Orhan Ketene
[email protected]
Who are the Turkmens?
 The Turkmens are a Turkic
people living in Iraq, mostly are
concentrated in Northern Iraq
and parts of Central and
Southern Iraq
(East of Himrin Mountains and
North of Jazeera desert is
Northern Iraq).
 They are the second largest
nationality in Northern Iraq after
the Kurds and the third largest in
Iraq after the Arabs and the
 The areas of Northern Iraq
where Turkmens live is called
 The Turkish speaking Turkmens
currently inhabit a diagonal line
that starts from Telafer in the
north on the Syrian border
eastward to Musul, Erbil, then
southward to Kerkuk, Khaneqin
and Bedre on the Iranian border.
 The Arabic speaking Turkmens
exist in every major city of
Central and Southern Iraq.
Who are the Turkmens?
 Turkmens used to be the
majority in Northern Iraq, but
due to political and military
reasons , continuous
population exchange of the
Turkmens with the Kurds from
Iran and the Arabs from
Arabian Iraq over the
centuries, reduced the
Turkmens nowadays to one
third of the Northern
 Currently their population is
estimated at 2.5-3 million.
Kerkuk-Political and Cultural
 Their political and
cultural center is the
city of Kerkuk which is
the center of the oil
wealth of Northern
Who are the Turkmens…cont’d
 Usually they work as
professionals or in
 They have the highest ratio
of educated people than
any other community in
 The largest Turkmen tribes
are the Bayat and Qara
Qollu (Qaraghulli).
 They are non-violent,
peace-loving and friendly
Turkmen Cities
 Other Turkmen cities are
Telafer, Musul, Erbil, Altun
Kopru, Tawukh, Tuz
Khurmatu, Kifri, Qara
Teppe, Qaraghan,
Qizlarbat, Khanaqin,
Mendeli and Bedre.
 They also exist in Baquba,
Baghdad, Tikrit, Ramadi,
Aziziyya, Mahmudiyya,
Iskenderiyya, Yusufiyya,
Kut, Hilla, Diwaniyya,
Nasiriyya and Kerbela.
The Place of the Turkmens in the
- Oghuz = Turkmens
Turkic World
Western Turkmens: Turkey, Cyprus,
Western Syria, Eastern Bulgaria, Western
Thrace (Greece), Dobruja (Romania),
Gagavuzia=Gok Oghuz (Moldova),
Central Turkmens: Azerbaijan, Southern
Azerbaijan (Iran), Southern Iran (Qashqais),
Turkmeneli-Northern Iraq, Northern
Caucasia (Russia)
Eastern Turkmens: Turkmenistan,
Southern Turkmenistan (Khorasan-Iran)
Southern Turkistan(Afghanistan)
- Karluks : Uzbeks (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan
Southern Turkistan (Afghanistan)
Uyghur(Eastern Turkistan-Northwest China)
- Kipchaks: Kazaks (Kazakistan and
EasternTurkistan), Kirghiz,Karakalpaks of
Uzbekistan, Tatars (Tatarstan, Crimea,
Siberia), Bashkurts, Karachays, Balkars, Kumuk
and Nogays of Northern Caucasia (Russia)
- Siberians: Altay-Sayan (Tuvans, KhakasiaAltais)
and Sakha-Yakutians (Russia)
- Chuvashians: Chuvashia (Russia)
The Position of the Turkmens in the Turkish World
History of the Turkmens in Iraq
The Turkmens came to Iraq from Turkestan (Central Asia) and particularly from
today’s Turkmenistan, in successive waves.
The first recorded document of their existence as “Turks” in Iraq was in 632 AD in
a peace treaty of “Banuqia”, between the Turkish prince Bozbörü Sülübay and
Khalid Bin Walid, mentioned in the book of “Mu’jamul Buldan- Dictionary of the
Countries” written by the Muslim historian Yaqut Al-Hamawi who mentioned
about the existence of several Turkish principalities in Iraq and emphasized on
two of them in central Euphrates called the Banuqlu and Batuqlu which were
allied with the Sassanid Persian Empire.
