Tags: Barbara Lochbihler, Hassan Aydinli, Hearing at EU Parliament, Marino Busdachin, Metin Kazak, UNPO
UNPO Expert Speech On Iraqi Turkmen At European Parliament Hearing
From left to right: MEP Tunne Kelam, ITF EU Representative Dr Hassan Aydinli and Vice-President Sub-Committee Human Rights
MEP Metin Kazak
UNPO EXPERT SPEECH ON IRAQI TURKMEN AT EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT HEARING
I would first and foremost like to thank the Delegation for Relations with Iraq and the Human Rights Subcommittee for inviting the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, once again, to provide an update on the situation of human rights and minorities in Iraq. I was asked to put special emphasis on the situation of the Iraqi Turkmen, as their situation at the moment is indeed very precarious and in need of targeted assistance.
The Iraqi Turkmen are the third largest group in Iraq, with estimates of around 3 million people. They are concentrated mainly in the northern part of Iraq and in the Autonomous Kurdish Region. The largest compactly settled group of Iraqi Turkmen lives in the so called “disputed territories”, notably in the city and province of Kirkuk, considered as their capital. Sparring between Iraq’s central government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Region Government (KRG) in Erbil is frequent, particularly with regard to the country’s oil and gas rich disputed territories, notably Kirkuk.
The Iraqi Constitution of 2005 sets a satisfactory framework in terms of minority protection and recognizing the multinational component of the country – specifically anti-discrimination and cultural provisions. However, Iraq is lacking laws and infrastructure to effectively implement these provisions.
The continued insecurity Iraqi Turkmen are facing, even after the new Constitution entered into force, takes gruesome proportions: teachers being tortured and burnt alive, a terrorist attack targeting a tent full of mourners for a man who himself was assassinated by terrorists, suicide bombings and abductions, and many other incidents inciting fear are, sadly enough, commonplace for the Turkmen.
In early November 2013, at least 4 explosions took place injuring several people in Kirkuk. On 8 November 2013, the Turkmen poet Jasim Muhemed Ferej Tuzlu was found killed after a 24 hour kidnapping. On 17 November 2013, three suicide bombers and 12 roadside bombs ripped through Tuz-Khurmato, leaving 21 dead and 40 wounded. Last Sunday, on 24 November 2013, 3 people were killed and 20 people were wounded when a car bomb exploded at a police checkpoint in Telafer. In the same day, 12 people were killed and over 75 were wounded in a suicide attack on a mosque yet again in the Tuz-Khurmato area.
In November 2013, the administration of Kirkuk Province, in cooperation with its Security Forces, used violent methods to repress the Turkalan villagers’ protests against the illegal appropriation of a great part of their agricultural land for the installation of a sewage project. The Iraqi government illegally confiscated 332 acres of the village, despite the objection of the land owners who had obtained a Court decision to halt the project. As a consequence of the events, 5 young villagers were arrested. In an attempt to boycott the coverage of the incidents during the protests, Special Forces confiscated television cameras and mobile phones containing footage of the event.
In 2011, in a previous DROI hearing held in the European Parliament on the Iraqi Turkmen, UNPO stated that there were no measures in place to address the Turkmen insecurity. I am profoundly disappointed to have to reiterate what I said 2 years ago. The situation for the Iraqi Turkmen did not change for the better at all, despite the European Parliament’s resolutions from 14 March 2013 and 10 October 2013 on the plight of the Turkmen, in which it expressed its deep concern at the increasing acts of violence against them and called the Iraqi authorities to improve the security and combat terrorism.
It is important to note that the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement EU-Iraq, signed on 11 May 2012, provides a basis for legislative cooperation alongside the trade provisions. Despite Lady Catherine Ashton’s statement, on 18 June 2013, condemning the wave of attacks in Iraq and encouraging all political forces to create a common front against all forms of violence, the situation has remained the same. The same statement mentions that Lady Ashton also signed an agreement providing Iraq with the amount of 4 million Euros of EU funding to create an Energy Centre. Why is this agreement mainly ignoring the legislative cooperation that will help the Iraqi state to develop the ‘so-needed’ legislation to implement the Constitutional provisions and International treaties?
