Reclaiming the Mosul Vilayet: Turkey’s economic, cultural and political re-occupation of Kurdistan, Part Two

Written by W. Karda ( with editorial assistance by KB

Part Two

The story continues from yesterday’s analysis of the economic invasion with an in-depth look at the cultural and political invasions happening in tandem with the economic one.

While the ‘economic invasion’ seems to be the core of many reports and articles, Turkish control goes beyond simply building shopping malls and kebab shops. Perhaps one of the more insidious and threatening issues that has accompanied the earlier mentioned topic is the ‘cultural invasion’ that is spreading like wildfire throughout the Kurdish population in South Kurdistan.

Turkish National Education Minister Nimet Çubukçu

Today local channels in the Kurdistan region show several Turkish songs for each local or western one. They present Turkish soap operas and series, even ‘Valley Of The Wolves’ (Kurtlar Vadisi), which is basically about a Turkish superhero agent, a combination of Rambo and 007, coming to Iraq on a mission against the Americans. The Kurds are portrayed as backwards or as terrorists in these shows, but they are still watched by the locals with great enthusiasm.

As a part of this issue, the Turks seem to have concentrated their efforts on the education system in Kurdistan. Last December, the Turkish National Education Minister Nimet Çubukçu attended an international conference on higher education in Erbil; supposedly to improve education in the region. Her ministry stated that ‘Ankara attaches high importance to Iraq’s initiatives in the education field.’ Çubukçu met several Iraqi officials at the Turkish Consulate General in Erbil, then she visited the Turkish Cihan and Fezalar Universities, built in Erbil by Turkish companies, and afterwards visited several Turkmen schools. [1] [2] [3]

But the genuineness of such ‘help’ from the Turks is questionable. This is all the more apparent if one exams the oppression of the Kurds in Turkey. Restrictions on the Kurdish language prohibit its use in public education, Kurdish TV channels and publications in Kurdish are banned or forced to close down, and Kurdish is not allowed in parliament or in the courts.

Riding the coattails of this cultural invasion is the spread of the Turkish language. The fact is that within a couple of years Turkish could easily replace Arabic, which is used as a second language in Kurdistan. One reason for this is that many businesses are controlled by Turks. Kurdish youth realise they are pretty much obliged to learn Turkish so that they may have better a chance of getting a job and communicating with the Turkish management at these companies.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu at opening of Işık University

This linguistic Turkification phenomenon can be dated back to 1993, with the establishment of the first Turkish school in Kurdistan. That first school was Işık College in Erbil, and it was followed by the opening of Nilüfer College in 1994, Işık Primary School in 2005, and Işık Kindergarten in 2006. Işık University was opened in 2008 in Erbil. The Gülen website says about these schools that what ‘makes us so happy is that each and every one of these kids grows up as lovers of Turkey and the Turkish people.’ [4]

Today there are about 15 of these Turkish schools in Kurdistan, with an enrolment of over 5,000. They are, to a certain extent, propaganda machines used to brainwash Kurdish youth and teach them from a very young age the ‘greatness’ of Turkish ‘superiority.’ One student explained that the schools are there for ‘nothing more than teaching naïve pupils in southern Kurdistan how great Turkey, the Ottoman and the Turkish people are.’ [5]

Another Turkish school is slated to open in the Kurdish town of Halabja in which education will be in English, Arabic and Turkish languages, but unsurprisingly, not in Kurdish. [6]

Why do the local KRG authorities tolerate and even support such so called ‘schools?’ While the whole region had one hour of electricity in the 1990s, the Turkish schools had 24 hours of electricity. They were given the best buildings and the best services. Even Nechirvan Barzani himself, the then Prime Minister of Kurdistan, attended the inauguration ceremony of the Turkish university, while neither he nor any other high-ranking officials attended the opening of any of the other university in the region, not even the American University of Iraq-Suleimaniya (AUI-S). And, of course, a Turkish firm is building the new AUI-S campus. [7]

The Gülen organisation has openly supported the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the ruling party in present-day Turkey. It is a highly religious movement, believing in the theories of the most influential Islamic thinker in Turkish Republican history, Said-i-Nursi, who was a Kurd. Hence, they are using the religious background in an attempt to turn the Kurds into state puppets.

