Irak Türkmen Cephesi Telafer Temsilcisi Nebil Harbo ile şehrin tarihi, siyasi kimliği ve halkının beklentileri üzerine…May 29, 2009 at 11:59 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
Tags: Iraqi Turkmen Front, ITC Telafer, Nebil Harbo, Telafer
|Irak Türkmen Cephesi Telafer Temsilcisi Nebil Harbo ile şehrin tarihi, siyasi kimliği ve halkının beklentileri üzerine… HARBO: “ TELAFER’İN VİLAYET OLMASI TÜM IRAK’IN ÇIKARINADIR”
Irak’ın ve Ortadoğu’nun en büyük ilçesi Telafer’de Türkmen siyasi hareketi giderek güçleniyor. Son yerel seçimlerden birinci parti olan Irak Türkmen Cephesi’nin Telafer Kuzey Bölge Temsilcisi Nebil Harbo ile Ortadoğu Uzmanımız Bilgay Duman ve Editörümüz Burak Bilgehan Özpek bir söyleşi gerçekleştirdi. Söyleşide Telafer’in ve Telafer Türkmenlerinin mevcut durumu ve gelecekten beklentileri konuşuldu.
ORSAM: Telafer’in Irak ve Türkmenler açısından önemini nasıl değerlendiriyorsunuz?
Nebil Harbo: Tarih çalışan herkes, Irak kurulduğundan bugüne kadar, Irak’ta birinci milletin Araplar, ikinci milletin Kürtler, üçüncü milletin de Türkmenlerin olduğunu bilir. Amerikan işgalinden birkaç gün önce Saddam’ın yakın bir adamı dedi ki, ‘Irak’ta en muhlis millet, sadık bir şekilde çalışan millet Türkmen milletidir.’ Sadık olmamızın nedeni ise karşımızda kimsenin duramamış olması, Irak’a zarar verecek kimseyi bu ülkeye sokmamış olmamız ve Irak için çalışmamızdır. Türkmen milleti 1920’den Saddam’ın son günlerine kadar çok eziyet gördü. Büyük baskılar altında yaşadı. Kültürünü, dilini, dinini kullanamadı. Kendi dilinde okuma yazma yapması yasaktı. Kimliğini belli etmesi yasaktı. 1977’de Telafer’de bir oyun oynandı. Saddam 1979 seçimlerinde, “Telafer Araplaşsın” diye bir karar verdi. Nitekim bundan önce de “Kerkük tecrübesi” yani Kerkük’ün Araplaştırılması süreci vardı. Oradaki aydınlar ve akıllı insanlar, ‘Gerekirse Saddam’a aşiretlerimizin Arap olduğunu söyleyelim. Hatta kendimizi Araplara bağlayalım ama topraklarımızı Araplaştırma kararı verilmesin, Telafer Araplaştırılmasın’ dediler. Neticede Telafer’deki Türkmen aşiretleri bir araya geldi ve kendilerini nüfusa Arap olarak yazdırma kararı aldılar. Böylece Saddam’ın başka yerlerden Arapları getirmesini engellediler. O dönemde aşiretler birkaç yerde yemekler düzenlediler ve kendilerini Arap olarak ilan ettiler. Bu durum Saddam’a bildirildi. O zaman Saddam, bunlar Arap ise kendilerini Arap görüyorsalarsa, Telafer’de Araplaşmanın gereği yoktur dedi. Hemen ardından birkaç karar çıktı. Okullarda ve kurumlarda Türkmen dilinin kullanılması ve Türkmen kültürünü yansıtan hakların kullanılması yasaklandı. Çünkü biz kendimizi Arap olarak kaydettirmiştik. Bu durumun bize verdiği bir eziyet vardı ama faydaları da çoktu. Her şeyde önce Telafer kendini korudu. Çünkü dışarıdan kimse gelmedi. Irak’ın en büyük ilçesi olan Telafer 400 bin nüfuslu bir ilçedir. İçinde Arapça konuşan veya Kürtçe konuşan kimseyi bulamazsın. Yani Telafer bir Türkmen şehridir. Saddam döneminde çok eziyet gördük ama bu bizde bir milli bilinç kazanımı sağladı. Saddam’ın düşüşünden sonra, Amerikan askerinin girdiği son şehir Telafer’di. Telafer 9 ay hükümetsiz kaldı. Ne kaymakam, ne ilçe meclisi, ne de polis müdürü, hiçbir şey yoktu. Aşiret sistemi dâhilinde, bütün aşiretler bir şura meclisi kurdu. Bütün Irak’ta şehirlerde ofisler yağmalandı, ya da yandı. Telafer’de böyle şeyler olmadı. Bankalara kimse girmedi. Bizim şehrimiz Telafer’de ne bir şey çalındı ne de bir çatışma oldu.