Turks took high positions up to the level of prime ministry in the Sassanid Empire
and portrayed the fiercest resistance against the Islamic Arab conquest of Iraq.
The high military capabilities of the Turkish soldiers attracted the attention of the
muslim Arabs, so, the Umayyad Arab Empire recruited large numbers of Turkish
military experts from Turkestan (Central Asia).
They became highly influential in the army and the administration of the Abbasid
Empire which followed the Umayyads.
The Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad asked for the help of Tughrul Beg, the chief of the
Seljuk Turks to remove the Persian Buwaihids who dominated Baghdad for a
century. In 1055 the Caliph of Bagdad declared Tughrul Beg as a “Sultan” (the
master of power) and from that day on, the Turkish era began and the Turks
became the rulers of the Middle East.
The Turkish Era in Iraq
The word Turk and Turkmen became synonymous in the Middle East, one means the
The Turkmens established 6 states in Iraq:
1- The Seljuk Empire:
1055- 1149
94 years
2- The Atabegs (of Musul, Erbil and Kerkuk):
1149- 1258
109 years
3- The Ilkhans (Mongol and Turkish mix):
1258- 1336
78 years
4- The Jalairids (Mongol and Turkish mix):
1336- 1360
24 years
5- The Barans (Qara Qoyunlu) :
1360- 1469
109 years
6- The Bayindirs (Aq Qoyunlu):
1469- 1508
39 years
. The Safawid Turks of Azerbaijan ruled Iraq:
Ottoman Turks ruled Iraq until the end of WWI:
Total Direct Turkish/Turkmen rule:
1508- 1534
1623- 1638
26 years
15 years
Total : 41 years
1534- 1623
89 years
1638- 1918
280 years
Total: 369 years
863 years
The Turkmen identity of today’s Northern Iraq was so evident, that it was known as
“Turcomania” by the European geographers such as William Guthrie who issued his famous
map of the Middle East in 1785 in London, Great Britain.
Map of Turcomania (Turkmenia) in 1785
By British Geographer William Guthrie
Magnified map of Turcomania
Showing Kerkuk
The Contributions of the Turkmens to the Iraqi Civilization
Turks, then known as Turkmens were
defenders and builders of Iraq for over
a millennium.
During the Seljuk era, Nizam-ul Mulk,
the prime minister of the Seljuk Sultan
Melik Shah, built the first university in
the world in Baghdad, in 1127 AD,
called Al-Mustansiriyya, which stands
even today.
Turkmens defended every part of Iraq
against all foreign invasions for more
than 1500 years. That is why they are
spread all over the country.
The Atabegs of Musul were the first
state in the Middle East to react to the
greatest European invasion in history,
the Crusades, which lasted for 200
years. Nureddin Zengi the Atabeg of
Musul built the leaning minaret
mosque in 1172 AD.
Contributions of the Turkmens….cont’d
The “Gok Kumbet”(Blue Dome) a
tomb of a Turkmen princess “Bugday
Khatun” in Kerkuk castle surrounded
by a school, reminder of the Bayindir
(Aq Qoyunlu) Turkmen state era (1469-
The “Chol Minare”(Desert Minaret)
built by Muzaffereddin Gokboru the
Atabeg of the Beg Tigin Atabegs of
Erbil in 1200 AD. In which Erbil lived its’
golden age. It was the center of
wealth, prosperity and science .
End of the Turkish Era:
During the Ottoman era, Northern Iraq was called the “Musul Province”.
In WWI, the British occupied Basra and Baghdad provinces and the southern part of the
Musul Province.
Cease fire was declared on Oct.30.1918. However, the British army occupied the city of
Musul on Nov. 11, 1918 which created the “Dispute of Musul” between Turkey and Britain
which lasted for 8 years.
