KIRKUK POETS Iraq Turkoman Poets


Dr. Shemsettin KÜZECİ

We have discovered with regret that, there has been no wide spread research undertaken neither in Iraq, Turkey nor in any other country in relation to Iraq Turkoman Literature. It is very well known that during the Saddam regime there was no free press and no research that could be considered as political would be allowed to be carried out. However, the insufficiency of studies was thoughtful in countries where we embraced a hope as they were the center of Turkish Culture, with Turkey having the leading role. The difficulties of obtaining newspapers, magazines, books and other materials from the Iraqi Turkoman people as well as the barriers in front of the distribution of healthy information flow are understandable to some degree.

The scientists who are just a few in numbers have made some claims in reference to origins of Turks. It is well known that Seljuk Dynasty transported military forces and civilians more in the northern Iraqi regions before Malazgirt Struggle. We must take as a historical note that the Abbasid Caliphate army was constituted from Turks during the reign of Muntasır the First, the elements that are located in southern Iraq today and now and then called Shi’a Arabs are mainly Azerbaijani elements brought from Meraga by Shah Ismail. The Ottoman Turks Shifted the Turkish elements from Anatolia to here and accepted all of Iraq as a Turkish land, especially the cities of Baghdad, Kirkuk and Erbil.

This book is more related to those Iraqi Turkish poets of the last century.

The insufficiency of historical studies relating to the Iraqi Turkmans and Turkman sinking into oblivion resulted in a huge emptiness in Turkey about the Iraqi Turkman Literature.

Settlement of Turkoman in Iraq goes many years back. In large numbers, they have settled down in lands known as Iraq today during the era of Umayyad Caliphate long before the entrance of Seljuk forces into Turkey and during the course of ostentatious state evolvements in the area (674 – 54). The Turkoman’s journey from Turkistan land to the Azerbaijan and from there to the south and southwest continued for many centuries. The Governor of Kufe Haccac Bin Yusuf established an army consisting of Turkoman and allowed them to settle around Basra and Kut cities.

We do not see worthwhile to discuss many claims in relation to Turkoman concept. The Turkish Oghuz clan members are generally called “Turkoman”; and furthermore Turkoman has a meaning of courageous and brave in Turkish language. By time, they elected to settle west of Transoxiana (between the rivers of Amu Darya and Syr Darya) in Anatolia and Iraq they have led the way for the evolution of new cultures and new states.

Turkoman language (correctly stated as Turkoman dialect) is part of the Western Oghuz Language, and today spoken mainly in Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Iraq, Syria and some part of the eastern Anatolia and the written language of Iraqis, according to Gokalp is “Istanbul Turkish”.  The view that the Sumerians which goes back seven to eight thousand years back in history were a Turkish clan has become prominent with the latest studies conducted. Even if we put the claims about the Sumerians aside for the time being, in year 54 according to the Islamic Calendar, they have been keeping this land and the Turkoman reign started in 1055 when a sermon was served for the Grand Seljuk Khan Tugrul Bey and continued almost one thousand year (till 1918).

The Turk/Turkoman clans has established their clans of Jalayirids as part of a Seljuk branch (in Erbil), Atabeys (in and around Mosul), Kipchaks clan (in Kirkuk), Ak Koyunlu (White Sheep Reigning) and Kara Koyunlu (Black Sheep Reigning). The British invasion that has put an end to Ottoman Empire, the puppet government did not recognize the Turkoman presence. From 1918 till now the regimes has changed in the territory one way or another and time to time some rights were granted to the Turkmans however the rights of Turkoman were ignored. Even today, the social and cultural rights of at least three million Turks are not mentioned in any way. Even if we do not mention about the periodical genocides the number of Turkoman in Iraq are around four millions.

Most of the Turkoman  people live in Iraq have acquired good education. One third of the Turkoman population graduated from university. The most important section of the Turkoman people lives in cities and towns. The most valuable names of the Turkish Literature have been raised on these grounds. Let’s start with the one of the seven most prestigious poets of Divan, Fuzuli, Nesimi, Mehmet Sadiki, Grandfather Hijri , Hıdır Lutfu and hundreds of more can be counted. The masters of culture and art in the latest period may be mentioned as Osman Musullu, Mustafa Cevat (Historian), Ata Terzibashı (lawyer, researcher), Abdullatif Benderoglu (journalist, writer), Ihsan Dogramaci (medical physician, Previous President of YOK), Nefi Demirci, Sakir Sabri Zabit, Erset Hurmuzlu,  Fazıl Mehdi Bayat (Researcher, writer), Abdulvahit Kuzeci, Abdurrahman Kizilay, Fethullah Altinses (Artisan), and many others…

