Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Towards Iraqi Reconciliation

In January Bush said he would pullout of Iraq if the new Iraq government (this was before the elections) asked him to pullout. On the other hand, the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance list had originally called for an American troop withdrawal, but that plan was dropped even before the January 30 elections, presumably because of American pressure. Well, the Iraq government and the Iraqi people are now asking for the withdrawal, better still, the preparatory reconiciliation conference, held in Cairo under the auspices of the Arab League, accepted the right for Iraqi groups to mount an armed resistance against the foreign troops:

Iran Urges Iraq to Seek Pullout Timetable
Nov 22, 6:28 PM (ET)

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran's supreme leader urged the Iraqi president on Tuesday to seek a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, saying the American presence harms the country.

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Iraqi Leaders Call for Pullout Timetable
By Salah Nasrawi
Tuesday November 22, 2005 3:16 AM

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Leaders of Iraq's sharply divided Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis called Monday for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces in the country and said Iraq's opposition had a ''legitimate right'' of resistance.

The final communique, hammered out at the end of three days of negotiations at a preparatory reconciliation conference under the auspices of the Arab League, condemned terrorism, but was a clear acknowledgment of the Sunni position that insurgents should not be labeled as terrorists if their operations do not target innocent civilians or institutions designed to provide for the welfare of Iraqi citizens.

The participants in Cairo agreed on ''calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops according to a timetable, through putting in place an immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces ... control the borders and the security situation'' and end terror attacks.

Debate in Washington over when to bring troops home turned bitter last week after decorated Vietnam War vet Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., called for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, and estimated a pullout could be complete within six months. Republicans rejected Murtha's position.

The conference also decided on broad conditions for selecting delegates to a wider reconciliation gathering in the last week of February or the first week of March in Iraq. It essentially opens the way for all those who are willing to renounce violence against fellow Iraqis.

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Poll: Iraqis not in favor of occupation

BASRA, Iraq, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- A poll of Iraqis found most think the occupation forces are hurting the country and 45 percent approve of attacks on foreign troops.

The London Telegraph obtained a copy of the results of the study which showed that in some areas 65 percent support attacks, and less than one percent think the occupation is improving security.

The poll, conducted by Iraqi university researchers who were not told the data would be used by Britain's Defense Ministry, showed stark numbers against the occupation forces, which contradicts the positive message coming from London and Washington.

Eighty-two percent of respondents said they "strongly oppose" troops being in their country, 67 percent feel less secure and 72 percent have no confidence that the occupation will succeed.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Iraq's Patriotic Communities, the Turkmen

Here are some more reasons to reject the so-called constitution and oppose the would-be political process: According to the Iraqi Turkmen for example, the constitution is deficient in terms of both democracy and justice. I hereby seize this opportunity to apologize for my till now poor attentiveness as to developments involving other Iraqi communities than those which draw most public attention. Of course, I have been too schematic about all this. Though, my past insistence on Kurdish identity in Iraq was a way of contesting exclusive, if not totalitarian, Arab identity; I did not mean at all to exclude the other Iraqi communal identities – Assyrian, Christian, Yezidi, etc. I hope I made it clear that national-patriotic reconciliation and democratic dialogue or negotiation (the real "political process") should embrace every ethnic and every confessional community:

Undemocratic aspects of the new Iraqi constitution draft
Iraqi Turkmen Human Rights Research Foundation
August 16, 2005

The policy of the American occupation is clearly undemocratic. The U.S. Grant the Kurds all types of facilities and the leading positions in the north of Iraq, particularly in the oil-rich Turkmen province of Kerkuk which was handed to the Kurds. The Administrative State Law, which was written by the Americans in 2004 ‘to democratize Iraq’, included many undemocratic items, such as:

  • As the constitution of 1958, it made discrimination between the different Iraqi communities by saying that Iraq is constituted from the Arabs and Kurds, in contradiction with all the international laws and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Thereby, it grants to the Kurdish minority which represents 17% of the Iraqi population, rights equal to those of the Arab majority which represents 65% of the Iraqi population while ignoring the rights of the Turkmen who represent 13% of the Iraqi population and also ignoring the rights of the Chaldo-Assyrian community, which represents about 5% of the Iraqi population and other minorities. Accordingly, the Kurdish language must be studied in all Iraq while the Turkmen and Chaldo-Assyrian languages could not be used officially in government schools, even in the regions were these nationalities constitute the majority.
  • This Law gives the 3 Kurdish provinces the right to reject any decision made by the Iraqi parliament.

The major undemocratic aspects of the published version of the new Iraqi Constitution are the item 3 and 4 of section I. In this section - item 3, the Iraqi people are classified into 2 major ethnics groups, Arabs and Kurds, and to other basic ethnic groups, i.e. the Turkmen, Cheldo-Assyrians and others.