Tags: Irak Türkleri Kultur Dernegi, Telafer
IRAK’IN KİLİT NOKTASI: TELAFER
IRAQ’S PIVOTAL POINT: TELAFER
Irak’ın kuzeybatısında ülkenin en kilit noktalarından birisinde bulunan Telafer, işgal sonrası Irak’ın en ilginç hikâyelerinden birisine sahiptir. Coğrafya itibarıyla, Türkiye, Suriye ve Irak arasındaki sınırın en yakın komşusu olan ilçe sadece bu nedenle bile Ortadoğu’nun en stratejik yerlerinden biri sayılabilir. Ancak, bunun ötesinde Irak Kürtleri ile Suriye Kürtleri arasında bir tampon oluşturması ve Suriye üzerinden Irak’a gelen milliyetçi ya da radikal İslamcı militanların yolu üzerinde bulunması, Telafer’in önemini katlamaktadır. İşte bu nedenlerle 2000-2008 yılları arasında ciddi çatışmalara sahne olan ve Irak’ın genelinde yaşanan çatışma biçimlerini mikro ölçekte barındıran bir örnek olarak ortaya çıkmıştır. Telafer’de ABD’yle çarpışan El Kaidecilerden milliyetçi Araplara, Sünni-Şii Türkmen çatışmasına, dolaylı yollardan Kürt-Arap-Türkmen siyasi mücadelesine kadar Irak’ın diğer çatışma bölgelerinde görülen tüm örnekler yaşanmıştır. Felluce gibi kuşatma altına alınan, bombalanan ve insanları zorunlu olarak göç eden Telafer, Bağdat gibi Sünni-Şii çatışmasına sahne olmuş, Kerkük gibi Kürt-Arap-Türkmen grupları arasında güç mücadelesi yaşamıştır. Tüm bunlara rağmen Telafer, ne Irak’ın ne Ortadoğu’nun ne de uluslararası kamuoyunun dikkatini yeterince çekebilmiştir. Telafer’e ilgi bu ilçedeki ABD ordusu operasyonlarının analizi ve şiddet eylemlerinin bazılarının duyurulmasıyla sınırlı kalmıştır. Oysa, çatışma sonrası travma sendromu Irak’ın birçok yerinden fazla Telafer’i etkilemiştir. Ancak, son zamanlarda Telafer’de gözlemlenen güvenlik durumdaki iyileşme Ortadoğu’nun en büyük ilçelerinden olan Telafer’in kendisini toparlayabilmesi için bir nefes alma olanağı sunmuştur.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, Torture and rape Abu Ghraib, US soldiers raped women and children
Paul Joseph Watson
Tags: Assyrian detained by Kurdish Asayesh, Kurdish terror in northern Iraq, Telkepe
Assyrian Politician Detained, Threatened By Kurdish Security in Iraq
GMT 5-28-2009 2:5:16
Assyrian International News Agency
Telkepe, North Iraq (AINA) — An Assyrian political activist, Hazim Zori, member of the Telkepe district council, ranking member of the Assyrian Democratic Organization and member of the Hammurabi Human Rights Group, was detained by Kurdish security forces, known as Asayesh, on may 14, 2009. According to Mr. Zori, he was targeted by Asayesh because of his advocacy of Assyrian rights in the Telkepe council in north Iraq.
According to Mr. Zori, the Asayesh threatened him, intimidated and mistreated him. “This unfair treatment was due to principles and stands that I took in the Telkepe council,” he said. “Those stands reflected the rights of our people to live honorable life and to have free will like every other group in Iraq and to have our own right to have our own independent decision not under submissiveness or pressure from others.”