‘The AKP and Gülen share a common vision of how to solve the Kurdish problem,’ says Hakan Tahmaz, the author of a book on the Kurds. ‘Both use the rhetoric of a Golden Age at the time of the Ottoman Empire, when Turks and Kurds were united by their Muslim faith.’

The Gülen movement has ties to various Turkish media outlets including the newspaper Zaman and the TV channel Samanyolu TV. Until 2006, Zaman used euphemisms such as ‘eastern tribes’ to refer to the Kurds. Samanyolu TV airs programmes such as Tel Türkiye (One Turkey), which reflect a similar position. Liberal Islamist intellectual Serdar Yilmaz compared Tel Türkiye to the modernist ideology of the early Republic. ‘It doesn’t ask why villagers are sceptical of the newcomer, or why they support the PKK. It presents them as imbeciles who can only be sorted out by an enlightened westerner,’ he said.

The fundamental aim of the Gülen Movement and its schools, Yilmaz adds, is to create ‘moral, obedient citizens.’ Hence their interest in the Kurds. ‘For them, the Kurds are the [Turkish] Republic’s naughty children who need to be taught proper manners.’ [8]

Fezalar's Selahadin Ayyubi College

With this knowledge, why do the Kurds in the South, and especially the elites, allow their children to be taught by the Turks when they think that Kurdish should be annihilated? When speaking it is enough to be labelled a ‘terrorist’? When members of parliament turn on their colleagues for using it? When it is still considered a ‘non-existent’ or ‘unknown’ language? When towns and villages and even animals names have been changed? When Kurdish letters of the alphabet are banned? When Kurdish channels and publications run the risk of closure and Kurdish writers and journalists are put behind bars for hundreds of years?

As a rightfully worried writer stated: ‘What’s bad is to fill Kurdistan with only one type of investment…Turkish. For a day to come in which [the Turks] seize what is behind and in front of the Kurds, for a time to come in which our children forget how to say kaka and replace it with kardeş. Hence, we will lose the whole of Kurdistan not just Kirkuk…It seems like this excessive “goodwill” from the Kurds will become a nightmare for eternity…The balance must be restored to its natural condition before Kurds become strangers in their own Kurdistan.’ [9]

While it seems like Turkey has been able to completely integrate the Kurdistan region through economic and cultural means, its influence politically is no less dominant, and it has also been able to direct much of the political machinations in the cities which lie outside the borders of Kurdistan region, namely Kirkuk and Mosul, hence completing its dominance over the region once called Mosul Vilayet.

In a recent article ‘Ankara’s Neo-Ottoman Policy’ the author also questioned Turkey’s involvement in Kirkuk. ‘Is the present dispute over Kirkuk between the Iraqi Kurds, Arabs and Turkmans or between the Iraqi Kurds and Ankara? While Ankara tells Iraqis that they “cannot impose a solution on the others [Turkmans],” it turns around and dictates its own solution on them by calling for a special status for Kirkuk in order to empower its Turkman proxies in Iraq.’ [10]

Turkey’s role in Kirkuk and its influence on the decisions of political issues in the city were explained earlier, but what is also worth noting is that in 2003, the previous Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yaşar Yakış stated that Turkey wants a representative of its own in the Iraqi government that will be established after the fall of Saddam Hussein. ‘Because we know the people involved better than anyone and we can stop the Americans from making mistakes,’ Yakış explained. [11]

In fact Turkey already had a representative in Iraq, namely the ITF (Iraqi Turkmen Front), a Turkish political puppet-party that was founded by the Turkish army in 1995 with all its usual anti-Kurdish slogans and decisions made and refined in Ankara but publicised and implemented in Iraq. [12] [13] [14]

And through its influence, Turkey with its puppets has played significant roles in delaying the national census and Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution. They also have increased tensions amongst the ethnic groups of the city who had previously coexisted peacefully for centuries.

Turkey is also heavily supporting the anti-Kurdish Al-Hadba party in Mosul in various ways. For instance, Turkey is working on opening a satellite TV channel for al-Hadba. As one politician clarified: ‘Since 2003 and the fall of Saddam Hussein, Turkey has worked effectively to organise nationalist Arabs in Mosul with the aim of using them against Kurdish power in the province; moreover, Turkey also seeks to control the province’s economy, which has been very successful.’