In item 4, the Arabic language continues to be the official language of Iraq and the Kurdish beside the Arabic language in the Kurdish region, while other languages should be decided in the referendum.

With all due respect to the Arab League, I think the General Secretary of the Turkmen Commission is quite right when he simultaneously "emphasizes the territorial integrity" and the cultural diversity of Iraq, considering it "appropriate to mention that Iraq is a multinational and multi-religious country, the majority of Arabs are the part of the Arab world":

Declaration of the Turkmen Committee for the Unity of Iraq (pdf)
The General Secretary of the Turkmen Commission
August 16, 2005

Turkmens insist to take an active role in rebuilding Iraq and constitution preparation process. The pressure and massacre to which Turkmens have been subjected are not less than those of other groups have been subjected to. Our Committee, therefore, would like to draw your attention to following points:

1. We would like to underline that new Constitution should treat all groups fairly and the interests of the nation must be kept over all things. Realizing our national development in safety and through the rules adopted by the civilized countries should be our main principle.

2. We mention that we are for an Iraq ruled by republic and having a democratic, pluralistic and parliamentary system. The government should be rotating in Iraq. Free and fair election is needed for that The status of current 18 provinces of Iraq should be maintained and each province should be governed whether being self-governing territory or federal administration in accordance with the all Iraqis consensus. So, federal system means that provinces have a federated structure. Here we’d like to emphasize the necessity to maintain Iraqi territorial and national integrity.

3. Rights and should be the official religion and one of the legislative sources of the Iraqi nation.

4. The religion of Islam should be the official religion and one of the legislative sources of the Iraqi nation.

5. As mentioned in the Transitional Administrative Law’s Article 44, the Constitutional Court should be established in Iraq and the right of suing issues that are against the constitution should be given to the people and the political entities. Also, people and political entities should have the right to sue the government for acting against the constitution to the international court.

6. National and constitutional rights should be given to all Iraqis without discrimination. This principle should explicitly be mentioned in the constitution and none of the ethnic groups should be treated in secondary consideration and none of the ethnic groups role or position should be exaggerated.

7. We believe that is appropriate to mention that Iraq is a multinational and multi-religious country, the majority of Arabs are the part of the Arab world and the Muslims who are in majority in Iraq are the parts of Islam.

8. The official language of Iraq should be Arabic; however, Arabic, Kurdish and Turkish should be official language where Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens are majority. In Turkmen regions, the rights of education in Turkish should be guaranteed. Same rights should be given to Kheldo-Assyrians and others.

9. Families are the basis of a society. Therefore, nation-state should protect families, provide health and social services, and the right of education for them. It also should provide the rights of education and employment for women.

10. It has to be adopted that the future of Kirkuk and the adherence of it to any part are not regional matters and has to be decided by all the Iraqis.

11. Principles of separation of powers, independence of justice and subordination of armed forces to civil authorities should be adopted. All militia forces should be abolished. There should be army an army which is created to defend the country; and the army should not intervene in policy.

The Turkmen repeatedly proved their loyalty to Iraq. For example, the recent (September) attack on Tal Afar "was mainly about punishing the Sunni Turkmen for allying with the Sunni Arab guerrillas." I am citing here Juan Cole: "In the continued ‘scorched earth’ policy of the US military in the Sunni areas, a joint US/ Iraqi (mostly Kurdish) force appears to have levelled entire neighborhoods in Tal Afar, a northern Turkmen city [70 percent Sunni Turkmen and 30 percent Shi’i Turkmen], making most of its 200,000 inhabitants refugees living in squalid tent camps or with friends and relatives elsewhere." And only some time before (August) in Kirkuk, Turkmens and Arabs, both groups mostly Shi’is and followers of Muqtada al-Sadr this time, demonstrated against federalism, denouncing it as likely to lead to the partition and weakening of Iraq; denouncing it also as an imperialist and Zionist plot.

From the very first day of the Occupation, the Turkmen and the Arabs of Kirkuk resisted the Kurdish Peshmergas’ hold on the city and the plans to incorporate the province in an autonomous Kurdistan. The situation in the province has been potentially explosive since then, because of the oil fields and their significance for the Kurdish separatist project. Supporting the Shi’a Turkmen in Kirkuk, Muqtada al-Sadr (August 2003) said he "condemned any attempt to isolate the north from the rest of the country" and complained about the ethnic cleansing undertaken by the Kurds streaming back into Kirkuk and reclaiming their homes from Arab squatters. Also, supporting the demonstration (December 2003-January 2004) of 300,000 Turkmen residents who went on strike over Kurdish plans for Kirkuk, Muqtada al-Sadr fielded 2,000 men of his militia, the Army of the Mahdi, to the city - the population of the contested Kirkuk includes Turkmens, Arabs, and Kurds; the traditionally dominant Turkmen are now overwhelmed by the Kurds who are probably close to half.