Tags: Committee for the Defence of the Iraqi Turkmens' Rights, Dr Hassan Aydinli, ITF EU representative, Merry Fitzgerald, Wladimir van Wilgenburg
My interview by Wladimir van Wilgenburg
Merry Fitzgerald with Dr. Hassan AYDINLI, Iraqi Turkmen Front Europe Representative, at a UNPO conference in Brussels 16 May 2008
Merry Fitzgerald is the Secretary of the Representative of the Iraqi Turkmen Front in Belgium. She is also part of the Committee for the Defence of the Iraqi Turkmens’ Rights in Belgium. She feels concerned about the situation of Turkmen in Iraq and says that Northern Iraq has been the homeland of the Iraqi Turkmens for over a millennium. In Belgium she is active as a human rights activist for Turkmens in Iraq. I asked some questions to get a different perspective on the Turkmens in Iraq. She also has a blog.
How did you get involved with the Turkmen from Iraq ?
Having lived in Iraq, I am very attached to the country and its people. I have followed with dismay the tragic events which have taken place since the US-led coalition attacked and destroyed the country’s infrastructure and since the criminal economic sanctions (instigated by the US and UK) were imposed on the Iraqi people.
Since April 2003 (after the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq) my interest and concern have been directed principally towards the Turkmens of Iraq who continue to be victims of discrimination, marginalization and ethnic cleansing. I found that as their plight is ignored in the West their just cause does not get the attention it deserves from the European politicians, decision makers and human rights organizations.
I found the Turkmens are the only people who are oppressed and have no serious support from outside. Kurds get serious help, support and guidance from US, Europe and Israel, Shias get serious support from Iran. But the Turkmens don’t have any serious support from anybody except some cultural help from Turkey which is not enough.
Poster of a lecture about Turkmen at the University of Amsterdam
How active are the Turkmen in Europe ? What do they do in general to get attention for Turkmen in Iraq ?
Turkmens in Europe are generally and mostly poor and uneducated refugees scattered across Europe. With their limited linguistic and financial abilities they try to inform the Europeans about their cause in the form of demonstrations, meetings, conferences and internet sites.
What do you think about the relations between Iraqi Turkmen and Iraqi Kurds?
Turkmens and Kurds used to be together, friendly and brotherly for over 1000 years. They lived together and struggled together. In fact it was the Turkmens who brought most of the Kurds from their ancestral land Kurdistan which is in mid-western Iran (Hamadan-Bakhtaran-Senendej) and recruited them in their armies and saved them from the Shiite oppression in Iran and allowed them to settle in Eastern Anatolia and Northern Iraq.
Turkmens and Kurds fought together after WWI against the British invasion of Iraq. In the 1920’ies they were together and side by side during the Musul liberation war 1919-1923 as Ozdemir and Sheikh Mahmud won a major victory in the battle of Derbend on August 30.1922. But the British-Indian army came later with a much greater power and endless arial bombardments. So they lost. Until today, Sheikh Mahmud and Commander Ozdemir are the two heroes of the Turkmens and the Kurds together.
But later, the Kurds became victims of agitation from the British, Soviets, Israel, Iran and US as they were promised to have their dreamland “Kurdistan” for themselves alone and decided to include the lands of their partners (the Turkmens) as theirs and treat them as their minority, which is not acceptable by the Turkmens because this is against the nature of Northern Iraq (Musul Region).
Musul region is a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi religious area. Where there are 3 major ethnic groups (Kurds, Turkmens, and Arabs) and three minor ethnic groups (Chaldeo-Assyrians, Yezidis, Shabaks),
Each of those groups would like to have their own autonomy and self-determination rights and would not accept the domination of one of them over the rest (as the Arab domination until 2003 and from 2003 and on the Kurdish domination).
The fair solution to the problem of Northern Iraq is that:
– Each ethnic group has their own autonomy with no borders to include all their people within Northern Iraq.
– Create the Northern Federation or the Musul Federation within Iraq, where the three major groups (Kurds, Turkmens and Arabs) have equal share of power in administering the region and give the minorities a fair share.