Al-Hadba political poster from 2010 elections

This politician also mentioned that most of the support for al-Hadba comes from the Turkish consulate in Mosul, which Turkey opened after 2003. ‘Until recently, Turkey’s only consulate in all Iraq was in Mosul city…the Turkish consul in Mosul is the true governor of Mosul.’

Turkey’s support for al-Hadba was also mentioned in the WikiLeaks cables. An April 2009 cable noted that Turkey ‘played an unhelpful role in recent Iraqi provincial elections through its clandestine financial support of the anti-Kurdish al-Hadba Gathering.’ [15]

It is also worth noting that today there are 13 permanent Turkish military bases as well as 3,235 Turkish officers, spies and gendarmerie inside KRG territory, with all sorts of military equipment ranging from BKC guns to armoured vehicles and tanks. These bases were established in early 1990s to carry out military activities, intelligence gathering and spying and they still seem to function and operate their anti-Kurdish agendas from inside Kurdistan. [16]

In late December 2010, Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan denied the existence of Kurdish nationality and language in his country when he said, ‘[t]here is one and only one language in this country and this is Turkish. There is one and only one nationality and this is the Turkish nationality. There is one and only one flag and this is the Turkish flag.’

This is the kind of rhetoric that has dominated Turkish-nationalist discourse since independence. As a result, massacres, genocides and total annihilation have been the only policy the Turks have utilised against the Kurds. As such, one must wonder why the KRG greets such Turkish invasions with open arms, and whether the Turkish stance will be any less-nationalistic, chauvinist and fascist towards Kurds across the border.

There are nationalist slogans posted as you enter the cities of Diyarbakır and Van such as ‘Happy is he who calls himself a Turk’ or ‘Be proud of being a Turk!’ It is not impossible to envision the day when upon entering Suleimaniya and Erbil visitors may be greeted with signs like ‘A Turk equals the universe’ or ‘A Turk among humans is like a lion among animals!’

In all regards, it almost seems like total dominance by the Turks in the Kurdistan region is imminent. The census and Article 140 have been delayed repeatedly because of Turkish interference in Iraqi internal politics. Turkmen (ITF) have been used against the Kurds in Kirkuk. And in Mosul, Turkish influence seems to be on the rise. A local politician remarked how he occasionally heard from Arab sheikhs close to al-Hadba praising the Ottoman Empire and remarking that ‘Mosul had a golden time when it was under the Ottoman Empire,’ and ‘they don’t mind if Mosul is again controlled by Turkey.’ [15]

Turkish Consul, Aydın Selcen, says about Turks and Kurds: '...our past, our cultural heritage and even our DNA is common.'

Aydın Selcen, Turkey’s General Consul in Erbil, has said: ‘Turks and Kurds have lived together for a thousand years, and they created a common culture and a common heritage together. Their past is common and their future is also in common…we have many things in common. Our frontier is common, but also our past, our cultural heritage and even our DNA is common.’ He also pointed out there is a common language between the two nations. [17]

This, of course, is absurd. It seems as though they are once again trotting out the old Turkish myths about ‘brotherly coexistence.’ And how can the ancient Hurro-Median history of the Kurds have commonalities with the more contemporary history of the Turks of a different geographic origin? For that matter, Kurdish is an Indo-European language while Turkish belongs to the Altaic family. In fact everything about Kurdish culture is different from that of the Turks. If there is commonality, it is the result of assimilation that the Turks have carried out in the North for more than a century. And it is already in covert motion in the South. What will be next then? The announcement of Sun Language Theory 2.0?

In conclusion, the fact must be clarified that no one is against friendly diplomatic and economic ties between any two countries or nations, so long as they are based on mutual respect and mutual interest, aimed at helping each other to develop, guaranteeing respect and each other’s sovereignty. But the case here is completely different. Turkey is trying to establish a stranglehold in Kurdistan to drain its goods, undermine its sovereignty and ultimately crush its rightful hope for freedom and liberty. The Turks, showing their forte in hypocrisy, on one side pretend to help the region rebuild itself with ‘investments,’ and on the other, support and push other ethnic minorities and nationalist groups to stand against the Kurds’ rightful demands for freedom.