During the Iraq Republic period (from 1918 till today) Iraqi Turkmans published hundreds of magazines, brochures and newspapers. The Kardaşlık (Brotherhood) magazine, Besir and Yurt (Native country) newspapers (the longest living publications) managed to be published despite all political pressures. With the researches conducted that put the Turkoman Culture and architecture in the foreground, destruction of many of the important cultural heritage were prevented. Gokboru minaret, Hatbaa Mosque in Mosul, Karasaray, Bastabya, Gok Minaret in Kirkuk, the Castle, Barracks, Stonebridge, red Church, etc.

What a pity that no voices raised neither in Turkish cities nor at UNESCO or any other cultural platform while what Taliban did in Afghanistan , Saudis in Jeddah, Saddam in Iraq, and Baas. Whatever is happening in the last fifteen years or so is no interest to the world public opinion.

Mostly Iraqi Turkoman’s “Contemporary Literature” was taken into consideration in this study of which in a way we have written with the anxiety of keeping the last flag at stand when Iraq and Turkoman issue in post Saddam period is talked over very frequently. Today we have been trying to convey the part of this study which includes the “Kirkuk Poets” anthology to my readers and world literature lovers.

The powerful restraints and mess murders that commenced with the British invasion increased with the war between Iraq and Iran as well as the Gulf crises and resulted in Exile Literature, and furthermore the Turkman youngsters living in different countries, especially in Turkey, has put studies that are equally as important as if they were written  in Turkoman land.

The Turkoman literature that is put forward in places other than Turkoman land is worth to be researched for its nature not only on the basis of literature but also political history and social life. The Iraqi Turkoman literature is mainly known as originating from Kirkuk and other names, born and grown in other locations were not known. The political curse and lack of communication have played a role in this aspect.

After the Gulf crisis, many magazines and newspapers have been published by means of the Turkish schools opened in Iraq especially in Erbil and hence we have determined that the new generation growing up around here have caught a new climate. While keeping this reality in mind, we tried to put together a new voice by combining all poets, writers, artists. Of course, despite all of our efforts, this study is only a starter, or even a single touch.


The Turkoman people who travelled from Central Asia and Azerbaijan to Iraq in Gregorian 674, 54 Hijri Calendar and along with their language they brought in their literature and culture as well. No doubt that the origin of Turkoman language and literature goes back to Oghuz Turks.

General Iraqi Turkoman Literature has a distinct place in Turkish literature. Needles to say, the Iraqi Turkoman Literature of course will have its unique features. The Turkoman blended with new elements after settling on the Iraqi geography and became more urbanized. Therefore it is just natural to have an emerging new literature. Unfortunately written documents pointing out the early settlement days are not found. There is no poetry or writing found from those poets and writers that are thought to be prior to Nesimi, Fuzuli and Ruhi.

It is determined that no Iraqi Turkoman poet or writer was nurtured until the period in which Imadettin Nesimi el-Bagdadi lived (1370-1417).

If we study and evaluate works of Nesimi, we would realize his creativity as well as presence of seed words that were used in mastery and presence of dozens of poets and writers before him. But who are they and what is their verbal literature sounds like? This situation has been lighted neither by Iraqi Turkmans nor by Iraqi historians. It just disappeared in the secret pages of the history.

As it is known the Oghuz clans and tribes have started to settle in Iraq after travelling from the farthest sections of Turkmenistan in year 447 Hijri / 1055 Gregorian and kept in touch with the Turkoman waves of which immigrated to the area before themselves. After a while they gained their autonomy as Seljuks in Iran, Iraq, Damascus and Asia Minor in year 590 Hijri and / 1193 Gregorian.

Until the Mongols invitation of Iraq in Hijri 656 / 1258 Gregorian, the language of the Turkoman Region was pure Turkish. Within 200 years of domination of Seljuks, their language, without a doubt shaped as a different dialect from Turkish.

The first grammar work, “Divan-i Lugat’it Turk” was carried out between 1073 and 1077in Baghdad by Kasgarli Mahmut. The Arabic corresponding words for 7500 words were provided in order to teach Turkish.  Examples of proverbs, epics, myths and folk dancing were provided.