This is the only solution. But for one group to have it all and treat the rest as minorities is not acceptable at all, that is what is happening now.
What’s the role of Ankara in the Turkmen issue of Iraq? Good or bad?
Ankara is helping Turkmens to protect their culture only so it is good to a certain degree, but it is not giving them a serious help politically, militarily and economically, therefore it is insufficient.
Do you believe the Iraqi Turkmen front was created by the Turkish army? Do you also think that the Iraqi Turkmen front ‘holds the primary responsibility for the retardation of the Turkmen political system’? See the criticism of SOITM.
The function of any army is to create another army or at least a militia. If the Turkish army created the ITF, so where is the Turkmen army or at least where is the Turkmen militia? As you know the Turkmens are the only group in Iraq who does not have an armed group. Do you think the second army in NATO is not capable to create a Turkmen army?
ITF was created by 4 Turkmen groups in Erbil in 1995 to unite their words and efforts. Turkey is giving a CULTURAL and MORAL help because no power in the world is willing to help the Turkmens.
If the so-called democratic and free countries of Americas and Europe helped the Turkmens all those years, I don’t think that the Turkmens would need any help from Turkey.
Why does SOITM (Turkmen human rights organization) says Turkmen Front was founded by Turkish army and criticizes the ITF so much? The SOITM also says the ITF is financed by Turkey
SOITM, the website you mention, is a website which is run by an Iraqi in the Netherlands who represents himself only and who is a self-proclaimed defender of the rights of the Turkmens of Iraq. I do not give any importance whatsoever to ‘an article’ the author/source of which is unknown and which is not based on reliable information.
Why didn’t the Turkmen front and other Turkmen parties didn’t get so many votes? Is that because most Turkmen are Shia?
What do you expect from any election performed under occupation? Northern Iraq is under Kurdish Peshmerga occupation. The Iraqi elections (2005) in the North were one of the most fraudulent elections in history. Almost all ballot boxes were stolen by the Kurdish Peshmerga and votes were changed to the benefit of the Kurds. Despite a ban on transportation on Election Day, the Kurds were moving from one location to another. An average Kurd voted five times. Even the dead and under age children voted! The fraud and manipulation was so reckless and obvious that the number of votes in some location exceeded the number of the population. For example in the Turkmen city of Altun Kopru (Golden Bridge in Turkish) where the population of the town was 30.000 the number of votes was 45.000!
It was well recorded in the election complaints that the Kurdish Peshmerga prevented hundreds of thousand of people from voting because they knew that they would not vote in Kurdish favour (as it happened in the plains of Nineveh East of Musul and in the Turkmen Telafer area West of Musul and in the villages of Turkmen Bayat tribes South of Kerkuk).
So it was not surprising that the Kurds got 2.500.000 votes whereas the Turkmens got 93.000.
Almost half of the Turkmens are Shias, but that is not a factor in elections. Only the ultra religious ones voted for Shia parties. That is the same case with Religious Kurds.
How many Turkmen parties are there?
Nationalist Turkmen Parties:
1- Iraqi Turkmen Front- ITF
2- Turkmeneli Party
3- Iraqi National Turkmen Party
4- Independents Movement
5- Turkmen Nationalist Movement
6- Turkmen Decision Party
Religious Turkmen Parties:
1- Justice and Liberation Party (religious)
2- Turkmen Islamic Party (religious)
3- Turkmen Wafa Party
4- Turkmens’ Islamic Union
So altogether is 10 but the greatest one is ITF.
There are a number of Turkmen Parties created by the Kurds but they have no popularity whatsoever among the Turkmens.
Do you think there will ever be a Turkmeneli region in Iraq (Turkomen region including Arbil, Zako, Khanaqin, Kerkuk etc)? A time ago the Iraqi president Talabani also spoke about this, but it seems like the (Sunni) Turkmen support a strong central government.
Everywhere Turkmens live in Iraq is considered Turkmeneli, including Telafer, Musul, Erbil, Kerkuk, Khanaqin, Duhok and Suleymaniye. But that doesn’t mean that only Turkmens live there. In some locations they are the majority (Telafer, Kerkuk) in other locations they are the minority (Erbil, Musul).
