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Iraq's Kurds Lose Political Dominance In Kirkuk

Turkomans demonstrate in Kirkuk in 2006, demanding recognition of their ethnic group's status in the disputed region.
Turkomans demonstrate in Kirkuk in 2006, demanding recognition of their ethnic group's status in the disputed region.
By Charles Recknagel
Before the March 7 parliamentary elections in Iraq, there was no question of who dominated politics in mixed-population Kirkuk -- it was the two main political factions in the neighboring Kurdish autonomous region.

But as the vote count from Kirkuk city and its surrounding Tamin Province neared its conclusion, it was clear that the political landscape was changing dramatically.

The secular Al-Iraqiyah coalition and the Kurdistan Alliance appeared to be in a virtual tie, with the balance between them shifting by only wafer-thin differences as the vote tally rose.

If the current balance stood, it would mean that the divided province's Turkoman and Arab populations would have a much louder political voice than before. That, in turn, could complicate Kurdish hopes of one day incorporating oil-rich Kirkuk into their autonomous region.

Turkoman politicians in Kirkuk make no secret of the fact that they competed in the parliamentary contest precisely with that goal in mind.

United Against Kurdish Ambitions

Hicran Kazanci head of the foreign relations department of the Iraqi Turkoman Front, tells RFE/RL's Turkmen Service that Turkoman candidates enlisted in a variety of coalitions for the March 7 race.

But he says they all agree on one thing: "Despite the fact the Turkomans went into the election with different coalitions, on major and essential subjects they are united," Kazanci says. "For example, about the future status of Kirkuk, all of them are united in opposition toward annexing Kirkuk into any federation. And they are united in making Turkoman one of Iraq's official languages."

A map Iraq's ethnic makeup
Turkoman and Arab politicians made up the vast bulk of Al-Iraqiyah's candidates in the local race, coming for the first time under a single political umbrella in the divided province. That is in sharp contrast to much of Kirkuk's recent history, where the three main population groups -- Kurdish, Turkoman, and Arab -- have all competed against each other.

In the years immediately following the United States' toppling of Saddam Hussein, both Turkomans and Arabs boycotted attempts to form a provincial government. They expressed anger over what they said were Kurdish efforts to appropriate the province de facto after moving Kurdish peshmerga fighters into the area to support the U.S. invasion.

The Turkomans and Arabs only agreed to take part in the running of the province after a power-sharing deal in 2008. Under that deal, the provincial governor is a Kurd while his two deputies are an Arab and a Turkoman.

But Kirkuk's provincial parliament is still disputed after Arabs and Turkomans largely stayed away from the first election in 2005, handing the Kurds a majority. The Iraqi government excluded Tamin Province from the January 2009 provincial elections due to fears of sparking sectarian unrest.

Given this background, the fact that this month's elections for deputies to the national parliament went peacefully in Tamin Province is a major surprise. To ensure security, the Iraqi police fielded 56 mobile patrols in Kirkuk city on election day, while Kurdish peshmerga also spread out less obtrusively across the provincial capital.

Simira Balay, a correspondent for RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq, said the Kurdish coalition was caught unaware by the election results, after it "had expected to dominate the election, but it seems the Kurdish vote split among a number of Kurdish parties, including Goran." She noted that the Kurdish bloc was "neck and neck with the Iraqiyah list, which got most of the Turkoman and Arab vote."

The Kurdish coalition comprises the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Goran, a recently created Kurdish opposition party, scored well in recent elections by running on an anticorruption platform.

Resolving Kirkuk Issue

In the aftermath of the elections, Kurdish political leaders -- like their Turkoman counterparts -- are stressing unity in their position over Kirkuk.

The Kurds see the city as the natural and historic capital of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq. And they insist upon holding a referendum in the province to determine its future status.

"The issue of Kirkuk is [already] in the Iraqi political arena to be solved in accordance with Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution," says Rizgar Ali, the Kurdish head of Kirkuk's provincial council.

Major steps under Article 140 include resolving property disputes created by Hussein's policy of "Arabizing" Kirkuk, the holding of a census and conducting a referendum to decide the province's future status.

