Saturday, April 21, 2007

[wvns] Iraq: Ethnic Cleansing of Turkmens


by Merry Fitzgerald, Assistant of Iraqi Turkmen Front Representative
in Europe, Belgium
4th April 2007

When speaking in the name of the people of Tel Afer at the European
Parliament in Brussels during the Iraqi Turkmen Conference on 27th
March 2007, little did I know that on that same day the martyr city of
Tel Afer was once again the scene of horrible acts of violence and
killings of more than 150 innocent Turkmen civilians.

The Western media reported that a truck packed with 1,814 kilograms
(4,000 pounds) of explosives detonated in a Shi`a area of the city and
that this was the deadliest single attack since the invasion of Iraq 4
years ago. They also reported that Shi`a gunmen, including police,
went on a `revenge shooting rampage' afterwards, killing at least 45
Sunni men.

But according to the Shi`a Turkmen Council in al-Mosul, it is the
Kurdish parties who carried out the 27th March bombings of civilians
in Tel Afer, sparking "retaliatory" massacres later that night.

The Association of Muslim Scholars of Iraq (AMSI) reported in a
dispatch that "the Shi`a Turkmen Council, one of the more important
Turkmen party in al-Mosul, had issued a statement blaming the
pro-American Kurdish separatist leadership for carrying out the
bombings of civilian targets in Tel Afer on Tuesday March 27th, 2007.
Those bombings killed some 70 people (*) and prompted pro-Iranian
Shi'a sectarians to massacre over 70 Sunnis in "reprisal."

(*) The latest reports of those bombings mention that some 152 people
were killed and 185 were wounded.

AMSI reported the Turkmen Shi`a Council as saying that the bombings
served the interests of the Kurdish movement that aspires to steal
what it called the "Turkmen region" of Tel Afer.

Demonstrators who took to the streets after the Tuesday bombings
placed the blame for the atrocities directly on the Kurdish separatist
leaders and their American military backers, saying that it was they
who let the explosives-laden truck to pass and then detonated it by
remote control – maintaining that there was no "suicide driver" as the
news media widely reported.

The Turkmen statement denounced the Kurdish separatist militia, the
Peshmerga, saying that Peshmerga gunmen prevented puppet police from
stopping and inspecting the truck bomb. The Council also denounced the
fact that some Shi`a parties were ignoring testimony about this
evidence out of partisan motives."

I disapprove and abhor the use of the terminologies `Shi`a' and
`Sunni' when they are utilized in this context as they only serve to
exacerbate divisions between Iraqi Moslems. I also deplore the
targeted killings of innocent Iraqi Turkmen civilians who are being
ethnically cleansed in order to change the demographics of their
region, the Turkmeneli region of Iraq.

Turkmens of Iraq (who are Sunni and Shi'as more or less half-half)
have never discriminated among themselves on the basis of their
Islamic religion. They have no interest in killing each other and for
many centuries there have been intermarriages between Turkmens of both
sects of Islam. These fratricidal killings do not serve Turkmens'
interests… cui bono? for whose advantage?

The evil coalition of the US neo-cons, UK new-labour and their
Australian followers, led by the war criminals Bush, Blair and Howard
- who waged an illegal war of aggression against the Iraqi people
leading to the occupation of their country in April 2003, after having
intentionally destroyed the entire infrastructure of the country -
have actively instigated ethnic and confessional divisions between the
Iraqi people in order to destroy the fabric of the Iraqi society and
divide Iraq in small entities and cantons.

At first they turned the Kurds against the Arabs and the Turkmens,
then the Arabs and the Kurds against the Turkmens, and then they
divided Arabs and turned their Shi'as against their Sunnis. Now they
are trying to divide the Turkmens between Sunnis and Shi'as and they
are also provoking clashes between different Arab Shi`a groups. It is
clear that their aim is to destroy the fabric of the Iraqi society,
where Iraqis - Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens, Chaldeo-Assyrians, etc - have
been living side by side in harmony, respecting one another for many
centuries. (see footnote)

The Turkmens of Tel Afer have been victims of the worst humanitarian
conditions since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. While thousands of
them have been forcibly evicted from their houses and from their city
the Kurdish parties of Messrs Barzani and Talabani continue with their
policy of `kurdification", they are bringing in thousands of Kurds and
are settling them in the areas Turkmens were forced to leave. What
the American military call operation "Empty Tel Afer" has resulted in
the devastation of thousands of civilian lives.

The siege of Tel Afer is an example of American and Kurdish brutal
incursions into densely populated areas under the pretence of
"fighting terrorism". The real terrorists are those who use heavy
artillery bombardment, aerial bombing raids, who destroy power lines
and water systems and who continue to terrify families with their
house-to-house searches and raping women. F. Zeyn el-Abidin, a
Turkmen Member of the Iraqi Parliament, declared that the American
military had blocked access to the city and did not allow him to enter.

The crimes against humanity committed by the US military never reach,
in full details, the American newspapers and are barely mentioned in
the other Western media. How many in the West know that the US has
used chemical weapons such as white phosphorus in Tel Afer? Who in the
West knows that not one foreign fighter was captured during the siege
of Tel Afer, despite US and Kurdish parties' claims that the city was
a `haven for foreign terrorists'?

