When we shared a 1,5 minute video of Mosul Vilayet documentary on social media, some friends expressed that I should write down the goal of this work and briefly state the story behind it. I took a mental note of that suggestion. We have 6 episodes of a documentary, each 35 minutes and two books, one in Turkish and the other in English, consisting of almost 700-pages that are waiting to be published. I will try to summarize the background story on which this documentary and the book are based on and provide a brief history of these works for those who are interested.
The documentary goes back to a story of transferring mourning across three generations starting with my grandfather and the books are based on the establishment process of the think tank called Ekopolitik.
While we were carrying out evaluations with our team for the documentary, we came to the conclusion that this documentary should be an emotional road story based on truth. In this way, the academic and diplomatic interviews would not bore people and the documentary would easily flow.
My daughter Rüveyda, who is a psychotherapist, provided a brief summary of the issue. The synopsis would be shaped on the basis of intergenerational transference of mourning in unconscious processes with regards to my grandfather Ahmet Tevfik Bey, my mother, and me. My grandfather, Ahmet Tevfik Bey’s family and children died from plague in Suleymaniyah prior to WWI. He got married to my grandmother in Erzurum after Sarikamis. However, when the borders were drawn, the process of trauma and mourning began. He could not mourn due to the political and conjectural circumstances. He transferred these feelings to my mother, the oldest child of the family, and my mother imposed this on me as a duty (as a mission). It cannot be a coincidence that I became an officer (with my mother’s encouragement), became engaged in intellectual pursuits (Ekopolitik), and became caught up in the issue of Mosul Vilayet. This mission would be complete with this documentary and book.
It made sense. We built the main frame of the documentary’s story on this intergenerational transference of mourning without boring the audience with individuality. All the academic and diplomatic interviews were based on this theme. This mourning was also the mourning for the National Pact in the eye of my family.
Concerning this aspect of the family story, some memories that would help illuminate the processes of mourning and transference were shared while the story was told.
My father and mother got married late given the conditions of their period. In her first pregnancy, my mother had a miscarriage, and my second sibling had to be surgically removed since my mother’s life was threatened. According to what my father told, my birth took place at home with the help of a midwife by taking every risk against my mother’s health. I was born in Erzurum, in the winter of March and my body, which did not give any signal of life after birth, was revived with the urgent snow bath I received in the lap of our neighbor, lawyer and a woman of letters Sabahat Dokmen, the mother of Üstün Dökmen.
Before I was born, my mother was unhappy due to the fact that her children did not survive. One day, she saw my grandfather Ahmet Tevfik Bey wearing his officer uniform holding me in swaddling clothes in her dream. Ahmet Bey gave this baby to my mother and told her that her babies did not survive, so she should take me. He asked my mother what name she would give to me and when my mother said Tarik, he became sad. Then when my mother told him that I would carry both our Prophet’s name and his name Ahmet, he smiled.
In Erzurum and also in Istanbul after we moved there, my mother would take pains to call, inquire about my grandfather’s relatives and his fellow people and she also took me with her. My mother was a primary school teacher from Ataturk generation. My grandfather’s relatives from Suleymaniyah were all remarkable people such as the owner of Nobel pharmaceutical company Turgut Bey, owner of Nisantasi Deniz Bookstore Kemal Bey, Hakim Hüsrev Bey, and the DDY Camp Manager of Fenerbahce Osman Bey. These figures were white Turks and elites of the Republic (I later came to understand that they were white Kurds). They also worked in the government of the former King in Iraq for some time. My mother would tell me with sorrow that they were murdered in the coup d’état.