To date, progress on all these steps has been painfully slow. Most property disputes remain unresolved and unrest in northern Iraq has prevented a census. The referendum, originally planned for no later than the end of 2007, has slipped accordingly.

That limbo is unacceptable to the Kurds, who are sure to use their full representation in the Baghdad parliament, including deputies from the Kurdish region, to continue to press for swift implementation of Article 140.

But it is likely that both the Turkomans and Arabs will use their new voice in the federal legislature to try to subject Article 140 to further negotiation.

According to Rakan Said, the Arab deputy governor of Kirkuk, the election results "laid the ground for dialogue." He adds that now there are "two parties to the issue of Kirkuk: one is Al-Iraqiyah and the other is the Kurdish coalition. So the platform [for dialogue] has become clear and without interference."

New Political Landscape

Al-Iraqiyah, headed by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, ran on a nonsectarian, nationalist platform. Its success on the national level as a joint front-runner with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law coalition has appeared to realign Iraqi politics by relegating sectarian- and ethnic-based parties to the background.

As the vote count neared its end and with challenges to a final tally continuing, the Shi'ite religious parties' Iraqi National Alliance were in third place and the Kurdistan Alliance in fourth. Still, Iraqi parliamentary politics is all about making coalitions and in the past the Kurds have proved adept at playing the role of kingmakers.

Whether the Kurdish parties can continue to do so now, or are relegated to a less prominent role, will directly affect Kirkuk's eventual status. The Kurds want it to be part of Iraqi Kurdistan. And the newly empowered Kirkuk Turkoman-Arab bloc is just as determined to play the spoiler.

Kurds, Arabs, and Turkomans all claim the province around Kirkuk based on a long historical presence in the area.

The Turkic-speaking Turkomans, who claim to be the second-largest group in northern Iraq after the Kurds, trace their presence to the time of the Seljuk Empire, when migrating Turkic tribes conquered a vast expanse of territory stretching from modern Iran to Turkey.

Muhammad Tahir of RFE/RL's Turkmen Service contributed to this report
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Zoltan from: Hungary
March 19, 2010 19:44
Do the Turkomans represent an independent nation?

What is the difference between Turks of Turkey and Turkomans of Iraq? Do they speak the same language? Do they understand each other?

Are they Sunni as the Turks or Shiite as Azeris in Iran?

What is the attitude of the Turkomans toward Turkey?

I would appreciate if someone would answer to me.
In Response

by: AG from: Baku
March 20, 2010 15:58
Turkomans of Irag speak language which is very csimilar to the language of Azeris of Iran and Iranian Azerbaijan. The most celebrated Azeri poet of the middle ages is Fuzuli (who wrote in Turkic, Arabic and Persian) also used a language which is close to Azeri than to any other turkic.. But he spent his entire life in the above discussed Northern Iraqi territories and always identified himself as a turkomen.

Also majority of them are shii like Azeris and unlike turks and turkomens.
In Response

by: Arsen from: Kharkiv, Ukraine
March 20, 2010 23:35
Dear Zoltan,
Firstly, The Turkomans of Iraq, as well as those of Syria, are surely a separate nation because of several clear reasons.
Being descendants of Ak Koyunlu and Qara Koyunly Turkmen tribes, they did not assimilate either to the Turks of Asia Minor nor the Azeris of Azerbaijan and north-western Iran. The Turkomans do not fully share the cultures of the Turks or Azeris having developed their own one in situ. Nowadays most of the Turkomans can of course claim to be Turks because of Turkey being much more developed and strong than Azerbaijan, but nevertheless they are not the Turks from Turkey nor the Azeri people. Why? Very simple response: the modern-day Turks and Azeris are mostly (according to the recent researches, by 90 per cent) the non-Turkic, or pre-Turkic, population of Asia Minor and north-western Iran and what is now the Azerbaijani Republic that was subjected and assimilated by the 11-15-centuries Turkmen and Oghuz invaders. Meanwhile the Turkomans did not take part in the genesis of the Turks and Azeris but have rather kept their former racial type (originally being a mix of Turkic and Iranian tribes yet in today's Turkmenistan).
Secondly, the Turkoman language appears as a kind of link between Turkish and Azeri, but it's of course a separate language though it stands closer to Azeri than to Turkish. High degree of mutual intelligibility is found among these three languages - a lot higher than among Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian - but it can take even a year to get fully accustomed to any one because Turkish is almost a 'loanword-free' language (only some 15 per cent in 100,000 words vocabulary have remained after a well-known language reform in early 1900) unlike Azeri and Turkoman - these two are abound in Arabo-Persian loanwords, which makes it difficult to be mutually intelligible at all levels.
In Response