The Resistance:
The people of Musul resisted occupation through a series of revolts;
After 6 months from the occupation, the first revolt was started by the Soran Kurds of
Suleymaniya in May 1919. Followed by The Turkmen revolt in Telafer in June 1920 which
spread to the whole of Iraq. Followed by the revolt of the Behdinan Kurds in Imadiya in
March 1921.
In June 1922, all peoples of Musul (Kurds, Turkmens, Arabs) united under the command of
Shafiq Ozdemir, the administrator of Rawanduz, who won the victory of “Derbend” on
August 31,1922, against the British army, liberating most of the mountainous parts of
Musul. This resistance was the longest one and lasted until April 1923.
However, all those revolts were suppressed by the overwhelming British military power,
especially the Royal Air Force and the use of poisonous gas.
Shafiq Ozdemir, the guerrilla leader of the Musul
The Breaking of the Resistance:
- In August 1921 the British installed Faisal as a king in Iraq, Turkmens of Kerkuk refused
allegiance and the Kurds of Suleymaniya refused to participate in the referendum.
- The cooperation between Kurds and Turkmens was creating big problems for the British
to establish their authority in the North. So, they divided the two by promising the Kurds
a separate Kurdistan. Most of the Kurds stopped fighting thus breaking the resistance.
- The first mass killing of the Turkmens happened on May 4th, 1924 in Kerkuk by the
British Army legionnaires called the “Levies” who killed 100 Turkmens in one day.
- To pacify the North and the Turks, the British prepared a very liberal constitution for
Iraq in 1925, where the country had 3 official languages (Arabic, Kurdish and Turkish) with
full rights for all minorities.
Musul Incorporated into Iraq:
- Exhausted by 11 years of continuous wars since 1911, Turkey, opted for peace and good
relations with the west, relinquishing its’ claim on the Musul province at the Ankara
Treaty of June 5, 1926.
- Musul was incorporated into Iraq since then.
The Ankara Treaty gave the people of Musul, one year to choose Iraqi or Turkish
citizenship. Turkmens choose to remain in Iraq and become Iraqi citizens as long as
their constitutional rights are respected.
The Start of the problems for the Turkmens in Iraq
The Monarchy Era (1921-1958) 37 years
Although Turkey declared that it was no longer interested in Musul anymore, the
successive Iraqi governments (even today) were haunted by the paranoia that Turkey,
one day, would reclaim it back.
This fear lead them to marginalize Turkmens, on the suspicion that they might support
Turkey in case Turkey reclaimed back Musul. Although Turkmens were loyal citizens.
Turkmens were barred from high and sensitive government positions.
Kurds continued rebellions as the British did not fulfill their promise of establishing
The first demographical change was the settlement of the Assyrians in Kerkuk in a
newly built suburb called “New Kerkuk” in the Arafa district, as employees of the oil
field facilities.
After becoming a sovereign country and entering the League of Nations in 1932, Iraq
amended the 1925 constitution to remove Turkish from the official languages.
The second demographical change occurred as the Arabization policy started with the
settlement of the Bedouin Arab tribes west of Kerkuk in the Hawija district in the
Kerkuk, Erbil, Khaneqin and Kifri were still majority Turkmen cities. However the third
demographical change happened after the Barzani rebellion was suppressed in 1949.
Vast numbers of rebel Kurdish villages were destroyed and the villagers forcefully
settled by the Iraqi government in those cities. Thus changing the ethnic balance.
In 1957 a census was conducted and the results declared in 1959, showed the Turkmen
population at 567.000 when Iraq was 6.5 million. Although the 400.000 Turkmens of
Musul and Diyala were not counted. Turkmen population then was 950.000.
The Communist Era (1958-1963)
5 years
The monarchy was overthrown by the Communists in 1958. In a major policy shift towards the
minorities , they declared the Kurds as partners of the Arabs, whereas the Turkmens, who remained
loyal citizens, were discriminated against and were left as a minority. Thus, a double standard
between the two peoples was applied.
