September 25, 2014 at 10:16 am | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
Tags: Arming the Turkmens, Ershad Salihi
Iraqi Turkmen leader calls for support
Arshad al-Salihi called for a safe zone to support the threatened minority.
World Bulletin / News Desk
Iraqi Turkmen Front President Arshad al-Salihi has said Western countries should provide weapons to Turkmen in Iraq.
Speaking at a meeting of the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV) in Ankara on Wednesday, where latest developments in Iraq and those facing Turkmen were discussed, al-Salihi said: “The West should also support us Turkmen with weapons, we are in need.”
Salihi said that the Turkmens’ lives and territory were in danger and stated that a “safe zone” should be provided for the threatened minority.
“All Turkmen, Shia or Sunni, have been exposed to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militants’ attacks,” he said.
He also stated that Turkmen had seen the most casualties during ISIL militants’ attacks on the northern Iraqi province of Mosul.
Al-Salihi said: “Three of our deputies are still in the hands of ISIL, who call us every day saying they will cut their heads off.”
“Turkmen are the biggest target and we are being ignored.”
Referring to the militants’ attacks on Tal Afar since June, he said: “About 300,000 Turkmen have been forced to migrate to different regions, mainly to the south of Iraq and most of them will probably not be able to return.”
He added Turkmen had not received any humanitarian aid, unlike other minorities such as Christian, Yazidi and Kurds.
The president said: “Humanitarian supplies came only from Turkey.”
“We distributed all the supplies from the Turkish Red Crescent to everyone – not looking at whether they were Turkmen, Yazidi or Kurd – but today we need equal help from the West.”
According to al-Salihi, Iraq’s new government has also ignored Turkmen.
Last week, Nahla Sallamah, a Turkmen MP in the Iraqi parliament, said more than 350,000 Turkmen asylum seekers were in danger of starvation because the government had failed to financially support them.
The chaos created by ISIL militants has displaced more than one million Iraqis from their homes.
The group has mainly targeted Shia Muslims, Turkmens, Yazidis and Christians.
The Iraqi army failed to halt a sudden offensive by ISIL in June, which led to the group taking control of large swathes of land in the country, including the province of Mosul in the north.
September 5, 2014 at 2:38 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
Tags: Arthur Quesnay, EU Research Council, Maps Iraq-Syria, WAFAW
SECTARIAN STRATEGIES, NATIONAL SETTINGS AND THE WAR ECONOMY IN SYRIA AND IRAQ
Posted by Noria on juillet 16th, 2014
Adam BACZKO, Robin BEAUMONT, Arthur QUESNAY
Maps by Xavier HOUDOY
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These maps were designed by Xavier Houdoy for Noria, with the support of the European Research Council-funded program WAFAW. They were based on data gathered by Adam Baczko, Robin Beaumont, Felix Legrand and Arthur Quesnay in Syria and Iraq during field trips of various length spanning from Summer 2013 to June 2014.
The meaning of the various dynamics at work in today’s Iraq and Syria lies in their interactions. This poses a twofold challenge to the cartographers: on the one hand, to represent complex processes; on the other hand, to consider the perceptions and interpretations of the readers during the conceptualisation stage. Thus, not only for the sake of clarity, but also as a matter of cautiousness regarding the use that could be made of this work, we have chosen to use a triptych, with one title and one general legend for our three maps, which we consider impossible to apprehend separately.
While maps are the most adequate tool for the representation of various situations and dynamics, such as strategies for the acquisition of territorial control, their limits also appear quite easily. How can we capture the very pragmatic and punctual nature of certain alliances that imply fluctuating intensity and scope in terms of time and space? How should we differentiate between their symbolic and political importance and their territorial weight? Is it even conceivable to show a “Shia axis” when, despite its undeniable relevance in some areas, it remains a cumbersome cliché, which largely denies fundamental nuances? Last but not least, how best to show the weakening of a State other than in terms of territorial losses?
As already pointed out by Bénédicte Tratnjek regarding an older piece on Syria, working on ongoing conflicts, where the situation evolves on a daily basis, means working without anything like perfectly consistent and comprehensive data, even though those were collected and cross-checked, as is the case here, by researchers on the field. In that sense, these maps aim at allowing local, national, and regional dynamics to appear without exaggerating the differences between the various groups, neither to homogenize them.
Any use of those maps without specific permission of Noria is strictly prohibited. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
Regional alliances and transnational actors…
… local and national settings…
… and the war economy.
This article intends only, in line with its short length, to offer areas of reflection and avenues for further exploration.
