ID:14070 Section: Place

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Kirkuk ?

Kirkuk Definition

(Wikipedia) - Kirkuk
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Kirkuk kurdish: كه ركوك turkish: kerkuk Arabic: كركوك karkuk Country Governorate Elevation Population (2009 Est.)  • Total Time zone
KirkukKirkuk’s location in Iraq
Coordinates: 35°28′0″N 44°19′0″E / 35.46667°N 44.31667°E / 35.46667; 44.31667Coordinates: 35°28′0″N 44°19′0″E / 35.46667°N 44.31667°E / 35.46667; 44.31667
350 m (1,150 ft)
850 787
GMT +3

Kirkuk (also spelled Karkuk or Kerkuk, Karkūk, Kurdish: Kerkûk/کەرکووک, Syriac: ܟܪܟ ܣܠܘܟ Karḵ Sluḵ) is a city in the north of Iraq, 236 kilometres (147 mi) north of, Baghdad, and 83 kilometres (52 miles) south of Arbil. It is the capital of Kirkuk Governorate.

Kirkuk lies in a wide zone with an enormously diverse population, which has moreover experienced dramatic demographic changes in the course of the twentieth century. The city has been multilingual for centuries, and the development of distinct ethnic groups was a process that took place over the course of Kirkuk''s urbanization in the twentieth century. Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrians and Arabs lay conflicting claims to this zone, and all have their historical accounts and memories to buttress their claims.

The city sits on the site of the ancient Hurrian southern capital of Arrapha, which sits near the Khasa River on the ruins of a 5,000-year-old settlement (Kirkuk Citadel). It became known as Arrapha under the domination of the Hurrians—Kurd''s pre-Aryan ancestors. The city reached great importance again under the later, but short-lived Assyrians in the 10th and 11th centuries BC. Because of the strategic geographical location of the city, Kirkuk was the battle ground for three empires—the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Babylonia, and Media—which controlled the city at various times.

Kurds and Turkmens have claimed the city as a cultural capital. It was named the "capital of Iraqi culture" by the Iraqi ministry of culture in 2010. The city currently consists mainly of people who self-identify as Arabs, Assyrians, Iraqi Turkmens and Kurds.

  • 1 Etymology
  • 2 History
    • 2.1 After the Islamic Conquests
    • 2.2 British occupation
    • 2.3 Entry Into the Kingdom of Iraq
    • 2.4 Discovery of oil
    • 2.5 1970 Autonomy Agreement
    • 2.6 Kirkuk after 2003
  • 3 Demographics
    • 3.1 Ethnic groups
      • 3.1.1 Arab people
      • 3.1.2 Kurdish people
      • 3.1.3 Turkmen people
      • 3.1.4 Assyrians
      • 3.1.5 Jews
  • 4 Future of Kirkuk
  • 5 Main sights
  • 6 Climate
  • 7 Notable people from Kirkuk
  • 8 See also
  • 9 Notes
    • 9.1 References
  • 10 Further reading
  • 11 External links


The ancient name of Kirkuk was the Assyrian Arraphka. During the Parthian era, a Korkura/Corcura (Ancient Greek: Κόρκυρα) is mentioned by Ptolemy, which is believed to refer either to Kirkuk or to the site of Baba Gurgur three miles (4.8 km)(5 km) from the city. Since the Seleucid Empire it was known as Karkha D-Bet Slokh, which means ''Citadel of the House of Seleucid'' in Mesopotamian Aramaic, the lingua franca of the Fertile Crescent in that era.

The region around Kirkuk was known in Aramaic and Syriac sources as "Beth Garmai" (Syriac: ܒܝܬܓܪܡܝ), which is a compound of Persian and Aramaic, meaning "The Warm Country" (later and modern Kurdish "Garmiyan"—hot country)

It is also thought that region was known during the Parthian and Sassanid periods as Garmakan, which means the ''Land of Warmth'' or the ''Hot Land''. In some Iranian languages like Persian and Kurdish "Garm" means warm; the name is still used by the Kurds in the form Garmian with the same meaning.

During the Seleucid period, the city was renamed after king Seleucus, Karkha d'' Beth Slokh ("Fort Seleucus"), a corruption of which is at the root of modern name Karkuk/Kirkuk. After the 7th century, Muslim writers used the name Kirkheni (Syriac for "citadel") to refer to the city. Others used other variant, such as Bajermi (a corruption of Aramaic "B''th Garmayeh" or Jermakan (a corruption of Persian Garmakan) . A cuneiform script found in 1927 at the foot of Kirkuk Citadel stated that the city of Erekha of Babylonia was on the site of Kirkuk. Other sources consider Erekha to have been simply one part of the larger Arrapha metropolis.

HistoryKirkuk Citadel

It is suggested that Kirkuk was one of the places occupied by Neanderthals based on archeological findings in the Shanidar Cave settlement. A large amount of pottery shards dating to the Ubaid period were also excavated from several Tells in the city.

Ancient Arrapkha was part of Sargon of Akkad''s Empire, and city was exposed to the raids of the Lullubi during Naram-Sin''s reign.

By the middle of the 2nd millennium B.C. the horse-riding Mittani started settling the Semitic city of Nuzi to the south of Kirkuk and they extended their rule to include the Hurrians and the Assyrians. From 1500 to 1360 BC all kings of Assyria were vassals of kingdom of Mittani.

After Achaemenids had the region under their dominion; in the Parthian and Sassanid eras Kirkuk was capital of Beth Garmai.