Map of 'Turkey' on CD-Rom prepared by Istanbul’s provincial education directorate. A harbinger of Turkey's grand vision for the region?

What is most surprising is that it seems that the KRG tolerates and in fact, even supports this insidious spread of the cultural and political dominance of a nation notorious for its abusive manners and practices towards Kurds for centuries. A message from a representative of Barzani in 2003 stated: ‘We welcome the Americans and are waiting for them to liberate Iraq, but if they end up bringing a Turkish occupation instead of Saddam Hussein, we may be forced to fight.’ [11]

What seems to be the fact these days is that they themselves are bringing a Turkish occupation on the Kurds of the South and sponsoring it wholeheartedly. Some have falsely interpreted the recent developments perhaps to assuage Turkish tensions with the KRG. But even in a scenario where Kurdistan one day gains independence with the blessings of Turkey, it will still be captive to Turkish dominance due to the KRG’s extreme and singular reliance on Turkey. This would render independence futile, for Kurdistan would be at the mercy of the Turks and have to rely on the not-so-gracious hands of the Turks for decades to come.

In the end, despite all the preposterous remarks made by the Turkish Consul in Erbil, he was right in one thing when he said: ‘[in the next three years] the frontier dividing us will be rendered obsolete.’ Indeed, in the near and foreseeable future, the Kurdistan region may end up, just as the Mosul Vilayet was, a fully integrated part of Turkey in everything but name.


[1] Education minister to attend conference in Arbil. Today’s Zaman, 14 December 2010.

[2] Turkish National Education Minister in Irbil. The Free Library, 15 December 2010.

[3] Turkish National Education Minister Cubukcu in Irbil (video). Cihan Medya, 14 December 2010.

[4] Gülerce, Hüseyin. Turkish Schools in Northern Iraq. Today’s Zaman (via Fetullah Gülen’s Website), 14 November 2007.

[5] van Wilgenburg, Vladimir. “They taught us how great Turkey is”. Kurdnet, 29 August 2006.

[6] Turkish school to open in Halabja. AKNews, 25 August 2010.

[7] Acar, Yusuf. Northern Iraq’s first Turkish university opens. Today’s Zaman, 25 November 2008.

[8] Turkey: The Country’s Biggest Religious Movement Educates Kurds, and not Everyone Is Happy. EurasiaNet, 02 March 2009.

[9] Talabani, Abdul Wahab. اليس غريبا؟! الاتراك يطورون التربية والتعليم في كوردستان. PYD Rojava.

[10] Ahmed, Mohammed M.A. Ankara’s Neo-Ottoman Policy. KurdishMedia, 16 January 2011.

[11] Bar’el, Zvi. Nightmare scenarios for all. Ha’aretz, 28 February 2003.

[12] An Evaluation of Turkey’s Turkmen policy: (Part I) The unconstructive role of the Iraqi Turkmen Front in the Turkmen Policy. Iraqi Turkmen Journal, 27 March 2009.

[13] Alasor, Roni. Kirkuk Meeting without Kurdish representatives!!! Kurdish Institute of Brussels, 03 July 2008.

[14] Iraq’s Neighbors: Help or Hindrance? United States Institute of Peace.

[15] Turkey meddles in Mosul province. Kurdish Globe, 25 December 2010.

[16] Iraqi Kurdish Paper Says Turkish Military Bases Inside Kurdistan Region. iStockAnalyst, 01 August 2008.

[17] In all aspects our relations will diversify, deepen and expand. The Kurdish Globe, 08 January 2011.

7 thoughts on “Reclaiming the Mosul Vilayet: Turkey’s economic, cultural and political re-occupation of Kurdistan, Part Two

  1. Are these the Gulen Movement (Hizmet) operated schools?
    Without a doubt the goals with these schools are Turkification. To push Turkish language and culture and expand very quickly.
    Around the world there is estimated to be 1,000 Gulen Turkish schools. In the USA there are 122 that are under the charter school format.
    Europe wants these schools GONE.