Turkmens don’t believe or want Ethnic Cleansing, because that is against the human nature. They believe in “Tolerance and Living together” as it happened for a thousand years.
Talabani’s talk stayed as a PR talk and never realized. Like most of his promises.
All of the Turkmens (Secular-Sunni- Shia) are in support of a strong central government because they are really scared of the Kurdish separatism and ethnic cleansing desire that they plan against non-Kurds in Northern Iraq.
Why do some Assyrians, Turkmens, Yezidi and Mandaeans work together against the KRG? (See this ‘joined protest’ letter). Do you think the rights of Turkmen would be guaranteed in a Assyrian federal region as advocated by some Assyrian parties?
Turkmens, Assyrians, Yezidis, Shabaks and others are really scared of the separatist Kurds who plan for an ethnic cleansing against them once they annex the lands of Northern Iraq that they currently illegally occupy. It is natural that they work together because they are in the same pit.
There are no Turkmens in the proposed Assyrian Federal Zone which is called Plains of Nineveh East of Musul, Turkmen towns are usually, North, West or South of Musul.
Tags: Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Iraq Reconstruction, Karel de Gucht
De Gucht déclare la Belgique disponible pour reconstruire l’Irak
DE GUCHT DECLARES THAT BELGIUM IS READY TO REBUILD IRAQ
SURPRISE VISIT OF BELGIUM’S MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS IN IRAQ
Le ministre belge des Affaires étrangères, Karel De Gucht, a exprimé mercredi le souhait de la Belgique de participer à la reconstruction de l’Irak, un marché estimé à 400 milliards de dollars.
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Le ministre belge des Affaires étrangères, Karel De Gucht, a exprimé mercredi le souhait de la Belgique de participer à la reconstruction de l’Irak, un marché estimé à 400 milliards de dollars.
M. De Gucht a expliqué que la Belgique disposait d’un savoir faire en matière de logistique et d’infrastructure et qu’elle possédait l’un des leaders mondiaux en matière de dragage. Il a également rappelé que la société de travaux publics Besix avait été très présente en Irak (sous le régime de Saddam Hussein) et que c’était une entreprise belge qui y avait construit la première centrale électrique. Mais les entreprises belges hésitent à retourner en Irak, où la sécurité n’est toujours pas “idéale”, de l’aveu même de Hoshyar Zebari, ministre irakien des Affaires étrangères. M. De Gucht a toutefois annoncé qu’une société belge venait de signer tout récemment un contrat pour la construction de 13 stations d’épuration à Bagdad. Il s’agit de la firme Waterleau de Herent, près de Louvain, qui a décroché ce contrat d’environ 22 millions d’euros.
Tags: Iraq Disputed Territories, Kerkuk, Kurdish immigration to Kerkuk, Reidar Visser, Self-determination in Kerkuk
Disputed Territories in Iraq: The Practical Argument against Self-Determination in Kirkuk
By Reidar Visser (www.historiae.org)
25 May 2009
If history should provide the guidelines, it would be relatively easy to prescribe a solution to what is frequently seen as one of the most “complicated” issues in current Iraqi politics: The status of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. A variety of different historical sources prior to 1957 and dating back several centuries unequivocally designate Kirkuk as a town dominated demographically by Turkmens, who for their part were famous throughout the Iraqi region from Basra to Mosul for their leading role in the Ottoman and later Iraqi administrations. Traditionally, the Kurds in this area, whose relationships with the Ottomans and later the Iraqi government in Baghdad were far more tenuous, had their strongest presence in the rural hinterland outside Kirkuk. Accordingly, any attempt to sever the longstanding ties between Baghdad and the city of Kirkuk itself on the basis of two waves of Kurdish immigration to the city itself in the late 1960s and since 2003 would be ahistorical in the extreme, and not incomparable to, say, a Scottish bid to annex selected slices of Northumbria in the north of England.
In the early twentieth century, many observers saw the north of Iraq as consisting of towns dominated by Turkmens (and sometimes Christians), and a countryside where the Kurds were often in the majority, as in this account in an article from the Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society from 1937, where it is even claimed that Arbil maintained a certain Turkmen character (most observers agree that Arbil was Kurdified much earlier than Kirkuk).
