Saturday, April 01, 2006

Shias call on al-Jaafari to quit

Senior members of Iraq's ruling Shia Alliance bloc have for the first time openly called on Ibrahim al-Jaafari to step down as prime minister to break months of deadlock over the formation of a national unity government.

Al-Jaafari warns of US interference

Friday 31 March 2006, 2:49 Makka Time, 23:49 GMT
Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the Iraqi prime minister, has warned against US interference in his country's politics and defended his ties to a Shia militia.

Report To Ministry Of Foreign Affairs

The Iraqi Turkmen live in an area that they call “Turkmenia” in Latin or “Turkmeneli” which means, “Land of the Turkmen. It was referred to as “Turcomania” by the British geographer William Guthrie in 1785. The Turkmen are a Turkic group that has a unique heritage and culture as well as linguistic, historical and cultural links with the surrounding Turkic groups such as those in Turkey and Azerbaijan. Their spoken language is closer to Azeri but their official written language is like the Turkish spoken in present-day Turkey. Their real population has always being suppressed by the authorities in Iraq for political reasons and estimated at 2%, whereas in reality their number’s are more realistically between 2.5 to 3 million, i.e. 12% of the Iraqi population.
Turkmeneli is a diagonal strip of land stretching from the Syrian and Turkish border areas from around Telafer in the north of Iraq, reaching down to the town of Mandeli on the Iranian border in Central Iraq. The Turkmen of Iraq settled in Turkmeneli in three successive and constant migrations from Central Asia, which increased their numbers and enabled them to establish six states in Iraq.
After the liberation of Iraq, the Turkmen had high expectations of the interim administration established after April 9, 2003. The Turkmen expected to see democracy, fairness, and an end to discrimination, the right to self- determination and an end to violence. Unfortunately, the opposite has occurred regarding the human rights situation in Iraq, in particular concerning the Iraqi Turkmen. However, the Iraqi Turkmen should not be seen as a danger to Iraqi sovereignty but as an asset to strengthen Iraqi stability and as a part of the big mosaic of Iraqi unity.
In order to have democracy, stability and tranquillity in Iraq. The Iraqi government must guarantee human rights for all citizens, regardless of ethnicity and reach agreement about these issues with representatives of Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs. Presently the Turkmen have been undergoing campaigns by the Kurds in Turkmeneli in an often more brutal fashion than carried out on Kurds by Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi Kurds are attempting by various methods to eliminate Turkmen identity especially from Kerkuk City in order to dilute them into Kurdish society.
Kerkuk holds strategic as well as symbolic value; the ocean of oil beneath its surface could be used to drive the economy of an independent Kurdistan, the ultimate goal for many Kurds. The Kurds hope to make the city and its vast oil reserves part of an autonomous Kurdistan whereas both the Turkmen and Arabs are fiercely opposing the inclusion of Kerkuk to the autonomous region. Because of Kerkuk’s oil resources and its strategic importance, the fight over the control of the province proved to be one of the focal points of the conflict in northern Iraq. Nevertheless, the two main Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party “KDP” and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan “PUK”, have long considered Kerkuk to be an integral part of a future Kurdish federal region. In contrast the Turkmen of Iraq vigorously oppose the idea of Kerkuk being a part of the Kurdish federal region. Moreover, Turkey has repeatedly expressed concern about Kurdish aspirations over Kerkuk, stating that Kurdish control over Kerkuk could fuel Kurdish nationalism in the region and undermine the rights of Turkmen residents in Kerkuk. This could lead to instability in the region and, possibly, civil war. Kerkuk itself has become almost synonymous with the abusive Kurdasiation campaign.
The Kurds have intensified their Kurdisation campaign in the city of Kerkuk. The Kurdish officials working at the administration of the Kerkuk Municipality have been confiscating real estate and lands belonging to the town administration with a view to granting them to ethnic Kurds newly arrived in Kerkuk and who are not originally from the town. The main objective and intention of the Kurds is to change the demographic structure of the city ahead of the census to be held on the Dec. 31, 2007.
The demands of the Iraqi Turkmen Association in United Kingdom are as follow:
Regarding the British Consulate in Iraq, Kerkuk shall have direct liaison with the Iraqi Turkmen representative in Kerkuk in discussion of matters that are related to Turkmen people. The meeting shall be held without the influence and interference from Kurdish political organisation. Moreover, in order to avoid any misleading, twisting and manipulation of the discussed subjects during the interpretation, the Turkmen would like to provide their own interpreter during the discussion rather than an interpreter being provided by Kurds.
