Kerkuk (Kerkük)-Türkman-Az

Turkomans: Diasopra of Azerbaijanian Turks in Iraq- Günéy Azerbaycan, Quzéy Azerbaycan və İraq Türkmanları bir bütövün parçalarıdır

Friday, July 21, 2006


By David Nissman Revised version: Iraq Report, Volume 2, Number 5 (5 March 1999)

A key to understanding why the maintenance of Iraq's territorial integrity is viewed by many as critical is a knowledge of the country's enormous ethnic and religious diversity, the aspirations of these groups, and the problems they face now. One of these ethnolinguistic components is the Turkoman minority which has made a major effort to define itself both to itself and to the world community.

At the First (Iraqi) Turkoman Congress, held in Irbil from 4-7 October 1997, a "Declaration of Principles" was adopted. The second article defines who they are and what the name "Turkoman" represents: "The name Turkoman represents a people belonging to the Muslim Oghuz branch." According to this principle, they "migrated from Central Asia to today's Turkmenistan." This migration, according to them, began in the year 53 A.H. Here they are no doubt referring to the immigrations leading to the foundation of the Seljuk empires, which also brought a large part of the ancestors of the present-day Turks of Anatolia, the Caucasus, and Turkmenistan to the regions which they now inhabit. All three Turkic peoples -- the Turks of Turkey and the Balkans, the Azeris of Azerbaijan and Iran, and the Turkmen of Turkmenistan, Iran, and Afghanistan are members of the Oghuz group of Turkic languages. That means that there is a relatively high degree of mutual linguistic comprehensibility among them.

Article Three of the "Declaration of Principles" clarifies how the Iraqi Turkomans perceive their linguistic kinships among the Oghuz Turks: "The official written language of the Turkmans is Istanbul Turkish, and its alphabet is the new Latin alphabet." By contrast, in Turkmenistan, the official written language is the Turkmen of Ashgabat, and the alphabet is the modified Cyrillic script imposed on them under the Soviet regime.

When Ashgabat discovered the presence of Turkomans in Iraq in the early 1970s, a Turkmen literary newspaper published a number of Iraqi Turkoman short stories which had to be accompanied by vocabulary lists to aid readers in understanding the language. This is because, as stated in Article Three, the Turkic language in Iraq was much closer to that of Istanbul than Turkmenistan. Hence, the ambiguity of the name "Turkoman;" it is, firstly, an English rendition of a Persified expression; Turkman represents an Arabified term, and "Turkmen" a genuine ethnonym, although it is not ethnolinguistically accurate. The Turkomans of Iraq have been cut off from having a voice in the international community and have thus been unable to define themselves. And that has meant that others have defined who they are rather than they themselves. The convening of the First Iraqi Turkoman Congress was but the first step in reattaining an international identity; the convening of the February 1999 congress in Irbil be a further step in this direction.

Some questions arise from their definition of themselves: if their officially accepted language, their language of education is Istanbul Turkish, then, in a world without politics (or geopolitics), their language would be Turkish, not Turkmen. Their language is clearly Oghuz but the Turkmen elements in it are vestigial, but there. The key to the solution is buried in their extremely complex history, especially in the period during and after their arrival in Iraq.

According to noted regional historian Nouri Talabany's "Iraq's Policy of Ethnic Cleansing" (London, 1999), the first stratum of the present-day Turkmens arrived during the 'Omayyad and Abbasid periods where they were in demand by the rulers because of their prowess in battle. Very little is known about the language(s) they used during this period because there seem to be no surviving traces.

It is commonly believed that the period of a lasting settlement began during the Seljuk period in the IXth-Xth centuries. These Turkmens may indeed have been ethnically closely to the Turkmens of Turkmenistan in Central Asia.

The third stratum can be said to be that which arrived during the Mongol invasions of the regions. These Turks spoke a dialect closely akin to Azeri, something quite perceptible in the language and literature now. Religious differences also help in isolating dialectical elements: Talabany notes that "...Shi'a Turkmens have their own culture and have rituals of their own which differ from those of the Sunni Turkmens. The two sects have different dialects also; the Shi'a Turkmens' dialect is more akin to that of the Azeri Turks."

This strong Azeri influence may explain to close literary relations between the Azeris and the Iraqi Turkmens. At the beginning of the year 2000 an Iranian Azeri scholar, Qaybali Sakina, published an article in the Southern Azeri journal, "21 Azar" published by the Sweden-Azerbaijan Federation on "Iraqi Turkmen -- Southern Azeri Literary Relations" in which she highlights the works of the prominent Iraqi Turkmen writer, poet, literary historian, and folklorist Abdullatif Benderoglu. He has translated a number of modern Azeri writers (Northern and Southern) into Turkmen, and has analyzed the origins of Azeri poetry in his book "Azeri Poetry" published in Baghdad in 1989. He also wrote a response to the masterwork of the Southern Azeri poet Memmedhuseyn Shahriyar, "Heydar Baba'ya selam." Benderoglu's poem is called "Gur-Gur Baba." Heydar Baba is a mountain dividing north (or independent) Azerbaijan from Iranian Azerbaijan; Gur-Gur Baba is a mountain in Kirkuk, which symbolizes the national aspirations of the Iraqi Turkmens.

The last stratum in the Iraqi Turkmen is the Ottoman, or modern Turkish stratum, which became a cultural factor to be reckoned with in the late XVIIIth, XIXth and XXth centuries. Its influence is now the dominant one.

Why then do the Iraqi Turkmens call themselves thus, instead of just 'Turks?' It can be explained by geopolitical factors stemming from historical-mythological memory combined with the Turkish efforts to retain the area of the former Ottoman vilayet of Mosul, which includes Kirkuk -- the area of Iraqi Turkmen concentration) at the end of the World War I. As far as the relationship to the Turkmen of Central Asia, it must be remembered that these peoples were separated a millennium ago. After that time, all the modern Turkic languages evolved to their present state, and the remnants of a thousand years are merged with more recent elements, creating a unique language, or series of dialects which we now call 'Iraqi Turkmen.'


Post a Comment

<< Home