Kurdish leader Barzani was brought back from his exile in Russia. He claimed the oil rich Kerkuk to
be the capital of his proposed autonomous Kurdistan, which was rejected by the Turkmens.
Turkmens in Kerkuk were attacked by the Communist and Kurdish gangs. All main Turkmen figures
were killed in a three day long massacre. It was only stopped by the Iraqi army which came from
Baghdad upon fears of Turkish intervention.
President Qasim, tried to appease the Turkmens. He declared that the Turkmens were one million
(Iraq was 7 million) and promised to persecute the criminals who conducted the Kerkuk Massacre.
Turkmens formed a secret organization and assassinated a number of Kerkuk massacre criminals.
It was understood that a quick ethnic cleansing of the Turkmens might trigger a Turkish
intervention. Therefore, the method was changed to “Minimize them in the official records”. To
ignore the reality and manipulate census records to suit the political purposes.
The formerly declared census results were ignored and the Turkmen population was officially
recorded as 2% (140.000).
The fourth demographical change in Kerkuk was; building of the “Iskan” suburb east of Kerkuk for
the Kurds by president Qasim. Although this concession did not stop the Kurds from rebelling again
because the government refused to give them Kerkuk.
The Arab Nationalists Era (1963-1968) 5 years
To appease the Turkmens, president Abdusselam Arif ordered the execution of the Kerkuk massacre
Barzani continued rebellion with military and intelligence help from Israel which was aiming at
weakening Iraq on the Palestinian issue.
The Ba’ath Era (1968-2003)
35 years
Application of double standards continued. On January 24, 1970, Turkmens were
granted cultural rights. while the Kurds were given autonomy in 3 northern provinces
on March 11, 1970 and the Turkmen city of Erbil was made their capital. All those major
concessions were given without asking the Iraqi people.
The fifth demographical change was; building of the Azadi settlement for the Kurds,
East of Kerkuk.
Kurds continued their rebellion because the government refused “again” to give
Kerkuk. This time they were aided by Iran which was after Iraqi border concessions.
Major crackdown on the Turkmens started after a nationwide demonstrations by the
Turkmens protesting the reluctance of the authorities in the application of their cultural
The Four top leaders of the Turkmens were hanged on January 16.1980. Followed by a
spree of arrests, torture and executions among the Turkmen rights advocates.
Turkmenian speaking was banned in public and even on phone conversations.
Turkmens as a nationality were removed from the official census forms. Turkmens had
to choose from either becoming Arabs or Kurds.
Turkmens, had to declare “change of nationality” to Arabic in order to get jobs.
Real estate sales were banned amongst the Turkmens. Sale could only be done to
Arabs. Turkmens were even banned from repairing their own houses.
Under the pretext of city planning, buildings resembling the Turkish era, were either
demolished or modified. The 3000 year old Kerkuk Qal’a (fortress) which was a symbol
of Turkmen architecture was demolished.
The sixth demographic change was in the form of settlement of hundreds of thousands
of Arabs in Kerkuk by the government.
Turkmen villages and districts inside and outside Kerkuk were demolished; inhabitants
were resettled in central and southern Iraq.
The Exiled Opposition and the Safe Haven Era (1991-2003)
12 years
The Iraqi army massacred over 100 Turkmens in the district of Altun Kopru in March 1991.
Free from Saddam’s dictatorship, The “Safe Haven” in Northern Iraq was supposed to be a good
model for a democratic and free Iraq. This system was intended to be transferred into the rest of Iraq
after liberating from Saddam.
Until 1996 Turkmens thrived in Erbil, they formed their own political parties, free media, democratic
institutions and even their own defense militia.
However, after the intervention of the Iraqi army to help Barzani against Talabani on August 30,
1996 in Erbil, 56 pioneers of the Turkmen movement were executed by the Iraqi intelligence.
