Who are the Iraqi Turkmens
The Turkmens of Iraq are a Turkic people, they are the descendants of the Turkish OGUZ tribes originating in Central Asia. They arrived in Mesopotamia (Iraq) in several successive waves and settled there more than 1400 years ago. The overall Turkmen region in Iraq is called Turkmeneli, it lies between the Kurdish region in the northeast and the Arab region in the southwest. It includes territories in the provinces of Mosul, Erbil, Kirkuk, Salaheddin, Diyala and Kut.
Since there is no accurate and reliable census data in Iraq, one cannot be sure about the exact numbers of the Turkmens, however, it is estimated to be around three million, which is roughly 9% of the Iraqi population. in the 1997 census, ‘Turkmen’ as a nationality was removed from the official census forms, Turkmens had to register either as Arabs or Kurds. The largest concentration of Turkmens lives in the city of Kirkuk, which they consider as their capital city and main cultural centre. A great number of Turkmens also live in Baghdad. We are a clear majority in Tal Afar, Tuzhurmatu and Kifri.
Demographic changes and confiscation of Turkmen lands
Several demographic changes have taken place in the Turkmen region, especially in Kirkuk province and Kirkuk city. In the 1980s the Baath regime installed tens of thousands of Arab families on Turkmen lands, several Turkmen villages were totally destroyed and their inhabitants were forcedly displaced without receiving any compensation. The largest demographic change happened in Kirkuk under U.S. occupation in 2003 when the Kurdish leaders brought over 600.000 Kurds from other areas in Iraq and settled them in the city. Today, there is ongoing pressure by Kurdish and Arab authorities to shift the Turkmen population to different areas to continue the demographic change.
Human rights violations
Since the beginning of the Iraqi state in 1921 Turkmens were treated as second class citizens, their basic human rights were denied and their political leaders and intellectuals were killed. Since 2003 the Turkmen political leaders, academics, professionals have been especially targeted and assassinated, dozens of them were kidnapped for ransom. Turkmen areas are suffering under targeted attacks. Turkmens are easy targets as they are not allowed to have their own self-defence forces. Arabs and Kurds can get benefit from governmental financial sources while Turkmens do not. Even at 1st November 2014 the new Iraqi Parliament rejected the one bill that would recognize Turkmens’ rights. This proves that the discrimination against the Turkmens continues.
Internally displaced Turkmens due to IS attacks
Since June 2014, many Turkmen cities and villages have been attacked and occupied by IS. 350.000 Turkmens had to flee leaving everything behind and many were tortured and killed (in Tel Afer, Bashir, Biravceli, Amerli, Kara Tepe, etc). Neither the Iraqi army which was supposed to protect them nor the Kurdish Peshmerga forces came to their help. Thousands of these Turkmen IDPs are now living under dire conditions in transit camps in the Kurdish region and in mosques and schools in Kirkuk. Thousands of other Turkmen families were taken to the south of Iraq where they were given shelter in schools and mosques. Wherever they are these internally displaced Turkmen families have hardly received any help from the Iraqi government, to survive they can only rely on humanitarian help from fellow Turkmens, Turkmen and Turkish NGOs.
What is needed for our survival
To survive and be recognised as part of Iraq we formulated the conditions for our survival as an Iraqi people in the Common ‘Declaration of the Turkmen, Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian and Ezidi Kurdic people of Iraq’ which has been signed and presented at 19 November 2014 in the European Parliament.
Brussels, 4th December 2014
Contact: Dr. Hassan Tawfiq Aydinli, Iraqi Turkmen Front EU Representativee-mail : email@example.com