The ongoing bombings and assassinations in September show that the unprotected and unarmed Turkmen people in the disputed areas at the intersection of conflict zones between Arabs and Kurds will be vulnerable to further attacks in the coming months as well.
By disputed areas, I mean the lands that the Kurds seek to add to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region but that the central administration in Baghdad wants to preserve. The Turkmen people constitute the majority in almost all of the disputed areas including Telafer, Tuzhurmatu, Kirkuk, Mosul and Diyala.
Not only during Saddam’s rule, but also since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the Turkmen people have been viewed as the extension of Turkey in Iraq. For this reason, they have suffered extensively from the Baghdad regime’s brutality and Arab nationalism. Because of their Turkish identity, a number of Turkmen politicians and intellectuals have been murdered. They have been assassinated and subjected to torture. Many of them have been executed. Their villages have been destroyed, and they have been expelled from their homes. They have been persecuted and brutalized. This state of brutality remained up to the removal of Saddam from power. Due to the brutalities, the Turkmen people have rarely appeared on the political stage of Iraq. The Turkmen people had to suffer from the same brutality after the American invasion in 2003 as well. A number of Turkmen leaders have been assassinated, kidnapped or tortured. There have been attacks against the Turkmen in this period as well. Since 2003, they have taken some major steps towards the recognition of their identity. A decade is a small time interval in the history of a nation. The Turkmen people have made serious progress in this short interval. They have acquired 10 seats in parliament as well as three ministries (Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, State Ministry for Communication) and an administrative authority (presidency of the Hajj Commission).
On July 28, 2012, a Turkmen Rights’ report was adopted in the Iraqi parliament in the form of a law. In this way, the Turkmen people became the third founding community after Arabs and Kurds in Iraq. The Iraqi Constitution, which was adopted in 2005, also recognizes the Turkmen people as one of the constituent communities in Iraq. It is important that the Turkmen people have this constitutional right. They are now able to seek their rights and fight for their own legal status. The Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq and the central Baghdad administration are fighting over the predominantly Turkmen areas. For this reason, the Turkmen people are in a difficult spot between Arbil and Baghdad as well as the Kurdish and Arab ethnicities. Their lives are not secure; there are bombings every day in Kirkuk. They cannot go to work; kids cannot go to school. People are kidnapped for ransom; they are tortured. There is a constant state of alert. This raises serious concerns among the Turkmen people. Every Christian in Iraq has set his heart on moving to a Western country. Due to these incidents and this state of violence, now the Turkmen people want to migrate to Turkey because they have to address growing threats stemming from clashes between the Arabs and the Kurds.
Arbil currently does not want to have an independent state in its three provinces. It is eager to include the disputed areas and then proclaim its independence. But this is not something that Baghdad will recognize or tolerate. In such a case, the central administration will give a military response. At this point, the US will not allow a conflict between Arbil and Baghdad. For this reason, it seems that this process and state of turmoil and violence will remain for a while.