Iraqi Turkmens continue to be targeted in attacks

Because of its oil reserves, strategic location and history, mainly Turkmen-inhabited Kirkuk is of great importance to both the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the government of Iraq.

Iraqi Turkmens continue to be targeted in attacks

A blast that killed more than 30 people and wounded many more on Friday attracted particular attention because it occurred in Kirkuk, the oil-rich city in northern Iraq that is one of the cities inhabited mainly by Turkmens. Professor Mahir Nakip, a lecturer at Kayseri's Erciyes University (ERÜ) and spokesperson for the İstanbul-based Kirkuk Foundation, told Today's Zaman that, like in other attacks, Turkmens were the target of the blast in Kirkuk.

“Turkmens were the main target of the recent blasts in Iraq. Attacks against Turkmens have been happening for a long time. The objective is that Turkmens living in Iraq be assimilated and be forced to migrate from Iraq's oil-rich city of Kirkuk,” Nakip said in a telephone interview.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry also made a statement that condemned the attack in Kirkuk and sent a message of unity and solidarity from its website on Sunday.

A bomb exploded in a teahouse where many people had gathered after breaking their fast for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Kirkuk on Friday, and another bomb attack in Dujail killed more than 70 people at a Shiite mosque on Thursday.

Iraqi Turkmens are the third-largest ethnic group in Iraq and live primarily in Kirkuk and Tuzhurmatu. Kirkuk Province is a historically diverse area; in addition to ethnic Turkmens, there are also many Arabs and Kurds. Friday's blast in the city took place in an area of previous ethnic, sectarian and political clashes.

Mehmet Tütüncü, the general director of the İstanbul-based Iraqi Turks Culture and Mutual Aid Society (ITKYD), told Today's Zaman that there is a bomb blast every day of the week in Iraq and pointed out that there are many more attacks occurring in predominately Turkmen areas as compared to other ethnic groups in Iraq.

“It is very hard to say who is behind the attack in Kirkuk, but I can easily say that there are many attacks directed at areas where Turkmens live,” Tütüncü said, underlining the fact that the Turkmen community is the only unarmed ethnic group in Iraq.

The future of Kirkuk and its lucrative resources remains undecided and the controversy is one of the reasons for continued unrest in the region. Because of its oil reserves, strategic location and history, it is of great importance to both the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the government of Iraq. Though the city lies within the territory of an Iraqi governorate, Arbil wants to incorporate the city into its own borders. A referendum was to determine the city's future in 2007; however, political discord has caused several delays, and Kirkuk remains a disputed area.

Stressing the international significance of oil reserves in Kirkuk, Tütüncü said oil is the biggest reason for the chaotic atmosphere and ethno-religious conflict that has led to the targeting of Turkmens in Iraq.

“Iraqi Turkmens were given the destiny of living in oil-rich territories, and that underground oil shapes the Turkmens' destiny as they face violence and attacks. There is no bright side to the reserves in Kirkuk for Turkmens; they only witness the violence of those who are trying to seize control of the oil reserves,” he said.

The turmoil in Iraq, the result of ethno-religious conflict between Sunnis and Shiites as well as Kurds and Arabs, was a factor contributing to the incident, with allegations of Turkmens being used for political aims and under pressure from different political sides.

“Turkmens are torn between Shiites and Sunnis. The most powerful members of Iraqi politics don't want the Turkmens to gain power and have a say in the country's politics. They are increasing pressure on Turkmens to choose a side and vote for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the next elections,” said Professor Birol Akgün, a specialist from the Ankara-based Institute of Strategic Thinking (SDE), stressing the political gamesmanship in Iraq.

The answer to who is behind the recent attacks in Dujail and Kirkuk remains uncertain. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks as of yet, according to Reuters. Serhat Erkmen, a Middle East advisor for the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM), said that one cannot identify a single actor who is responsible for the turmoil in the country.

“There are many attacks across the country. Only the ones that resulted in large death tolls draw our attention, but there are many incidents happening as part of everyday life in Iraq that result in the small scale loss of lives. There is a general security problem in Iraq. The people who feel left out of politics are trying to be on the political stage with these kinds of incidents,” Erkmen said, emphasizing that politics walks hand-in-hand with violence in Iraq.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 16 Temmuz 2013, 10:23