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Turkmen in Iraq

Press release issued: 8 February 2005

The international community should take responsibility for ensuring Iraqi Turkmen participate in the reshaping of their country's future.

The international community should take responsibility for ensuring Iraqi Turkmen participate in the reshaping of their country’s future says a report published by Bristol University this week.

The aim of the study, led by Dr Ibrahim Sirkeci in the Department of Sociology, was to outline the characteristics of the Iraqi Turkmen population and the patterns of their international migration.   Researchers collected information from about one per cent of the Turkmen population through a questionnaire of nearly 1,500 randomly selected households in Iraqi cities and towns including Baghdad, Kirkuk, Musul and Erbil where there is a sizeable Turkmen community.

It was felt the report, commissioned by the Global Strategy Institute, Ankara, Turkey, was needed after the chaos and turbulence in Iraq following the intervention by USA and coalition forces in 2003.

 The study provides a snapshot of a significant ethnic group’s demography for policy makers and planners involved in Iraq’s reconstruction.

The report’s main findings are:

  • Turkmen is a well-educated population and is a valuable human resource, which is going to be very helpful in Iraq’s reconstruction.  A quarter of the women and one third of the men have attended university and only one in ten had no education;
  • Turkmen households have a high level of migration with at least one member, 35 per cent, migrating abroad;
  • Migration appears to be forced because Turkmen have good socio-economic circumstances, they are pretty well off and live in satisfactory conditions.  Almost half move to neighbouring countries including Turkey, Iran and Syria;
  • Almost half of Turkmen migrations, 49.5 per cent, were illegal and only one per cent said they would migrate legally;
  • Most emigration, 80 per cent, happened after 1990, which would seem to imply people had been forced to flee during the wars of the last 15 years.
  • Finally, the reported political polarisation on the basis of religious divisions between Sunni and Shia does not reflect the reality.  If there is any such political division, Iraqi Turkmen, and other ethnic groups, will compete with each other.

Dr Sirkeci, commenting on the findings, said: “Turkmen have been suffering from the Arabisation policies of the Saddam regime as they were forced to resign their ethnic identities in favour of Arab identity.

“The rebuilding of a democratic Iraq is a great opportunity for Turkmen to contribute to the country’s economic, political and cultural life as equal partners as other ethnicities without giving up their own Turkmen identity.”

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