005 and 2008, Ergeç was once again elected as president of the organization. After the 2008 ITC General Assembly a regional election law forIraqwas passed. With the aim of participating in approaching elections, the ITC declared itself a proper political party, and thus stopped being a “roof-providing organization” for other political parties. And so, political parties that were still in the ranks of the ITC were suddenly excluded. This decision can be seen as the real start of a period of transformation for the ITC, which picked up a government ministry position for the first time ever in the wake of the 2010 elections.