This week, the UN SC issued a statement on the violence in Iraq, stressing the need to bring those responsible for the violence to justice and called on Governments to cooperate with Iraqi authorities to hold the perpetrators to account. This is a welcoming step to put an end to this conflict, but clearly much more needs to be done. Long term hostilities and conflicts between ethnic and religious groups in Iraq are deteriorating the political system, which is largely based on ethnic and religious divisions. This is in my opinion, a recipe for disaster in a country with mixed ethno-religious populations. A democratic system securing ethnic and religious rights and sanctioning discrimination is the only peaceful solution for the Turkmen and other ethnic minorities in Iraq.
Time was then given to speakers from the floor wishing to comment. Mr. Metin Kazak, MEP, had prepared questions for the EEAS – which will be answered to in writing because of a lack of time during the session. Nevertheless, he took the opportunity to emphasize the importance of assisting the Turkmen minority of Iraq as they are “the most vulnerable and in the worst situation”, victims of kidnappings and torture.
The Iraqi Turkmen are a minority of just under 3 million, predominantly present in the Iraqi provinces of Mosul, Erbil, Kirkuk, Salahaddin and Diyal, Baghdad and Wasit. They represent the third largest ethnic group in Iraq (13% of the population).
Kirkuk is considered by the Turkmen as their capital city. This area, within the ‘Turkmen’ region of Iraq, produces nearly 70% of the Iraqi petroleum and 2.2% of the world’s.
They are primarily politically represented by The Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF).This organization includes all Turkmen parties and movements such as the INTP (Iraqi National Turkmen Party); the Turkmeneli Party (TP) ; the Adalet party (AP); the Islamic Movement of Iraqi Turkmens (IMIT); and the Independents Movement. It also includes the Turkmen Nationalist Movement (TNM), the Turkmen Wafa Movement, and the Islamic Union of Iraqi Turkmens (IUIT).
Originating from Central Asia, the Turkmen are descendants of the Oghuz tribes. The decline of their influence first began after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
Throughout the 1920’s both Turkmen and Kurd minorities resisted British authority and the Hejazi Hashemite monarchy, and as a result the cultural rights of Turkmen communities were gradually eroded. In the 1930s a rapid demographic change produced ethnic tension, and Turkmen communities began to feel the effects of marginalisation.
Violence continued to escalate until 1959, when communist and separatist militias massacred Turkmen leaders along with hundreds of Turkmens in the city of Kerkuk. Tensions were later exacerbated even further with the establishment of Ba’ath Party rule in 1968. The 1970s where in fact characterised by other breaches of Turkmen human rights such as the ‘Arabisation of Kirkuk’ in 1971, and by their discrimination through employment opportunities, unfair dismissals, deliberate measures to worsen their living conditions, forced displacement and deportation, and interference with their right of ownership.
After seizing power in 1979, Saddam Hussein’s regime instigated a campaign of intensive “Arabisation”, systematically expelling the Turkmen, instead promoting the resettlement of the Arab population. This period of persecution effectively destroyed Turkmen civil society, forcing many of its political institutions underground or into exile abroad.
Unfortunately, despite the regime change in Iraq in 2003, the Turkmen tragedy continues. Many Iraqi Turkmen communities believe that their historical presence and influence has remained marginalised during the process of reconstructing the Iraqi state, and that more has to be done to correct the past injustices they have suffered.
Led and founded by Dr. Muzaffer Arslan, who also represents the Iraqi Turkmen in UNPO.
And also suppression and intensive assimilation policies, forced cultural erosion that ranged from political persecution and exile, to terror, massacres and ethnic cleansing. (Large numbers of Turkmen intellectuals were accused of political activities and disappeared after their arrest during the Baathist regime; nothing has been heard of them since.)
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Social and Economic Issues
The confiscation of land (‘Land Grabbing’) was one of the major features of the assimilation policies of the Ba’ath regime.
The village of Beshir, situated South West of Kirkuk city, presents a perfect case study of the consequences of such policies. The inhabitants of Beshir were landowners and farmers, whose ancestors had settled in the area several centuries ago. During the Ottoman rule, Beshir’s inhabitants officially registered their lands in their names, and were issued official land property certificates, which they renewed in 1921.
In the early 1980s, after the start of the Iraq-Iran war, Iraqi security forces arrested and executed hundreds of intellectuals from the village, accusing them of being activists in the outlawed Islamic Da’wa Party. In 1986, while the young men of Beshir were fighting in the war against Iran, their families were given 48 hours to pack their personal effects and leave their homes.
