Protests and resignations following changes in ITF senior positions

Kirkuk, December 15, 2020: Supporters of the Iraqi Turkmen Front ITF demonstrated to demand Turkmen rights in employment by the state. KirkukNow

By KirkukNow in Kirkuk

The Iraqi Turkmen Front ITF has decided to exclude five officials in several offices to be replaced with others, which sparked a wave of protests and resignations among some of its organizations.

The changes were approved at a meeting of the executive body of the ITF held on December 25, headed by Hassan Turan, head of the ITF.

The statement of the meeting, which was published on Turan's official page in Facebook, stressed that the head of the ITF said that the ITF would enter the new year with a set of steps, firstly by making changes in the party's organizational structure.

According to the statement, it was decided at that meeting to exclude the officials of the Turkmen Front’s branches in Kirkuk, Mosul, Tal Afar, Diyala and Ankara.

Following these changes, protests escalated in the ranks of the ITF organizations. In the first reactions, Muhammad Samaan, the spokesman of ITF, and Atta al-Dabbagh, the deputy official of the Kirkuk branch, submitted their resignations, according to information obtained by KirkukNow from sources in ITF.

Turkmen, the third largest ethnic group in Iraq after Arabs and Kurds, are spread across the country, residing almost exclusively in the northern towns and villages stretching from Tal Afar through Mosul, Erbil, Altun Kopri, Kirkuk, Tuz Khurmatu, Kifri and Khanaqin. They are all Muslims, half Sunnis and half Shiites.

The northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk, located 238 kilometers north of Baghdad, is an ethnically mixed province for 1.7 million Sunni and Shiite KurdsArabs, and Turkmens. It has long been at the center of disputed territories between Baghdad and Erbil.

Though there are no official records about the Turkmens in Kirkuk, Turkmen political parties say there are over 200,000 Turkmen voters in Kirkuk which has been divided into three constituencies for 12 seats.

Turkmen political parties have gathered only 100,000 votes in May 2018 elections in Kirkuk and has earned three seats in 2018 yet dropped to only two in October 10 General Elections.

Video: December 25th meeting of Hassan Turan, head of the ITF with members of the executive body. Media of ITF

On the other hand, Ankara’s organizations of the Turkmen Front witnessed a wave of resignations, including the resignation of ITF’s legal and political advisor in Ankara, Hussein al-Bayati, as well as the head of organizations department and the head of the Youth Organizations Department and the Activities Department in Ankara.

These changes and the protests that followed are the first after Hassan Turan took over the presidency of the Turkmen Front instead of Arshad al-Salihi, on March 28, 2021.

The change that took place in the position of the head of the front came after internal conflicts between the leaders of the Turkmen Front, and some believe that the current changes and protests also fall within that framework.

Adnan Altunchi, a Turkmen journalist in Kirkuk, believes, "The changes that have been made are within the party, but the Turkmen street has been divided on two fronts, between supporters and critics of the decision."

"Some personalities who have been assigned are unwanted within the organizations, because there are other people who deserve these positions," elaborated Altunchi who stressed that "the aim of appointing some personalities is to antagonize some national political figures."

For 2021 elections, the United Iraqi Turkmen front UITF was an umbrella for nine Turkmen political parties which have registered eight candidates in Kirkuk's three electoral districts, out of 24 Turkmen candidates yet only two made it to Baghdad, one of them was Salihi.

The parties joined the unified list were ITF, Turkmen Elli (Front), Wafa (Loyalty) Turkmen Party, Qarar (Decision) Turkmen party, Turkmen Irada (Will) party, Turkmen Haq (Right) party, Turkmen Nationalist Movement, Turkmen Islamic Union and Turkmen Adala (Justice) party.

Back in 2018, the ITF has made 79,000 votes and earned two seats of Kirkuk’s 12 seats, alike the Arabs while the Kurd represented by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, PUK which had an upper hand in Kirkuk till 2017, has won 6 seats.

All other Turkmen parties competing ITF has gathered only 30,000 votes and none could make it to Baghdad.

arshad. salhi

Arshad al-Salihi, former head of the ITF participates in an event in the presence of his party supporters. ITF media

However, none of the leaders of the ITF, as well as those who resigned from it, did not express their willingness to declare the internal crisis of the party.

These changes come at a time when the number of seats for the ITF in Kirkuk has dropped from two seats to one only which was earned by Salihi, who according to KirkukNow sources does not hold any position within ITF organizations, and is at odds with its current leadership.

Two days before his resignation as the president of ITF, Salihi had published two short messages on his page, in which he stressed that he would not retreat, calling on the supporters of the ITF to exercise restraint.

In the statement he published on December 25, following the changes he made, the new president of ITF Hasan Turan stressed the national principles of the Turkmen component and the Turkmens to be granted all their national and constitutional rights.

The statement also stated that ITF will continue its national and patriotic approach and will be keen to give priority to representing the will of the Turkmen people in Iraq and defending the identity of the Turkmen regions.

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