In order to understand the current conflictual situation in Syria and Iraq it is important to take three aspects into consideration: trans-national sectarianism, pragmatic alliances and state resilience.
In a context of weakening State power, Syrian and Iraqi regimes have actively used sectarianism, in conjunction with an unprecedented level of violence, as the response. This has in turn led to popular discontent and as a consequence sectarian, transnational conflict throughout the region. The internationalization process follows two trends: on the one hand, a process with States as the main actors; on the other hand, a process pertaining to the infra-state level, revolving around ethnic (between the Kurds), but most of all sectarian solidarities (namely between Sunnis and Shiites).
Nevertheless, these new dynamics co-exist within traditional dynamics of tension and civil war. Whether local economic partnerships or pragmatic alliances, such as between ISIL and the Syrian regime, they show that sectarianism and the conflict’s regionalization remain direct consequences of the regimes’ strategies.
Despite ISIL’s ability to remain a dominant player in the region and the threat posed by them, the States are likely to remain powerful players and the main organising system for the people in the region – the “Shia axis” being not much more than a collection of States. The future of the conflict therefore depends largely on the people.
Political stakeholders redefining identity
The civil war in Syria and the increasing violence in Iraq are the expression of revolutionary situations which should be seen as part of a continuation of the « Arab Spring. »
The quick and brutal political reconfigurations have been accompanied by a process of religious sectarianism; the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, now renamed the Islamic State (IS)) and the accompanying assault on Baghdad are some of the most recent manifestations.
This alignment of stakeholders along a Shi’ite-Sunni opposition line is the consequence of three interrelated elements. Firstly, the instrumentalisation of religious identities by the regimes of Nouri al-Maliki and Bashar al-Asad in order for them to remain in power. Secondly, religious recruitment organized by “identity entrepreneurs”; and lastly, with the weakening of the State, vulnerable societies in an increasingly violent environment, who are left with limited alternative routes.
However important the rise of this religious dimension might be, it is also accompanied by a set of interdependent factors, the analysis of which is essential to an understanding of this crisis: social transformations, political demands, exacerbations of identity differences and opportunism, in particular economic opportunism.
The current crisis might indeed suggest the rise of a transnational Sunni Arab axis that straddles Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, but the people of these three countries have very different historical trajectories. Even if the Syrian revolution was carried by a Sunni majority that had long been marginalised by a regime identified as Alawi, it was the result of multi-faith protest against authoritarian rule.In Iraq, the insurgency is the result of a Sunni minority marginalized by a new Shi’ite political elite following the 2003 U.S. invasion. The Sunni insurgencies in Iraq and Syria are therefore examples of two very different national configurations. In addition, the sponsorship of certain Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in particular, whilst presented as part of a religious solidarity are in fact above all the strategies of regional powers that seek to overthrow the Syrian and Iraqi allies against their Iranian competitor.
Similarly, the « Shia axis » is above all a political alliance between Iran, the Iraqi regime, some Iraqi Shi’ite groups, the Syrian regime and Hizbullah. Theologically, TwelverShi’ism and the Alawite religion have little in common, and the Shi’ite character of the alliance is primarily an external perception. Shi’ism gains a transnational dimension where it is instrumentalised by regimes in order to create popular militias and support, for example by calling for the defense of Shi’ite shrines in Samarra in Iraq and SayyidaZaynab in Syria. Beyond the very real ideological commitment of the militias, their continuation beyond their national boundaries depends above all on the logistical capacities of the military organizations to which they belong, and ultimately the resources provided by the States that sponsor them.
By over simplifying sectarian identities, a particularly malleable notion, religious division, in the context of civil war, is exacerbated. Different theological branches of Shi’ism in the region, from Alawism to Zaydism, with considerably different historical evolutions from the Twelver doctrine, are thus easily confused together within the context of civil war. The mediatisation of violence is a particularly effective weapon of differentiation for stakeholders such as the Islamic State and the Iraqi and Syrian regimes, whose strategy is based on increasing the denominational dimension of each of the opposing sides. The distribution in June 2014 by ISIL of images of hundreds of Shi’ites being executed, retouched to make them even more shocking can be analysed in the wake of the massacre carried out in Alawite villages in the province of Latakia in August 2013. The bombing in 2011 of Sunni neighborhoods by the Syrian regime had a similar objective. The political strategies put in place by the protagonists are what primarily creates identity opposition lines within the populations, and their implementation is possible only if they have access to the necessary resources.