However, today’s Iraq presents a confusing situation, and many commentators reject the validity of any attempt to use ancient history as a determinant for tomorrow’s political maps. To them, what matters is the current situation on the ground. In particular, many advocate a solution based on self-determination, mostly in the shape of some kind of decisive referendum – a solution which reportedly features in all four scenarios for Kirkuk presented in a recent (but as of yet unpublished) report on Iraq’s “disputed territories” by UNAMI, the primary ÙN political agency in Iraq. Despite considerable attempts by the Baathist regime to gerrymander the population balance in Kirkuk to the disadvantage of the Kurds towards the end of the twentieth century, it is expected that the mass influx of Kurdish migrants to the city of Kirkuk in the late 1960s and early 1970s plus additional immigration since 2003 (when Kurdish militias acquired control of the city and encouraged Kurds to settle there) mean that a there might be vote in favour of annexation by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) if a referendum were to be carried out under present circumstances.
But in addition to the historical argument against this kind of outcome, two very practical considerations also militate against any use of the self-determination principle in Kirkuk. The first has to do with lessons from the recent history from the 1960s and 1970s, and the way in which the very idea of using plebiscites or censuses for determining the borders of Kurdistan became the focus of attention of the autonomy negotiations between the Baathist regime and Mulla Mustafa Barzani, the main Kurdish leader at the time. Towards the end of those negotiations, Barzani introduced claims for the annexation of a host of territories (such as Kirkuk) where the Kurdish population element was thin or only recently-established; the Baathists accordingly sought refuge in the principle of ethnic demography as a determinant for the allocation of territory. This formed the background to the 1970 peace agreement, where Baghdad confidently agreed to autonomy for all areas with a “Kurdish majority”, believing it would be restricted to the governorates of Sulaymaniyya, Arbil and the newly-constituted Dahuk (which had been separated from Mosul as a concession to Kurdish demands). But the recourse to demography also constituted the beginning of the end of the peace agreement. The promised census never materialised (first both sides agreed to a postponement, later Baghdad put it off unilaterally), and the Kurds refused to use the previous censuses of 1965 and 1957 as a basis (knowing they would show no Kurdish majority in Kirkuk). Then followed a dirty game in which both sides appear to have applied unscrupulous methods to secure an outcome in their own favour. The Kurds accused the Baathist regime of flooding Kirkuk and its neighbouring areas with Arabs in order to neutralise growing Kurdish demographic weight, whereas the central government suspected that Barzani and his allies were importing Iranian Kurds to settle them near Kirkuk. It seems likely that misdeeds were committed on both sides, and the regime’s decision to expel tens of thousands of Fayli Kurds (indigenous to Iraq but many of their forefathers held Persian passports in Ottoman times in order to avoid conscription) represents a particularly brutal aspect of the developments.
All of this escalation and human suffering was the singular result of the promise that “demographic realities” would be used to demarcate the boundaries of Kurdistan. It does not require much fantasy to imagine that something similar could take place in the future if “self determination” were employed as the main criterion for settling the current dispute. In fact, to some extent, this has already happened. Since 2003, Kurdish authorities have been accused of bringing in huge numbers of Kurds in and around Kirkuk in order to bolster their own claim to the city. With tendencies of growing assertiveness by the Iraqi central government since 2008, a counter-campaign focused on beachheads among their potential allies – particularly the non-Kurdish population elements of Kirkuk such as the Turkmens, the Arabs and the Christians – seems perfectly possible. In other words, any promise of “self determination” along the lines of what UNAMI is now apparently considering would almost inevitably set off a violent tit for tat process which could easily surpass the 1970s and the immediate post-2003 period in intensity and violence. What the international community needs to realise today is that “self determination” in Kirkuk has become completely meaningless as an exercise of democracy because so much gerrymandering and dirty tricks have already been brought to bear on the situation. Essentially, in Kirkuk the slogan of “self determination” is like a greasy old rag that will never become clean and dry again, no matter how many times it is washed.
