Creating new perspectives since 2009

Turkish added to official languages in Iraq’s Kirkuk

September 24, 2023 at 2:10 pm

Turkish inscriptions are seen on Kirkuk Governorate Building in Kirkuk, Iraq on September 21, 2023 [Ali Makram Ghareeb/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images]

The Turkish language has joined Arabic and Kurdish in becoming an official language of the multi-ethnic Iraqi city of Kirkuk.

The Governorate of Kirkuk made the announcement on Thursday confirming that Turkish will once again become an official language in official correspondence. In March, the Iraqi government made Turkish an official administrative language, following requests by Turkmen parliamentarians and pressure from neighbouring Turkiye who had described the marginalisation of the community as a violation of their fundamental rights and of the country’s Constitution.

Turkiye’s Anadolu Agency quoted Mervan Al-Ani, an official from the Kirkuk provincial governor’s office who said “The use of the Turkish language in Kirkuk is a constitutional right.”

While Arabic and Kurdish are the two official languages of Iraq, according to the Constitution, Turkish and Syriac are considered official languages in administrative areas where speakers constitute a significant population.

According to Hurriyet, since the announcement, Kirkuk, which has a sizeable Turkmen population has already seen signs containing Turkish displayed around the city.

WATCH: Can language and photography bring us together? MEMO in Conversation with Fadi BouKaram ‘Cedrusk’

The decision to adopt Turkish as an official language had been made in 2008 but had faced delays. Chairman of the Turkmen Group in the Iraqi Parliament Ersat Salihi, a longtime critic of the stalled move urged the “using the Turkish language, the mother tongue of the Turkmens, in official institution signs, correspondences, and seals,” in a letter sent on 11 September to Rakan Al-Jabouri, the governor of Kirkuk.

“Turkish will be used as the primary language in the city. With Governor Rakan al-Janouri’s decision, different languages are being used concurrently in Kirkuk. Everyone should coexist in unity, and it is the legal right of everyone to learn their own language,” Al-Ani said.

Earlier this month the city witnessed civil unrest with ethnic clashes pitting Arabs and Turkmen against Kurdish supporters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), following a decision made by Iraq’s highest court to return the KDP headquarters in the city to the party after federal police seized the building following the military’s reclaiming of the strategic city in 2017.

OPINION: Unlike Iran and Turkiye, Iraq and Syria are vulnerable to Kurdish separatism