My grandfather was a year younger than Ataturk in Military Academy. General Salih Omurtak was a close friend of his. He loved Ataturk and admired him as a soldier; however, he thought his religious side was weak. My grandfather was able to take my mother and his family to his hometown Suleymaniyah only once in 1949 and from there, they went to Baghdad. My mother always stated how much she was affected by the Tigris River in Baghdad and the stylish Baghdad high society as a kid. The longing in my grandfather for maintaining kinship relations was really deep. When he asked for a leave of absence to go to Iraq in the Cold War circumstances, his requests were not taken well. He retired from the army as a major. They retreated to their house first in Zagra, Sivas, and then in Erzurum. When my grandfather’s illness from the Sarikamis War relapsed, he had to live in a chair until his death (1956). Given the circumstances of the period, he spoke good French, Arabic, and Sorani. Besides, he had one of the best libraries in Erzurum. His religious sensibility was high, he was kind, and his social relations with women were in the public eye given the circumstances of the day. As my mother used to say, he was different from those strictly religious people. My grandfather thought that the renowned figures of different civilizations such as Buddha and Zarathustra could be prophets. He even taught my mother how to perform mid-day prayers with evening prayers. One of the events that had an effect on me in my childhood memory was the fact that my grandfather, convinced of his own intentions, gave my 15-year-old aunt to my uncle, the 40-year-old chieftain of Beritan Tribe from Varto by not being able to bear his longing for his hometown. When I met with psychoanalyst Ayla Yazıcı and shared with her some details, she told me about the reflections of this on me as a separate trauma and process.
I was very interested in Ottoman history in my primary school years. I read figures such as Behnan Şapolyo, Feridun Fazıl, Reşat Ekrem Koçu, and Bekir Büyükarkın from cover to cover. I would buy special, large atlases from Kadiköy youth bookstore and mark the Ottoman maps in my dreams with their particular details.
In my high school years, I was definitely an anti-communist and nationalist, and during my years in the university, I was first an Islamist and later interested in Islamic mysticism (Sufism). I wanted to be a military officer in my senior year at high school. My mother encouraged me in this regard; however, when the only application form that came to the school was taken by my friend İbrahim, I did not take the exam for the Military Academy also out of laziness. But when I finished Istanbul Technical University and began my graduate studies, the fate provided me with the chance of being an officer through the circumstances of 1980.
I took this chance and put my life on the right track from early on. However, I was not able to tear myself apart from political and intellectual pursuits. What I did became a routine for me. I was always within these circles in Ankara. This situation was a subject for both criticism and dissension.
It was a radical decision for me to submit my resignation on the day when the compulsory service was over. I was a major then. When I proposed Abdullah Tivnikli who had always stood by me to establish a think tank with his support in 1998, I realized that he was not ready for this proposal. So, I had to work in private sector.
During this time period, I learned a lot about unconscious processes and cognition from Tahir Özakkaş from whom I received support and counseling. Tahir Bey specifically dwelled on the unconscious generational transferences (reserved child) of Ahmet Tevfik Bey on me and the similarities between us. I came to understand the significance of psychology in diplomacy, history, and politics thanks to Tahir Bey. I began reading Prof. Vamik Volkan.
I actually intended to establish a think tank such as the one that Vamik Volkan attempted to found in George Mason University in Virginia called “the Center for Mind and Human Interactions.” When we first began working for Ekopolitik, we ventured upon trying various things with psychoanalyst friends such as Rebia Dirim in line with this agenda. Later, we continued spontaneously with Vamik Volkan. However, due to not having the required circumstances, we were not able to institutionalize and turn this goal of ours into a tradition in the long run.
Even though in this institution of ours that we called Ekopolitik, our rationale revolved around letting our students and voluntary instructors do the things they wished, we also attempted to do things that were over our heads during the period when SETAV was also established and on the forefront. In such an environment, Abdullah Tivnikli Bey, whom I had the chance to have a brief talk after a meeting, gave me a flash drive he took from Kürşat Atılgan that contained the original documents of Lausanne Conference. He added that we should then study on these documents.
This small flash drive was a prize for me. I returned to Ekopolitik with excitement and submitted this flash drive to the friends, to our director Murat Sofuoğlu. They continuously worked on this flash drive for three days. As a result of their examination of the documents, we had a child named “Mosul Vilayet Council”!
The issue that was not resolved in Lausanne documents was definitely “Mosul Vilayet”. Mosul Vilayet was a part of our National Oath (Misak-ı Milli).
Mosul Vilayet Council (MVC) is an important NGO that was established in the aftermath of US intervention to Iraq and work that was carried out for a new constitution. It was established in 1991 and 63 tribes signed it. Amongst them, there were important tribes such as Barzanji, Jaff, and Zebar and also Kurdish, Arab, Turkmen, and Assyrian elements. Another interesting characteristic of this NGO was the fact that they had accreditation from the Geneva Office of United Nations for “Mosul Vilayet.”
