The Iraqi Liberation and Turkmen's Hopes and Disappointments
DISTINGUISHED ATTENDEES AND GUESTS,
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN;
The Turkmens, who are originally from Central Asia and who are also the third
largest ethnic group in Iraq, began settling in Iraq thousand years ago and
they still inhabit the North and Middle of Iraq, mainly in the provinces of
Mosul, Erbil, Kirkuk, and Deyalah. Although the Turkmen population in Iraq
has been intentionally suppressed by the goverment, and, as is the case for
the other ethnic groups as well, the real numbers have always been kept as
a government secret. It is conservatively estimated that the number of Turkmens
in Iraq exceeds two million. They are ethnically of Central Asian and the
Turkmen language belongs to the Turkic-speaking group.
After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the rights of the Turkmens living in Iraq have been deteriorated by the external powers and various Iraqi governments. Following World War I, Iraq was invaded and controlled by the British, a puppet kingdom was established by the occupiers.
On various occasions, the Turkmens were subjected to oppression, including
political imprisonments and even massacres. The city of Kirkuk, where the
majority of the Turkmens lived historically, experienced several major massacres
and many Turkmens were killed. Many ohers were deported from their homelands
and exiled. Major tragedies occured in 1924, 1946, and on July 14, 1959 and
leaders of Turkmen Society were massacred and their cultural riches destroyed.
On the other hand, after the Iraqi Baath Party came to the power, the Turkmens
have experienced the most gloomy era of their long history in Iraq. They have
also lost their basic human rights, security of their lives, and their properties
under the cruel regime of Saddam. The panic, fear and uncertainties still
dominate the daily lives of Turkmens in Mosul, Erbil, and Kirkuk where their
populations are dense. Similar to many other non-Arab ethnic groups in Iraq,
the Turkmens suffered terribly for decades by the regime of Saddam.
The Turkmens have always been loyal and lawfull citizens of Iraq with deep roots of their love for their homeland and the rest of the Iraqi population regardless of their ethnicity nor religions. The Turkmens never engaged in any insurgencies against the government until the Iraqi government, viciously and systematically, began to destroy them.
Iraqi Turkmens, by virtue of their social background, urban culture, and
tradition, constitute a democratic, secular, and well-educated ethnic group.
Iraqi Turkmens want to live in their homelands in peace and harmony without
any threat or political pressure. They will never accept to be treated as
a minority group within another minority group of Iraq. The Turkmens will
firmly continue to oppose any separatist and divisive political and military
movements in Iraq regardless of their origins. They believe in democracy in
its true sense and they have been struggling politically to achieve their
goals of a democratic, secular and united Iraq. Therefore, the Turkmens will
continue to play a more prominent role in shaping the democratic and modern
Iraq that will become a respectable member of the international community
in the future.
Turkmens believe that it is possible to reach a just and permanent political
solution in order to determine the future and fate of the regions populated
by the Turkmens in Iraq. It is very crucial that they will not be imposed
on any condition and they will participate in these political negotiations
with their proportinal presence as same as the other players. They want to
elect their own representatives through democratic procedures and they will
be recognized as an equal partner in the Iraqi balance equation.
Unfortunately, it is still impossible to speak about the stability and peace in Iraq. Anarchy and bloody terror are cost many lives in a daily basis. Iraqi people, whose hopes and expectations raised by democracy and freedom promised by the occupying powers, are disappointed. It is well appreciated that Iraq was freed from its old despotic rulers, but today new forms of oppression are becoming the dominant practice in the country. Iraqi people are anxiously struggling for a better future.
The Iraqi Interim Governing Council, with the directions of the coalition
forces, has been favoring the two Kurdish Parties. They were given a leading
role in the establishment of the Iraqi Interim Government which was not proportional
to their population nor their presence in the Iraqi society. In contrast,
the intentional exclusion of the Turkmens from the political process in post-Saddam
Iraq caused a deep shock and suspicions for the Iraqi people and the Turkmens.
This short-sighted political arrangement between the American Government and
our Kurdish brothers was not a practical proposition to impelement. Therefore,
the exclusion of Turkmens from the post-Saddam political negotiations backfired
and parties did not go anywhere from the getgo. The issue is still at the
table for fair consensus and permanent resolution. The Turkmen position on
this issue is very clear where any political or miltary action causing to
break down Iraq into its ethnic or religious pieces will not be supportes
at all. That is the bottomline the Turkmens cannot compromise. The Turkmen
position is compeletly agreed almost by all the players in the region including
the United States, Turkey, and other American allies in the region. The most
sensitive challenge is to achieve this common goal by bringing in all the
ethnic and religious groups of Iraq, regardless of their past positions on
the issues, for a just and long lasting settlement.
The Turkmens clearly convey their message to the United States and their
Kurdish brothers. First of all, everyone playing a role in the political process
must read the old history of the region thoroughly. They should digest the
similarities and differences of all ethnic and religious groups in Iraq. They
should also remember that all of the Iraqi people, regardless of their denomination,
suffered from the brutalities of the past governments. They must also accept
the fact that they will continue to live together for years to come under
a democratic, secular and unified Iraq. They have to identify their common
values and goals. They have to spell out their concerns and realistic expectations.
