Aydin Maruf, Turkmen MP in the Kurdistan Region parliament. Photo: Rudaw
Though there has been years of lack of trust between peoples in the ethnically diverse city of Kirkuk, a Turkmen MP insists good relations still exist between Kurds and Turkmen. Aydin Maruf is optimistic that the leadership of Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani will yield positive results, mending Erbil’s relations with Baghdad and Ankara, though he argues nullifying the result of Kurdistan’s independence referendum should be a first step.
Maruf is a politburo member of the Turkmen Front and the party’s only MP in Kurdistan’s parliament. His office in Erbil proudly displays four flags: the Kurdistan Region, Iraq, the Turkmen nation, and his own party.
RUDAW: Last week, a Turkmen delegation from the Kurdistan Region and Iraq met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In this critical time, what message was conveyed in the meeting?
As the Turkmen nation and Turkmen Front, we have always been supporting improved relations between Turkey and Baghdad, Turkey and Erbil. The Turkmen Front was not the only party in the meeting with the Turkish president. Rather, the Turkmen High Coordination Committee that includes most Turkmen parties and personalities in Iraq attended the meeting.
The discussions were mostly concerned with the reconstruction of the ruined places of the Turkmen people after the war with ISIS is over, especially Tal Afar, assisting IDPs and helping with the process of returning them to their own places.
Some Turkish government’s charity organizations set up residential camps and delivered humanitarian aid to the hundreds of thousands of Turkmen families who fled to the Kurdistan Region after the emergence of ISIS in 2014. Turkey’s Red Cross delivered
Turkey has no problems with the Kurdish nation
$20 million in aid to the Kurdistan Region and other places. Tika Organization built three camps in Duhok province and delivered $50 million in aid to the IDPs. Furthermore, Afat Organization delivered $6 million in aid to Khazir and Hassan Sham Camps, distributing it to IDPs regardless of differences of [ethnic background]. Turkey spent a lot of money to assist IDPs and we expect it to reconstruct ruined places in coordination with the Iraqi government.
Relations between Erbil and Ankara turned sour because of the Kurdistan Region’s recent referendum. Have you made any attempt to normalize these relations?
No one has called on us to mediate. It is clear that relations between Turkey and the Kurdistan Region became strained due to the referendum, and it is mostly the (Kurdistan) Region that is responsible for this, not Turkey. However, despite this, Turkey’s attitude toward the Kurdistan Region is very good because it has not imposed any big pressures. Turkey has no problems with the Kurdish nation and has recently been continuously supporting the Kurds and other communities. We support good relations between Erbil and Ankara, Baghdad and Ankara. But the Kurdistan Region should take other steps in order for these relations to normalize.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has suggested that it will freeze the result of the referendum. What other steps do you think it should take?
Freezing the result of the referendum was a good step at this stage. It was well received. However, Turkey is demanding that its result be annulled. Moreover, the position of the president of the Kurdistan Region was frozen at the right time. Baghdad’s condition to enter negotiations with the Kurdistan Region is nullifying the result of the referendum as well. In response to the steps the KRG
There has been no trust among political parties in Kirkuk since 2003
might take, Baghdad too should take positive steps in order to reach mutual understanding. We are for a constitutional settlement to the problems. I think the result of the referendum should be made cancelled for the sake of the public interest and I think that will happen.
Turkey has decided to hand over the Ibrahim Khalil border gate to Baghdad. Do you not think this is to punish the Kurdistan Region?
The Turkish government and people sympathize with all the oppressed communities of Iraq, especially the Kurds. That is why I don’t think Turkey will do something that could punish the people of the Kurdistan Region. Moreover, Turkey is not angry with the people.
Do you think what happened on October 16 was law enforcement or an act of invasion?
The problem of Kirkuk has been around for a while. We as the Turkmen Front were not part of these disagreements and the Kurdish parties didn’t accept us as an important aspect of the problem. The Turkmen nation in Kirkuk was deprived. We are not for war, tension, or complications. The project of the Turkmen Front is to turn Kirkuk into a region run by all its communities. There has been no trust among political parties in Kirkuk since 2003. Disagreements on Kirkuk have hurt the communities of the city.
