dimanche 12 août 2012

Iraqi Turkmen push for stronger legal protection of their identity

Iraqi Turkmen push for stronger legal protection of their identity

Ahmet Davutoğlu, who paid a historic visit to Kirkuk on Thursday as the first Turkish foreign minister to visit in 75 years, is pictured with Iraqi Turkmen children. (PHOTO AA, HAKAN GöKTEPE)
5 August 2012 / AYDIN ALBAYRAK , ANKARA 


The adoption by the Iraqi parliament on July 28 of a report that bestows on 
Turkmen in Iraq  the status of the third largest ethnic group in the country is
 an important gain for the Turkmen, analysts believe, but they also note that 
the demands of Turkmen in the report need to be  transformed into a legal 
framework for a lasting and positive result to be obtained.

“It’s maybe not as powerful as a law, but it opens a door,” Mahir Nakip, 
an Iraqi Turkmen from  Kirkuk who has been living in Turkey for a long 
time and spokesperson of the İstanbul-based  Kirkuk Foundation, 
commented to Sunday’s Zaman. Despite admitting that this represents
 a very positive step for the Turkmen he also added, “But the real 
success would be to put the  content of the report into law.”

Hicran Kazancı, the Iraqi Turkmen Front’s representative in Turkey, is a
 little more cautious.  “The adoption of the report is of historic importance,
 but we need to see what the practice will be,” he told Sunday’s Zaman.
 Noting that the Iraqi constitution already bestows on Turkmen
many of the demands brought together in the report, he added, “But 
Turkmen have not been  allowed to enjoy those rights until today.”

After the American occupation began in 2003, Turkmen were victimized,
 facing discrimination  in Iraq, as the Turkish Parliament rejected a motion
 allowing US land forces to enter Iraqi territory by way of Turkey in the
 days leading up to the occupation. The Turkmen people in Iraq are
 estimated to make up nearly 10 percent of the population, but they were
 not  considered to be one of the constituent elements of the Iraqi state
 together with the Arabs  and the Kurds, and thus have been 
underrepresented in politics and government office.
 And in provinces such as Kirkuk, Arabs, in accordance with an 
Arabization policy that was  in effect before the occupation, and
 Kurds, after the occupation, were allowed to seize  pieces of land
 that officially belonged to Turkmen.

The adoption of the report by the Iraqi parliament is actually just an 
elementary step because,  as Kazancı noted, a high committee on 
Turkmen affairs needs to be established first, and  then the committee 
will set about studying the demands of Turkmen enumerated in the
Kazancı prefers to be a little cautious because in recent years the 
Turkmen people were also  entitled to a share of the national budget,
 but that money has never materialized.

Still, Turkmen are hopeful. “This is a festival day for us,” Necat 
Hüseyin, a Turkmen member of the Kirkuk City Council, said at a 
press conference in Kirkuk last Sunday. Noting that Turkmens in
 Iraq have been waiting for this day for eight years, he added: 
“We used to be a second-class people in Iraq, but now have become
 a first-class people. And that’s made us very happy.”

It is noted in the report that the Turkmen, previously usurped rights 
are to be reinstated and that Turkmens are to be allowed to have 
representation in public institutions in accordance with their population.
 That means quite a lot for the Turkmen. In Kirkuk, which was
 historically a Turkmen city, there are today 32 directorates for public
 institutions, of which only one, the directorate of national education, 
is headed by a Turkmen, while Turkmen in Kirkuk, in spite of a 
large-scale Kurdish migration to Kirkuk in the years following
the occupation, make up at least one-third of the total population.

Similarly, in the provincial governing board in Kirkuk, Turkmen have 
only nine chairs out of a total of 41. Not only in Kirkuk, but also in cities
 such as Tuzhurmatu, Tal Afar, Altunkopru, to some extent in Musul 
city, Arbil and Hanekin, Turkmens now have the expectation that
they will, in public institutions, be entitled to occupy a considerable 
number of posts of which resently deprived to a great extent.

A designated amount of money from the state budget will also be 
allocated to the Turkmens, which would allow them to promote their
 culture, should the Iraqi government act in accordance with the report.
 “Getting a share of about 6 percent would be a success for the
 Turkmen,” said Mehmet Tütüncü, a Turkmen who came to Turkey in
 1991 after the First Gulf War and who is now chairman of the Iraqi 
Turks Culture and Mutual Aid Association based in İstanbul.

With the new step, underrepresentation in politics is also expected 
be eliminated. In the Iraqi parliament, there are today only nine Turkmen
 deputies, and with Turkmens benefitting from a national quota in the
 election system, the number of seats to be occupied by Turkmen
deputies would be considerably higher. Another significant benefit of
 the report for Turkmens will be in the area of education. “Schools 
Turkmen children go to are in a very bad shape,” Tütüncü told 
Sunday’s Zaman. But from now on, Turkmen schools will get 
financial support from the state as other state schools do. Last but
 not least, in the area of education, Turkmen schools will be able offer
 courses for Turkmens in an alphabet which is suitable
 to the nature of their language, which will be the Latin alphabet
 and not Arabic script, thanks to which education in Turkmen schools
 will be able to utilize curricula from Turkey.

Tütüncü is optimistic about the step the parliament has taken.
 “It’s promising being described as the third constituent people,” he stated. 
He is hopeful that this new step will allow many expectations of the Turks
 in Iraq to be met. “We’ve been getting signals in this direction,”
he remarked.

The adoption of the report by the Iraqi parliament may be a move by 
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is on bad terms with the Kurdistan
 Regional Government (KRG) in the north of the country, to have Turkmen
 on his side in the Iraqi equation. “This is certainly an effort by Maliki to get 
Turkmen on his side,” said Kaan Dilek, general coordinator of the
International Middle East Peace Research Center (IMPR). The same move 
may also be interpreted as an olive branch held out by Maliki to the Turkish 
government. “Maliki may be giving a message by way of the Turkmens to 
improve [deteriorating] relations with Turkey,” he commented to Sunday’s
 Zaman. It’s noteworthy that Maliki, appearing on a Kurdish television station
 in Iraq, said about a week ago that the problems Iraq and Turkey have
are only at the level of discourse and that problems between Turkey and
 Iraq are not insurmountable.

Turkmen in Syria may face similar fate

It’s feared that Turkmens in Syria, whose population is estimated to be
 around 1.5-2 million, with another 1.5 million Turkmens having already
 been assimilated into the Arab ethnic identity, may face similar problems 
to the Iraqi Turkmen in the days after the regime of President
 Bashar al-Assad falls, given that Syrian Turkmen are even more
 widely scattered throughout Syria than the Turkmen are in Iraq.

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