President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday raised concerns about the advance of a Shia militia towards the Tal Afar district of Iraq’s Mosul province.
During a Turkish Republic Day reception, the president warned all parties involved of the Hashd al-Shaabi militia entering Tal Afar, saying, “Tal Afar is a very sensitive issue for us. We definitely do not regard it [the militia’s involvement] positively in Tal Afar and Sinjar. I already told this to officials clearly.”
He added, “Tal Afar is a totally Turkmen city, with half Shia and half Sunni Muslims. We do not judge people by their religious affiliation, we regard them all as Muslims.”
“But if Hashd al-Shaabi terrorizes the region, our response would be different.”
Ankara has repeatedly warned about the risk of sectarian conflict if Shia militias are allowed to enter Sunni-majority Mosul. In other parts of Iraq liberated from Daesh, such as Fallujah and Ramadi, there have been allegations of Shia fighters mistreating Sunni civilians.
On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu underlined that Turkey will “take all precautionary measures allowed by international law” if Hashd al-Shaabi threatens Turkey’s security in Tal Afar.
The Turkmen people have been oppressed ever since Daesh occupied Mosul and Tal Afar in 2014.
Since the occupation began, Tal Afar’s population has plummeted from over a half-million to less than 50,000.