Iraqi Turkmen genocide
Part of 2014 Northern Iraq offensive and the War in Iraq (2013–2017)
A local anti-IS militia in the Shia Turkmen town of Qara Tapa
Date1 August 2014 – 31 August 2017[1]
TargetIraqi Turkmen
Attack type
Genocidal massacre, ethnic cleansing, forced conversion, Genocidal rape, Sexual slavery
VictimsAt least 2,200 to 3,500 killed, over 600,000 displaced,[2] around 4,900 missing[3]
Perpetrators Islamic State
MotiveAnti-Turkish sentiment (alleged by Iraqi Turkmen and human rights organizations),[4][5] human trafficking

The Iraqi Turkmen genocide refers to the series of killings, rapes, executions, expulsions, and sexual slavery of Iraqi Turkmen by the Islamic State.[6] It began when ISIS captured Iraqi Turkmen lands in 2014 and it continued until ISIS lost all of their land in Iraq. In 2017, ISIS's persecution of Iraqi Turkmen was officially recognized as a genocide by the Parliament of Iraq,[7][8] and in 2018, the sexual slavery of Iraqi Turkmen girls and women was recognized by the United Nations.[9][10]

Background and lead-up

Iraqi Turkmen

Iraqi Turkmen are the third largest ethnic group in Iraq. They are of Turkic descent and live in the Turkmeneli historical region, surrounded by Arabs to the south and Kurds to the north.[11]: 313  They are divided almost evenly between Sunni and Shia which played a big part in their persecution. Both Sunni and Shia Turkmens were targeted in the genocide.[12] They have previously been the targets of massacres such as the Altun Kupri massacre, Gavurbağı massacre, 1959 Kirkuk massacre, and 1924 Kirkuk massacre.


During the June 2014 Northern Iraq offensive, ISIS captured many lands that are Turkmen-majority or have significant Turkmen populations, such as Mosul, Talafar, Tikrit and parts of Kirkuk and Diyala provinces.[13]


In June 2014, when ISIS's army first captured Talafar, it abducted 1,300 Iraqi Turkmen, around 700 men, 470 women and 130 children. The ITF stated that only 42 of the 1,300 have returned, with the rest never being seen again.[14] 300 Turkmen were massacred then.[15] Turkmen houses were burnt down, their livestock was stolen and many were forced to flee.[16] In September 2014, at least 350,000 Turkmen, majority from Tal Afar, became displaced. They were in danger of starvation.[17] Since the attacks, around 90 percent of Talafar's Turkmens have fled, according to residents and local activists.[18] Mahdi al-Bayati, the former Iraqi Minister of Human Rights and spokesperson for the Turkmen Rescue Foundation, claimed that the number of Turkmen refugees rose to 600,000 in February 2017.[19] Mehdi al-Beyati also claimed that every Turkmen region's infrastructure was badly damaged by ISIS.[20]

On 9 June, 15 Turkmen prisoners from Talafar were killed by ISIL in Mosul. After the bombing of a Shia mosque in the same town, many people fled the city and nine refugees were killed.[21] 65 children from the Yezidi and Turkmen communities were left in an orphanage in Mosul, who were traumatized from witnessing their parents murder. Some of these children were sexually abused.[22]

On June 16, 2014, ISIS massacred at least 40 Turkmen from 4 different locations (Chardaghli, Karanaz, Beshir, Biravchi), all near the city of Kirkuk.[23][21] ISIS was also again accused of targeting Turkmens for their ethnicity.[5][24] A day after, another 52 Turkmen were killed in Beshir, and according to locals, the massacre was again ethnically motivated.[25] The same location suffered again once in 18 June and between 20 and 21 June, killing five and then 17 civilians.[26] According to a witness from Beshir, 700 Turkmens were massacred in the town.[27] In 2014 June, ISIL abducted 26 Shia Turkmen from Al-Shamsiyat village.[21] During the same month, Shia Turkmens fled from Al-Kibba and Shraikhan after threats from ISIL.[28] Many Turkmen residents of the villages Talafar, Bashir, Biravchi and Karanaz also fled after receiving more letters from the jihadists.[29]

On 18 June during the clashes between ISIL and Iraqi Ground Forces between the towns Amirli and Tuz, at least 20 Turkmen civilians were killed.[26] During the siege of Amirli, 150 people lost their lives due to the harsh conditions, including 50 children and 10 new borns.[30] After Amirli's fall in 2014, the town's electricity, food and water supplies were cut. Dozens lost their lives, including pregnant women, before a humanitarian aid was delivered. Homes and schools, as well as mosques in Karanaz, Chardaghli and Biravchi were burnt down.[31]

On June 23, ISIS abducted at least 75 Turkmen from the areas of Guba, Shrikhan, and Talafar. Only 2 bodies were found, in a valley north of Guba. They were likely executed. 950 Turkmen families fled the areas after ISIS demanded them to leave.[32][33] In the same villages three Shiite places of worship were dynamited,[34] and 25 people died during the attacks.[35] On 7 August 100 Turkmen men were executed in Sinjar.[22]

