dimanche 27 juillet 2014

Turkmens in Iraq expect same sensitivity toward them as to Gazans

Turkmens expect same sensitivity toward them as to Gazans

Turkmens expect same sensitivity toward them as to Gazans
Thousands of Turkmens, who have been forced to flee from the Islamic State, have been living in tent cities or in the open in desert areas west of Arbil.(Photo: DHA)
July 26, 2014, Saturday/ 17:00:00/ AYDIN ALBAYRAK / ANKARA

Turkmens in Iraq, who have been driven away from their homes by the terrorist Islamic State, are disappointed in the Turkish government, which has failed to show the same sensitivity to their plight that it did to the Palestinians under Israeli attack in Gaza.

“Unfortunately, I do not think the government has displayed towards the Turkmens of Tal Afar the [same] sensitivity it displayed towards Gaza. I can't make any sense of this,” Mehmet Tütüncü, chairman of the İstanbul-based Iraqi Turks Culture and Mutual Aid Society (ITKYD), told Sunday's Zaman.

Hundreds of Turkmens have been killed by the terrorists of the Islamic State in Iraq during its ongoing bloody campaign in the civil war-torn country since the terrorist organization captured Mosul in the first half of June. The organization, the members of which declare themselves to be Muslim, ruthlessly kills anyone whose religious practices differ from theirs, such as Shiite Muslims.

Noting that Turkmens in Iraq were almost left to their own devices against the Islamic State threat, Tütüncü, obviously deeply frustrated, said, “I feel this might be caused by the fact that our executioners are also self-proclaimed Muslims or that the victims [in our case] are of Turkish descent.”

Tütüncü's comment clearly reveals that, unlike many people in Turkey, he does not take members of the Islamic State for Muslims, as the terrorist organization is known to have brutally butchered people who do not share its religious views. His reference to “Turkish descent” is an indication that he has the impression, like so many in the opposition in Turkey, that the government, and particularly Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has very rarely said “Turkish nation” in his speeches during his past 11 years in power, is allergic to all that is connected with the Turkish identity.

At the beginning of the week Turkey declared a three-day period of mourning for Palestinian victims killed in the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Erdoğan lashed out at Israel for its brutal attack against Gaza, noting that nearly 600 people, more than 100 of whom are children, were killed in the attacks.

In sharp contrast, Erdoğan has rarely talked about the plight of the Turkmens, a couple of hundred thousand of whom under the Islamic State attack had to leave the cities and villages in which they lived in Iraq, over the past two months.

Erdoğan has also never described the Islamic State, which is an al-Qaeda splinter group and was previously called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), as terrorists. The terrorist group has kept 49 Turkish citizens, including Turkish Consul-General in Mosul Öztürk Yılmaz, hostage since it seized Turkey's consulate in Mosul in June.

Turkey has so far just provided humanitarian aid to the Turkmens, most of whom live in tent cities or in the open under the harsh summer sun. Dozens of children have died due to thirst, disease or scorpion bites by living out on the open land. Turkmens in Iraq have been forced by the Islamic State into the biggest mass migration since the founding of Iraq following World War I.

Following the seizure of Mosul the Islamic State terrorists captured the mainly ethnic Turkmen city of Tal Afar, which has an estimated population of approximately 400,000 people, in northwestern Iraq on June 16. Shiite Turkmens make up around half the population of the city, while Sunni Turkmens together with Arabs make up the other half. Around 200,000 people reportedly fled the town and hundreds of Turkmens were killed by the Islamic State when the terrorist group seized the city.

Tütüncü, who has been in Turkey for more than 20 years, sounds somewhat frustrated by the attitude of the religious people in Turkey who -- rightfully, Tütüncü emphasized -- protested against Israel for its attack against Gaza during the week. “We expect religious people to also display for Turkmens one-tenth of the sensitivity they show Gaza. Turkmens are also Muslims,” he said. Complaining that the media has not been sufficiently sensitive to their plight either, he says, “Turkmen are disappointed.”

The leader of the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITC), Erşad Salihi, said at a press conference in Kirkuk in the first week of July that the number of displaced Turkmens who had fled the Islamic State threat in various towns amounted to more than 300,000. “Turkmens struggle to live in makeshift tents, in partly constructed buildings, at the roadside,” Salihi said, although he thanked Turkey for the humanitarian aid it has provided for the Turkmens.

Members of opposition parties also harshly criticized the government during a discussion in Parliament over the past week, for its lack of sensitivity towards the Turkmen's hardship. Sinan Oğan, a deputy from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), lashed out at the government during a debate in Parliament for not taking proper care of Turkmens in Iraq, noting that there are Turkmen children who recently died of hunger. Oğan added: “Why is your government so hostile to [all that is connected with] Turks?” Yusuf Halaçoğlu, deputy chairman of the MHP parliamentary group, in the same session of Parliament demanded: “You declare a three-day mourning period for Gaza, but why don't you also declare a period of mourning for Turkmens?”

In a report that appeared in the Hürriyet Daily News during the week, Eyat Suttu, a 35-year-old Turkmen of Tal Afar, said: “There is always someone to look after Kurds and Arabs in Iraq, but there is no one to look after the Turkmens.” Noting that Turks were calling Tal Afar “Little İstanbul,” Suttu went on to express his frustration towards Turkey, saying, “Why doesn't Turkey take care of us now?” According to the report, Suttu's wife had been seriously ill for five days but he had not been able to bring her to a hospital, as the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga had not let them enter Arbil. Turkmens are not being allowed to enter Arbil by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), various reports had earlier confirmed.

Turkmens, the third most populous ethnic group in Iraq after Arabs and Kurds, are unable to protect themselves, as they do not have a security force of their own as the Kurds. Despite Turkey's excellent relations with the KRG in Iraq, Kurdish peshmerga forces did not take action before the terrorist attack against Tal Afar, but instead reportedly demanded that Turkmens in Tal Afar lay down all their weapons if they wanted the peshmerga to intervene to protect the town.

Nejat Kevseroğlu, editor-in-chief of the Türkmeneli daily in Kirkuk, confirmed that dozens of children had died due to the tough living conditions Turkmens are exposed to. Although Kevseroğlu, who is also a writer, made a point of thanking the Turkish government for the humanitarian aid sent so far for the Turkmens, his remarks revealed he also felt a little disappointed by the inequality in the government's attitude in embracing Gaza, and its comparative “indifference” to the plight of Turkmens in Iraq.

“Our wish is that the [Turkish] government would have the same attitude to us [as it has towards Gaza]. That would help us save ourselves from danger. We would also be happy if Turkey were to display towards us half the sensitivity it expressed for Gaza,” he said.

Turkmens call on Turkey to push for the establishment of a secure zone in Tal Afar, as Kurds were provided with during the first US attack against Iraq in 1991, so that they may feel safe. According to Kevseroğlu, 
http://www.todayszaman.com/news-353991-turkmens-expect-same-sensitivity-toward-them-as-to-gazans.html“Turkmens are faced with the threat of death.” 

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