There is also a second practical argument against any application of self determination in Kirkuk: The likely domino effect in the rest of Iraq. This represents a danger because the concept of “disputed territories” was never defined at the time of its fateful insertion in the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) in March 2004, from where it was transplanted into the 2005 constitution. Hence, in theory, today, any politician anywhere in Iraq can invent a case of a “disputed area” for whatever piece of land he or she might wish to politicise. Thankfully, so far, few other than the Kurds have been keen to exploit this option (the Kurds have declared targets of expansion along the entire current border of the KRG), with most other Iraqi politicians seemingly holding on to the existing framework – perhaps even more so after the spectacular failures of recent initiatives to create federal regions south of Kurdistan, whether in Basra (where a formal initiative was launched last December), or in all the Shiite-majority areas south of Baghdad (where the scheme hardly progressed beyond the drawing-board level). But, for a considerable time, a small group of Iraqi Shiite politicians have been interested in projecting the same concept of territorial conflict on governorates south of Baghdad. As early as in 2005, just weeks before the launch of the project by the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) to create an all-Shiite federal region of nine governorates south of Baghdad, press reports suggested that Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim had voiced an interest in redrawing the boundaries of the Karbala governorate so that it would also comprise the desert area of Nukhayb, presently a part of Anbar. And since April this year, other Shiite-oriented politicians – ranging from the Maliki-supported new governor of Karbala to Ahmad Chalabi – have joined a growing chorus of leaders calling for changes to Karbala’s border. Nukhayb is wanted by Karbala politicians not for its ties to Shiism – most of its tribes are Sunnis – but because of its strategic location on the road to Saudi Arabia, where many Iraqi pilgrims have been killed by terrorists in the past.
Map of Western Iraq from the late 1960s showing Nukhayb in the province of Ramadi (Anbar). The governorates of Najaf and Muthanna did not exist back then
The case of Nukhayb illustrates the serious problems of exporting the notion of “disputed territories” to the rest of Iraq. During the monarchy area, boundary delineation in the desert areas was approximate at best, and a 1957 map of Iraq, for example, shows lines in the sand extending from the river areas of the Euphrates towards the west, but stopping shortly after Bahr al-Milh and thus leaving the jurisdiction of the rest of the vast territory between Iraq and Saudi Arabia to the imagination. The exact subsequent development remains a matter of dispute, but certainly government maps from the late 1960s showed Nukhayb firmly within what was then called Ramadi province and today is Anbar. Importantly, at this stage, a number of other administrative changes – only some of which are currently considered as “disputed” by the proponents of the concept – had yet to be made. For example, there was no Dahuk province (the area was part of Mosul and was only detached to form a separate governorate after the peace treaty with the Kurds in 1970). Also, the governorates of Najaf and Muthanna did not exist (they were carved out from Karbala and Diwaniyya/Nasiriyya later on). Hence, if the Baath era is to serve as basis for some kind of status quo ante logic, it will be exceedingly hard to pinpoint exactly when the “original sin” of the former regime took place. In other words, the consistency and the assumed objectivity of the whole process disintegrate entirely as soon as a pick and choose approach is applied.
Nevertheless, for politicians willing to fish in these waters, there are certainly plenty of options. Already, there is talk about other potentially “disputed areas” between Baghdad and Salahaddin, Baghdad and Babel, Babel and Anbar, and Karbala and Babel. Initial reactions to the emergence of Nukhayb as an issue suggest that some of these conflicts may well contribute to renewed sectarian polarisation, with the Sunni-dominated parties of Anbar – from the sahwa to the Iraqi Islamic Party – mobilising against any idea of redrawing the borders (and accusing the protagonists of the Karbala claim of disguising their real goal of annexing areas potentially rich in oil and gas in the proximity of Nukhayb). A promising sign, though, is that so far much of the opposition has actually been framed in national terms, with outspoken aversion against petty quarrelling over borders between inhabitants of areas that all consider themselves Iraqis first and foremost.