We are glad to provide you with our contact name in Kerkuk, Mr.Ali Mehdi and Mr. Hassan Turan who are currently serving as a Member of the Governing Council of Kerkuk.
For the last few years, all Iraqi Turkmen recommendations and suggestions that have been put forward to the allied forces in and outside of Iraq have never been taken to consideration and have fallen on deaf ears. After the fall of the previous Iraqi regime, the Turkmen had high expectations of the interim administration established after April 9, 2003. The Turkmen expected to see democracy, fairness, and an end to discrimination, the right to self-determination and an end to violence. Unfortunately, the opposite has occurred regarding the human rights situation in Iraq, in particular concerning the Iraqi Turkmen.
The police force and military personnel that are currently serving in Kerkuk shall not be controlled by a specific group of people or political parties. The police force and military personnel from various parts of Iraq shall be deployed and utilised in Kerkuk rather then being controlled by specific militia.
The deployed police force and army personnel in Kerkuk shall be independent and not be a linked to any political party but unfortunately the established police forces clearly orchestrated in the last two elections taking sides in favouring groups that have appointed them.
The total rejection of Article 58 and referendum in Kerkuk on the final status of the city in 2007.
The Turkmen, as staunch believers in firm national principles, strongly reject the articles 58 and clauses in the Iraqi draft constitution that do great prejudice against the Turkmen and their national identity. The Turkmen are extremely worried over efforts aiming to make Kurds a majority in the northern Iraqi oil town of Kerkuk, as U.S. backed Kurdish forces took the city under control.
The fate of the disputed Iraqi city of Kerkuk is vital for all of Iraq and a planned referendum on its status should be held across the country, not in Kerkuk only as intended now. The Turkmen declared that Kerkuk is an Iraqi city and all the people of Iraq should decide on its fate. A referendum to be held only in Kerkuk would not be acceptable and valid since it is extremely easy to manipulate election results in the city.
The issue of Kirkuk’s status is potentially explosive for Iraq, and ethnic conflict over the city could spark violent clashes and even a civil war across Iraq that could eventually lead to disintegration of the country. The Turkmens and Arabs plight for the demographic structure of Kerkuk has been seriously distorted as Kurds, backed by armed Peshmerga forces, have been migrating into the city in large groups claiming to be original residents pushed out of Kerkuk in the past decades as part of the now-ousted Saddam Hussein's Arabization campaign.
Iraq's interim constitution, which is expected to be approved by the country's first post-war permanent Parliament in the coming months, foresees a referendum in Kerkuk on the final status of the city in 2007. Kurds claim the city must be a part of their autonomous region, which currently covers three provinces in the north. Turkmens and Arabs are also vying for control of the city. With a wave of Kurdish immigration to Kerkuk under way for several months, a Kurdish victory in the upcoming referendum is seen as highly likely.
There were serious irregularities in the city in Iraq's parliamentary elections held on Dec. 15 and called for efforts to rewrite flawed voter lists and register true residents of the city in an internationally observed campaign. The United Nations, the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) should get involved in the process of registering the genuine residents of Kirkuk’s status is extremely critical because it would either unite or divide Iraq. Moreover, Iraqi independent commission completely shall not be used or involved in any sort of active role for any referendum that might be carried out on in the future of Kerkuk since all the Iraqi independent commissioned are some how biased and affiliated and influenced by specific political party. Also, during the last election the, Iraqi independent commission had proven to be extremely weak, ineffective and was easily bound to the pressure from political parties and they were subjected to manipulation and influences that was created by a specific armed militia.
In conclusion any decision on the future of Kerkuk should be under control of UN and not the Iraqi Government as we all know that the Iraqi Government is controlled by three parties and they have their own strategies. The referendum that is going to be held before the end of 2007 is going to be vital and would have dramatic affect on Iraq in general and Kerkuk city especially. We recommend that the suggested referendum to be organised and run directly by the U.N and the appointee of this referendum to be independent and directly to be appointed by the U.N. Also we want all the observers to be appointed by the U.N and to be independent.
