We and the region from past to today


Foreign politics can frequently set the agenda in our country in the popular politics, based on the political preferences, regardless of it’s connection with our daily lives or our security. On the contrary, foreign politics may not attract the attention of the public opinion although they deserve to remain on the agenda.

Weather we accept it or not, Northern Iraq or Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) remained on the agenda of the domestic politics of Turkey, starting from the term of office of Turgut Ozal, the late president of Turkey, until today.

It is uncertain if it is because our minds are confused or we frequently change opinions, our approach to KRG has always been on the agenda of dometic politics in a way that is self contradictory.

Besides one can argue that Turkey, as a nation, had relations with KRG based on mutual trust and real politics starting from the term of office of the late president Turgut Ozal until the Presidency of Mr. Erdogan. The addressee of this relationship had been Mesud Barzani, the leader of Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) hence the illness of Jalal Talabani.

The Referendum Process


The referendum decision of the Kurdistan Regional Government by the leadership of KDP, has a legibility that can not be reversed. Although the elements like Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Goran Movement and PKK see this initiative as a threath to themselves in the local politics, it is known that their political base do not think the same.

Apparently it seems that after the parliamentary elections due in November in KRG, a declaration of independence is on the line. And it is uncertain if a Kosovo scenario or something more dreadful will take place.

Needless to say KRG will work to show to the world that it is the only secular and democratic nation in the Middle East. In this respect KRG may pledge authonomy to Arabs, Yazidis, Christians and the Turkmens. It may well add “democratic autonomy or federal” expressions to the structure that will be formed.

The official policy of Turkey


Turkish official policy needs to be understood beyond the statements aiming to fulfill the emotional sentiments of the domestic public opinion. That policy have a tendency of acquiesce to the independence process with a deliberate impartiality. We can even hear voices that Turkey should be among the countries to recognize our new neighbour as it is in the Kosovo case.

There is no doubt that Mr. Barzani is a leader who gained Turkey’s trust for so long. He relied his back to Turkey in terms of security and economy. He stood side by side with Turkey in the struggle with PKK and other organizations in the fight against terrorism. He also tried to give solid support to the resolution process in Turkey. In the short run, taking into account of Turkey’s policy against PYD in Syria, it is comprehensible that the existing status quo will continue.

Walking in the streets of Arbil and Sulaymaniyah one can easily see maps that shows remarkable parts of Turkey and some parts of Iran belonging to Kurdistan geography in public and non public places. It is part of an existing debate or an existing concern whether those are modest maps of geography or maps of a utopian ideal of politics.

Perspectives in Turkey


The main perspective of the anti-independence camp in Turkish politics and bureaucracy is as follows;

The population of people having sociological connections with KRG in Turkey, is more than the population of the region. If the international structure continues it’s hostality, the United Nations will try to break up the region using models like Kosovo. This is a matter of survival and should not be allowed. Or it should be postponed for an indefinite of time and say “God is Great” in the future.

The other camp’s perspective is as follows;

More than half of the Kurdish population of the world live in Turkey’s western regions and are integrated to the society economically and socially. A partition is impossible, in fact an integration will take place and if this integration will take place, KRG will join Turkey through a formula.

Naturally both perspectives underlines realities. The only common ground those two perspectives have is that they both do not present a thesis or a solution model rather than trying to preserve the status quo or opposing it.

Mosul Province and it’s relation with Anatolia

While speaking at a meeting of Party of Union and Progress in Thessaloniki in 1908, Kemal Ataturk underlined that all empires are liquidated in their centuries and liquidation of the Ottoman Empire was not inevitable. Bu he suggested that this liquidation should be done deliberatively and offered a state model based on Anatolian National Pact that includes all the Kurds. In a way he adopted Mosul Province in Anatolia’s geographic and security boundaries.

Ataturk and his fellow soldiers succeeded to build Turkish Republic from the liquidation of the Ottoman Empire. No matter what is been said people holding those posts were graduated from the Ottoman educational institutions. They knew the outer world, they were able to speak foreign languages and they were idealistic. They even tried to pass something for today while withdrawing from North Africa and Middle East, except the Balkans. They forced diplomacy in Lausanne, during the Golden Horn Conferance of 1924 or League of Nations meetings.

