The Daesh militant group has “killed 500 Turkmen fighters and displaced 200,000 Turkmen families” since June of last year, an Iraqi MP asserted at a Monday press conference.Arshad al-Salehi, himself an ethnic Turkmen, told fellow parliamentarians in Baghdad that “500 Turkmen fighters have been killed by Daesh since the group occupied several provinces of Iraq.”
According to al-Salehi, the Turkmen fighters were killed in predominantly-Turkmen areas of the Kirkuk and Saladin provinces and in areas near the northern city of Mosul. The MP went on to assert that some 200,000 Turkmen families had been forced to flee their homes – including 60,000 families that have since sought refuge in Turkey – due to the threat posed by the extremist group.
Turkmen, a Turkic ethnic group that includes both Sunni and Shia Muslims, represent Iraq’s third largest ethnic group after Arabs and Kurds. They are primarily found in northern Iraq. Al-Salehi also warned that Turkmen were being “systematically targeted” and blamed the international community for ignoring their plight.
“There are attempts to change the demography of certain areas [of Iraq] by displacing Turkmen and settling them elsewhere,” he said, going on to cite alleged attempts “to displace Turkmen populations from Tal Afar [near Mosul] and settle them in Iraq’s southern provinces.”
He went on to urge Baghdad and local authorities to protect Turkmen residing in Tuz Khormato, a town in Iraq’s Saladin Province that also contains Arabs and Kurdish populations. Iraq has suffered a severe security vacuum since June of last year, when Daesh militants overran Mosul and declared a self-styled “caliphate” in parts of Iraq and Syria.