Barzani took over Erbil from Talabani. This time, supported by the U.S. and U.K., he converted the
“Safe Haven” into Kurdistan and tried to impose authority upon the Turkmens, regarding them as a
minority of Kurdistan. Intimidations and clashes with the Turkmens began.
Turkmens focus was shifted from helping their brethren under Saddam, into resisting Barzani’s
demands of submission in Erbil.
Barzani, who was made a major player in the exiled opposition activities and armed with a veto
power and Despite the desire of the Americans and other opposition figures to include the
Turkmens, he blocked every effort and prevented the Turkmens from being major players in the
opposition activities.
The same old tactic of marginalization was used. It was claimed that the Turkmens were a small
minority, that they were not worth having a major say in the new Iraq.
It was even claimed that the Turkmens were only 10.000 in Erbil, whereas they were at least one
third of Erbil (pop.750.000)
U.S. and Iraqi opposition figures used the same double standard. Turkmens were placed in the
category of small minorities and treated accordingly in the opposition meetings and decisions. They
were never allowed to grow their symbolic and weak militia power to the level of the Peshmergas
who were allowed to grow to the level of a professional army.
Although the U.S. gave assurances to Turkey that Kerkuk and Musul were red lines for the Kurds (no
entry), the defeat of the bill in the Turkish parliament (allowing the passage of the American forces
through Turkey) angered the US and as a result, ignored the Turkish red lines and supported Kurdish
demands on Kerkuk and Musul.
 Turkmens paid a heavy price for disagreements between US and
Turkey and they were completely out of the picture.
The American Era (2003-Present)
6 years
The Turkmens in principle were happy to see the Americans enter Iraq. expecting to see
the application of American values of justice, equality and progress in Iraq.
However, the US anger over the Turks blocking US troops passage during the war, lifted
the red lines and the Kurds occupied the whole of Northern Iraq including Kerkuk and
The weak and symbolic Turkmen militia in Erbil was disbanded.
All high governing and administration positions were filled with Kurds brought from
the North.
The seventh and so far the largest demographical change happened in Kerkuk and
surrounding Turkmen towns. 600.000 Kurds were brought from other areas and settled
in the city.
Americans did not interfere with fraud and violations during the elections in Northern
Turkmens are still categorized as a small minority and given symbolic posts and
positions in the governing councils and parliament.
Although every major group in Iraq has a strong militia power, Turkmens are still not
allowed to form their own defense militia power that makes them vulnerable to
terrorist and ethnic attacks which happened many times so far in many Turkmen
Today, there is a lot of tension in the North between the Kurds on one side and the
Turkmens, Arabs and Assyrians on the other side.
The same Arab refusal to give up Kerkuk to the Kurds has recurred and a new rivalry
between Arabs and Kurds is resurfacing, warning of a new ethnic war.
Some progress has been made recently in Kerkuk only, after declaring Turkish as an
official language beside Arabic, Kurdish and Assyrian. But that is too little to solve the
problems of Northern Iraq.
Every Turkmen city had been a target of explosions that killed thousands of Turkmens
so far.
The Role of the Western Academia and Media:
Northern Iraq is the home of three major nationalities; the Turkmens, Kurds and Northern Arabs.
The Turkmens and the Kurds have the same desire of self rule and autonomy.
However, Kurds’ desires of autonomy and self-rule have been promoted and emphasized to the level
of “independence” and establishing the “Greater Kurdistan” by some powers which intend to
exploit those desires to achieve their own purposes (i.e. the British to occupy the Musul Province,
the Soviet Russians to establish a Communist Kurdish state, Israel to weaken Iraq, Shah’s Iran to get
Iraqi border concessions, Islamic Iran to weaken Iraq and finally US-UK to remove Saddam from
power and control the Middle East).
Whereas, the same desires of the Turkmens of self-rule and autonomy were suppressed and the
whole people was marginalized to a symbolic level because they can’t be exploited to serve
anybody’s purpose.
