Session 1: The future of the disputed territories
Part 1: Intervention of Mohammed Ihsan (King’s College)
Part 2: Intervention of Hassan Toran (Turkmen Front Coalition)
Part 3: Intervention of Marwan Ali (UNAMI)
Part 4: Intervention of Gareth Stansfield (Exeter University)
Part 5: Questions & Answers Session
Transcription of Hassan Toran (MP Turkment Front Coalition, Iraq)
Ladies and gentleman, may God’s peace and blessings be upon you all.
First, I would like to thank the Middle East Research Institute for providing the opportunity to meet you and to express my opinion about the disputed territories. The Institute (MERI) has asked me to focus on the issue of Kirkuk. My speech’s title is: ‘Towards a Shared Vision about the Future of Kirkuk.’ I am Hassan Toran, Former Deputy Chair of Iraqi Turkmen Front, from 2005 to 2011. After that, I became the chairman of Kirkuk City Council, from 2011 to 2014, and I am currently a member in the Iraqi Council of Representatives, and also one of the representatives of the people of Kirkuk.
To talk about Kirkuk, we must take a step back into the past and discuss the recent history of this important province in Iraq. Kirkuk is characterised as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society. These different ethnicities and religions lived harmoniously and peacefully together for a long time. However, and with great regret, problems started to emerge with the exploration of oil. Usually, oil in other countries is a blessing for its people, but it has turned into a curse in Kirkuk.
The previous regimes have practised oppressive policies in this province. Huge numbers of families were brought to the city and in later stages the demography of Kirkuk was changed through forceful migration of the Turkmen and the Kurds. Further, the previous Baathist regime implemented the worst means of oppression towards the people of Kirkuk through the strategy of relocation of families from other cities into Kirkuk. This process was followed by another operation, namely land confiscation, which was conducted by passing a series of legislation in 1967. This process, which focused only on the lands of Turkmen and the Kurds in the centre of the city and suburbs, was implemented until the fall of the regime in 2003. Confiscation of land was done under the pretence of protecting general interest, and later, they were distributed to non-Kurds and non-Turkmen and used for agricultural and trade purposes. The issue of land confiscation has not yet been resolved and I will in details focus on this matter later on.
The process of “Arabization” was designed in such a way to weaken the economic ability of the Turkmen and the Kurds in Kirkuk to the degree that they were deprived of employment and at the same time those who were already employed were not allowed to take administrative positions within the institutions. Moreover, the oppression reached a level, especially against the Turkmen, where the proposed constitution in august 1990 denied entirely the existence of Turkmen ethnicity in Iraq. Turkmen political leaders were imprisoned and excluded from grantable amnesties. We have records of a number of political prisoners who spent about 20 years in jails of the previous regime.
The new government, however, has not been fair in their treatment either. They were not even granted a piece of land to build a house. After the toppling of the Baathist regime in 2003, we hopped for a correction of the injustice practised against the Turkmen and for regaining our rights. A roadmap was proposed to resolve the issue of the disputed territories. Despite our reservations for the roadmap, Article 140 is originally a continuation of Article 58 TAL. Anyone who looks at Article 140, Iraqi Constitution, will not be able to see the detailed explanations, which exist in Article 58 TAL. Article 140 is sequential and encompasses three stages: normalization, census and referendum. Conducting census cannot be held until normalization is completed. Similarly, referendum cannot be held until census is carried out. These are three clear stages and I hope that the attendees also look at Article 58 TAL.
In Kirkuk, there are a considerable number of problems, which have yet not been resolved. This is so because after the collapse of the previous regime, a local transitional government was formed to adopt the constitution in 2005, but lack of agreement on the mechanisms for the Kirkuk election caused the City Council to avoid any election processes. Even today, necessary confidence to do so is as good as non-existent among Kirkukies. I have many reservations about the policies adopted by the Kurdish parties in the city as they could not fill this gap by building the trust needed especially for the Turkmens who were oppressed bitterly by the ex-regime.