Transversal logic and local alliances
Beyond the religious conflicts that run deeply through the crisis, the Iraqi and Syrian civil wars are each different, depending on temporary alliances and the various social, economic and political interests. The loss of Mosul by the Iraqi regime took place after many years of a gradual loss of control of the city by the Iraqi army. Radicalized social movements, a result of the repression of Baghdad, made the advance negotiations between ISIL, Baathist insurgents and local Islamists, possible. In the Syrian Jezireh, local alliances depend largely on historical factors that existed prior to the crisis. In Rabia, at the Iraqi-Syrian border, the PKK was joined in 2014 by local Arab fighters, to fight ISIL. These local fighters were from long-established tribes in the region. However, when the armed Kurdish group advanced to the border crossing Tall Amis, a hundred kilometres south, the local Arab population, descendants from settlers of the Baathist regime against the Kurds, joined ISIL in its stand off against the PKK. In Kirkuk, the presence of Shi’ite Turkmens militiamen is possible only as a result of the intented strategy of the Iraqi Kurds to weaken the central government, hence forcing those militias to work with them. In Syria and Iraq, the rise of Shi’ite militias depends on the collaborative relationship between armed groups, the regime and local populations.
The Syrian regime plays a key role in the economy of transnational war that is taking place in the Middle East. To resist the opposition, Bashar al-Asad delegated control of the Kurdish areas to the PKK from July 2012 and allowed ISIL to prosper whilst avoiding bombarding its positions.
The Syrian regime additionally bought crude oil for its refineries from the PKK and ISIL and sold the refined product back to ISIL, whilst refusing the same to the Syrian rebels. Damascus maintains an ambiguous relationship with the PKK and ISIL, who do not pose a direct threat; both groups can use Syria as a behind the lines base for their operations in Iraq and Turkey. It is only with ISIS’ offensive in Iraq and against Baghdad that the Syrian regime began their bombing, in order to appear to the outside world and the West as a key player in the fight against an entity whose strength it had significantly bolstered.
On the side of the Kurds, they are exploiting a historic opportunity with the weakening of the States to negotiate economic and political benefits from Baghdad, Damascus, and Ankara. Indeed, any political or military reconquest of Iraqi Sunni areas would require the support of KRG. The KRG is today in a strong position in its discussions on the positions open in government, the status of territories conquered since June 10 (the town of Kirkuk, and the northern provinces of Nineveh and Diyala) and the right to export directly to Turkey its oil. Similarly in Syria, the PKK is now in possession of territories in Afrin, Qobane and in the Jezireh to recruit and train men, in coordination with its Iraqi sanctuaries in the Qandil and Zab mountains.
The Resilience of a National Logic
If the weakening of states has made the borders porous, the challenge to these borders, regularly announced, will likely remain unsuccessful.
Whilst the regimes and national balance is up-ended, the states themselves are not. National borders remain part of the framework of the demands of the majority of armed groups who define themselves primarily as nationalists and whose operations depend on local dynamics of mobilization. National insurgent movements in Syria since 2011 – now the Army of the Mujahideen (Jayshal-Mujahideen), the Syrian Revolutionary Front (Jabhatal-Thuâral-Sûrîyîn) and the Syrian Islamic Front (al-Jabha al-Islâmîyya al-sûrrîyya) – and in Iraq since 2004 – the Naqshbandi brotherhood (Jama’at al-Naqshbandîyya), the Companions of Islam (Ansar al-Islam), the Army of the Mujahideen (Jaysh al-Mujahideen) – are all fighting for national goals. In their current alliance with ISIL, they continue to follow their own agenda against the Syrian and Iraqi regimes, in direct opposition to those, transnational and religious, of the Islamic State. These movements are composed of nationals, with a nationalistic vision that aims to conquer Baghdad or Damascus.
Similarly, the involvement of Hizbullah alongside the Syrian regime and the influx of more than one million Syrian Sunnis into Lebanon has profoundly destabilised the country. If political relations are increasingly strained between the protagonists, with clashes multiplying – in Tripoli in particular – the fact that the country has not entered into the civil war confirms the salience of a largely national framework.
Paradoxically, the transnational configuration of the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts has underlined the differences between the two countries. The crisis is regionalized in terms of the number of countries involved, the importance of cross-border military and economic movements, but these resources all primarily support groups with national objectives. With the exception of the PKK and IS, all protagonists perceive the conquest of territory, or at least a redistribution of power, as the only solution. They do not imagine the creation of a new state with redrawn borders as a long-term solution but as a considerable territorial loss. This is even more the case since the areas that have a mixed population are still significant, especially in the cities, and do not allow for a redefined, clear division of the territory.