Houses were razed to the ground and agricultural lands were confiscated, to be later given to Arabs brought by the Ba’ath regime. Each Arab family was given 10.000 Iraqi Dinars in cash as an incentive to build their house on Turkmen lands, while the Turkmen families received no compensation.
Meanwhile the former regime had arabised the name of the village calling it “Al-Bashir” instead of Beshir.
In 2003 when the U.S. military occupied northern Iraq, they did not take control of the area around Beshir and the Arabs which had been installed there by the previous regime remained in the village. The original Turkmen inhabitants of Beshir started to return, demanding their lands. However, the property dispute remained unsettled.
Nearly a decade has passed since this ‘agreement’ and the Arabs still refuse to leave Beshir. The original Turkmen families ofBeshir who were victims of deportation, in 2005 handed their complaints together with copies of their deeds to the Property Claims Commission in order to retrieve their confiscated lands and be compensated for the destruction of their houses and for their loss of earnings since 1986, but the Iraqi authorities have not yet responded.
In the Kerkuk province, 80% of the land was Turkmen-owned. In spite of property legislation demanding the return of seized lands, there are currently still 41,874 complaints registered with the local Property Claims Commission.
Of these complaints, only 3,236 cases have been decided. Since 2005 therefore, approximately only 2.000 out of 45.000 files belonging to Turkmens have been processed. This fact alone stands as evidence of discrimination against the Turkmens.
It remains challenging to illustrate the extent to which the Turkmen community in Iraq has been exposed to ethnic cleansing for decades without having been attended to by the international community. Permanently fears of explosive power struggles lurk, particularly over the control of the ‘powder-keg’ city of Kirkuk. These only serve to further place the minority in a precarious position.
The Tal Afer district of Iraq was attacked twice by helicopters, tanks and tens of thousands of soldiers in 2004 and, a year later, in 2005, 1,350 were left dead and 2,650 were wounded. In December 2007, a suicide bombing in Kirkuk shook its residents and stoked security fears, killing at least 55, and injuring another 120. On 17 December 2012, the bodies of two abducted teachers were found near the Humera village (which is located 35km south of Kirkuk) both carrying signs of torture and bullets. The death of these two individuals generated deep reactions among the Turkmen, as in the view of many the two teachers were killed for sectarian reasons and only for being Turkmen. In January 2013, a crowded tent full of Turkmen mourners in Tuz Khurmato was transformed into a mass killing ground by a suicide bombing with genocidal intent, that left at least 35 people dead and 117 wounded.
Due to a media emphasis on the Iraqi Kurdish minority, Western perspectives of realities in Northern Iraq have become slightly distorted. As an example, human rights violations against the Kurds have often been highlighted, while violations committed against other communities in the region have largely been ignored.
On 14 March 2013, the European Parliament adopted a Resolution (welcomed by the UNPO) on the plight of minority groups in Iraq, and specifically the Iraqi Turkmen. The resolution states that the European Parliament condemns the recent attacks on the Turkmen community and affirms that ‘despite the reference in the Constitution.
Tags: Hearing at EU Parliament, Kirkuk, Osama Al-Nujaifi
Al-Nujaifi Briefs Deputies on Iraq Today
Answering questions from Members of the European Parliament in a specially convened hearing, Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi talks of extending support to Iraq’s Christian community but does not extend such support to the creation of a new region in Mosul.
Below is an article published by UNPO:
Opening the hearing, Mr. Gabriele Albertini MEP, chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, spoke of having heard in earlier discussions the positive vision of Iraq, despite the numerous problems that still remained. In working to resolve these he noted the “complete solidarity on these values” between the Council of Representatives and the European Parliament. This relationship was already deepening as the European Parliament moved forward with its the report on the forthcoming association agreement between the European Union and Iraq currently being drafted by Frieda Brepoels MEP.
Taking the floor, Mr. Osama al-Nujaifi, Speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, expressed the desire of Iraqi deputies for a future based on developing relations with Europe and stressed that Iraqis had shown themselves to “bounce back just like the phoenix” after having lived through some of the country’s most trying times. Iraq has been blighted as a “warfield by proxy” Mr. Al-Nujaifi claimed and conflicting interests continued to affect a country that was “seeking to retrieve its sovereignty” while its nascent democracy was being threatened by sectarian conflict. Despite this atmosphere Iraq has the potential to “go back to its humanitarian role” in the region but if allowed to return to the chaos and misery of the past it could also become a “living volcano in the region.”