Turkmens living in Iraq's Kirkuk province have reacted strongly to the replacement of Turkish names of several schools in the region with new Arabic versions by local authorities in the city.
The Directorate of National Education of Kirkuk recently replaced the names of four schools, which had been named after Turkmens martyrs - Mehmet Korkmaz, Hızır Mardan, Münir Kafili and Mustafa Zeki - with the Arabic names Markaziyah, Ilaf, al-Isra and Ziya.
After the strong reaction of the Turkmens community in the city, an investigation has been launched over the directorate's decision.
A prominent member of the Iraqi Turkmen Front, Ömer Beyoğlu, told the Yeni Şafak daily that the decision was taken by Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) members without giving information to the city's mayor, Rakan al-Jubouri, with the aim of provocation.
He said that the Turkmens population had been deliberately incited as a part of a plan by "the U.S., PKK and Peshmerga forces." Beyoğlu added that Washington's recent statement suggesting that there are still 2,000 Daesh members in Kirkuk was released to create a basis for new military intervention in the region.
Oil-rich Kirkuk province is cited as one of the disputed territories between the Iraqi central government and the KRG, which is defined in Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution, adopted after the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein.
However, one month after northern Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) held a controversial referendum on regional independence last September, Iraqi forces backed by Shiite militias dislodged Kurdish Peshmerga fighters who had taken control of the city of Kirkuk in 2014.
Meanwhile, Peshmerga Major Miran Irac, who is seen as responsible for the kidnapping and deaths of dozens of Turkmens while the KDP administered the city, was arrested. He admitted that he committed many crimes against the Turkmens population between 2014 and 2017 for ransom.
Iraqi Turkmens, also known as Iraqi Turks, are a Turkic-speaking minority whose total population is estimated at some 3 million.