  2. Kulka this is from about a Kurdish community leader who follows Gulen.

    Board Member of Fulton Science Academy and
    proposed Cape Fear STEM School:
    “Yes, I am a Fethullah follower”

    According to his CV, Cevdet Akbay was a member of the Governing Board of Fulton Science Academy (a Gulen charter school in the Atlanta, Georgia area) from 2003-2007. On Fulton’s IRS 990 forms, he is shown on the list of board members for the years 2002, 2005 and 2006; for reasons unknown his name is not shown on these forms for the years 2003, 2004 and 2007. Akbay is listed as a board member in the 2006 charter renewal proposal for the Fulton Science Academy middle school.

    Akbay was also on the Governing Board of TEACH (Technology Enriched Accelerated Charter High), which has since changed its name to Fulton Science Academy High School, from 2006-2007, according to his CV.

    Cevdet Akbay is also named as a board member of Cape Fear Education Services, which is currently applying to open a new charter school in North Carolina named Cape Fear STEM School.

    In a news article by ODATV, a Turkish media outlet, Cevdet Akbay is quoted as saying that he is a follower of Fethullah Gulen. The article, in the original Turkish, can be viewed on ODATV’s website. The accompanying photo and biographical information about Akbay leave no doubt that this is the same individual involved in these charter schools. The title of the article, “Evet, ben Fethullahciyim,” translates to “Yes, I’m a Fethullah follower.” An English translation of this article is given below.

    English translation of ODATV article:


    An Internet site called Nasname engages in pro-KDP activities among the European Kurds. There are two entities that Nasname primarily targets. One is the Turkish military. Every day, the site publishes tens of insults directed at the army and the soldiers. Yet, unlike Youtube, it is not banned because, surprisingly, no public prosecutor has acted on that yet. The other target of the site is the present Kurdish Movement. Nasname accuses the current Kurdish Movement of being associated with Ergenekon. What is interesting is that much of its criticism overlaps with that of the Zaman daily. What is more, the Internet site frequently uses news published in the community media.

    Now, why does this mouthpiece of Kurdish origin criticize the present Kurdish Movement?

    The answer to this question can be found in the publication policy of the website. The site generally supports activities of the community among the Kurds. The most outspoken person on the subject, who does not deny his connections with the community, is Cevdet Akbay.

    Community connection

    Akbay’s own personal website hosts a Bediuzzaman section. Cevdet Akbay frequently pens articles that support the Gulen Community and its activities among the Kurds. Akbay supports the so-called Ergenekon Operation, and draws attention to his lunatic theses. What is more, these theses then are published in the media organs of the community under various pseudonyms.

    Akbay has an interesting biography…

    Akbay, who has been active with the community since early ages, graduated from the Chemistry Teaching Department of the Malatya Inonu University. After graduation, Akbay was appointed to Malatya Imam Hatip High School. Here, Akbay became active in community organizing and went to the U.S. in 1993 on a state scholarship that postulated a requirement for him to work at Celal Bayar University upon his return. However, there was a little problem. Akbay did not speak English. So he first took English courses in Texas, also paid by state scholarship. For 7 months Akbay stayed in Texas, where the community is very active, and then started his education at Louisiana State University. However, at the time, Akbay intensified his reactionary activities while his academic achievements were lacking. He failed to complete his studies in the allocated time, and his scholarship was consequently cancelled. Akbay had a choice of either compensating the state or completing his obligatory service at the university. He worked at Celal Bayar University for a while, and then went back to the United States.

    Connected with Alper Gormus

    Akbay completed his Ph.D. in the Unites States, and worked at Georgia University for two years. Here, Akbay continued with his pro-community activities. Currently, Akbay works as an assistant professor at Fayetteville State University, located in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and helps pro-community students from Turkey to stay in the university.

    Akbay’s connection with Alper Gormus, a columnist of the Taraf daily, was revealed by Gormus himself. Gormus accused Ali Suat Ertosun, a member of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors of Turkey, of being associated with the killing of Mustafa Duyar, the hitman in the Ozdemir Sabanci assassination, and based his claims on information provided by Akbay.

    Many readers of the Nasname website comment on Akbay’s connections with the community, and Akbay does not deny this connection.

