Iraqi Turkmens fear for families stuck in warzone

As ISIL forces extend their grip in northern Iraq, Iraqi Turkmens living in Turkey call for aid to help their families caught in the crossfire.

Iraqi Turkmens fear for families stuck in warzone

World Bulletin / News Desk

There is no food, no electricity and no security. People are helpless. They need help but what help is coming is insufficient. Iraqi Turkmens in Turkey are claiming their families back home are among the worst affected people caught up in the recent conflict sweeping across northern Iraqi cities.

The Turkmens are a Turkic people living primarily in Central Asia. A three-million strong Turkmen community is the third-largest ethnic group in Iraq, constituting 13 percent of the population.

"The situation is very bad in Diyala [a northeastern Iraqi city]. Some people are fasting but others say they are already fasting because they don't have anything to eat," Mohammed Beyatli, a 30-year-old civil servant from northeastern Iraq tells The Anadolu Agency.

Turkmens have been caught in the crossfire as Iraq saw a marked increase in sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims in June, as a coalition of armed opposition groups led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL, took control of large swathes of the country's predominantly Sunni provinces.

On 10 June, ISIL-led fighters captured Iraq's second largest city of Mosul and soon afterwards took control of a number of other key cities and towns including Tikrit, Tal Afar, Fallujah and Baiji.

Ten children died recently of hunger and diseases in camps near the northwestern Iraqi city of Tal Afar, according to Iraqi Turkmen Front – a mainstream political group representing Turkmen interests.

"Humanitarian aid has not reached Tal Afar. People suffer from food shortages. During the holy month of Ramadan everything is very difficult," says Aytekin Felaferoglu, a Turkmen student in Ankara, whose family is in Tal Afar.

Tal Afar – with a population of around 200,000 people – was captured a week after ISIL militants took Mosul and Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit.

Kemal Ahmed, 28, another Turkmen student in Ankara originally from oil rich city of Kirkuk, asked for much more help from Turkey: "We expect everyone to receive humanitarian aid. Materials are not enough."

The Turkish Red Crescent has started a campaign called “Give a Hand to Talafer,” for displaced Iraqis. The campaign is supported by several unions.

People willing to join or donate to the campaign can send a message to ‘’2868’’

Kirkuk has fallen into the hands of Kurdish peshmerga fighters as the Iraqi army fled their positions.

"People are stuck between conflicts of peshmerga forces and ISIL militants in my city," Ahmed says. "ISIL cut off internet access. We have communication problems there as well as other humanitarian problems [like food and water shortages].”

TURKEY SENDS AID

The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency has alone sent 60 tons of food and cleaning supplies to families in northern Iraq so far. Six Turkish officials sent by the foreign ministry are also in Irbil to coordinate humanitarian aid efforts.

Within one month of conflict period, thousands of people had to flee from their homes but some are returning rather than settle in another place which is also not secure.

"My family keeps going from home to another town, but they say they will die anyway everywhere. So they have recently returned home instead of fleeing," Felaferoglu says.

Since the beginning of June, 650,000 people have been displaced because of operations by ISIL, according to UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs. The Iraqi Turkmen Front says 200,000 of them are Turkmens.

Most of the Turkmens living in Mosul, Tal Afar, Kirkuk, Dohuk, Diyala and Salahaddin went to near towns or cities like Irbil. But some of them – who have passports – preferred to come to Turkey, as they share the same language.

Ahmed Nadir Yusuf, a 28-year-old truck driver, is one of them. He came to Istanbul from Tal Afar together with his four children and moved into an apartment after staying on the streets and an office of Federation of the Turkmeneli Associations.

He said that the situation was bad at his home: "No one has remained in our city. People ran away from Tal Afar. Helicopters were always conducting attacks."

As ISIL militants vow to continue toward Baghdad, Turkmens say it is difficult to think that everything will return normal again.

"If the situation remains like that, we cannot return back to our country, which is very sad," Yusuf says.

EX-TURKISH MAYOR'S SON ON TURKMEN FRONTLINE

Alparslan Celik, a Turkish national and son of a former mayor, has joined the Iraqi Turkmen front in the fight against ISIL forces.

His father, the former municipal mayor in the ciy of Elazig and National Movement Party (MHP) member Ramazan Celik, shared a photograph of his son on the Iraqi Turkmen frontline.

Saying that he was "proud" of his son, Ramazan Celik, who served the Keban district as mayor on two occasions between 1994-1999 and then again from 2004-2009, said that he too would join him if necessary.

Ramazan Celik said he was aware of his 32-year-old son's intentions, and that he had encouraged him when he was told.

"Our brothers there are in a hard situation. If we do not die for this nation and this flag what are we going to die for? My son said 'I'm going'. I told him to go and fight until he is martyred."

Last Mod: 10 Temmuz 2014, 11:54
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