Hasan Celayir, has put an end to the bitter reign of Holako and established Celayir Region in Hijri 738 / Gregorian 1337 and it was a reason for a warm relation between Iraq and Azerbaijan. The Grandfather Korkhut Stories recorded in Iraqi Turkoman dialect.

The Kara Koyunlular (The Black Sheep Reigning who reigned Iraq in 1403 and Ak Koyunlular (The White Sheep Reigning) whose turn to reign Iraq came in 1467 have used a Turkman language. The Safevi State who was ruling the area in 1508 was using Turkoman as an official language.

The first written products of the IraqTurkomen Literature was produced by Nesimi 1370-1417. The Grandfather Korkhut and most of the poets written by Fuzuli.When Nesimi was writing his poems, the immigration wave was on from Central Asia and Azerbaijan to Iraq, the Oghuz descendents were using Turkoman. It was almost same with the Azerbaijani language in the sense that pronunciation, morphology, syntax and accent were the same for the Oghuz group, Oghuz Seljuk half sub group.

The situation has started to alter from its core after death of Nesimi and the reign of the Ottoman in Hijri 941, 1534 Gregorian. Due to the reason, the Iraq Turkoman language and literature split into two. The public language is under the influence of the Azerbaijan Turkish and the written language is under the influence of Ottoman.

The great poem Muhammet Fuzuli, 1448 – 1556, carried on his creative work during the Ottoman reign and as for the researchers’ findings, he knew all the big poets and their work as well as all the art secrets of the classical poetry and the prosaism techniques.

Fuzuli became famous with his Gulsan’i Suara memorandum. The lyric poet Ahdi who is a close friend of Fuzuli’s son Fazli put together some articles that are very important documents for our literature. Semsi who is the father of Ahdi and one of his friends Rendi have written their poems in our language. Whereas Fazli wrote his poems in three languages, just like his father. He used the divan literature versification style for the first time in our language.

According to the Ahdi’s memorandum, the most famous Turkoman poets living around Baghdad were Hazani and Zamiri. Using the pseudonym of Esiri, Hazani determined to be the most magnificent poet of his time. There were other Turkoman poets such as Ilmi, Zaidi, Cevheri, Hakiki, and Hadimi who were living around Baghdad and following the footsteps of Fuzuli.

During the Sixteenth Century, the poet Ruhi who was born in Baghdad and died in Damascus, was one of the masters of the divan poems between the years of 1548 – 1605 and he was known for his “terkibi bend”. Furthermore, the Turkoman poet and calligrapher Kavsi who lived in Baghdad in the Sixteenth Century openly admits that he was influenced by Fuzuli in his poems.

In the Eighteenth century, Nevres El kadim who was born in Kirkuk, in the Nineteenth Century Safi Abdullah, in the Twentieth Century Muhyettin Kabil, Mehri, Eset Naip, Hıdır Lütfü, Hijri Dede, Reshit Akif Hurmuzlü, Mehmet Sadik, Celal Rızaefendi, Felekoglu, Hasan Görem, Osman Mazlum, Nazım Refik Koçak, Ali Marufoğlu, Abdüllatif Benderoğlu,Salah Nevres, Nesrin Erbil and others proved themselves in Turkoman literature.

This book prepared before April 10th 2003, however its printing and contents were altered due to the recent developments in Iraq. There are about 130 Turkoman schools and about 30 Turkoman magazines and newspaper after Saddam era. Operation of TV channels, having internet come out of ground in Iraq resulted in establishing relations especially among literature circles, particularly with Turkish Literature circles and visiting international poetry and literature festivals making us believe that it is a new era for a star of a trend and hence we decided to enrich the book that you are holding in your hands.

I hereby would like to extend my gratitude to those who encourage me to make a book out of the studies conducted and provided me with support as part of the intrepid soldiers of the Turk case. I must underline an issue: The Iraqi Turkoman land that I was born and raised is subject to multi facet developments and we had to act in hurry. I am hoping that I will be in a position to include those contemporary Iraqi Turkish Literature samples obtained from prominent poets and writers after scanning the availability in follow up publications.

In this manner, it will be possible to add a source relating to the culture and literature of approximately 4 million brothers and sisters who are living in Iraqi cities and towns.

The “Kirkuk Poets” book covers the Turkoman poets living in Iraq Turkoman Land section. The name of Kirkuk is the symbolic name of Turkoman Land

On behalf of the Iraqi Turkoman people, I hereby extend my thanks to educator writer and poet Nilufer Dursun who translated anthology into English language.