In sum, then, a good solution for Kirkuk should seek to bring an end to the logic of “disputed territories” instead of proliferating it. Rather than pursuing a maximalist demand that is dangerous to Kirkuk as an urban community and to Iraq as a society of coexistence, Kurdish politicians should try to envisage the potential value of alternative incentives, of which quite a few have been proposed. Liam Anderson has suggested using as a model the case of the Åland Islands from the post–World War One settlement, where the autonomy of the Swedish-speaking archipelago west of Finland had its autonomy guaranteed by the international community, in a robust “autonomy plus” arrangement that should be of interest to Kurds (whose main concern during the twentieth century, after all, has been distrust of Baghdad). Internationally-guaranteed autonomy for the areas the Kurds currently control would offer them assurances of non-interference that are stronger than the 2005 constitution, and could be a good reason to reverse their maximalist approach to Kirkuk. Similarly, the International Crisis Group has come up with a proposal that would give the Kurds other advantages in return for giving up their claims to Kirkuk: “Oil for Soil”, or an arrangement whereby Kurdistan is given the exclusive control of oilfields within Kurdistan proper (which, again, they would not be able to achieve under the 2005 constitution), but would at the same time withdraw the demand for the inclusion of Kirkuk in Kurdistan. As for the Kurds of Kirkuk, an emerging “Kirkuk first” attitude can already be found among some of them, and this could be promoted further. In an interesting development, Kurdish politicians in Kirkuk recently emulated Basra regionalists in calling for a “half dollar per barrel of exported oil” to be set aside in a local development fund – the kind of negotiable, “soft” federalism that would be relatively easy to integrate within a unitary state structure.
Finally, a one-off territorial compromise at the elite level could be used to round off these negotiations (this is also an integral part of the suggestions by both Anderson and the ICG). The best solution for Iraq would of course have been if the troublesome “disputed territories” concept had never entered the TAL in the first place – it would in fact have been perfectly possible to deal with the issues of forced resettlement during the Baathist era on a family by family, property by property basis, without any resort to the abstract and problematic concept of ethnicity that is implied in the “disputed territories” nomenclature. Nevertheless, expectations of some kind of territorial settlement are now very strong in the Kurdish camp, and could be difficult to reverse. Equally important, to some extent it should be possible to achieve this without deviating very much from past attempts at compromise. In the 1970s, the regime was for example prepared to cede Kurdish-dominated areas near Kirkuk such as Chamchamal and Kalar for the sake of peace. In general, from the point of view of history, the idea of the sacrosanctity of the territorial integrity of the Tamim governorate – reportedly another cornerstone of UNAMI’s report – is less readily understandable than the principle that Kirkuk, the city, should stay within the unitary-state framework of Iraq under any circumstances. In that kind of perspective, it could make sense that certain rural parts of the Tamim governorate in the future should gravitate towards the autonomous KRG. At any rate, whatever course of action is chosen, a grand compromise for the north of Iraq should be done as a one-off affair at the elite level. The inhabitants of the area have already suffered enough and should not have their lives destroyed by serving as pawns in a long-winded, fictitious process of “self determination”.
Reidar Visser is a research fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. He holds a doctorate in middle-eastern studies from the University of Oxford. He is the author of Basra, the Failed Gulf State: Separatism and Nationalism in Southern Iraq (Lit-Verlag, 2005), the first study ever on a specific case of southern separatism in Iraq. Many of his writings on questions of federalism, autonomy and decentralisation in southern Iraq are available at his website, historiae.org.09
Tags: US Soldiers raping and killing Iraqis, US War Crimes in Iraq
Iraqis outraged at US soldier’s life sentence – 24 May 09
A former US soldier who raped and killed a teenage girl and murdered her parents and sister in Iraq in 2006 has been sentenced to life in prison without parole. Green set the young girl’s body on fire to destroy the evidence.
It took the jury hours to decide against giving Steven Green the death penalty but as Al Jazeera’s Paul Werdel reports, many Iraqis do not think the sentence adequate.
Tags: Independent news media, Internet media, Kitabat, Reporters Without Borders
Iraq cracks down on independent media
Kitabat news website latest target in Iraqi government’s legal offensive against independent media.
BAGHDAD – Reporters Without Borders condemned Wednesday the Iraqi government’s continuing legal offensive against independent news media, which for the first time is also targeting Internet media.