Is Iraq an Arab Country?
Islam Online reports a heated debate in Iraq and in the Interim Governing Council over whether Iraq should be identified in the Fundamental Law (the interim constitution) as an Arab state. Iraq’s population is about 24 million, probably. Some 65 % or 15.6 million are Shiite Arabs. Another 15% or 3.6 million are Sunni Arabs. That’s 80% of the country. The remaining 20% is probably split this way: 2% Chaldeans and Assyrians, many of whom speak Aramaic as their mother tongue; 2% Turkmen who speak a Turkic language; and 16% Kurds. (Iraqi audiences don’t like to hear these kinds of social statistics, but this is the best I can do right now, and it is highly unlikely that there are millions of Turkmen, or that Kurds are a fourth of the population, as both claim. If you add all the percentages up according to ethnic claims they come to 160% of Iraq’s population!) Anyway, the point is that Iraq is probably 80% Arabophone, and the minorities all speak Arabic as a national language. It would not be strange to have Iraq declare itself an “Arab” country, and it certainly will be a member of the Arab League. (It is very nearly as “Arab” as Israel is “Jewish”–15% of Israelis are Muslim, Christian, and Druze Arabs). But Saddam did so much psychic and political damage in the name of Arabism that the Kurds and Turkmen have come deeply to dislike the concept. We may be witnessing the beginnings of the first multiculturalist politics in an Arab country.
Meanwhile, ash-Sharq al-Awsat reports that Sami Donmoz, leader of the Turkmen Islamic Movement in Iraq, issued a statement rejecting and denouncing the current draft of the Fundamental Law on the grounds that it makes no explicit mention of the existence or the rights of the Turkmen people of Iraq.