Learn more about Iraqi Turkmen
The Iraqi Turkmen (also spelled Turkoman) are a distinct Turkic ethnic group living in northern Iraq, notably in the cities of Arbil, Kirkuk, and Mosul. Like the Assyrians, they claim to be the third largest ethnic group in the country (following the Arabs and the Kurds). However, estimates of their numbers vary dramatically, from 222,000 <ref name="countrystudy02">Helen Chapin Metz and the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. Iraq: A Country Study, p. 86.</ref> to 2,000,000. <ref>Adherents.com - Iraq</ref>
The Turkmen of Iraq are not to be confused with the Turkmen of Central Asia who reside primarily in Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. Iraqi Turkmen form a distinct group within the Oghuz Turk classification which includes Ottoman Turks and modern Turkey Turks living mainly in Anatolia. They are also referred to as Turkomans, Turcomans, or Turkmans.
The Iraqi Turkmen speak a dialect of Turkish that is heavily influenced by Arabic, Kurdish and Ottoman Turkish. Ethnologue and Linguasphere classify their spoken language as a form of South Azerbaijani, thus making them linguistically closer of the Azeris of Azerbaijan and northern Iran. For their written language, they use the standard Latin-influenced Turkish alphabet. <ref>The Iraqi Turkomans: Who They Are And What They Want, Radio Free Europe</ref> They are evenly split between Sunni and Shia Islam by faith. <ref>http://iussp2005.princeton.edu/download.aspx?submissionId=50067</ref>
The origin of the Iraqi Turkmen dates back to the Seljuk Empire in 11th century. Most of the Turkmen living in the region settled in northern Iraq during the early Seljuk period, when Turks migrated from Central Asia (Turkestan) to Anatolia, Iran and Iraq. A recent addition to this population stock was by the Ottoman Empire who brought some Turks from Anatolia to the region to secure and transport mail from Baghdad to Istanbul and vice versa in the 18th century. Others were sent to the region by the Ottomans to repel tribal raids. <ref name="countrystudy01">Helen Chapin Metz and the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. Iraq: A Country Study, p. 85.</ref> These groups settled at the entrances of the valleys that gave them access to Kurdish-dominated areas. This historic role of pacification has led to the development of strained relations between the Turkmen and the Kurds. <ref name="countrystudy02" /> With the rise of Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath domination over Iraq, a policy of Arabization was imposed on the Turkmen and the rest of Iraq's non-Arab minorities. It was declared in the constitution that schools were prohibited from using the Turkish language and banned Turkish-language media in Iraq. In the 1980s, Saddam prohibited the public use of the Turkish language completely.
 Present status
Although some have been able to preserve their language, the Iraqi Turkmen today are being rapidly assimilated into the general population and are no longer tribally organized. <ref name="countrystudy02" /> With the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003, tensions between the Kurds and the Turkmen grew substantially. As a result, Kirkuk soon became the only violent non-Arab city in Iraq during the Iraq War.
Iraqi Turkmen have also emerged as a key political force in the controversy over the future status of northern Iraq and the Kurdish Autonomous Region. The government of Turkey has helped fund such political organizations as the Iraqi Turkmen Front, which opposes Iraqi federalism and in particular the proposed annexation of Kirkuk to the Kurdistan Regional Government. <ref>Kurds Accused Of Rigging Kirkuk Vote, Al Jazeera</ref>
Tensions between the two groups over Kirkuk, however, have slowly died down and on January 30, 2006, the President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, said that the "Kurds are working on a plan to give Iraqi Turkmen autonomy in areas where they are a majority in the new constitution they're drafting for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq."<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
According to Zaman Daily Newspaper <ref>Interesting Outcomes in Iraqi Election, Zaman Daily Newspaper</ref>, some ten Turkmen individuals were elected to the transitional National Assembly of Iraq in January 2005, including five on the United Iraqi Alliance list, three from the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF), and two from the Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan.
In the December 2005 elections, about five Turkmen candidates were elected to the Council of Representatives, according to the ITF <ref>Turkmens Win Only One Seat in Kerkuk, Iraqi Turkmen Front</ref>. This included one candidate from the ITF (its leader Sadettin Ergec) and an estimated four candidates from other parties.