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Turkoman minority (Iraq)

Last modified: 2002-11-16 by
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[Turkoman minority]by Jaume Ollé

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Status of the Turkomans in Iraq

Courrier International #536 (8 February 2001) gives the translation of a paper originally published in Al-Hayat (a Saudi newspaper published in London), which sheds some light on this minority.

The semi-nomadic Turkoman people, ca. 6 millions of people of Turkic language, live in Turkmenistan, the north of Afghanistan, the north-east of Iran, the north of Iraq, Turkey, Russia and China (Xinjiang).
In Iraq, the ca. 300,000 Turkomans live in the neighborhood of the city of Kirkuk.

On 5 June 1926, Turkey signed an agreement with Great Britain and Iraq, according to which Iraqi sovereignty on the vilayet of Mosul was acknowledged. In exchange, Turkey should receive 10% of the income produced by oil extraction in the area for 25 years. The Turkish Parliament ratified the agreement but Turkey never totally renounced to sovereignty over Mosul. President Demirel stated in 1995: 'Mosul still belongs to us, and security of Turkey requires definition of new borders with Iraq.'

The staff of the Turkish Army recently proposed a program aimed 'to protect the Turkomans of Iraq' by creating an autonomous Turkoman zone in the area located north of the 36th southern parallel (the limit of the air exclusion zone imposed by United Nations to Iraq). It seems [according to Al-Hayat] that Turkey tries to use traditional links between Turks and Turkomans to prevent the creation of an independent Kurdish state in the area. Turkey persuaded the President of the Iraqi Turkoman Party to ask a Turkish protection for the Iraqi Turkomans. The Iraqi Turkomans consider Kirkuk as 'their' capital and require the creation of an autonomous Turkoman area if Iraq evolves towards an Arabo-Kurdish federation. The Kurds refuse to consider Kirkuk as a Turkoman city.

Ivan Sache, 26 May 2001

The majority of the Muslim Turkoman are concentrated in the north and central parts of Iraq in the provinces of Mosul, Erbil, Kirkuk and Deyalah. The Turkoman are the third largest ethnic group in Iraq after the Kurds and Arabs. They are descendants of the Turkish-speaking Oguz tribes from Central Asia. Historically, the Turkoman formed a cultural buffer zone between the Arabs in the south and the Kurds in the north. The number of Turkoman is estimated at 2-2,5 million.

The Iraq Turkoman are represented in the UNPO by the Iraqi National Turkman Party (INTP). The party strives for the respect for all nationalities, ethnic groups and religions, and for a peaceful resolution of the conflicts within Iraq through the political participation of all ethnic groups in the country, whose territorial integrity should be maintained.

The distinct identity of the Iraqi Turkoman is still not officially recognised. They do not figure in national census and linguistic rights are denied even in places where they form the majority of the population.

Source: UNPO website

Ivan Sache, 12 March 2002