The Turkmen and the Shi'i Arabs in the province of Kirkuk desperately do not want to be part of Kurdistan. The Turkmen have demanded a semi-autonomous Iraqi Turkmenistan in the event of (unovoidable) federal partition of Iraq:

Iraqi Turkmens Call for Equal Representation in Iraq
11th session of Working Group on Minorities – United Nations - Geneva

Unfortunately, despite the regime change in Iraq in 2003 after the war and the occupation by the Anglo-American forces, the Turkmen tragedy continues.
Today, the Turkmen continue to be marginalized as the US helps its Kurdish allies and promotes their hegemonic ambitions to control the north of Iraq

- By repeatedly bombing Turkmen cities in Mosul.
- By allowing the Kurdish extremists and Kurdish militants (Pashmargas) to suppress the Turkmen identity of the Turkmen in Erbil.
- By allowing the Kurdification of major Turkmen cites like Kerkuk, Daquq, Tuz Khurmatu etc.... 350.000 Kurds were brought to Kerkuk city after the occupation of Iraq in 2003. Almost all the high positions and government posts in the local governments of the Turkmen region were given to the Kurds.
- By neglecting the Turkmen political parties and by ignoring their leaders and activists in appointing only one Turkmen lady from the civil society, with no political background to the Governing Council to represent the 13% of the Iraqi Turkmen, while 5 Kurds were appointed to represent the 17% of the Iraqi Kurds.
- By appointing only one Turkmen academic without any political history in the Interim Government to represent the Turkmen community.
- By allowing and accepting all sorts of manipulations and malpractices to happen in favor of the Kurds in the Turkmen region during the last elections of 30th January 2005: only 2 voting stations were opened in TAL- AFAR a Turkmen city of 300.000 inhabitants, the majority of whom could not vote.
- By allowing the Kurdish political parties to interfere in the Turkmen affairs in order to divide the Turkmen people and limit their political influence in Iraq. This interference was clearly demonstrated in Erbil on the 24th of April 2005 where the following Iraqi Turkmen Front offices and buildings were occupied by the Barazani militants:
- Head office of the ITF in Erbil city
- Turkmeneli Television station
- Turkmeneli radio station
- Turkmeneli Printing House
- The Publication of Turkmeneli Newspaper has been stopped since then.

In view of the above stated facts and problems faced by us as a Turkmen in Iraq, I address this assembly on behalf of the Turkmen, requesting your support and asking the UN to intervene in our favor to defend our just cause with the Iraqi authorities. So that finally the 3 million Turkmen obtain full rights equal to those obtained by the Arabs and Kurds and that these rights be clearly stated in the new Iraqi Constitution.

• If a federal system is accepted by the entire Iraqi nation, then the Turkmen should be given the right to govern their own federal region where they constitute the majority.
• Since all the Iraqi census was designed to serve state policy and the last election was mainly to serve the occupation authorities and the Kurds, we request that the upcoming census and/or upcoming election be monitored by the UN and the international community. The Kurdish administration be prevented from interfering in the election and census processes in the Turkmen region and security should no
longer be exclusively in the hands of the Kurds but should be provided by neutral police force from Central and Southern Iraq.
• We demand that the Turkish language be accepted as an official language along with Arabic and Kurdish in Iraq.
• We demand that the Turkmen who suffered discrimination, material, physical and psychological losses be fairly compensated.
• We demand a fair representation of the Turkmen in the Commission charged with the writing of the new constitution in order to safeguard our minority’s rights.
• We demand that the Kurdish militias be disbanded and disarmed and the Kurdification of Turkmen regions be stopped.

I thank you for your interest and attention.

Attempts to change the demographic structure of Kirkuk city by the American supported Kurds (pdf)
Iraqi Tukmen Human Rights Research Foundation
September 17, 2004

After the war and occupation of Iraq by the Anglo-American forces in April 2003, the Kurdish political parties KDP and PUK who had supported it with their armed militias - for their own old political agenda to take control of Kirkuk province and its oil wealth - were rewarded for their collaboration with the Americans who allowed their militias to enter Kirkuk and perpetrate in this mainly Turkmen city the exactions, human rights abuses and looting that they allowed to happen in all other parts of what they called "liberated Iraq," as we have all seen on the TV screens last year.



Geographical Features:
The majority of the Muslim Turkmens are concentrated in the northern Iraqi provinces of Mosul, Erbil, Kerkuk, Salahaddin and Diyala. There are also significant numbers of Turkmens in the central provinces of Baghdad, Wasit, Kerbala and Najaf.

The Turkmens are the third largest ethnic group in Iraq after the Kurds and Arabs. The number of the Turkmens is estimated at 3 million or %13 of the Iraqi population. They form a cultural buffer zone between Arabs in the south and Kurds in the north.
The Turkmen region has large natural resources such as Oil, gas and Sulphur. In addition, there is an abundant production of wheat and cotton.

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