While withdrawing to north from Sulaymaniyah, Halıl Pasha offered an Ottoman warrant to Sheikh Mahmoud, the leader of the Berzenci tribe, empowering him to rule the region. This empowerment motivated Sheikh Mahmoud who will acclaim the Kingdom of Kurdiston in the future and he became a nuisance for the British. Similarly lieutenant colonel Ozdemir defeated the British army in Derbent on August 31st, 1922 with the help of Zebar, Barzan and Surci tribes, despite the lobbying operations of major Noel towards the local tribes. After the defeat in Derbent the British were forced to withdraw from Sulaymaniyah.

Many orientalists fluently speaking Kurdish and Arabic including Lawrence, Bell and Noel lived inside the local tribes for so long. They implicitly supported the oilmen and the British army protecting them.

Despite all those efforts the British restrained the locals and the Kurdish tribes to vote for plebiscite arguing that they were illiterate in the final report of the meeting of the League of Nations in 1924. The thesis of Inonu and his counterparts was that Mosul Province should be the natural and cultural extention of Anatolia. They defended the idea that Turkish Republic is also the state of the Kurds and the majority of the members of the parliament were from the related areas. Their thesis included that the official language spoken in Mosul Province was Turkish and majority of people living in the area were Kurds.

The Historical and the Legal basis of the Turkish thesis

In the region that is indisputably independent historically and sociologically, Turkey still have rights emanating from international law. Being unable to show enough strength to be a game-establisher for so long and the high cost of changing the status quo made generating strong thesis a luxury for Turkey.

In the wake of the events in the region, Turkey must use a consistent diplomacy with the option for military intervention. The basics of this diplomacy should be as follows;

  • The rights emanating from international laws and the basis of legitimacy.
  • Close ties with the people of the region. Historical-sociological grounds.

In terms of international law, it is an advantage for Turkey that the Mosul Province issue was left out of the Lousanne Treaty. Lousanne Treaty’s related articles declares that Mosul issue will be solved according to the talks between Turkey and Britain under the arbitration of the League of Nations. This region is accepted as Mosul Province and regarded as a region that needs international attention like Hatay in the commission reports of League of Nations [1]

and by the United Nations. During the Golden Horn Conference held between 1924-1926 and during the Ankara negotiations, Britain did not accepted a referandum to be held, arguing that the people living in the Mosul Province would vote in favor of uniting to Turkey. Therefore Mosul Province is left to British mandate due to Ankara Agreement and than left to the administration of the Kingdom of Iraq in 1932 under certain conditions. Under these conditions, Kingdom of Iraq, gave quarantines to UN that it would respect the rights of the minorities including Turkmen and the rights of propetry. Turkey and Britain is UN’s addressee in this issue.


The years went by and the private ownership rights of Turkomans and non-muslims have been seized and people have been massacred. Even those developments were enough for Turkey and Britain to bring the issue to United Nations and the International Court of Justice that the status of the Mosul Province is no longer legitimate in the Kingdom of Iraq.

The Kingdom of Iraq collapsed in the end of 1950’s. Afterwards Saddam regime also collapsed. Than came a federal Iraq. Those developments also invalidated the treaties of 1926 and 1932. Those were also enough for Turkey to bring the issue to UN.

The referandum decision taken by KRG today, even withered a state on the border of Turkey with Iraq. All those circumstances brought us back to 1926 and border treaty with Iraq signed in 1945 became invalid.

If Turkey is going to put forward an effective thesis, it should be Mosul Province. Mosul Province is comprised of Arbil Kirkuk, Dohuk, Sulaymaniyah, Mosul and Diyala. Kurds, Turkmans, Assyrians, Yezidis, Sunnis and Shiite Arabs all live in this Province. Mosul Province is not a structure based on ethnisity but rather a structure based on geography and sociology. This is a peaceful thesis in a war-torn and blood spilled Middle East. Baghdad and Ankara stand as a guarantor for Mosul Province under a confederated structure or become independent or can join to Turkey. In any case Turkey’s right to guarantee is essential.

