‘We cannot stand against the Kurds’

July 22, 2006

‘We cannot stand against the Kurds’ 

By Tanya Goudsouzian Soma

The Turkmen Democratic Movement splintered from the Turkmen Front in 2004, because ‘foreign interference does not serve the interests of Turkmens in Kurdistan’, says the head of the party.

The first thing Kalkhi Najmaddin Noureddin, secretary general of the Turkmen Democratic Movement and member of the Kurdistan Parliament, stresses is that the Turkmen people do not originate from Turkey. It is a misperception that has been twisted in favor of those who would pursue the interests of Turkey in Iraq, he says. 

“The Turkmen have been living here in Kurdistan for over 6,000 years,” he recounts. “The Turkmen originally came from the Caucasus, and then dispersed all over the world. There were several reasons for this dispersion; the search for pasture and water, social problems, civil war, etc... Part of them went to the Balkans, another part to Turkey and Cyprus, and the others to the Persian Gulf area. Most of them crossed Iran and settled in the south and middle parts of Iraq, before moving on to the north, to Baghdad, Kirkuk and then to Erbil. There are no Turkmen in Dohuk or Zakho, which is clear evidence that Turkmen do not originate from Turkey.” 

Noureddin pointed out that the Turkmen have taken part in the governments of successive Iraqi regimes. 

“In Hijri 54, there was an Arab leader in the town of Kufa, south of Baghdad, called Caliph Obaidullah bin Ziad, who consulted with the Turkmen people on all matters of war and government,” he says. “Following the establishment of Iraq in 1921, Turkmen took part in all governing issues. In Kurdistan, after the Kurdish uprising and the establishment of the Kurdish government in 1992, Turkmen took part in government. More recently, Turkmen also participated in the new Iraqi parliament following the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime.” 

Noureddin, 39, was a founding member of the Turkmen Front in 1994. But after realizing that the party would not achieve their intended goals, “because foreign interference does not serve the interests of Turkmens in Kurdistan”, some members, including Noureddin, decided to splinter in 2004. 

“When Saddam Hussein was in power, nobody knew what would happen to Iraq, but after the regime was toppled, the future became clearer. The Kurdistan region is today endorsed by the Iraqi constitution, but the Turkmen Front refuse to recognize the region and the regional authorities,” he says. “There have been fraternal relations between the Kurds and the Turkmen dating back hundreds of years. We cannot stand against the Kurds and separate from them. Such a move would not serve the Turkmens living in Kurdistan.” 

The Turkmen Democratic Movement was founded on 15 January 2004, with the goal of pursuing peace in Iraq and Kurdistan and preserving the national rights of the Turkmen people in the Iraqi and Kurdish constitutions. The Movement currently has four members in the Kurdistan Parliament, and two ministers in the united Kurdistan cabinet – Minister of Industry Widad Arslan and Minister of State for Turkmen Affairs Abdullatif Bandaroghlu. The Movement is calling for a three-part geographic federalism in Iraq; the Kurds, the Shia and the Sunni. The Front, on the other hand, want federalism for each governorate – 18 provinces, each a federal state on its own – and they want Kirkuk. 

“The Front are doing their best to exclude Kirkuk from a federal Kurdistan. But we [the Turkmen Democratic Movement] believe that this would hurt the Turkmens living in Kurdistan,” he says. “They would split among each other and it would not serve the Turkmen community, as well as the Kurdish community. The Front have no loyalty to the Kurds, to Kurdistan or Iraq. They are loyal to the Turkish government and they take funds from them.” 

The Movement enjoys good relations with the Kurdistan government. In September 2005, when Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani went on an official visit to the United States and Britain, Noureddin was invited to accompany the delegation. He represented the Turkmen community in a meeting with US President George W. Bush, and he helped arrange a meeting with British officials on the Turkmen question. 

“There is very little information about the Turkmen community in Iraq,” he says. “It is our responsibility to have the Turkmen voice heard. Fortunately, during my visit to the US and the UK, I was able to convey many facts about the existence of our community in Iraq.” 

While the Iraqi constitution recognized the right of Turkmens to preserve their language, and administer their own schools, Noureddin laments that there are still large numbers of Turkmen who are unable to take part in the voting process. 

“Those Turkmen who live in Kirkuk do not fall under KRG jurisdiction, so they cannot vote. Kurdistan includes three provinces and Kirkuk is not included, so they do not have the right to participate in elections in Kurdistan,” he says. “If Kirkuk were restored to Kurdistan, we might have 20 MPs in the Kurdistan parliament instead of four. And instead of two ministers, we would have five ministers, or maybe even a deputy prime minister.” 

According to Noureddin, the Turkmen population in Erbil alone numbers 250,000 Turkmen. In greater Kurdistan, he guesstimates there to be about a million, with about 350,000 in Kirkuk. In Iraq, there are probably 2.5 million Turkmen, he claims. The Movement claims to have 4,500 members, and receives funding from the KRG.. As for the Front... 

“They are losing members every day,” he says.

Printed with permission. From Soma

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