The procedures taken to build trust were not transformed into practical steps, which could have been followed. For example, legislation was passed to solve the issue of land disputes in 2004. This legislation was actually one of the requirements of Article 58 TAL. However, this step was proven unsuccessful. In 2010, a new legislation was passed which reached the same result. January 2012 witnessed the approval of a new legislation, which aimed to cancel the laws issued by the previous Revolutionary Command Council pertaining confiscation of lands as a part of the “Arabization” process. However, after two years, the legislation is only ink on paper. There is no single Turkmen or Kurd till this very moment who has been officially restituted the confiscated lands from 1967 and I here challenge anyone who says so. No Kirkuki has officially received back their lands, and I here ask, how many more years are needed to restore the lands and to lift this oppression?
There are certain claims about demographic change in the city and we should be honest and fair about this issue. A committee from the three different inhabitants of Kirkuk should be formed to restore the city’s original formation because there exist in the city a considerable number of problems which requires all the parties in Kirkuk to coordinate and have a shared vision to solve these unresolved issues, otherwise, this threat will envelop us all, leaving no one out.
Kirkukies have not been able to reach a shared vision about the future of the city, but at the same time we do enjoy common interests; the past, the present and the future urge us to foster shared visions about the future of this governorate. Kirkuk can provide opportunities to its constituents. Shared vision means fair distribution of the resources of the city. In Kirkuk, we have not so far reached a solution about distribution of resource and authority, nor have we been successful to apply international standards for human rights among ourselves. We have also not been able to enforce the rule of law. These titles need dialogues and I tell you from this platform, with all honesty, that trust building can be done through dialogue, yet dialogue has stopped and is non-existent among the essential components of the population and their political parties. We have tried a number of times to maintain this process among the political parties in Kirkuk, but we failed. This is the reality and it should not sound strange.
The second point is what we actually want from each other. Do we want to be actual partners or do we want some of us to be subordinate to the other. The previous regime tried to implement subordination in Iraq and failed. Not only that, it also caused the failure of the regime. Therefore, we should not copy the same mentality but we should believe in partnership. The concept of majority and minority is futile with regards to rights. Yes, there might be political majority and minority, but this cannot be applied to rights and duties. If one claims that Turkmen are the minority in Kirkuk, then the same can be said about the Kurds in Iraq. This concept is a wrong one.
The United Nation was right when it published a paper on the disputed territories. The Report is long and is of two parts. The first part deals with all the disputed territories while the second part focuses on Kirkuk only. The report contains good points which can be taken into consideration. This report centres around two principals. The first one is about the idea that referendum in the disputed territories and specifically in Kirkuk should be preceded by dialogue. Referendum in the world is divided into two types. The first type views dialogue and agreement among the sides as preconditions, while the other depends on 50+1. The latter usually generates enmity between the participants of a referendum. What matters is how to gain general acceptance to any referenda in Kirkuk or in the disputed territories.
The other important point is the publication of the report. We were very anxious about the report, which was about to be published by UNAMI. We were wondering whether it will be in the interest of the Kurds or the Turkmens or our Arab brothers. In a special meeting with De Mustura, he said, “rest assured, our report will not make dreams of one side come true in Kirkuk.” This calls us all to work on providing the right mechanisms in order to reach a unanimous shared vision. This process is of high importance, especially now that we are living in post 10th June 2014 era with its harmful and adverse consequences on the disputed territories. ISIS, unfortunately, has implemented the strategy of an unprecedented demography change in the region. There are now about 250,000-400,000 Turkmen who have left houses in Tala’far, Tuz and Yangeja and Qaratapa. Similarly, Kurds left Shangal and Zumar. Christians also were forced to leave their homes in Mosul. How many of these IDPs will be able to return to their lands? It is a fact that in Iraq, those who leave their places, would not have the incentive and motivation to return back. This huge challenge forces us all to unite and to avoid taking bilateral decisions about the de-facto and the future of the disputed territories. Thank you very much.