They must be frank to each other and should not use any external power, including
the United States of America, for their short term political and economic
benefits. They all must recognize the fact that, in today's world, no unjust
solution will last long. The fact is that everyone do the table is as smart
as the others and no one should waste their time and energy trying to outsmart
the other party. Turkmens sincerely believe that there will be a just solution
to all issues involving Northern Iraq under these fundamental principles of
We emphasize it again that Iraq's new constitution ought to be democratic,
respectful of the United Nations and international laws, protecting individual
and ethnic rights of all the people of Iraq. It has to bear the characteristics
that would enable Iraq to reach the level of modern civilisations, and would
open up new horizons and opportunities for the Iraqi people in the coming
years. Therefore, the new constitution has to be based on mutual recognition
and fairness between all ethnic groups and peoples of Iraq, respect for the
individual and clashes to erupt by categorising the Iraqi people into strict
groups. It must cultivate the co-existance of different people under the same
government and state. Otherwise, Iraq is extremely vulnerable to crumble in
a very short time that will be almost impossible to put the pieces back again.
The Turkmens cannot accept any scenario that will politically divide the country
based on ethnic lines that will lead to permanent divisions of Iraq. The Turkmens
are expecting new creative approaches agreed by all the participants of the
Iraqi problem with extraordinary patience and mutual understanding in order
to succeed in this historic transformation.
Drafting a new Iraqi constitution and its implementation bring great responsibilities
to our Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens, Assyrians, Caldeans, and all of the groups
in the country. All Iraqis ought to learn from their past problems and mistakes
and do not repeat them again.
At this point in time, we call our brothers and sisters in Iraq, including The Interim Government, to work hand in hand to rebuild the country and its future where every Iraqi citizen, regardless of his or her ethnicity or religion, will be protected and will prosper. Let's all understand the fact that dividing Iraq into three regions based on unjustified and unfair ethnic borders is not a viable solution for the future. Let's reapproach the issue of restructuring the country with a fresh start and accomodate the rights and expectations of all involved.
We, the Turkmens,want to play a more prominent role in the restucturing of a free, just, peaceful, and stable Iraq. The Turkmens want to live in a Democratic and united Iraq.
The principles that are crucial for the Turkmens and the entire Iraqi nation during this restructuring of modern Iraq are highligted as follows:
1. The territorial unity of the existing Iraq.
2. Free and open representation of all Iraqi people in a democratic government. 3. Equal rights to all people of Iraq regardless of their background, ethnicity, religion, sex or race.
4. Protection of human rights and the rights of all ethnic and religious groups.
5. Establishment of an efficient and free enterprise based economy instead of a warbased economy.
6. Mutually respectable and good relations with all other countries including Iraq's neighbors in the region.
I would also like to summarize very important issues and concerns of Turkmen people in Iraq as follows:
1. Turkmen people are the third largest nation in Iraq. They are about 13 % of the entire Iraqi population. As a contrast, their representation in the Iraqi Interim Government is limited to only one seat. That is not acceptable and Turkmens
demand their fair representation in the Iraqi political system as soon as possible.
2. Kirkuk City Council has elected a Mayor of the city without taking into consideration of the Turkmen majority in the governorate. Turkmens will never compromise their poltical and cultural rights in this historic Turkmen city.
Turkmen position about Kirkuk must be clearly understood by all parties involved.
3. The Kurdish groups of PDK and PUK are attempting and planning to impose their powers to change the demographics in Kirkuk City, and in other Turkmen areas in Northern Iraq. All of these illegal procedures are taking place in spite of Turkmens' opposition and complaints to the Coalition Forces, and to the Iraqi Interim Government. Again, we remind our brothers and sisters that trying to outsmart the other side is the worst attitude for any partnership. Turkmens cannot be underestimated.
4. The municipal workers and officials are being continuously brought into
Kirkuk from Arbil and Sulaimaniya and they are being appointed to the local
government positions that should be taken by the original people of Kirkuk.
5. The United Nations and The Coalition Forces should not to allow the Kurdish
Parties to impose any illegal policies on Turkmen cities and villages such
as changing the names of the governmental offices and institutions in order
claim Turkmen homelands as a part of the Kurdish region in Northern Iraq.
6. The Interim Government and The Coalition Forces in Kirkuk do not pay enough
attention to non-Kurdish people of the city in order to create policies that
are consensus based. The policies, orders, and decisions issued by the Kurdish
Regional Government (KRG) cannot be implemented in Kirkuk.We reiterate the
fact that Kirkuk is the independent province where all loyal nationalities
of Iraq live together peacefully.
7. Kirkuk is the most important testbed for a modern and unified Iraq. If
the status of Kirkuk cannot be resolved peacefully, it is not a brainer to
expect the civil war in Iraq.
Let's hope that the people of Iraq will find the best possible resolutions for their ethnic and national problems. Let's hope that a democratic and unified Iraq will take its place in the modern world in the near future. Let's hope that the justice and peace will prevail in Iraq and in the entire region. Let's hope that the history will not repeat itself and the bloodshed in the region will stop soon. Thanks again for your attention and interest in the Turkmen People of Iraq. Give your unconditional support for a democratic and unified Iraq.