by: AG from: Baku
March 22, 2010 06:17
Hi guys,
I think we missed the point
1. It is undeniable fact that Ak Koyunlu and Qara-Koyunlu texts are much closer to the modern day Azerbaijani Turkic of Iran than to any other Turkic language including Iraqi Turkoman language. (Ak-Koyunlus were Sunnis while Qara Koyunlu were shiiis and both called themselves turkomans).
2. I did not understand on what account Iraqi Turkomans could be excluded from Seljuk-Oghuz legacy.
3. Turkmen from Turkmenistan and Turkoman of Iraq despite having same Oghuz origins cannot understand each other easily. (Oghuz group also include Azeris of Iran and Azerbaijani Republic, Turks as well as Christian Gagauz minority of Moldova). But at the same time Turkomans of Iraq and Azeris can fully understand each other. Are there any differences? Of course, yes. From my own experience I can say that sometimes when I listen turkoman speech it seems that my great grand father has just resurrected. There are plenty of strange phrases which sound very old and weird. But let me say also that Turkish has some undeniable impact on modern Turkoman language.
5. Now, every Azeri without any problem understands Turkish. Even my small kids can converse with Turk without experiencing any significant problems. They do not need a YEAR to be fully accustomed to Turkish language. They watch all day long Turkish cartoons. I agree that Turks have some problems. It is because of language reform and they forgot words of Persian and Arabic origin. But we DO understand all “new Turkish words” which either derived from the well-known Turkic verbs like “uchag” (plane) from “uchmag”-to fly (we use Arabic “teyyare”) or from well known words of European origin like “kalite” (quality) (we use Arabic keyfiyyet).
6.Let me also add that until Stalinist constitution of 1936, USSR passports indicated Azeris as Turks. Modern day Azeris of Iran also call themselves Turks.
7. These so called the most recent researches which try to proof that modern day Azeris and Turks are not Turkic people but rather descendants of ancient Iranians are based on political bias.
I read some of these so called results of DNK analyses which were denied to be scientifically recognized even by the University professors where these researches were conducted.
The reason is very obvious. Iranians understand that national movement of Azeris in Iran is in the rise. Azeris are denied to have education in their native language. If they are allowed to have schools in Turkish/Azerbaijani this will boost the national sentiment. So now Paniranists try to disseminate this ridiculous claim that Azeris are not “pure” Turks, they are assimilated Iranians that is why they do not need schools in their spoken language. They have to claim their "historical roots", in other word must be "assimilated" back into Persians…
That is it!

In Response

by: J from: US
March 21, 2010 13:08
>What is the attitude of the Turkomans toward Turkey?
must be good. that's the whole point.

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
March 20, 2010 23:35
Zoltan, as usual, as a Russian would -
Looking for another Abkhazia to spure?
Kurds were part of Ibero-Caucsians, shrud,
Before invadind in 15 BC Chaldeans from Ur.

Being cut-off by Urartu from the North, at first,
Where in Median United Nations - till Iran
Destroyed Media. Fought - against bust,
By Empires. During Saladin - they rizen.

Persia expelled part while influxed Asia.
It is how Kurds where devided, ethnicly.
Like in Caucasus, North-West Georgia,
In northern tip, Russia influxed Psu-sity.

Sure Abkhazians, sub-part of Abkhazia,
Are a legitimate enclave in the province
But Russian invaders used it as puppit
In name of Psy-sity - annex Georgians.

You are selective, Zoltan, if care to post,
What beloved Russia is plotting in Kirkuk?
Turkmens in the territory are legitimate part,
So are Kurds, that Russia turned against Turks.