    On August 20, 2008, Akbay wrote: “I wonder who among the Kurds was harmed in any way by this community, I really wonder. Who is closer to the Kurds, Dogu Perincek or Fethullah Hodja? Who has been friendlier to the Kurds, coup-plotting military men or Fethullah Hodja? Who has harmed the Kurds the most, Fethullah Hodja or Abdullah Ocalan? The way I see it, a thousand Fethullah Hodjas combined could not harm the Kurds as much as Abdullah Ocalan did. So, I do not understand this obsession with Fethullah Hodja, this hostility towards him.”

    Yes, I am a Fethullah follower

    In the remainder of the article, Akbay writes: “If we were to use this wider perspective when looking at the events, I would say, even though I do not have any organic connections with the community, that, yes, I am a Fethullah follower.”

    Akbay, who writes that he supports Gulen Movement’s activities among the Kurds, frequently insults the military. Many of those in Kurdish circles claim now that Akbay is the community’s arm among the Kurds.


    Explanatory notes:
    (1) The word “community” is a translation of “cemaat,” the Turkish word often used to refer to the Fethullah Gulen Community.
    (2) KDP is the acronym of the Kurdistan Democratic Party.
    (3) The youtube website has indeed been banned in Turkey for political reasons.
    (4) Imam hatip schools are Turkish religious schools, originally founded to train imams (preachers).
    (5) Abdullah Ocalan is a leader of the Kurdish separatist movement. Kurdish cultural identity has been severely repressed in the Turkish Republic, and Kurdish uprisings have resulted in decades of violence. The issue of the Kurds, who constitute approximately 18% of the Turkish population, looms large in Turkey.
    (6) “Hodja” is an honorific title that Fethullah Gulen’s followers use for their leader.

  3. whats going on? i know all politics is dirty and many times completly out of any understanding for me. but i wonder whats going on with our people? Kurds shouldnt let anyone to mess aroung within kurdish nation.

  4. Interesting insight Umit. Yes, The Gulen movement and its schools have reached every corner of the world spreading their propaganda about Turkish Nationalism and their version of Islam.

    A recent article (First class Revolution: From Medina to Mecca – also examined the same situation with a lot of scrutiny, here are some parts of it;

    “he [Gulen] is negotiating with U.S. companies and foundations to give money to Gulenist charter schools. They teach children to be Turkish: to think Turkish, to see history through the Turkish perspective, and to learn their way of life and version of Islam”

    “To those who think Turkey is becoming a more liberal democracy, they should consider the truth that Turkey has replaced one of its untouchable organizations for another: the military for the Gülen’s community and the AKP party. Rather than being tolerate, they are dangerous”

    “The Turkish Olympiad is teaching the Turkish language, dancing, and singing in charter schools, and then providing the better students with a trip to Turkey for a grand finale to show internationally how Turkish is the language of love and peace”

    “Why did Gulenist at the onetime praise the army, when they also argued that the army and its leader were engaging in secret affairs? Then the Gulenists demanded that the Kurdish people should apologize to the Military, because the one time Kurdish leader Leyla Zana said the military was responsible for all the illegal activities and kidnapping of people in southeastern Turkey”

    “They are manipulating the press, buying politicians, and courting academics. Even a casual perusal of the Niagara Foundation, the Raindrop Turkish Houses, or the Rumi Foundation will show accurate information”

    “These schools and teachers promote one thing– Turkish nationalism–and indoctrinate students in the Turkish brand of Islam. They boast about winning awards, but the only ones they win are in contests that the Gulen movement and their own foundations sponsor, for example, the Turkish Olympiad, the Science Olympiad, and Math challenges. The educational initiative of charter schools is a platform and business for them because they can manage it very cheaply and make the numbers look good”

    Apart from the schools, we don’t have to forget the Turkish economical and political dominance in S.Kurdistan as well. Nowadays, the Turks are the main “investors” in the area, having complete control over the business-sector in the region, and also their influence on the internal Iraqi decision-making is increasing rapidly. KRG should heed and plan carefully on how to approach this extreme threat on the Kurdish people.

  5. Look where we are now. It seems your prediction was right. Kurds are being slaughtered by Turkey and its proxies in a orgy of ethnic cleansing across Rojava as their cousins in Basur look on with unease but bound fast by the Ottoman chain of old.

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