Iraqi Turkmen: Talabani Promises Turkmen Provinces

UNPO STATEMENT 30.10.2012 – Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is considering a proposal to change the Turkmen majority districts of Tel Afar and Tuz Khormato into provinces, in an attempt to better represent the Turkmen population.

In a statement issued yesterday [25 October 2012], Jassim Mohammed Jaafar, the vice president of the Islamic Union of Iraq Turkmen, said that “the meeting held a few days ago between President Talabani and the Turkmen delegation, composed of ministers and [members of parliament (MPs)], was very important and fruitful.”

He added: “We discussed with him the importance of the Turkmen having a role in the upcoming national congress that is proportional to their size, and we demanded justice in the distribution of government positions, and national representation in line with our relative population size.” Jaafar, who is the Youth and Sports Minister, added that “the delegation also discussed problems faced by the Turkmen in the provinces of Kirkuk, Diyala, Saladin and Nineveh, and their direct targeting by forces that do not want the country to do well.” The statement indicated that Talabani had asked the delegation to nominate two Turkmen to be presidential advisers, and promised to study a project to convert the districts of Tel Afar (near the city of Mosul) and Tuz Khormato (currently in the Saladin province) into provinces. It pointed out that “[Talabani] requested the formation of a supreme body concerned with the affairs of the Turkmen and asked that a law be prepared that ensures their rights and preserves [their interests] as a third nationality.”

Talabani’s promise to establish two Turkmen provinces contradicts the draft law related to the administrative demarcation of provinces that he submitted to parliament a few months ago. He has faced criticism regarding this law from most of the political blocs, with the exception of the Kurdistan Alliance. The draft law, in its first article, includes the “canceling of all decrees, decisions and legislation passed during the rule of Saddam Hussein, including the unfair manipulation of administrative boundaries of provinces, districts and regions across Iraq.”

Ihsan al-Awadi, the leader of the State of Law Coalition led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, told Al-Hayat yesterday that “the draft law concerning administrative units submitted by Talabani is important and should be passed quickly, but the timing of the proposal is unfortunate.” He added that “the current political atmosphere will not allow for a consensus required to pass this important bill.”

He added: “The insistence on approving the draft law in these circumstances may elucidate the interests of certain political blocs.” He pointed out that “it was better that Talabani submitted the draft law without consulting political blocs, rather than it being put forth by the Council of Ministers, which represents the majority of the political blocs.”

However, Moayad Tayyeb, spokesman for the Kurdistan Alliance, was surprised that the political blocs opposed the passage of the draft law and tried to link it to other draft laws or to the complicated political situation. Yesterday, he said to Al-Hayat: “The political blocs know very well that the draft law helps to remove the effects of the regime of former President Saddam Hussein, by redrawing provincial borders that had been drawn according to his personal feelings and for his own interests. The political blocs objecting to the passage of a law that restores the previous borders is surprising.”

He explained that “the Iraqi constitution explicitly states that the federal system should be implemented after the administrative boundaries of each province are redrawn. In addition, the approval of the draft law will help departments and institutions to better do their work.” Etab al-Dori, an MP from the Iraqiya List party, said that the draft law to redraw borders constituted “a new problem added to many other problems.” She said that she feared that “the draft law could have negative repercussions on the provinces’ residents.”In a statement, Dori said that “the submission of a law to demarcate the border is a premature step and cannot be discussed in light of the political tensions and conflicts taking place in the country.”

Furthermore, Talabani and Prime Minister Maliki stressed the need to take serious and practical steps towards resolving conflicts between political parties. A statement released by the president’s office noted: “Yesterday morning the president met with Maliki and they discussed all of the relevant issues and problems in detail and depth. They stressed the need to take serious and practical steps towards resolving conflicts between political parties, through dialogues and discussions that are friendly, constructive and frank.”

The statement noted that “both the president and the prime minister agreed on the importance of respecting the constitution and all previous agreements between political parties. This is the best way to get past the obstacles that stand in the way of political progress in the country.”