Iraqi-Turkmen (Turkomen); treatment by Iraqi government, security and police personnel as well as general public [IRQ38945.E]

The name "Turkmen" with respect to Iraq's minority Turkish population is ambiguous such that "'Turkoman' ... is ... an English rendition of a persified expression; Turkman represents an arabified term and 'Turkmen' a genuine ethnonym" (RFE/RL 5 March 1999).

According to an opinion piece written by a retired Turkish Ambassador, the actual population of Turkmen in Iraq is unknown because the 1957 census was the last one where individuals could "register themselves as Turks" (Turkish Daily News 1 Oct. 2001). Currently, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization reports that the Turkmen are not considered a

distinct identity ... [and are] still not officially recognised. They do not figure in national census and linguistic rights are denied even in places where they form the majority of the population. Repression under Sadam Hussein's government is directed at all opposition, distinctive ethnic and religious minorities were specifically targeted, [leading to] the violations of the linguistic, cultural and property rights of the Turkoman (22 May 2002).

Estimates as to the Turkmen population in Iraq vary: a 1998 Agence France Presse report noted that "[w]hile western specialists estimate their population at about 200,000-300,000, the Turkish government claims that there are about three million Turkomans in the region" (17 Feb. 1998). Another estimate of the Turkmen population is "around two to 2.5 million persons;" however, they may also constitute as much as around "14 percent to 16 percent" (Turkish Daily News 1 Oct. 2001) of the Iraq's 23 million inhabitants (CIA World Fact Book 2001). Similarly, the majority of the Iraqi Turkmen population is concentrated in the north and central Iraqi provinces of Mosul, Erbil, Kirkuk and Deyalah (UNPO 22 May 2002). According to a 1999 source, "[s]ome 90 percent of Iraq's Turkoman population live in Baghdad-controlled areas of Iraq" with the remaining population in Kurdish-controlled regions (RFE/RL 19 Mar. 1999).

In its 2002 annual report, Amnesty International also quoted a United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights resolution condemning

the systematic, widespread and extremely grave violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law by the Government of Iraq, resulting in an all-pervasive repression and oppression sustained by broad-based discrimination and widespread terror (2002).

In this light, the Iraqi Turkman Front (ITF), a political organization that was established in 1995 to unify Turkmen political groups (RFE/RL 5 Mar. 1999), claimed that

Turkomans living in Iraq have not only been deprived of their minority rights, but have also been subjected to various oppressions. In order to wipe out Turkomans, large scale massacres have been carried out in addition to executions, banishment and displacement.
... the oppressive actions by the Iraqi government out of which both Iraqi people in general and the Turkman in particular have received their share, which include no freedom of expression, widespread killings without any interrogation or legal proceedings, torture and executions (ITF 25 Nov. 2001).

Among other events, the ITF refer to a 1996 raid on the offices of the ITF and other Turkmen political organizations where "many Turkman were killed or arrested" by Iraqi authorities, with three detainees subsequently executed in 1997 (ibid).

Turkish scholar H. Tarik Oguzlu, in a book published under the auspices of Ankara's Foreign Policy Institute includes the following as offences perpetrated by Iraqi authorities on the Turkmen of Iraq:

denied the rights to have peaceful assembly and association; to buy and sell property; to travel freely within the country and to leave the country he resides; to express thoughts of various kind freely; to be exempt from torture, inhuman and degrading treatment; to be equal before the law; to be exempt from arbitrary arrest, detention or exile; to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law; to be exempt from arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, attacks upon his honor and reputation; to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives; to have equal access to public service in his country; to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests; to freely participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits (Foreign Policy Institute 2001, 21)

The UNPO noted in 2002 that under the Socialist Arab Baath Party the Turkmen have "suffered from a massive intimidation and assimilation policy since 1971, were arrested and convicted of a variety of sentences by the revolutionary courts" (22 May 2002). A recent example of this is the prohibition against the use of the Turkmen language in the Kirkuk region, where RFE/RL reported that Iraqi authorities "prohibited conversation in Turkmen in government offices" with a six months in prison sentence for those that ignore the order (11 Jan. 2002). An Austrian Centre for Country of Origin and Asylum Research and Documentation (ACCORD) report published May 2001 stated that "affiliation with a Turkmen party is a crime as they are accused of being agents of Turkey" (May 2001a, 59).

