World Bulletin/News Desk
After years of pressure and intimidation creating long-standing problems, Iraqi Turkmen are still hopeful to surmount them with Turkey’s support.
One of the numerous violent attacks directed at the Iraqi Turkmen group was the Altunköprü massacre. Altunköprü, a Turkmen populated town close to Kirkuk, was raided by Iraqi army units, leading to the killing of more than 100 Turkmen civilians on March 28, 1991. As the First Gulf War approached its end, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein launched an aggressive campaign against non-Arab ethnic groups in northern Iraq, where a power vacuum allowed the Iraqi army to commit acts of mass bloodshed.
On that day of cruelty, 100 Turkmens including children and elderly people were executed before the eyes of their family members after being taken from their homes by Saddam forces. The dead bodies were buried in mass graves. Today, it is rare to come across someone in the town who did not lose one of his acquaintances on March 28, a date which symbolizes the discrimination Iraqi Turkmens have had to face over the course of the last decades.
Turkmen Brigade to be established
Years after the Altunköprü massacre, Iraqi Turkmens have recently suffered from another massive attack in Tuzkhurmatu, a town in Saladin province where prominent Turkmen leaders were killed in a car explosion. The Iraqi government formed a special committee, led by deputy Prime Minister Hussein Shehristani, to investigate the unfortunate incident. Following the committee’s visit to Tuzkhurmatu, the members agreed on establishing a security force for Turkmen security in the town. In the first stage, the security unit consists of 750 officers and a group of soldiers will later be added to it from Diyala. The committee also pledged to pay compensation to those who were harmed from the attack.
The move to form a separate security force for Turkmens drew criticism from Saladin’s local administration. The governorate reacted against the decision, noting it would cause divisions among security officials. Kurdish politicians also took a stance against the decision. The statement made by Peshmerga Ministry of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) underlined that Tuzkhurmatu is part of a disputed region between the Iraqi federal government and the KRG, noting that the consent of the Kurdish adminsitraiton should also have been taken. Commenting that the decision was a constructive step, a Turkmen politician said there was still a lot to do to ensure the security of Turkmens. He demanded the establishment of similar units in Kirkuk and Telafer, where significant numbers of Turkmens also lives.
MAHMUT ÇELEBİ: "TURKMENS SHOULD ALSO HAVE AUTONOMY”
The head of the Turkmens in Erbil, Mahmut Çelebi, said the last attack was part of a grand strategy against Turkmens living in Iraq, adding that some groups want Iraq to become a platform for a sectarian clash. “This is not something targeting only Turkmens. Similar attacks occurred in Mosul. One day a bomb explosion happens in a Sunni neighbor, the other day it happens in a Shiite one. We have observed this kind of incident from 1958 when the Kirkuk massacre was conducted. Today we recognize that the perpetrators of those attacks in the past were from the same circle of today’s aggressors. As is well-known, this is the plan of foreign forces who do not want Iraq to be a peaceful place.” Çelebi said.
Having invested immense efforts to improve the life standards of Iraqi Turkmens for years, Çelebi is of the opinion that the security unit in Tuzkhurmatu is not enough to meet the security needs of Turkmens. Referring to the violent clashes and instability in northern Iraq, he stated “The problems in northern Iraq ended with the formation of a Kurdish autonomous entity. Thus, a federal structure for Turkmens should be established. We do not demand any financial assistance from Turkey. But when Turkey would side with us, Arab states would also support Turkmens’ claim for autonomy.”
Turkmen unity attacked to be divided on sectarian differences
The National Turkmen Party of Iraq came up with the idea of creating a new province which has Tukhurmatu as its center. According to party leader Isam Adil Terzi, the purpose of the last attack was to deepen the divisions among Turkmens on a sectarian basis. Terzi said, “The killing of primary Turkmen leaders aims to divide the Turkmen community into two. The Shiite-Sunni division deepened among the Arabs, but did not do so among Turkmens. Today those who aim to separate Turkmens on a sectarian basis achieved their goal in Telafer by 20 per cent. Now they want to do it here in Tuzkhurmatu. The Iraqi government decided to form a separate police force for Turkmens. We should be very careful on the outcome of this step. Possible discrimination may occur. I do not believe that this police force will bring peace into Tuzkhurmatu. In order to have a Turkmen populated area, it should be a province having Tuzkurmatu as its center.
Source: Kuzey News AgencyGüncelleme Tarihi: 13 Temmuz 2013, 18:25