Even the Islamic State, despite its desire to create a genuine caliphate, has been forced to take into account the differences of each national situation, and to follow different strategies regarding the two countries. In Iraq, the movement aims to take Baghdad and overthrow the regime, while in Syria it does not attack the regime but maintains its grip on a territory which resources it uses. As such, in Syria IS controls the population directly and confronts the insurrection with whom it is competing for control of the territory. In Iraq, it joins forces with the insurgency whom it leaves to control the territory, in order to focus its efforts on the front against the Iraqi regime.
Religious division as a mode of government as used by Maliki and Asad, and as a strategy of sectarian identities for the Islamic State, reduces the potential for a compromise between national Sunni movements and the regimes in power.
In addition, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar feed this line of division in their own struggle for regional leadership. Finally, the West has now politically disengaged, investing primarily on humanitarian issues and terrorism. This is the first crisis in the Middle East where Western countries do not play a decisive role in the course of events. Traumatized by the war in Iraq, caught in a difficult withdrawal from Afghanistan, the United States now commits only limited resources and leaves the local protagonists and regimes free to follow their own strategy. And in this way, nothing prevents the rise of religious players who in the expression of their local, predatory logic, guarantee the continuation of civil war.
Translation by Louise ROSEN
September 5, 2014 at 6:31 am | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
Tags: Barbara Nimri Aziz, Turkmens
Who, What and Where are Iraq’s Turkmen?
by BARBARA NIMRI AZIZ
Know your Yazidi. An anthropological sketch will assure support for US and Peshmarga military advances across Iraq, and sequester a competing other minority—Iraq’s Turkmen.
International concern in Iraq pivots around saving the Yazidi people. Christians seem to count too; the Shabak also merit some attention. One can only applaud humanitarian support for any threatened population. But why the total dismissal of their neighbors and fellow Iraqis, the Turkmen? They too are at grave risk. Augmenting Al-Mufti’s account from the ground is a report noting how, “While the European Parliament … officially acknowledges the situation faced by minorities in ISIS occupied Iraq, their resolution … [2014/2716(RSP)] made no specific mention of Iraqi Turkmen… among the worst affected”.
Yes, Iraqi Turkmen are among millions now terrorized by the insufferable ISIS. Turkmen’s expulsion is not new however. A review of their history over the past decade reveals a pattern of forced removal from cities and villages across north Iraq. Not by ISIS, by American allies: Iraqi Kurds.
Telafar, a majority Turkmen city of 200,000 was all but depopulated beginning in 2003 when Kurdish Peshmarga reportedly conducted massacres there; attacks targeting Turkmen continued thereafter. This coincided with a political campaign to absorb ancient Kirkuk City along with Ninevah and Diyala provinces by Kurdish authorities. In 2009 the parliament of Kurdistan voted on a constitution to claim these areas, extending Kurdish rule beyond Suleimaniya, Dohok and Irbil. Mass Kurdish migration into Turkmen homelands displaced Turkmen, creating new facts-on-the-ground. In 2011 the Peshmarga Kurdish militia occupied Kirkuk, ostensibly to protect local inhabitants.The Turkmen National Front has been struggling with little success to push back Kurdish takeovers. They’ve no militia of their own and support from Baghdad, always weak, has now collapsed.
International news and human rights agencies consistently disregarded Kurdish advances into Turkmen areas. Today too. Turkmen are being whited-out of the picture. Why? It appears to be part of a strategy to consolidate Kurdish claims over all the Turkmen homelands.
Kurds took command of Kirkuk a month ago, again “to save” the city, this time from ISIS. The Peshmarga militia is a major US ally; resupplied with heavy weapons, it’s now engaged with the US military to push ISIS out of Mosel.
We may find Kurdistan awarded full control over Ninevah and Diyala– provinces they have long coveted. Its illegitimate constitutional claim becomes a reality.
One does not seek to tarnish one people at the expense of another. But the current situation in northern Iraq suggests it’s more than a heroic drive to protect endangered civilians. Here is an opportunity to answer Kurdish territorial and political ambitions.
Iraq’s Turkmen are ancient inhabitants of Iraq. Estimates of their numbers vary from 1-3 million: possibly 13% of the population, Iraq’s third main ethnic group. Turkmen are well known as loyal Iraqi nationals, Shiia and Sunni. They speak Turkish and Arabic. They’ve used just means to hold onto their rights and their homeland. And they deserve to be heard and embraced. Even as observers, let’s not be manipulated by the divide-and-rule policies of others which have done so much harm across this land.
Barbara Nimri Aziz is a veteran anthropologist and journalist. Her latest book is Swimming up the Tigris: Real Life Encounters in Iraq (2007).