In Geneva, Switzerland, the group of “goodwill ambassadors” notably the historian Erik Reykl and jurist Anton Keller were the leading names in the establishment of MVC together with the nephew of Sheikh Mahmud, the prominent opinion leader Sheikh Salar Hafid and the leaders of the tribes.
What is interesting here for Turkey are the applications that MVC made to the Geneva Office of UN asking whether the status of Mosul Vilayet was still valid and the content of the answer that was provided. The answer that was given in the form of a memorandum (1991) demonstrated that the discussions with regards to the status of Mosul Vilayet were still evident given the report dated July 25, 1925. This answer both expanded the legal sphere of influence of MVC and paved the ground for the legal process of Turkey that reached to International Court of Justice regarding the changing status of the region. MVC could be regarded as a mosque in which different groups said their prayers towards different qiblas. There were naturally groups that dreamed of a Kurdistan utopia or wished that Mosul Vilayet were attached to EU or Turkey. In 1992, the late Turgut Özal looked out for this group and assigned Gündüz Aktan and Yusuf Bozkurt to this task. After Özal, they could not receive any interest from our country until we showed up. The first communication was established with Anton in 2005. He studied law in Boston and was an idealist hybrid European. He was dedicated to MVC. He collected all the information regarding MVC from antiquity to the present-day on the basis of international law under the website called solami.org. Our relationship lasted till his demise even though there were certain disagreements regarding principles. When Anton became involved in the matter, the media made news saying that these 63 tribes wanted to be a part of Turkey.
I took Keller to Ankara. I arranged meetings with Gündüz Aktan, Kürşat Atılgan and Cemil Çiçek. We also had lengthy talks with the chief advisor of the Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu. However, during this time period, the cold war and balance politics were still predominant in our foreign policy. The proposals of Keller and MVC could be sometimes formidable and radical in terms of preserving the balance. Our work was also actively supported by friends such as Muzaffer Aslan, Savaş Avcı, and Orhan Ketene who shouldered the responsibility for Turkmen Front and the Turkmen case in Turkey.
As Ekopolitik, we decided to organize a meeting with MVC in which the minority and property rights of the region guaranteed by the Iraqi Constitution would be made and which would be attended by the council members. The Foreign Relations Commission President of Turkish National Government Murat Mercan and Taha Özhan from SETAV also attended the meeting by accepting my invitation.
While giving the opening speech, I talked about the end of the empires and the newly drawn boundaries of the nation states and referred to the separation of relatives and Ahmet Tevfik Bey as an example. At the end of the workshop, Sheikh Salar came to me and said, “I know your grandfather and relatives, I can help bring you together.”
This was a meaningful and honorary beginning for me. Because it was my destiny to find our relatives in Suleymaniyah whose names were always brought up and whom I did not know. It was Kerwan Bey, my grandfather’s uncle’s grandchild, who visited me. He showed me the long family tree encompassing 200 years in which our names were also included; this was very impressive for me.
Between 2006-2009, we visited Erbil, Suleymaniyah, Duhok, Kirkuk, and Mosul, the components of Mosul Vilayet, as the Ekopolitik team. The cousins of my grandfather welcomed us in Suleymaniyah and Erbil. My grandfather Ahmet Tevfik Bey is still a renowned figure there. Some of our relatives settled in Europe and United States, and continued their higher education there. Some of them visited my mother in Istanbul. When you look at it, I was a grandchild of an Empire and a child of Republic. Both my maternal and paternal grandfathers were officers during the Ottoman Empire and Turkish Republic. My father’s father (my paternal grandfather), Captain Ahmet Zühtü, lost an eye during the Agri Kurdish uprising of Ihsan Nuri Pasha. What was called National Oath was our shared story.
As Ekopolitik team, we never stopped pursuing Mosul Vilayet as if we were in competition with the ceaseless efforts of Keller and Sheikh Salar. Peace in the Middle East that would be defined through Mosul Vilayet could present a democratic confederate model for Iraq and the balance in Iraq and Middle East with Turkey’s guarantorship. Before Ekopolitik was closed, we organized a 2-day workshop with the participation of a total of 140 NGO and tribe members in Erbil, Shaklava.
