Sep 08, 2015

Iraqi Turkmen: Austere Seclusion, Widely Underreported

With the gradual yet fast growth of IS presence in the region, and its seizure of provinces, in particular Mosul and Talafar, the frail unity among Sunni and Shiite Turkmens has been further compromised. Turkmen areas are now mostly under the Kurdish Regional Government's control, while Kirkuk and other cities are subjected to radical demographic changes. 

Below is an article by
Cihan News Agency

Life is over for Sunni Arabs and Turkmens in Iraq. The Sunni Arabs and Turkmens who live in the north, the west and the centre of Iraq have been forced to pick either the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
In the south of Iraq, they face Shiite pressure. ISIL is a Sunni organization; but because it is based on a hybrid Salafi ideology, it is against Sunni-Hanafi and Sunni Shafi interpretations of Islam. For ISIL, Iraqi Sunnis are enemies that should be destroyed. The cultural and religious past and identity of Iraqi Sunnis is being eradicated. For this reason, ISIL destroys all tombs and shrines. Daily life is becoming ever harder for Iraqi Sunnis. They are forced to live under the domination of others. There is no longer stability and security. The future is entirely bleak.

The Turkmens are no longer united after ISIL took over control of Mosul and Talafar. This led to further divisions among Sunni and Shiite Turkmens. Because of the establishment of control of Kurdish Peshmerga forces in some controversial areas including Kirkuk, Turkmens now live under the domination of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITC), the umbrella organization of the Turkmens, has been passivized. The central government in Baghdad is also indifferent to them.
People in Kirkuk have water once every three days. The locals try to solve the electricity problem by generators at homes and offices. One dollar is equal to 122 dinars. After the seizure of Mosul by ISIL on June 10, 2014, the new rate became one dollar to 148 dinars. Currently, the price of vegetables, fruit and meat is equal to prices in Turkey. Groups other than Kurds face invisible pressure in Kirkuk. The demographic outlook of Kirkuk is changing in favour of Kurds. Iranian Kurds continue to settle in Kirkuk; after ISIL, Syrian Kurds also prefer the city. Some Turkmen houses have been demolished in Vasiti district. Turkmens are forced to wait at the entrance of Arbil and Duhok.

It is no longer proper to call ISIL the new version of Sunni Arab nationalism. ISIL has executed 2,070 Iraqi Sunnis in Mosul over the last year. The Nakshibendi movement has distanced itself from ISIL. Former Baathists have also left ISIL. Mosul is under ISIL control but the city is dependent on Turkey in economic terms. Cell phones are not used in ISIL-controlled areas but people use the Internet widely; they communicate using the Internet. People in Mosul import fresh fruit, vegetables, chicken and construction materials from Turkey. Currency exchange offices transfer money instantly from Mosul to İstanbul or Ankara.

Iraqi Sunnis have started to leave Iraq, especially the middle and upper-middle classes, including former Baathists; they often migrate to Turkey, particularly İstanbul, Ankara, Gaziantep, Mersin and Konya. Sunni young people, on the other hand, seek to move to the EU, the US and Canada as refugees. Those who cannot afford it stay for now. If ISIL becomes permanent in Iraq, more Iraqi Sunnis will leave Iraq and move to Turkey or Western countries.

Turkey does not consider those who come from non-European countries to be refugees and it does not want asylum seekers from Asia and the Middle East. In addition, it disfavours the settlement of Turkic people outside Turkey. It also prefers Iraqi Turkmens to stay in Iraq. But Ankara needs to see that conditions are changing. Turkish bureaucrats should follow the world better instead of taking strolls in luxury malls. Iraqi Turkmens have become citizens of another country after the change of borders. Now it is time to pay attention to them. Those who wish should be admitted as Turkish citizens immediately and unconditionally.



Photo Courtesy: William John Gauthier @ Flickr