They turned Kurd's labour into Communist party
And to replace, once missused Armenians,
Incited them breed - in all lans of Turkey,
Claiming independence - for Russians.

Konstantin.

by: Zoltan from: Hungary
March 22, 2010 19:27
Thank AG and Arsen for your information! It was very helpful and comprehensive and interesting to be read.

Unfortunatelly as a westerner I know less than enough about Turkish (Turkic?) language. So I have one more question. Do Turks of Turkey and Azeris understand also Uzbeks or even Tatars of Kazan as well?

And for Konstantin: I recommend you to take some anti-psychotic medicine... :)
Paranoia is an illness.

Though I know that Tajik is an Indoiranian language but I am interested in the same. Do Persian Iranians understand Tajiks? And vice versa?
In Response

by: AG from: Baku
March 22, 2010 23:31
Dear Zoltan,
You are welcome!
No, Azeris and Turks do not understand Uzbek, Tatar or Uyghur speech. These languages belong to Kipchak group of Turkic. In this case, as Arsen wrote, Azeris will need a year or more to fully understand Uzbek or Uyghur talking. Written language is a little bit easier, because there is a legacy of specially developed unified "Jagatai" literary form. Despite its compromise during the Soviet Rule it still has an enormous impact on Uzbek literary language.
Tajik and Persian are 95 % the same languages. Usually Tajiks understand Persian very easily, while typically Persians experience slight difficulties to understand what they call “non-elevated” Tajik. The same is applicable to Turks and Azeris. I mean, as I said earlier, Azeris understand Turkish with no trouble, whereas Turks usually have problems.
In addition many Tajiks speak Uzbek and vice versa.

In Response

by: Anti Turk from: Anatolia
March 23, 2010 01:28
Zoltan, Turks are a mixture of native Anatolian people such as Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks and Kurds. Your people basically came, raped and pillaged. Then they were assimilated into the pre existing native populations, BUT the small turkic speaking minority which came from Central Asia, managed to enforce their language upon the native people, there you go that's the result of what we today call "the turkish nation" in Anatolia. Most Turks are not Turks genetically, only by language. That's why most Turks look like Kurds and Armenians, rather than Mongolians.
In Response

by: Arsen from: Kharkiv, Ukraine
March 23, 2010 10:18
Yes, Anti Turk, you' re quite right. Only 1 million of Central Asian Turkic speaking Oghuz and Turkmen tribes (along with many Iranians as their commanders) + 12 millions of Asia Minor population (Greeks, Kurds, Slavic peoples, Albanians, Persians, Arabs, Circassians, Armenians, Georgians, Assyrians, Jews etc.) = today's Turks. Even difficult to imagine but a fact attested in history.

Only 8-13 per cent of modern-day Turks carry their Central Asian ancestors genes while 90 per cent don't.
In Response

by: Arsen Ter Harutiunian from: Kharkiv, Ukraine
March 23, 2010 10:10
Hello, Zoltan!
Not at all! If you have any more questions about post-Soviet Caucasus and Central Asian peoples and their languages, I myself - and I feel Mr/Ms AG from Baku too - will be pleased to answer them as very few people are interested in these problems.

Although the Turkic (or as they were named in Soviet times, the Turkic-Tatar) languages are believed to have started falling into different languages nearly 2,000 years ago, many of them were still one language even some 1,000 - 500 years ago. That is why some languages have very common features among each other while others don't. Azeri and Turkish are Oghuz Turkic: they split each other around 900 years ago, having emerged from one source - the Oghuz language to which the languages of the Turkoman, Turkmen, Gagauz, Qashqa'i, some other Azeri-like dialects/languages of Iran, Khorasani Turkic as well the southern dialects of Crimean Tatar and even Uzbek (not the standard Uzbek language but only its southern dialect) belong.

The above-mentioned languages are south-western ones and are called Oghuz while Kazan Tatar, Bashkir, Crimean Tatar (except its southern dialect), Karachay-Balkar, Kumyk, Kazakh, Nogay along with some other minor languages are north-western languages and called Kypchak. A few of these Kypchak peoples easily understand each other (e.g. Tatar and Kazakh), others have less opportunity because of both geographic distance and the time their mother tongues split.

