Political Balances Changing in Favour of Kurds, Shiites in Iraq
Hasan Kanbolat, ORSAM Director
Things are not going well in Iraq; the deal between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Iraqi Kurdistan continues to change the political balances in the country.
We have seen the outcomes of the new political balances in favor of Kurds and Shiites in the provincial assembly elections in Mosul and Anbar and the bombing incident in Tuz Khurmatu on June 25.
Mosul and Anbar are two predominantly Sunni-Arab provinces of Iraq. Maliki made a deal with Iraqi Kurdistan which cleared the way for the increased influence of Kurds in Mosul. A Kurdish list won the elections in Mosul, a stronghold of Sunni Arabs. The Kurds won 11 seats in the 39-seat provincial assembly. The Muttahidun, a list of Sunni Arabs which won 19 seats in the 2009 provincial assembly elections, won only eight seats this time. In addition, five of these eight are Turkmen. Maliki attracted Sunni Arab allies in Mosul and Anbar, causing the Sunni Arabs in these two provinces to be divided.
Thirteen people died in the suicide bombing in Tuz Khurmatu in the province of Salahuddin on June 25 while 71 were wounded. Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF) Vice President Ali Hashem Mukhtar Oglou and former Salahuddin Deputy Governor Ahmed Abdel-Wahed died. Over the last two years, frequent attacks have been held in the Turkmen areas in Tuz Khurmatu. These attacks intensified in 2013. Why Tuz Khurmatu? Why Turkmens?
Tuz Khurmatu was part of Kirkuk but it was transferred to the province of Salahuddin in 1976. Its population is around 150,000. It is a Turkmen residential area in terms of its historic, cultural, social and political features. The population is predominantly Shiite Turkmen. However, the Turkmen identity is stronger than the Shiite identity. The Sunni Turkmen tend to adopt the Arabs' culture whereas the Shiite Turkmen preserve their cultures. Tuz Khurmatu is one of the most important centers for Turkmen. It is a place where Turkmen politicians, writers and poets are born and raised. For this reason, Tuz Khurmatu has always been important in Turkmen politics since 2003. The most influential provincial organization of the ITF, the most important political institution of the Turkmen people in Iraq, is in Salahuddin; its headquarters are also in Tuz Khurmatu.
Tuz Khurmatu, located along the Baghdad-Kirkuk road, is not included in Iraqi Kurdistan. However, it is shown in the enlarged Iraqi Kurdistan. Even in the official maps of Arbil, Tuz Khurmatu is shown within the borders of Iraqi Kurdistan. To this end, a policy to increase the Kurdish population in the enlarged Iraqi Kurdistan and to reduce the impact and presence of non-Kurdish ethnicities is being systematically implemented. For this reason, Tuz Khurmatu was one of the places where Kurds preferred to settle in the aftermath of 2003.
Today, Kurdish identity is dominant in Kirkuk. However, in Tuz Khurmatu, Turkmen identity is dominant. Even though al-Qaeda has been blamed for the attacks in Tuz Khurmatu, this organization has no interest in this region. Its name is used for manipulation. Al-Qaeda has become an organization whose name is most frequently used in the Middle East, but in reality, this organization does not exist. The main goal in Tuz Khurmatu is to destroy the Turkmen identity. In addition to bombings, threatening letters are sent to Turkmen people. The policy of harassing the Turkmen people in Tuz Khurmatu has been successful so far. Nearly 400 families have migrated to the south, predominantly Shiite areas, over the last two years. This has cleared the way for an increased presence of Kurds in the city.
The change in the political balances in Iraq is affecting Turkey because it shares the same physical, political, ethnic, religious, sectarian and cultural geography.