For information dealing specifically with the assimilation policies directed towards the Turkmen minority please see IRQ38947.E of 12 June 2002 and for information concerning freedom of movement and exit please see IRQ39459.E of 12 June 2002.

Several reports detail Iraqi policies to disperse the Turkmen population from the north to other regions of Iraq (HRW 2002; Turkish Daily News 1 Oct. 2001; AI 24 Nov. 1999; ITF 4-5 Dec. 1999). As reported by Istanbul-based newspaper Sabah, Turkmen have faced a "campaign of oppression and tyranny [that has been conducted] for years in order to force the Turkmens living in Karkuk ... to migrate" (1 Apr. 2002). Human Rights Watch, citing the UN Centre for Human Settlements, noted that a "major factor in the rising number of internally displaced persons was the government's continued expulsion of Kurds and Turkmen from their homes in Kirkuk, Tuz Khormatu, Khaniqin, and other districts as part of its 'Arabization' program" (2002). In so doing

the government also gave Arabs deeds of property owned by those expelled, built new housing in villages around Altun Kopri and Tuz Khormatu to accommodate more Arab families, and substituted Arabic for Kurdish, Turkman, and Assyrian place names (ibid.)

A second report detailed the process of "ethnic cleansing" in Kirkuk as one "that left more than 100,000 people homeless" (RFE/RL 2 Feb. 2001). Citing an "Iraq Foundation report," RFE/RL reported that Turkmen and Kurdish families were "singled out in official records, ordered deported, and stripped of their property, possessions, ID cards, and ration cards" before being "deported to areas in Kurdistan under Kurdish control [or] to Iraq under government control (ibid.). A similar report concerning Kurds from January 2002 suggests the continuation of this policy (ibid. 11 Jan. 2002).

The Turkmen population has reportedly faced pressure from Kurdish groups in Northern Iraq as argued by Orhan Ketene, of the Iraqi Turkmen Organization - North America (Turkistan Newsletter 4 July 2000) when he wrote:

KDP [Kurdish Democratic Party] has become the governing authority in Erbil since August 1996 when Saddam sent his army to Erbil to oust their rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and to destroy the opposition headquarters, specifically the Turkmens. Since then, the KDP has been imposing similar types of oppression and assimilation methods on the Turkmens, which Saddam practices in his domain" (ibid. 2 August 2000).

Reports describe the Turkmen situation regarding the Kurds as having "not been much different than their experience under Baghdad's rule" (RFE/RL 5 Mar. 1999) and the ITF claimed that the KDP has "kept the Turkmen community under pressure and under constant threat" (Turkish Daily News 21 Nov. 2000). One former Turkish diplomat referred to the treatment of Turkmen in a 2000 article as "systematically ... persecuted" by the Iraqi Kurds by evidencing the case of 12 July 2000 when the Kurdish party attacked the ITF in Erbil killing two individuals (Insight Magazine 2 Oct. 2000). This event was also reported upon by the Associated Press (AP 21 July 2000). A more recent event that evidences the claims of Iraq-Turkmen advocates is the reported closure of a Turkmen student organization by KDP security forces (RFE/RL 12 Oct. 2001).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France Presse (AFP). 17 February 1998. "Turkoman Minority Party in Northern Iraq Asks US for Protection." (NEXIS).

Amnesty International. December 2001. Annual Report 2002. "Iraq." mde/iraq!Open [Accessed 4 June 2002]

_____. 24 November 1999. "Iraq: Victims of Systematic Repression." (AI-Index: MDE 14/010/1999).\IRAQ [Accessed 4 June 2002]

Associated Press (AP). 21 July 2000. "Turkmen Protest Killing of Two Clansmen in Northern Iraq." (NEXIS).

Austrian Centre for Country of Origin and Asylum Research and Documentation (ACCORD). May 2001a. 6th European Country of Origin Information Seminar - Final Report: "Iraq Country Report (Presentations by Mr Akif Atli and Ms. Hania Mufti 13 November 2000)." [Accessed 6 June. 2002]

Atif Atli was a "legal assistant with the UNHCR Branch Office in Ankara and Hania Mufti is described as having worked "on human rights issues in the Middle East for more than twenty years [and was] ... the London director for the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch (ACCORD May 2001b, 5).

