Turkmens worried by senior politicians' exchange of accusations

Hassan Toran, the current head of the Iraqi Turkmen Front ITF on the right and Arshad al-Salihi, the former ITF president and a deputy in the Iraqi parliament. Official Facebook pages of Turan and Salihi

By KirkukNow in Kirkuk

Turkmen activists, media men and politicians expressed their discontent with what is happening inside the Turkmen House regarding the exchange of "irritable" statements between the head of the Iraqi Turkmen Front ITF, Hasan Toran, and the representative of the Turkmen province of Kirkuk, Arshad al-Salihi.

The statements issued by them were not directed at each other directly, however Turkmen activists, media professionals and politicians find the messages clear.

On April 6th, 2022, Toran said on Twitter, “The political work is a genuine skill, intelligence, shrewdness and practice, and whoever lacks these ingredients will not turn into an influential intelligent politician.”

“Whoever misses what was mentioned, his achievements remain within the scope of hollow statements and tweets that do more harm than good,” Toran added.

A week ago, Al-Salihi was hosted by the semi-official Iraqi Turkmen satellite channel, and the dialogue was about the social life of Salihi.

Whoever misses what was mentioned, his achievements remain within the scope of hollow statements

“I am afraid of the future (for Turkmens) that it will remain in the hands of loiterers, I want this trust to remain in the hands of well-known people in terms of lineage, morals and biography, at that time I am reassured about the future of the Turkmen cause.”

In March 2021, Salihi, whom for years chaired the main Turkmen party of Iraq's third ethnicity mainly based in the oil rich city of Kirkuk, north of Iraq, and head of Turkmen parliamentary bloc in Baghdad in the last three rounds of Iraqi parliament, has decided to step aside.

Hassan Toran, deputy of ITF leader, was head of Kirkuk provincial council up to 2014 and MP in Baghdad up to 2018. He was promoted to replace Salihi. Hisham Bairaqdar and Haidar Qasab were nominated as deputies of the president.

Turkmens, 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.

A video clip from TV show by the semi-official Iraqi Turkmen TV hosted Al-Salihi.

The Turkmen community in Kirkuk is divided as some support ITF while others still back Salihi whom quit ITF leadership.

Following ITF leadership replacement, protests escalated in the ranks of the ITF organizations last December. 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.

Yilmaz Terzi, a Turkmen artist and media figure, commented on Facebook. “The term (loiterer) itself is not acceptable, is not appropriate for a politician, and is not appropriate for the nature of the program, especially in a Ramadan atmosphere, but here a question arises: Who are the loafers?

"I have not heard from the parties operating in the Turkmen arena and those interested in the Turkmen affairs a statement proving the opposite and an answer to His Excellency Deputy Arshad Al-Salihi to reassure that the issue is in safe hands," Terzi responded.

“From time to time, poetic arguments and interviews occur in sessions between some artists and the Turkmen street criticizes them, and I am one of them, yet today when the topic concerns the Turkmen issue, the public opinion is silent.”

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 in October 10th, 2021 General Elections.

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 seats in 2021 Elections.

Whatever the differences, either it ends in reconciliation or abandoning offenses

Three hours after the tweet of the head of the Turkmen Front, for his part, the Turkmen activist and media figure, Adnan Altunchi, posted on his Facebook page, “Insulting a person chosen by 23,060 people for the fourth time to represent them in the Iraqi parliament is an insult against the Turkmen people,” in support of Salihi.

The former head of the Turkmen Front, Arshad al-Salihi, represented Kirkuk and the Turkmen for four sessions in the Iraqi parliament after receiving the highest votes by Kirkuki Turkmens, and in the last early elections, he obtained more than 23,000 votes in Kirkuk’s second constituency.

“Whatever the differences, either the matter ends with reconciliation or abandonment of fishing with murky waters and abuse of the people whom the people chose as their representatives at the center of the decision,” Altunchi concluded.

Until the time of preparing this follow-up, Al-Salihi did not respond to the tweet by Toran.

The 24 Turkmen candidates in the three constituencies of Kirkuk in the last parliamentary elections showed the domestic, ethnic and sectarian conflict in order to earn seats in the House of Representatives in Baghdad.

The Turkmens in Kirkuk were represented by candidates of United Iraqi Turkmen Front UITF, Iraqi Turkmen Maydan Party, Alliance of National State Forces (led by Ammar al-Hakim and former Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abaddi, both Shiite figures) and independent candidates, both Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

A well-informed politician close to the ITF told KirkukNow, "What is going on inside the Turkmen house is not in the interest of the component, and the exchange of statements in this way weakens both sides."

The politician and leader, who preferred not to reveal his name due to the sensitivity of the issue, stressed that the severity of these statements will increase in the coming days, so all Turkmen parties must intervene urgently and meet around the dialogue table.

A number of activists posted on social media their personal and group photos with Representative Arshad Al-Salihi in a campaign in which they support Al-Salihi.

"Where are you, who receive your salaries from the Turkmen institutions? Are you intended by the speech? Aren't you entitled to speak? What kind of speech will stir your feelings? Is the representative right in his words? Or is the subject (Oh God, I am fasting)?" Terzi concludes.

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