Monday, 6 April 2009

The Misrepresentation of Iraqi Turkmens in the Kurdish Media

Romano Rimin

Iraqi Turkmens are misrepresented in the Kurdish media. This misrepresentation has different reasons and purposes. This article is an initial proposal for further and detailed studies of this important topic which can reveal the main reasons and purposes behind this misrepresentation of the Iraqi Turkmens in the Kurdish media. The studies can be guided by several concepts such as: (1) media representation, (2) propaganda, (3) the ruling powerful groups’ dominant ideas, and (4) worthy and unworthy victims and news.

These concepts are reflected in the Kurdish media -mainly in the official Kurdish media- in how they portray the Iraqi Turkmens, their history, culture and political institutions.The concept of “media representation” refers to how the media portray the world surrounding us. ‘Bias’ and ‘stereotype’ are two most common elements used when researching media representation.

Media are often accused of being biased, that is, media emphasize certain details and neglect or exclude others. Until the American occupation of Iraq (2003), the Western media, particularly the American media, and the regional Middle Eastern media (e.g., Iraqi and Arab media) have always neglected the Iraqi Turkmens and their cause. On the other hand, the Kurdish media either excluded the Iraqi Turkmens or portrayed them negatively, especially after the American occupation of Iraq. The Iraqi Kurdish media are packed of such unfair and negative representation of the Iraqi Turkmens.

Unconstructive representation of the Iraqi Turkmens in the Kurdish media emphasizes the denigration of these people. In fact, this kind of representation of the Iraqi Turkmens in the Kurdish media have taken an organized shape and an increased pace after the American occupation of Iraq. One of the most important reasons behind such an attempt is that the main Kurdish militia groups (e.g., Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan militia groups), after gaining some power under the American occupation of Iraq, are expanding their territories and trying to control the oil rich Turkmen territories.

An analytic framework, based primarily on the “propaganda model” set out by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky in their influential book Manufacturing Consent can be developed to examine how and why the controlled Iraqi Kurdish media function to marginalize, exclude and denigrate the Iraqi Turkmens. Central to this model is the proposition that the mainstream media serve the interests of a dominant elite in any society, regardless whether it is capitalist or totalitarian in nature.

As mentioned earlier, the powerful Kurdish groups, after the American occupation of Iraq in 2003, have expanded their control into other Iraqi ethnic groups’ regions. It was typical for the new Kurdish controllers to exclude, marginalize and denigrate the local ethnic groups as they realized that these ethnic groups create barriers to their interests. One of the important elements of Herman and Chomsky’s propaganda model which can be applied here is “anticommunism” as a control machine. This element emphasizes the idea of creating with great vigor an enemy who threatens the interests of a class, nation or a people. This is an “ideology” which serves the crucial purpose of mobilizing the populace (in this case the Kurdish populace) against this enemy who can threaten the controlling powerful groups’ interests.

This element is used explicitly and implicitly in the Kurdish mainstream media to portray the Iraqi Turkmens, and even other Iraqi ethnic groups (e.g., Arabs and Assyrians), as the enemies of the Kurds’ ambitions. The classic Marxist notion that ‘the dominant idea in a society is the ruling or powerful class’s idea’ is detectable in how and why the mainstream Kurdish media attempt to marginalize and denigrate the Iraqi Turkmens.

The group which controls different aspects of a society will have greater chances to control cultural means and consequently will be able to produce, disseminate and promote certain ideas among people in order to sustain its interests. Such promoted ideas eventually become part of the established order in the society. After the American occupation of Iraq, no doubt, the Kurdish groups, which became the closest allies of the occupiers, have gained significant power and control over considerable resources. As a result, they were able to control the existed media establishments and created enormous propaganda machines in the region they have control and elsewhere.

Utilizing these propaganda machines, these controlling Kurdish groups usually provide partial and outright false news and views about the Iraqi Turkmens and they try to legitimize these views among their own people, other Iraqi ethnic groups and among different nations, particularly among the Westerners.

On the other hand, the Iraqi Turkmens are deprived of such privileges. Their voices hardly reach other Iraqi ethnic groups, let alone the international level. Finally, the controlled Kurdish media look at the Iraqi Turkmens whether they are a worthy or unworthy entity to be mentioned in their media outlets. In general, the Iraqi Turkmens are unworthy entities for these media. And even if they are mentioned in these media, the Iraqi Turkmens are usually portrayed in a way to serve the controlling Kurdish groups’ interests.

In other words, the Iraqi Turkmens are either excluded (i.e., unworthy or invaluable news items) or marginalized and denigrated in the controlled Kurdish media. As an important subject in communication research, the issue of Iraqi Turkmens’ representation in the Kurdish media has not been conducted by any researcher to this day.

However, there are several articles responding or reacting to some Kurdish claims about the Iraqi Turkmens. Most of these responses/reactions are written by the Iraqi Turkmen writers. Mainly, these articles emphasize the emotional aspect of the issue rather than attempting to reveal the real reasons behind the misrepresentation of the Iraqi Turkmens in the Kurdish media in a wider context. In other words, there is no methodically and systematically studies about the issue which can yield logical results (to some extent) and deal with the problem accordingly. Conducting studies about the exclusion and misrepresentation of the Iraqi Turkmens in the Kurdish media and dealing with their results wisely are vital and can contribute to the reconciliation among the struggling factions in Iraq in general and in the northern region in particular.


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