Iraqi Turkmens arming for self-defense
Fehim Taştekin KAYSERİ - Radikal
Turkmens in Iraq are arming themselves under pressure from increasing Kurdish militia power in Kirkuk.Feeling threatened by the extending control of Kurdish peshmerga forces in Kirkuk, Iraqi Turkmens have begun to arm themselves, a prominent representative of the ethnic group has said, as the country finds itself dragged into further turmoil.
“We are definitely determined to establish an armed force. People are obliged to defend themselves,” Erşad Salihi, the leader of the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITC), told daily Hürriyet.
“All other groups have militia forces. We are facing difficulties as we don’t have weapons. The central government’s weapons go to our Shiite brothers. The Sunnis and the Kurds are already armed,” Salihi added.
Following the seizure by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants of the Iraqi province of Mosul last week, Iraqi security forces retreated and left Kirkuk to Kurdish militants.
According to a deal reached between Iraqi defense and interior ministries and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), peshmarga will step in when the central government’s army fails to fulfil its duties, and this deal is the legal basis for the increasing peshmarga presence across northern Iraq.
The Kurdistan flag is now waving at a vast former U.S. military camp surrounded with concrete blocks as you enter Kirkuk, and it is clear that the Iraqi army is “out” while the Kurdish peshmarga forces are “in.”
Constabulary forces made up of Turkmen, Arab and Kurdish police officers are not totally absent from
the streets, but the only military power now is the peshmerga.
“We definitely don’t see Kirkuk as a part of the Kurdish region,” said Salihi, expressing his annoyance at the possibility of Kurdish authority becoming permanent.
“If there is a fait accompli, this will be against us. If a temporary situation becomes permanent, this would be a serious disturbance issue,” he added.
“Our people have expectations and we won’t accept such fait accompli politics. Our message to our brothers in northern Iraq [is that] we have always lived here together; we should remain in control all together,” Salihi said.
Salihi also rejected claims that Turkmen militants are fighting as part of the peshmerga forces. “There is no such thing. Those people who are there to earn their living are like mercenaries,” he said.
He also expressed resentment that Turkey was “not supporting Iraqi Turkmens enough.”
“Turkey should have been closer to the Turkmens. Turkey stood at an equal distance from everyone, but we should have been supported more. Turkmens cannot live here for one minute without Turkey’s moral force,” he said.
Salihi also claimed that political groups in Iraq seemed like they had agreed to divide Iraq into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish regions, saying the “clues” have been clear for the past few years.
He said Iraqi Turkmens have always been siding with “stability” in Syria as they “knew the war would affect Iraq.” “Now, it has spilled over to Iraq and it threatens Turkmens the most,” he said, adding that all developments in the region should be seen as being related.