Iraq: Clashes between the original Turkmen inhabitants of Beshir and the Arabs who were installed on their ancestral lands by the Ba’ath regime in the 1980s.February 15, 2011 at 2:00 am | Posted in Turkmens | 1 Comment
Tags: Beshir, Clashes in Beshir, Hassan Aydinli, Preamble Iraqi Constitution
Clashes between the original Turkmen inhabitants of Beshir * and the Arab immigrants who were installed in the area by the Ba’ath regime in the 1980s in order to arabise the Turkmen region of Kerkuk.
* Note: The ordeals of the Turkmens of Beshir are mentioned in the Preamble of the Iraqi Constitution together with the tragedy of the Arabs of Al-Dujail and the massacre of the Kurds of Halabja. (Please see below).
On Friday 11th February 2011, several news agencies reported that three people were killed due to “a tribal dispute between Turkmen and Arab tribes in Beshir” and that eight people were wounded, but these reports did not give the reasons which are at the origin of this incident.
For the reader to understand why Turkmens demonstrated against the construction of houses by Arab immigrants in Beshir it is necessary to give some details about the tragic history of this Turkmen village.
Beshir is a large Turkmen agricultural village of more than 7.500 inhabitants, it is situated 20 km to the South West of Kerkuk city. The inhabitants of Beshir were landowners and farmers, they cultivated their lands and produced cereals, fruit and vegetables, they also raised livestock, mainly ovine and bovine. Their ancestors had settled in the area and built the village several centuries ago.
During the Ottoman rule and after decades of cultivating their lands, Beshir’s inhabitants had registered their lands officially in their names and they were issued official land property certificates or “deeds”, which they renewed during the early years of the newly founded Iraqi state in 1921.
In the early 1980s, after the start of the Iraq-Iran war, and despite the enrolment of several hundreds of young Turkmens from Beshir in the army to fight against Iran, the Iraqi security forces arrested hundreds of intellectuals from Beshir accusing them of being activists in the outlawed Islamic Da’wa Party, over one hundred of these Turkmen intellectuals were later executed.
Forced displacement of population is a crime against humanity
In 1986, while the young men of Beshir were fighting on the front in the war against Iran, their families were subjected to terrible human rights abuses by the Iraqi regime: they were given 48 hours to pack their personal effects and leave their homes and were forcibly moved to some communal compounds which had been built in a rush to serve as ‘transitional residence’ on the road to Tikrit.
Their houses were razed to the ground and their agricultural lands were confiscated and were later given to Arabs brought by the Ba’ath regime from the centre and south of Iraq, and to neighbouring Arab tribes, in application of a policy designed to arabise Turkmen towns and villages in Kerkuk province.
Each of these Arab families were given 10.000 Iraqi Dinars in cash (equivalent to 30.000 USD) as incentive to build their house on Turkmen lands, while the unfortunate Turkmens were displaced without any valid reason or any legal justification and without receiving any compensation.
After a year spent in the communal compounds almost all the Turkmen families from Beshir were dispersed to several cities throughout Iraq, i.e. Basra, Diyala, Erbil, Kut etc. without being provided with housing and without being compensated for the loss of their livelihoods, houses and agricultural lands. From being landowners and farmers they became refugees in their own country and were left completely destitute.
Meanwhile the former regime had arabised the name of the village calling it “Al-Bashir” instead of Beshir.
In April 2003 when the U.S. military occupied the north of 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, but the Arabs refused to budge.
As the displaced Turkmens threatened to march on the village in order to remove the immigrant Arabs by force the U.S. occupation authorities intervened, they led and controlled a “mediation” in September 2003, but this mediation did not settle the property dispute it was only a ‘short-term agreement’ which allowed the Arab families living in Beshir to stay on the land for the Winter agricultural season on a non-renewable basis, it granted them the Winter harvest. The requirement was that they would leave the village within one year of the signing of the ‘agreement’. After this one year period the Turkmens who were the original inhabitants of Beshir would be allowed to return on their ancestral lands.
7 years have passed since this ‘agreement’ and the Arabs still refuse to leave Beshir and return the lands to their original Turkmen owners. To make things worse they have now started to build more houses on Turkmen lands.
Note: The Arabs who were given Turkmen lands + a sum of 10,000 Iraqi Dinars to build their houses + agricultural lands belonging to the Turkmens (in the 1980s) and who accept to leave are now entitled to an additional sum of money from the Iraqi government to help them return to the region they came from.
Turkmens continue to be victims of discrimination.
On 11th February 2011, as Turkmens of Beshir demonstrated peacefully to show their disagreement about the new constructions, saying that Arabs were violating the agreement, that only agriculture is permitted on the land and not construction, some Arabs started to attack them.
The original Turkmen inhabitants of Beshir who were victims of deportation under the former Iraqi regime have shown great patience, they have never resorted to violence, they have followed the procedures set up by the Iraqi Properties Claims Commission and in 2005 they handed their complaints together with copies of their deeds to the Commission in order to get back their confiscated lands and be compensated for the destruction of their houses and for their loss of earnings since 1986, but the Iraqi authorities are in no haste to process the files belonging to Turkmens.