Throughout the twentieth century and even today, the western academia and media was and is
utilized extensively in this double standard operation.
Too many universities, NGO’s, Think Tanks, and news agencies throughout the western world
received astronomical grants to establish Kurdish institutes (Kurdish Institute at the Sorbonne
University- Paris, France, Barzani Institute at the American University, Washington DC, US) to do
researches promoting and emphasizing the Kurdish cause, hundreds of conferences, seminars,
books, brochures, films and documentaries had been produced.
Whereas, there is not a single research done on the Turkmens by the same academia and media
centers and not a single book produced about them.
On the contrary, those academia and media centers, produce maps and data, showing the Kurds as
the absolute majority and dominants of the North. Whereas the Turkmens are either omitted from
those maps and data or shown as dots and minute entities.
All those misinformation and disinformation is provoking the appetite of the chauvinistic feelings of
some Kurdish political groups that will lead to extreme rivalry between the 3 main ethnic groups of
Northern Iraq (The Turkmens, Kurds and Arabs). Which will bring disasters upon all peoples of the
North and especially upon the Kurdish people.
Greater Kurdistan Fiction (inspired by the Soviets)
Greatest Kurdistan Fiction (inspired by R. Col. Ralph Peters at Stars &
Stripes a Pentagon publication Sep.2006)
Examples of How Western Media Minimizes Turkmen Existence:
Imbalance Created by Excessive Rights to One Minority Only:
Since 1958 there is an imbalance between the minorities in Iraq because one minority
only (the Kurds) were given excessive rights (partnership with Arabs, autonomy,
federalism, a large share from the national treasury, a separate army…etc.) whereas
the Turkmens who are the second nationality of the North and the third nationality of
Iraq, got only symbolic cultural rights. This inequality lead to disproportionate growth
between the two peoples.
The Turkmen language, culture and socio-economic life have eroded to the lowest level
in history.
Ethnic pressures from both the Arabs and the Kurds upon the Turkmens resulted in
mass Arabization and Kurdification.
After the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Kurdish desires have been increased to include
all of Northern Iraq into Kurdistan. This endless appetite have lead to violating and
confiscating the rights of the Turkmens and other minorities and as well as strong
intimidation between the two peoples of the North.
Although the Kurds constitute only 17-18% of the population of Iraq, currently they
have more rights than their size.
The President, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, the Chief of Staff of
the Army, the Chief of the Military Intelligence, and many important ministries are
Kurdish in the Central Government. The army and police force in the North is mostly
made up of Peshmergas.
Whereas the Turkmens are 12-13% of the population and have only one symbolic
ministry of Youth and Sports. They do not have militias or autonomy.
Since 2003 the Kurds have been trying to include Kerkuk officially into their Kurdistan
through a referendum that they are sure of winning.
For that purpose, they settled 600.000 Kurdish emigrants from Iran, Syria and other
parts of Northern Iraq in Kerkuk, changing the demographics of the city from 750.000
on April 2003 to 1.35 million nowadays.
The same situation is happening in Tuz, Altun Kopru and other Turkmen towns.
The Solution
 The best solution is to bring JUSTICE, EQUALITY
and BALANCE between the minorities of Iraq.
 The Kurds are given the rights of Federalism,
Autonomy, a Separate Army and Police, a Share
from the National Treasury and Partnership in the
Central Government.
 The Turkmens should get the same rights so that
Justice, Equality and Balance is established.
The following actions must be taken in order to reach
this solution:
1- Withdrawal of the Kurdish Militias (Peshmergas and
Asayish) from Turkmeneli – the Turkmen areas of
Northern Iraq.
2- Formation of the Turkmen security forces to act in
their own zones.
3- Reversal of the Arabization and Kurdification
processes which resulted in mass ethnic
settlements in Kerkuk, Musul and Diyala provinces.

The Marginalization of the Turkmens in Iraq