More than 150,000 Kurds have fled Kirkuk. Is this not an invasion?
We do not want oppression and injustice against any community or person. It is sad that all these people have fled. They should return home. We think a joint police and security force should be formed to protect Kirkuk. Mam Jalal’s project to govern Kirkuk was very good. We supported the project early on.
The Peshmerga commanders in Kirkuk were in disagreement. We value the attitude of the Peshmerga in Kirkuk, Tal Afar and other places who protected the people without any discrimination. However, we shouldn’t forget that the Iraqi army too is an official force and the Peshmerga forces are part of this army. The Iraqi army and Peshmerga forces fought ISIS together a month ago. It is not
Good relations between the Kurds and Turkmen continue to exist
right for these two armies to fight against each other, and I believe they don’t want to engage in this because such a war can only serve the interests of ISIS.
What is your position on what is being done to the Kurds in Khurmatu?
We don’t agree with what is happening in Khurmatu. It seems there were disagreements among these parties in the past and these disagreements were reflected in recent events.
The Turkmen Hashd forces are committing crimes against the Kurds. Why are you silent on this?
The Turkmen Hashd forces have no connection to us. Moreover, the Turkmen Front has no armed forces and no armed forces within the Hashd al-Shaabi represent us. The Iraqi army and Hashd didn’t consult us on entering Kirkuk. Rather, they had reached an agreement with some Peshmerga forces, but we were not involved in this agreement. Similarly, we were also not consulted when the Peshmerga forces entered Kirkuk in 2014. We are against sectarian projects. We seek the rights of the Turkmen people on the basis of nationality. We will split if the question turns into a Sunni and Shiite one.
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) argues they are entitled to have the position of Kirkuk governor. Are there any attempts for this position to be given to the Turkmen?
I am not aware of any such attempts, but we would like to see a Turkmen as governor of Kirkuk. This shouldn’t be a problem. However, having said that, we should be realistic. We want the main three positions in Kirkuk, positions of governor, deputy governor, and president of the provincial council, to be distributed among the Turkmen, Kurds and Arabs. Good relations between the Kurds and Turkmen continue to exist. The developments that unfolded in Kirkuk after 2003, the behavior and attitude of the ruling Kurdish parties in the city were the main reason behind recent events in Kirkuk.
What do you think of Masoud Barzani distributing his powers to certain institutions?
We think it was a good and appropriate step to take because the question of the presidency of the Kurdistan Region was the main
I personally neither wish to see, nor accept that my Kurdish brothers are offended
reason behind the parties falling out with one another in 2015. This question has now been resolved. The attendance of Islamic Group (Komal) and Change Movement’s (Gorran) factions in parliament’s recent meetings restored normality to the parliament. I am optimistic that the KRG under the leadership of Nechirvan Barzani, a diplomatic and moderate man, and his deputy will do well this year to normalize Erbil’s relations with Baghdad and Ankara.
The Turkmen people have five MPs in Kurdistan’s parliament, yet the role of these MPs in normalizing Erbil’s relations with Ankara is weak. Why is this so?
Kurdish and Arab brothers understand that representation needs willpower. It is the Turkmen Front that really represents the Turkmen nation. We don’t support the formation of Turkmen parties by other nations. The Turkmen and Kurds are two important nations of the region and our fates are together. We have good relations with Kurdish parties. Mending relations between Erbil and Ankara is more related to the question of the referendum, though.
I saw Kurdistan’s flag when I entered your headquarters. As a Turkmen politician, what was your feeling when you saw Kurdistan’s flag being insulted in Kirkuk?
We do not oppose any flag and we don’t want to see any flags being insulted. There are four flags in our headquarters: flags of Iraq, Kurdistan, Turkmen nation, and the Turkmen Front. Our headquarters are the most democratic. We don’t agree with flags of Kurdistan, Iraq or the Turkmen being insulted. A flag is a sacred thing to every community. I personally neither wish to see, nor accept that my Kurdish brothers are offended.