The security of Kirkuk and the stability of the region are interdependent, Dr Hicran Kazanci

February 14, 2013 at 2:10 am | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Dr. Hicran Kazancı/Iraqi Turkmen Front Turkey Representative:

The security of Kirkuk and the stability of the region are interdependent.

 

Iraq is a federal state according to the Constitution of 2003 consisting mainly of Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen. In terms of population, the Kurds are the second element in overall Iraq and the first element in the northern part. The Turkmen are the third element in overall Iraq and the second largest population in the north. Actually the Kurdistan territory has existed ever since Iraq was established. Nowadays on entrance to the North Iraqi region passports are stamped with the Iraqi Kurdistan stamp; there are armed (peshmerge) forces also. We are faced with a de facto state structure. The Kurds which are the second largest overall element gained various rights. Us Turkmen who are the second largest group in northern Iraq want to have the same rights. The way to realize this is through a robust dialogue between the Turkmen and the Kurds.

The recent economic developments in Northern Iraq contribute to the democratization of the political process. In the past Kurds with radical dispositions demanded that the territory up to the HemrinMountains be Kurdistan. However, today the Kurdish politicians refrain from radical statements such as “this territory belong only to my people”; they make positive contributions which enhance the desire of Kurds, Turkmen and Christian groups to coexist in the region. What actually happened in contradiction with North Iraq is that after the Americans withdrew, the will to coexist diminished rapidly among the various groups in the center of Iraq, the increasing political instability and policies based on ethnicity have caused Baghdad to separate into ghettoes. At the moment the Shiite cannot enter Sunni areas while the Sunni are unable to enter Shiite territory. Another significant factor which blocked the political process is the distribution of the ministries among ethnic groups. If Iraq is experiencing a problem with division at the moment it is not because the Kurds in the north or the Shiites in the south want to separate, it is caused by the attitude of “I know best” of a dictator in the headquarters who denies all others the right to exist. If the Arbil Consensus prepared in December of 2010 had been applied there would be no political crisis in Iraq today. However, unfortunately the problems in Iraq are deepened with the efforts to obliterate a multicultural society which has coexisted in Iraq since the Ottoman Empire.

After the withdrawal of US troops there were problems between the central government and Haşimi which were followed the crises between Baghdad-Arbil. Finally there was an armed conflict in Kirkuk. It is reported that an understanding has been reached, however the details of the understanding have not been disclosed. Today there is a danger that the sectoral conflict in Iraq turns into an ethnic conflict. Let us not forget the incidents which took place in Kirkuk where the majority of the Turkmen live. The Turkmen become open targets since they are unarmed. The most vulnerable element in a crisis is the Turkmen element.

Now it is possible to ensure stability within Iraq and among the countries in the region through Kirkuk. The security of Kirkuk and the stability of the region are interdependent. The first priority for the security of Kirkuk is the withdrawal of the military forces. We recommended that an army or police force which is proportional to the demographic size of the groups of Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs living in Kirkuk be established. It seems that a consensus has been reached in this matter but we shall see what happens in the future. The Kirkuk crisis revealed that the Turkmen have a key role in the stability of the region. In order to resolve the existing problems between Kirkuk and Arbil us Turkmen are obliged to have good relations with the administrations of Arbil and Baghdad. For Turkmen Ankara, Arbil and Baghdad are three indispensable centers. We are obliged to establish good relations and contribute to the relations among these three.

Looking at the past ten years, Turkey has become a model country in the region in terms of the reforms it has realized in the field of internal and external policies. The AK Party highlighted both the Islam element and institutionalized modernization and democratization and started to structure a more liberal and democratic Turkey. Before 2003 black propaganda was made that Turkey intended to annex the territory to its own. However, nowadays the soft power of Turkey which covers a scope extending from economy to training has demolished these prejudices. The actors in Iraq are aware of the peaceful role played by Turkey; there is a great sympathy for Turkey among the people. In fact the people believe that Turkey is the only neighboring country without a hidden agenda and that Turkey is in favor of stability in Iraq instead of terror.

On the other hand, the matter of the PKK and the Kurdish issue should be kept separated in Turkey. The steps which have been taken regarding the Kurdish issue during the past ten years are commendable. International and regional actors who are bothered by the rising image of Turkey use PKK, the thorn in the side of Turkey to irritate Turkey. It would certainly be wrong to reflect the acts of these actors onto all the Kurds. Let us remember that there were efforts to identify Islam with terror after the 11 September attack. Even the U.S.A. became aware that Islam was in no way related to terror because of Turkey. For this reason similarly to the great mistake which was made when Islam was identified with terror, it would also be a great mistake to identify Barzani with terror today, PKK and IBKY or Northern Iraqi Kurds. This would also damage the dialogue between Turkmen and Kurds.

The good relations continuing between Ankara and Arbil and the rising image of Turkey in the region has a strategic significance in terms of increasing the cooperation between Kurds and Turkmen. The population of Turkmen in the region may be less numerically than the Kurdish population, however, it must not be forgotten that the political weight of our population is dependent on the “weight” of Turkey in the region. While the countries in the region observe political tension, it is very important for Turkmen that Turkey is in favor of stability. The fact that Davutoğlu visited Kirkuk and Arbil and established good relations gives positive messages in terms of the will of Turkmen and Kurds to resolve problems together. The Turkish consulate opened in Arbil is particularly important for Turkmen. This means that the rights of Turkmen are guaranteed. At first Ankara was uncertain in this matter. In fact Barzani is a political actor who is addressed by the world and there are 19 foreign representations in Arbil today. If Turkey had not taken its place it would have been occupied by others. What Turkey says about the Sunni in Iraq is also valid for the IBKY Turkmen: “If you remain outside the political equation in Iraq then you cannot defend your rights. Enter politics and defend your rights to the hilt!”

In the meantime, Barzani being invited to the AK Party Congress, Davutoğlu’s Arbil visit have a critical and positive meaning for Kurdish and Turkmen dialogue. At the moment there are 5 Turkmen in the Kurdistan Regional Parliament. There are statements indicating that in the upcoming elections this number will increase and that the Vice Presidency Office of Kurdistan will be given to the Turkmen. We will see the final picture after the elections. Finally, if the Turkmen which are the second element after the Kurds in Northern Iraq gain the rights which have been granted to the Kurds there will be no tension between these nations. For this reason the continuity of dialogue between the parties and Turkey’s distance to both parties is extremely important.

On the other hand Talabani is a symbol in Iraqi politics and his occupation of the presidential post is significant in terms of political balance. Talabani’s exclusion from this equation would not only have an impact on Iraq it would have an impact on numerous regional balances. The reason for this is that due to both his Kurdish as well as his diplomatic identity Talabani is able to establish multiple alliances simultaneously not only in Iraq but in the Middle East as well. For example by taking the interests of his own people into consideration his relations with Turkey, Iran and the United States as well as the countries in the region are very good. However, although they cannot replace Talabani the Kurds also have cadres who are as capable as he is to execute the works.

 

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