What should Turkey do?

First of all Turkey should convince Barzani with powerful arguements who says that he does not have an honorable exit. It is very well known that a long time ago Jalal Talabani and than Masoud Barzani have both stated that there is an arguable solution for Mosul Province. Besides Turkey should also create guarantees and suitable policies for opponents of Barzani to seize them away from Iran.

Bringing the legitimate and powerful local political actors together, Turkey should support a conferance that would be held in UN’s Geneva Headquarters, where 1926-1932 circumstances and the security of energy would be discussed. Turkey’s next step should be bringing the issue to UN and to the International Court of Justice.

Accordingly Turkey should organize it’s archive and start lobbying in the international arena as soon as possible. Mosul Province would especially be a suitable thesis for the United States whose priority is moderate Sunni Arabs and the security of energy routes in the region.

A solution for Mosul Province is also inviting for Turkomans, Christians with the support of the West and Sunni tribes and Barzani opponents after the eradication of DEASH.

Let’s not forget that legitimacy and sociological grounds are needed besides a powerful will (Turkish State) to adopt a new project into life.



[1] It can easily be seen that the committee of the League of Nations states that Mosul can be given to Turkey on the basis of the international judiciary system of the time, giving strong emphasise to the idea of “people have the right to decide for their future.” As it can be understood from the texts, the Commission emphasizes that Mosul belongs to Turkey under the international law and there is no compliance between the “right to decide” and Turkey’s sovereignty over the region. On the contrary the Commission attributed the abondenment of Mosul to Iraq with provisional political circumstances like the continuation of the mandage government and the will of the minorities and the British government. The Commission predicted that if the mandate expires, it is best for Mosul to join Turkey: “The Commission thinks that until the structure renounces its rights, it is obligatory that the disputed territories should be accepted as Turkey’s complementary part. Iraq can not put any claim for the disputed territories on the grounds of conquest or any other legal rights.”

“(If the mandate expires too soon) Turkey’s domestic and international situation is so stable compared to Iraq, it is best for Mosul Province to be left to Turkey’s sovereignity.”

When those words are connected with the epigraphic paragraph, it is easy to witness valuable data that is very important for the legal order in case of a future debate. For example, the The Commission of the League of Nations describes Iraq as a bipartite entity: Iraqi territory that the state was established with regard to international law and disputed territories/Mosul that is adscititious. Another important point emphasized is neither the British occupation nor the decision of the League of Nations abolishes Turkey’s legal sovereignity over Mosul. According to the Commission’s commentary, the sovereignity of Turkey over Mosul can only be toppled by an open declaration of intention. That situation transforms the articles of the agreement signed in 1926 between Turkey, Britain and Iraq to the conditions of the transfer of the sovereignity. Therefore, unsatisfaction of the implementation of the commitments to avoid armed activities against Turkey in a region 75 kilometers deep is also violation of the treaty of the transfer of sovereignity.


This and other issues and issues with legal problems regarding the succession/subrogation can be among the claims of Turkey’s historical rights in the future scenerios about Iraq loosing it’s authority in Mosul. “The most striking point is that neither a de facto British occupation nor any decision of the League of Nations can abolish the sovereignity of Turkey over Mosul.”


A.Tarık Çelenk

1961 Erzurum doğumlu. Haydarpaşa Lisesi ve İ.T.Ü’yü bitirdikten sonra Deniz Kuvvetleri Komutanlığında subay olarak nasıp edildi. 1999 yılında Binbaşı rütbesinde istifa etti. Özel sektör ve İSKİ’de yönetim kurulu üyesi olarak çalıştı. 2005-2011 arası Ekopolitik düşünce kuruluşu ile Çatışma çözümleri ve Musul Vilayeti üzerine teorik ve saha çalışmaları yaptı. 2013’de Akil İnsanlar gurubunda görev aldı. 2018-2019 arası Vakıfbank Kültür yayınları kuruluşunda görev alıp Genel Yayın Yönetmenliği yaptı. Türk Sağının Düşünce Atlası kitabını yayınladı.

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