An estimated 600 Turkmen women total were captured and used as sex slaves by ISIS. Around 400–500 of them were sent to ISIS makeshift prisons in Syria. In February 2018, a group of women protested outside of a UN Human Rights Office in Kirkuk. They held signs and demanded the Iraqi government to do something to recover around 450 missing Turkmen women, although the protest was ignored.[36] Hasan Turan, leader of the ITF, feared that if the Turkmen women were to return, they would likely become victims of honor killings by their families. He stated that "Many girls won't return, and I can only hope their families still accept them if they return. They are the victims." Later in 2018, the UN finally recognized the sexual slavery of Turkmen women.[9][37] An unnamed Turkmen woman, from the small town of al-Alam near Tikrit, who survived ISIS, told BBC Turkish that ISIS separated the single girls from the married women, and began to rape the single girls in front of everyone. ISIS also raped the town's Turkmen-language teacher to the point that she died as a result.[38] Many Iraqi Turkmen and human rights organizations stated that the Islamic State's genocide on Iraqi Turkmen was fueled by Anti-Turkism.[39][40]

Children were also victims of kidnapping usually for training reasons. In Nineveh on 13 March, 25 Turkmen children between 10 and 17 years old were kidnapped from the Bara'am orphanage and sent to children training camps in Talafar.[41]

In March, a mass grave belonging to 16 Turkmen was found in Bashir, near Kirkuk.[42] Again on March, ISIL executed 9 Turkmen widows in Qara Quyan, Nineveh, whose husbands were killed by jihadists. The reason for their execution was their refusal to marry ISIS fighters.[43] In Biravcili village, ISIL kidnapped two Turkmens after killing 23 residents of the village. In Guba and Shrikhan, 60 Turkmen boys and men were abducted. On the same month, a young Turkmen named Erhan Camci was kidnapped from his house in Kirkuk.[29]

A year later during August 2015 in Mosul, ISIS publicly executed 700 Iraqi Turkmen, accusing them of apostasy.[44]

A single 2015 ISIS car bombing in Saladin province took the lives of 40 Turkmen. The ITF stated that the ISIS attacks on Iraqi Turkmens was a strategic ethnic cleansing campaign.[4] 540 Turkmen civilians from Tal Afar went missing, including 125 women, again at the hands of ISIS, and only 22 of them were found again.[45]

3,000 Turkmen fled the town of Amerli in summer 2015. In late 2015, 1,500 Turkmen families (7,500 individuals) found refuge in Karbala.[46]

Taza Khurmatu was attacked with chemical weapons on 8 March killing three and injuring 1,500. 25,000 fled from the town. In the same year, the village of Beshir was also attacked with chemical weapons.[47][48] 90% of Beshir was destroyed during its retake in 2016, including 250 houses.[49] In the Turkmen village of Bashir, 9 women were kidnapped, raped and hung on lampposts in public. In the same village a 12-year-old girl was gang raped and hung on an electricity pole. When the Turkmen residents tried to bring her body, 15 men were killed with sniper fire from ISIS. Rape cases were recorded after the fall of Tuz Khurmatu on June as well.[50]

On January a mass grave in Rashidiya, near Mosul was found by Iraqi Armed Forces. The grave belonged to 27 massacred Turkmen men and boys. Their bodies had traces of torture.[51] In 2017, the number of Turkmen women, girls and children that went missing rose to 1,200.[20] In 2018, 100 more went missing.[52]

Destruction of heritage

Further information: Destruction of cultural heritage by the Islamic State

ISIL is responsible for the destruction of historical artifacts that were important to Iraqi Turkmen. Many century-old mosques, whether Sunni or Shia, as well as libraries were destroyed. The oldest library in Tal Afar was blown up, while another library with over 1,500 historical books in Diyala was destroyed. Among the destroyed artifacts were the Mausoleum of Yahya Abu al-Qasim (built in 1293 by the Zengids, destroyed in 2014), the Mausoleum of Imam Awn Al-Din (built in 1248 by the Zengids, destroyed in 2014), the Shrine of Qadib Al-Ban Mosuli (built by the Atabegs of Mosul, destroyed in 2014), the Al-Imam Muhsin Mosque (built by the Seljuks, severely damaged in 2015), the Great Mosque of al-Nuri (built in 1172 by the Zengids, destroyed in 2017), the Imam al-Baher Mosque (built in 1259, destroyed in 2014), and the Mosque of the Pasha (built in 1881 by the Ottomans, destroyed).[33]

See also


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  7. ^ "albarlaman aleiraqiu yuetabar jarayim "daeish" bihaqi alturkuman 'iibadat jamaeiatan" البرلمان العراقي يعتبر جرائم "داعش" بحق التركمان إبادة جماعية [The Iraqi Parliament considers ISIS crimes against the Turkmen to be genocide]. (in Arabic). Archived from the original on 13 August 2023. Retrieved 10 November 2023.
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