We also included the various nationalist groups in Turkey in these meetings with the aim of giving them the chance to face the realities of history and region. With the closing down of Ekopolitik in 2011, our relations with MVC officially came to an end; however, our friendship with old acquaintances, notably Sheikh Salar, always continued. IS invaded Mosul and our embassy there. We needed historical and legal theses. Binali Yildirim, whom I considered a brother for 30-years, became the prime minister. When I called him, he returned my call even though he was really busy and I briefly told him about our experiences. He was very interested and authorized his chief advisor İhsan Durdu on this matter. Binali Yıldirim, me, and the late Abdullah Tivnikli re-evaluated the situation in light of our present experiences. The visits, invitations, and negotiations were also included. Binali Yildirim was of the opinion that our work on Mosul Vilayet should continue in terms of history and tradition at least on an academic level. During the process, I asked Mesut Barzani, the President of KRG, his thoughts concerning Mosul Vilayet in front of formal participants. Mesut Barzani talked about this issue for 20 minutes. He stated that Mosul Vilayet was a peace model that included different identities. He completed his words by turning to our Prime Minister and saying “Why should it not happen today with some revisions?” Binali Yildirim was very much touched by this.
This was Mesut Barzani’s last visit. After that, the referendum process began for KRG. During this process, I very well remember that Barzani sometimes told us to propose an honourable way out instead of referendum. The senior bureaucrats received the opinions of NGO representatives with experience on the issue at hand or the opinions of certain opinion leaders. Prior to the critical National Security Council, I found the chance to share all my experience and opinions on the issue throughout the day. What was evident was the uncertainty of the relationship between Turkey and Mosul (Vilayet) arising out of international law. There were archival documents in the state; however, those documents were not absorbed. It was obvious that there was a gap in this subject. I was personally sad for this situation.
I tried to write and talk during this period. When I was on Ahmet Hakan’s program in CNN Turk one day, the participants of the program defended the idea that Turkey could not have any ties with Mosul Vilayet by adopting a populist manner and with a diplomatic resistance. When I articulated my thesis and showed the memorandum that MVC took from the Geneva Office of UN, they emphasized the invalidity of this thesis loudly and by offering no real reason as to why they thought so. The interesting part of this process was to see the pro-narcissist enjoyment with which the issue of debunking my theses was expressed in social media, which turned into a football game.
These last events proved to me that it was a necessity to explicate the relationship between Turkey and Mosul Vilayet (National Oath) on visual, emotional, academic, and diplomatic levels. A year passed by. I mentioned this issue to the Minister of Culture Numan Kurtulmus and we received moral and financial support with surprising priority. Then, İlker Aycı from Turkish Airlines and M. Emin Özcan from Vakıfbank showed a considerable support for the advancement of this issue.
As we have planned, the relationship between Turkey and Mosul Vilayet will be shared with the public through an academic, diplomatic, and emotional language both visually and in writing. The original book that has been planned consists of multi-disciplinary articles that are about the past and future. The documentary aims to be aired on TRT since it is possible to convey a shared reality to a Turk from Trabzon, to a Sorani Kurd from Suleymaniyah, a Turkmen from Kirkuk, a Yezidi from Erbil or an Arab from Mosul all of whom had a common history.
The first names that came to my mind for the editorial work of the book were Prof. Dr. Davut Hut who carried out his doctoral studies in London on Mosul Vilayet in Lausanne documents and Prof. Dr. Zekeriya Kurşun. We began working on the book together and now we have completed it. The book consists of 32 original articles and two separate books, one Turkish and the other English, almost amounting to 700-pages.
In both our work, we have tried to abstain from a nationalist stance that favoured annexation. We have tried to tell that the key to the peace in the Middle East can be found in its own history, in its own emotions, and in remembering all these.
Our work, correspondences, and the shooting of the documentary took 1,5 years. We got private permits so as to shoot in private localities in Lausanne, Geneva, Baghdad, Kirkuk, Ankara, Mosul, Istanbul, and Washington DC. We have interviewed 67 people in positions of authority. With the intention of supporting the basis of the documentary, we also organized the most authentic and comprehensive International Mosul Conference (http://faraszade.com/musul-sempozyumu-izlenimlerim/ ) in the recent years through our own efforts, with the support of Sabahattin Zaim University, and the contributions of our Palestinian friend Prof. Dr. Sami El Arian.
We believe that the publication of these books and airing of this documentary by the proper channels of TRT will help remember National Oath fondly and realize the summarized mission above.