If we go eastward, there are very many Turkic languages spread in Central Asia and Siberia too, but they do not mostly belong to either the Oghuz or the Kypchak branches but to some other branches.

Despite of all said, all the Turkic languages are easily recognized and distinguished as being namely Turkic because of very specific and common phonology. Moreover, even very far ones - e.g. Azeri and Yakut - still have some similar frequently-used words that immediately discover their language family as the Turkic. (An aquaintance of mine went to Yakutia, Russia, on business and stayed there for a couple of months. He knows Azeri as his second language, but is very far from linguistics. Even so, he was able to realise that Azeri and Yakut have some similarities as he said with a lot of surprise after coming back home.)

As for Tajic, I'd like to add that the Tajic people a millennium ago used to speak another Iranian language that was an eastern Iranian one - something related to Pashto. But they shifted to the west Iranian language of Farsi (=Persian), which is called Tajic or Tajic Persian just due to its geography. The thing is all these three languages - Iranian Persian, Tajic Persian and Afghan Persian (usually called Dari) are a huge dialect continuum of one and the same Farsi language, which derives in south-western Iran but has spread eastward and some eastern Iranians today speak it having lost their eastern-Iranian-type mother tongues. Only Pashto and Pamiric minor languages among eastern Iranian languages have survived.

By the way, Zoltan, when you ask whether this or that nation is able to understand another one, it is important to bear in one's mind one very essential idea: among one and the same language speakers there could be different people with very different language practice and abilities that can help them understand a closely related languages to different extent. Personally I speak standard Armenian as my first language and can proudly say that I am really able to understand as many as one third of Armenian dialects too - after many years of practice only. Not bad! Agree? The matter is Armenian is sometimes called to be a language with too many dialects (some western scentists even call it an Armenian family of languages because among 120 dialects very many aren't mutually intelligible). So it also depends on the person whether he/she has any practice or not.


by: Zoltan from: Hungary
March 24, 2010 21:57
I have to thank you AG and Arsen again for your kind answers!

Linguistic is an interesting science. It is especially interesting for somebody who is interested in history. (like me)

The history and language of Turkic people is especially interesting for me as a Hungarian.

As you probably know Hungarians came from the region of the Ural mountains in present Russia. And although we speak a Finno-Ugric language the nomad ancestors of us spent so much time among Turkic tribes that our language are filled with many Turkic words.

Like father and mother in Hungarian is:
- apa
- anya

Almost the same as in Turkish.


Historical migration of people is also an interesting question. For example the migrating population of Hungarians around 895. when they arrived to the region currently occupied by Hungarians were inhabited mostly by Slavic population. The original population was much bigger than the invading Hungarians but despite of this finally Hungarian became the main language.

But as an opposite case the Bulghars who were a Turkic tribe from the region of Volga river from the present Tatar Republic of Russia are migrated to the lower Danube region of the present Republic of Bulgaria.

But although the Bulghars originally spoken a Turkic language they assimilated into the Slavic population which inhabited that land.

It is an interesting question why a specific language prevails or fails in such circumstances.

by: suleyman tosun from: united kingdom
March 29, 2010 00:47
Turks Kurds and arabs have been scatered around middle east and mainly since the collaps of the ottoman empire.But since the new Turkish Iraqi and syrian Egyptian palestinian and israeli nagotiation it is now making reality of presence of the real reginal citizens of middle east .As there have been so many ethnic maps showing who dominates where maps made in Europe to minimise the rule of ex or present dictatiors of Middle east ,who gained power when western troops attacked and forced the collaps of the ottoman empire during first world war The french brittish russian and italian arm forces aho also got rid off saddam during the so called gulf war.due to the cold war there was so many strange dictators who done more work simmilar to hitlar ethnicly cleansing .But unlukyly onlu saddam got hanged but the others are gone in the history.Now there is new era of marketing and capitalism a d democracy and borders opening even if bombs are blowing in baghdad people needs to move furhter so that peace happens in all middle east.

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