_____. May 2001b. "About the Country Experts." [Accessed 11 June 2002]

CIA World Fact Book. 2001. "Iraq." [Accessed 4 June 2002]

Foreign Policy Institute [Ankara]. 2001. H. Tarik Oguzlu. "The Turkomans of Iraq as a Factor in Turkish Foreign Policy: Socio-Political and Demographic Perspectives." [Accessed 4 June 2002]

Human Rights Watch. 2002. "Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan." [Accessed 4 June 2002]

Insight Magazine. 2 October 2000. Guler Koknar. "Turkmen Should be Given Human-Rights Protections." Hosted by Turkmeneli: Homeland of the Iraqi Turkmen. [Accessed 4 June 2002]

A 2000 article stated that Guler Koknar had been the Executive Director of the Assembly of Turkish American Association sine 1994, was a former Vice-Consul of the Turkish Consulate General in Houston, Texas (1991-1994) and held two secretarial posts with the Turkish government between 1989 and 1991 (VOA 3 May 2000).

Iraqi Turkman Front (ITF). 25 November 2001. "Iraqi Turkman Front." [Accessed 4 June 2002]

_____. 4-5 December 1999. "The Sixth Term Meetings of the Turkman Council." [Accessed 4 June 2002]

Middle East Times. 12 October 2001. Vol. 41. Claudia Parsons. "Turkey Sees International Crisis Strengthening its Clout." [Accessed 4 June 2002]

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). 11 January 2002. Iraq Report. Vol. 5, No. 1. David Nissman. "Turkmen Language Prohibited in Kirkuk, Ethnic Cleansing Continues." [Accessed 5 June 2002]

_____. 12 October 2001. Iraq Report. Vol. 4, No. 33. David Nissman. "KDP Shuts Down Turkmen Student Organization." [Accessed 5 June 2002]

_____. 2 February 2001. Iraq Report. Vol 4, No.5. David Nissman. "Kirkuk Ethnic Cleansing Detailed." [Accessed 4 June 2002]

_____. 19 March 1999. Iraq Report. Vol. 2, No. 11. David Nissman. "Turkoman Official on KDP-Turkoman Problems." [Accessed 3 June 2002]

_____. 5 March 1999. Iraq Report. Vol. 2, No. 9. David Nissman. "The Iraqi Turkomans: Who They Are and What They Want." [Accessed 3 June 2002]

Sabah [Ankara edition, in Turkish]. 1 April 2002. Sukru Elekdag. "Turkish Pundit Urges Ankara to Formulate New Strategy on North Iraq." (FBIS/-NES-2002-0404 1 April 2002/WNC)

FBIS noted that Sabah is a "center-right mass appeal daily" based in Istanbul (Sabah 1 Apr. 2002).

Turkish Daily News. 1 October 2001. Yuksel Soylemez. "Opinion: Iraqi Turkomans: A Lost Tribe." yuksel.htm [Accessed 4 June 2002]

_____. 21 November 2000. "Turkmen Call for Increased Turkish Assistance." [Accessed 4 June 2002]

Turkistan Newsletter. 2 August 2000. Orhan Ketene. "The Turkmens of Iraq, a Nation Between Two Fires." Hosted by Turkmeneli: Homeland of the Iraqi Turkmen. [Accessed 4 June 2002]

_____. 4 July 2000. Orhan Ketene and Afshin Hurmuzlu. "Protest for the Exclusion of the Turkmen Representatives from the Meetings Between the United States Government and the Iraqi Opposition in Washington D.C." Hosted by /200007/0007.html [Accessed 4 June 2002]

Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO). 22 May 2002. "Iraqi Turkoman." [Accessed 4 June 2002]

Voice of America (VOA). 3 May 2000. "Greek-Turkish Rapproachment and Its Effects on Efforts for Regional Peace and Stability." [Accessed 12 June 2002]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB Databases


Internet sites including:

Country Reports 2001

Danish Refugee Council

European Country of Origin Information Network

Global IDP Database

Iraqi Turkmen Front

Irak Türkmenleri Kültür Dernegi

Kerkük Vakfi

Turkish Daily News

Turkmeneli Co-operation and Cultural Foundation

Turkmeneli: Homeland of the Iraqi Turkmen


United Kingdom, Immigration and Nationality Directorate. Iraq Assessment 2002