Since 2005 only 2.000 files out of the 45.000 files belonging to Turkmens have been processed. This is clearly a sign of discrimination against Turkmens as in Kerkuk, all the ‘pending files’ belong to Turkmens, and all the Kurds who submitted their files have already been compensated.
Human Rights Watch Report
Claims in Conflict : Reversing Ethnic Cleansing in Northern Iraq
Case Study: Al-Bashir village
Translation of Full Text of the Iraqi Constitution was published in the Washington Post, hereunder The text of THE PREAMBLE
It was translated from the Arabic by the United Nation’s Office for Constitutional Support, and the translation was approved by the Iraqi government.
In the name of God, the most merciful, the most compassionate
We have honored the sons of Adam.
We are the people of the land between two rivers, the homeland of the apostles and prophets, abode of the virtuous imams, pioneers of civilization, crafters of writing and cradle of numeration. Upon our land the first law made by man was passed, the most ancient just pact for homelands policy was inscribed, and upon our soil, companions of the Prophet and saints prayed, philosophers and scientists theorized and writers and poets excelled.
Acknowledging God’s right over us, and in fulfillment of the call of our homeland and citizens, and in response to the call of our religious and national leaderships and the determination of our great (religious) authorities and of our leaders and reformers, and in the midst of an international support from our friends and those who love us, marched for the first time in our history toward the ballot boxes by the millions, men and women, young and old, on the thirtieth of January two thousand and five, invoking the pains of sectarian oppression sufferings inflicted by the autocratic clique and inspired by the tragedies of Iraq’s martyrs, Shiite and Sunni, Arabs and Kurds and Turkmen and from all the other components of the people and recollecting the darkness of the ravage of the holy cities and the South in the Sha’abaniyya uprising and burnt by the flames of grief of the mass graves, the marshes, Al-Dujail and others and articulating the sufferings of racial oppression in the massacres of Halabcha, Barzan, Anfal and the Fayli Kurds and inspired by the ordeals of the Turkmen in Basheer and as is the case in the remaining areas of Iraq where the people of the west suffered from the assassinations of their leaders, symbols and elderly and from the displacement of their skilled individuals and from the drying out of their cultural and intellectual wells, so we sought hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder to create our new Iraq, the Iraq of the future free from sectarianism, racism, locality complex, discrimination and exclusion.
Accusations of being infidels, and terrorism did not stop us from marching forward to build a nation of law. Sectarianism and racism have not stopped us from marching together to strengthen our national unity, and to follow the path of peaceful transfer of power and adopt the course of the just distribution of resources and providing equal opportunity for all.
We the people of Iraq who have just risen from our stumble, and who are looking with confidence to the future through a republican, federal, democratic, pluralistic system, have resolved with the determination of our men, women, the elderly and youth, to respect the rules of law, to establish justice and equality to cast aside the politics of aggression, and to tend to the concerns of women and their rights, and to the elderly and their concerns, and to children and their affairs and to spread a culture of diversity and defusing terrorism.
We the people of Iraq of all components and shades have taken upon ourselves to decide freely and with our choice to unite our future and to take lessons from yesterday for tomorrow, to draft, through the values and ideals of the heavenly messages and the findings of science and man’s civilization, this lasting constitution. The adherence to this constitution preserves for Iraq its free union, its people, its land and its sovereignty.
Below is one of the articles published by Reuters:
KIRKUK, Iraq | Fri Feb 11, 2011 10:51am EST
KIRKUK, Iraq (Reuters) – A tribal dispute between Arabs and Turkmen over land near Iraq’s oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk led to clashes that killed three people and wounded another eight Friday, police and provincial officials said.
The incident began with a demonstration by Turkmen tribes against Arabs who were building houses in the village of Basheer, 15 km ( miles) southwest of Kirkuk, local police said.
Longstanding differences between Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen over land and oil in Kirkuk and Iraq’s other disputed northern territories are considered a potential flashpoint for future conflict in Iraq.
Authorities said the Turkmen were concerned the construction would deepen the Arab presence in an area they see as their own.
“Three people were killed due to a tribal dispute between Turkmen and Arab tribes in Basheer,” said Serhat Qader, a police official based in Kirkuk.
Provincial officials said three Arabs were killed in the clash, while the eight wounded were from both sides.
Direct clashes between Turkmen and Arabs in the disputed areas have been rare.
Najat Hussein, a Turkmen member of Tamim provincial council, said the Turkmen were demonstrating “peacefully” against the recent construction, which he said violated a five-year-old agreement between Arabs and Turkmen in the area.
“A part of the deal is that only agriculture (not construction) is permitted,” he said.
Mohammed Khalil, an Arab member of the council, said: “It was not a peaceful demonstration.”
Kirkuk, about 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, sits atop some of the world’s richest oilfields. Iraq’s semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region claims Kirkuk for its own.