Rumsfeld, a war criminal, had given the siege of Tel Afer his personal
blessing and the operations were carried out `on his orders'. (As he
also had encouraged the looting and burning of Iraq's Ministry
buildings, museums, libraries, universities, etc. when his invasion
army reached Baghdad in 2003, declaring that "Iraqis were learning to
practice democracy").

While the US made carnage was going on in Tel Afer, Bush, the war
criminal, declared on 20th March 2006, when addressing the City Club
of Cleveland: "The operation (in Tel Afer) accomplished all this while
protecting innocent civilians and inflicting minimal damage on the
city"!!! Are the Americans so stupid and gullible to believe all the
lies coming from their leaders or is it that they simply don't care
about the massacre of Iraqis perpetrated by their military?

Everyone who saw the terrible photos - taken by photographer Chris
Hondros, which were taken on January 18, 2005, when a Turkmen family
of 8 who were travelling in their car were shot at by the US troops,
killing Camille and Hussein Hassan, the parents and injuring their 5
children - has understood how little the US military value Iraqi lives.

The residents of Tel Afer who were under siege, who have been
displaced, maimed, arbitrarily detained and whose loved ones have been
killed or have disappeared are weeping tears of blood, they are crying
in the desert, but no one hears them, no one pays attention to their
cries for help.

On May 13th, 2005, I remember writing an article under the title:
"Telafer, ville fantôme, ville oubliée" (Tel Afer, a ghost city, a
forgotten city) after reading an appeal from a resident of Tel Afer,
saying that for over eight months their city was under siege, that
they had no water and no electricity and that the occupation troops
did not allow humanitarian aid to reach their city. I am neither a
politician nor a journalist but as a human being and advocate of human
rights, I was so alarmed that I did not know what to do, so sent this
article to several newspapers to alert them, but I guess my cry of
despair for the poor people of Tel Afer did not reach their ears either…

Where is the U.N. who is supposed to protect civilians and condemn
violence against civilian populations? Where is the International
Community and where are the Human Rights defenders? Have the Iraqi
people ceased to be considered as Human Beings by the UN and by the
International Community?

The January 2005 election in Iraq has not ended the occupation, it has
allowed the Kurdish warlords, Barzani and Talabani, to unjustly
install their hegemony over Turkmen territories and cities, with the
blessing of the US occupiers.

Someone has to stop these arrogant Kurdish militias who think they
have nothing to fear and can go on using brutal force on the
defenceless Turkmens who are the only community in Iraq without
weapons and militias.

My only hope is that the European policy and decision makers will hear
the cries of distress of the people of Tel Afer and of all the
Turkmens of Iraq who are being targeted and ethnically cleansed under
the foreign occupiers and their Kurdish allies whose plan is to divide

In an interview with Democracy Now's Amy Goodman, Sami Rasouli, an
Iraqi American who helped establish the Muslim Peacemaker Team gives a
different assessment of the situation in Iraq, contradicting that
given by the Bush administration and the mainstream media

Amy asked Rasouli to comment on these latest figures as well as the
recent attack in Tal Afar, "the worst attack -- having the worst
casualties since the invasion of Iraq."

He replied saying:

"Well, I heard Senator McCain talking about the progress, which I kept
hearing this from the President and the rest of the administration's
officials in the last four years. But speaking about Tal Afar as an
example, I was a member of Muslim Peacemakers Teams, among others,
accompanied with Peggy Gish and Michele [Naar-Obed] from CPT, or the
Christian Peacemakers Team -- this is sometime in January 2006 -- we
visited the second Grand Ayatollah in Najaf, Sayed Mohammed Saeed
al-Hakim, and he told us this story after we introduced ourselves as
Peacemakers. He said Tal Afar is populated by all kind of people that
form the beautiful mosaic formula of the Iraqi fabric society, which
Sunnis beside Shias -- and by the way, I'm a Shia, and my wife is a
Sunni, so this is a normal intermarriage in Iraq within the Iraqi

"So, sometimes in September 2005, the people of Tal Afar faced heavy
bombing from the U.S. air raids, and they had to leave the city
seeking refuge. Those are families, women and children seeking refuge
-- next city, which is Sinjar. And Sinjar is populated by Yezidis, and
falsely known in Iraq as Satanic worshippers. And those Yezidis were
ready to receive and offer refuge for the Sunnis and Shias who fled
the city of Tal Afar, and they offered them homes, food, mattresses,
other needs, and assured them that they would leave if they don't like
them to be with them, because they held a different religion. So they
left to stay with their relatives, the Yezidis, and allowed the Shias
and Sunnis to stay in their homes until the crisis would be over in
Tal Afar.

"And since then -- actually since May 1, 2003, when the President
announced major military operation combat was over -- they still in
the state of fleeing their homes -- it's not only in Tal Afar --
across the country. There are over two million Iraqis have got
displaced in Iraq in their home own land, became refugees. There are
people from Tal Afar that are still in Najaf and Karbala, and we met
them, and we tried hard, as the members of the Muslim Peacemakers
Team, to offer them refuge, shelter, food and others donated by the
Iraqis themselves. They still share with them what they need. And, by
the way, Iraqis still are surviving for that Food-for-Oil Program or
Oil-for-Food Program. And it's not enough, but they try to survive
within the insecurity and hardship conditions of the occupation.



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