The Kurdization policies, more active role and British government involvement to halt both Kurdish parties from changing the demography of the North of Iraq. The systematic forcible transfer of the Turkmen and Arabs populations aimed at changing the demographic nature of northern Iraq is a policy that is commonly referred to as Kurdization. The two main Kurdish parties’ programme of resettling Kurds families who were brought from brought from other provinces, such as Iran, Turkey, Syria and north of Iraq to replace and dilute the Turkmen and Arab population.
The forced and arbitrary transfer of populations is not permissible under international law and is a crime against humanity. Nevertheless, the both Kurdish parties sought to alter the demographic make up of northern Iraq in order to reduce the political power and presence of Turkmen and Arab and consolidate control over this oil-rich region.
The repatriation of all the Kurds who were brought to Kerkuk and surrounding areas from other provinces, such as Iran, Turkey, Syria and north of Iraq to be return to their original places. Many of them were settled in the houses of the forcibly evicted Arabs and of the high-ranking Ba’ath party members who fled from Kerkuk city after the fall of the Ba’ath regime. The new Kurdish arrivals have been squatting in the governmental and the high-ranking Ba’ath party members’ houses that have been deserted. Also, the squatters have been given original Iraqi identity cards, passport and registered identity showing them as residents of Kerkuk.
The disarmament of the Kurdish militia and the utilization of the UN troops in North of Iraq as a peace keeping instead of the US troops since all the Kurdish militia in north of Iraq whom are terrorizing the population. Human rights organization openly declared that they couldn’t see any difference between the practices of Saddam’s administration and those of the Kurds. Saying the attitudes of Kurdish Peshmerga also damage the US reliability and nobody wants to work with Americans any more, because, the Americans gave power to the Kurds and Shiites. Nobody has any rights except the Kurdish Peshmerga and Shiite militias. The Kurdish rebels still remain armed with weapons and they are enforcing their ideas on the Turkmen, Arabs and Assyrians against their wishes.
The police and security units, forces led by Kurdish political parties and backed by the U.S. military, have abducted hundreds of Turkmen and Arabs and Turkmens in this intensely volatile city and spirited them to prisons in Kurdish-held northern Iraq, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials, government documents and families of the victims. The Turkmen and Arabs were seized off the streets of Kerkuk in joint U.S and Kurdish militia. The Turkmen and Arabs men have been transferred secretly and in violation of Iraqi law to prisons in the Kurdish controlled cities of Erbil and Suleymaniya, sometimes with the knowledge of U.S. forces. The Turkmen and Arabs detainees, including merchants, members of tribal families and soldiers, have often remained missing for months; some have been tortured, according to released prisoners.
The ratification of the new constitution to include that Iraq consists of Arab, Kurds and Turkmen. In the newly formed constitution by the interim government it is clearly stated that Iraq consists of only Kurds and Arabs. The Turkmen have been totally disregarded and we strongly believe that a new Iraq must be inclusive, ethnically and religiously balanced in representing Iraq's three main groups. The Iraqi constitution, which was submitted on Monday, August 22, 2005, is a historic document in Iraq’s history and become the most influential document produced in the Middle East in 100 years. The constitution will have a profound influence on the development of democracy and human rights. Although, it is a step, it takes more than it does gives. We must keep in mind that the constitution was written under the occupation forces and under the influence of the Shi’aa and Kurdish parties, therefore, it remains to be seen how the jurist will interpret and apply the language of this document so that it protects the minorities of Iraq. Minorities that include Turkmen, Assyrians, Yezidis and Shabaks.
A separate federation for Kerkuk
Turkmen are against such a federation. A federal regime not based on solid ground would plunge Iraq and the region into chaos but Turkmens have warned that they would pursue their own path to have a Turkmen region if the process of Iraq going to pieces along ethnic and sectarian differences proves to be irreversible. But the Turkmen right to self-rule is reserved if this process cannot be stopped, the proposed Turkmen region would stretch from the northwest town of Tal Afar near the border with Syria down to Kerkuk and Mandeli, further southeast, close to the border with Iran. With a significant majority of Turkmens living in the Kurdish-controlled region in the north, the Kurdish attempts to consider all non-Kurdish groups as a minority and deny them many rights that they want for themselves in the new Iraq. “Looking at the vast area that is included in the Kurdish region, one can see that close to 40 percent of the population is made up of non-Kurdish people. Still, they call a region with such demographic diversity ‘Kurdistan.
Iraqi Turkmen Association in U.K,
Mofak Salman, Ireland, Dublin

