Peoples of Iraq: the Turks of Iraq or Turkmen

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The Turks of Iraq or Turkmen, from the origins of their settlement to the Treaty of Sevres which will forever divide their heart into two parts: the Turkish and the Iraqi

The origins of the Turks of Iraq

The first Turks arrived in the territories of present-day Iraq since the 7th century with the first Turkish migrations, finding employment in the various Arab armies of the time, always in search of the terrible warriors of the East. The latter then managed to take advantage of the increasingly strong political fragmentation of the area, establishing themselves for the first time with the Seljuk Empire which, according to the locals, represents the beginning of their stable presence in the region.


However, the “qualitative leap” came with the arrival of the Ottomans who looked with great interest at the presence of their blood relatives in such a delicate area. Since the conquest of Iraq by Suleiman the Magnificent, the entire community was looked upon with extreme love and admiration, so much so that the Magnificent nicknamed Kirkuk “Gökyurt” or “Heavenly homeland”. This was certainly done to have a secure front with which to oppose the Safavids, both for a real attachment to this land. Considering themselves the quintessential Turkish dynasty, the Ottomans saw in this area a sort of “origins”, at least as regards their history in the Middle East.

The infamous Treaty

As with most Ottoman Turks, their fortunes were completely transformed following the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the infamous Treaty of Sevres. As a result of the latter, in fact, the Turks of Iraq were completely cut off from modern Turkey, finding themselves as a majority population of a large minority empire in a country built artfully. The presence of the Turkish Türkmeneli or Iraq within the newborn Iraq was essential since, near Kirkuk and Mosul, there are some of the largest oil fields in the Middle East.


One of the main British objectives was in fact to get their hands on these immense riches and it was precisely for this reason that the province had to be linked to Baghdad. The tension between the United Kingdom and Turkey was resolved only in 1926 when Ankara definitively abandoned its intentions in exchange for a large sum of money, while making sure that its former fellow citizens could maintain a Turkish identity. Unfortunately, precisely because of the admirable riches and the presence of other populations, the area was once again tormented by heavy internal conflicts; however the Turks of Iraq still live in those areas today and speak Turkish, being linked by a very deep love for their two homelands.

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