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Kirkuk's future could make or break new Iraq

Kirkuk: Arab, Kurdish and Turkmen claims over Kirkuk are couched in explosive rhetoric and sometimes marred by bloodshed like incidents over the new year, but the fate of this northern oil centre could well be a factor in making or breaking US plans to reshape Iraq.
In a classic example of the Arab adage "my brother and I against my cousin and my cousin and I against the stranger," Turkmen and Arabs, both Sunni and Shiites, gathered in Kirkuk Wednesday to protest a recent push by Kurdish leaders for the city's incorporation in a Kurdish autonomous region.
Many came from villages in the predominantly Sunni Arab Hawijah plains west of the city. Some came from Baghdad and from as far south as Nasiriyah and Basra, heeding the call of their tribal kinsmen.
Iraqi flags fluttered alongside blue Turkmen ones and green and black Shiite banners as protesters gathered in the festival square of what they call "the city of brotherhood."
A fiery group of young people broke ranks with what the local US military commander said was a peaceful demonstration and made its way to the city headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
Gunfire broke out, killing four and wounding around 30, with the Americans and Kurds blaming supporters of the former regime of Saddam Hussein for the trouble and the protestors saying the PUK guards shot first.
Two Kurds were stabbed to death Thursday night in Kirkuk and an Arab was killed in clashes with police south of the city.
"The struggle demands sacrifices," said Sheikh Ghassan al-Obeidi adding that the bloodshed marks a line in the sand in what could escalate into a civil war if Kurdish leaders pursue their "posturing and antagonistic tactics."
Sheikh Ghassan and his brothers Burhan and Salem carry the legacy of their late father Sheikh Mizher who commanded all of Iraq's Obeidis and whose ranks include many Shiites that married into the tribe.
"If Kurds continue to believe that Americans are on their side and just think about achieving maximum gains in the short term, then this will lead to a civil war," said Sheikh Ghassan, who resigned in November from a city council set up by US forces last May with representatives from all communities.
He said he had nothing against Kurds, many of whom have blood ties with Arabs, but his main concern was the "militant attitude" of the two main factions -- the PUK led by Jalal Talabani and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Massoud Barzani.
Talabani and Barzani want Iraq's US-installed Governing Council to recognise their vision of a federal state well before the approval on March 1 next year of a Basic Law to govern Iraq during the transition period through 2005.
Kurdish leaders in Kirkuk say their intentions regarding federalism have been clear since 1992.
"I am for a Kurdistan that would include Kirkuk but this must come after normalising the political situation and conducting a census," said Jalal Jawhar, the PUK's chief in Kirkuk.
Jawhar said the census would only come after allowing an estimated 250,000 Kurds, inside and outside Iraq, to come back to their homes in Kirkuk, from which they were driven by Saddam starting in the 1970s in his drive to alter the ethnic makeup of the area in favour of Arabs.
Kurdish leaders in Kirkuk also claim that Saddam chopped off parts of Tamim province around the city and added them to neighbouring Diyala, Nineveh and Salahaddin provinces.
They want this land returned to Kirkuk as part of any eventual settlement.
Enter the Turkmen, believed to be the third largest ethnic group in the city after the Arabs and Kurds out of an estimated population of one million.
The mainly Shiite Turkmen have strong backing from Turkey, which has criticised the Kurdish push for federalism fearing that this might fire up nationalist feeling among its own restive Kurds.
Kirkuk's Turkmen police chief Turhan Yussef wants US troops to take more responsibility for security and to scrap the current system of allocating 40 percent of police jobs to Kurds and giving Arabs and Turkmen 28 percent each.
The United States, which has control of northern Iraq, says its role in Kirkuk is to "facilitate" political discussion among the ethnic groups.
US Colonel William Mayville of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, which patrols Kirkuk and Hawijah, says the violence goes back and forth between Kirkuk's ethnic communities and insists the recent violence is not the start of civil war.
"There are a lot of AK47s out there, and in any country, including Iraq, the heat rises enough, you can get some of the kinetics you saw," he told AFP.
"This is not the start of a civil war but that is not to downplay how serious politically what's going on here is."
But Sheikh Ghassan complains that US forces sometimes succumb to what he says is the Kurds' tendency to play the Saddam card, accusing Arabs in the area of having collaborated with the fallen dictator.
"The Americans sometimes act out of ignorance," he said.