After the Islamic Conquests

Arab Muslims fought the Sassanid empire in the 7th century AD. The city was a part of the Islamic Caliphate until the tenth century. Kirkuk and the surrounding areas were then ruled by the Seljuk Turks for many years. After the divided empire collapsed, the city became a part of Turkic Zengid dynasty for a century. After the Mongol invasion, the Ilkhanate State was founded in the region and the city became a part of the Mongol Ilkhanate. The Ilkhanate region was then conquered by the Black Sheep Turkomans and White Sheep Turkomans. Ottoman Empire took control of Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Hejaz in the early 16th century. Turkish rule continued until the end of World War I.

British occupation

At the end of World War I, the British occupied Kirkuk on May 7, 1918. Abandoning the city after about two weeks, the British returned to Kirkuk a few months later after the Armistice of Mudros. Kirkuk avoided the troubles caused by the British-backed Shaykh Mahmud, who quickly attempted to defy the British and establish his own fiefdom in Sulaymaniyah. The townspeople and tribesmen of Kirkuk, notably the Talabani shaykhs, demanded to be excluded from Shaykh Mahmud''s area of authority before he was put in place.

Entry Into the Kingdom of Iraq

As both Turkey and Great Britain desperately wanted control of the Vilayet of Mosul (of which Kirkuk was a part), the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 failed to solve the issue. For this reason, the question of Mosul was sent to the League of Nations. A committee travelled to the area before coming to a final decision: the territory south of the "Brussels line" belonged to Iraq. By the Treaty of Angora of 1926, Kirkuk became a part of the Kingdom of Iraq.

Discovery of oil Main article: Kirkuk Field

In 1927, Iraqi and American drillers working for the foreign-owned and British-led Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) struck a huge oil gusher at Baba Gurgur ("St. Blaze" or father blaze in Kurdish) near Kirkuk. The IPC began exports from the Kirkuk oil field in 1934. The Company moved its headquarters from Tuz Khormatu to a camp on the outskirts of Kirkuk, which they named Arrapha after the ancient city. Arrapha remains a large neighborhood in Kirkuk to this day. The IPC exercised significant political power in the city and played a central role in Kirkuk''s urbanization, initiating housing and development projects in collaboration with Iraqi authorities in the 1940s and 1950s.

The presence of the oil industry had an effect on Kirkuk''s demographics. The exploitation of Kirkuk’s oil, which began around 1930, attracted both Arabs and Kurds to the city in search of work. Kirkuk, which had been a predominantly Turkmen city, gradually lost its uniquely Turkmen character. At the same time, large numbers of Kurds from the mountains were settling in the uninhabited but cultivable rural parts of the district of Kirkuk. The influx of Kurds into Kirkuk continued through the 1960s. According to the 1957 census, Kirkuk was 20% Iraqi Turkmen, 59% Kurdish with Arabs making up less than 25% of its population.

The Kirkuk field has remained the basis of northern Iraqi oil production with over ten billion barrels (1.6 km³) of proven remaining oil reserves as of 1998. After about seven decades of operation, Kirkuk still produces up to one million barrels a day, almost half of all Iraqi oil exports. Some analysts believe that poor reservoir-management practices during the Saddam Hussein years may have seriously, and even permanently, damaged Kirkuk''s oil field. One example showed an estimated 1,500,000,000 barrels (240,000,000 m3) of excess fuel oil being reinjected. Other problems include refinery residue and gas-stripped oil. Fuel oil reinjection has increased oil viscosity at Kirkuk making it more difficult and expensive to get the oil out of the ground.

Over all, between April 2003 and late December 2004 there were an estimated 123 attacks on Iraqi energy infrastructures, including the country''s 7,000 km-long pipeline system. In response to these attacks, which cost Iraq billions of US dollars in lost oil-export revenues and repair costs, the US military set up the Task Force Shield to guard Iraq''s energy infrastructure and the Kirkuk-Ceyhan Oil Pipeline in particular. In spite of the fact that little damage was done to Iraq''s oil fields during the war itself, looting and sabotage after the war ended was highly destructive and accounted for perhaps eighty percent of the total damage.

The discovery of vast quantities of oil in the region after World War I provided the impetus for the annexation of the former Ottoman Vilayet of Mosul (of which the Kirkuk region was a part), to the Iraqi Kingdom, established in 1921. Since then and particularly from 1963 onwards, there have been continuous attempts to transform the ethnic make-up of the region.

Pipelines from Kirkuk run through Turkey to Ceyhan on the Mediterranean Sea and were one of the two main routes for the export of Iraqi oil under the Oil-for-Food Programme following the Gulf War of 1991. This was in accordance with a United Nations mandate that at least 50% of the oil exports pass through Turkey. There were two parallel lines built in 1977 and 1987.

1970 Autonomy Agreement

On paper, the Autonomy Agreement of March 11, 1970, recognized the legitimacy of Kurdish participation in government and Kurdish language teaching in schools. However, it reserved judgment on the territorial extent of Kurdistan, pending a new census. Such a census, according to Kurds would surely have shown a solid Kurdish majority in the city of Kirkuk and the surrounding oilfields, as well as in the secondary oil-bearing Kurdish area of Khanaqin, south of the Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah (Kurdish: Sîlemanî). A census was not scheduled until 1977, by which time the autonomy deal was dead. In June 1973, with Ba''ath-Kurdish relations already souring, the guerrilla leader Mullah Mustafa Barzani laid formal claim to the Kirkuk oilfields.

Baghdad interpreted this as a virtual declaration of war, and, in March 1974, unilaterally decreed an autonomy statute. The new statute was a far cry from the 1970 Manifesto, and its definition of the Kurdish autonomous area explicitly excluded the oil-rich areas of Kirkuk, Khanaqin and Shingal/Sinjar. In tandem with the 1970–1974 autonomy process, the Iraqi regime carried out a comprehensive administrative reform, in which the country''s sixteen provinces, or governorates, were renamed and in some cases had their boundaries altered. The old province of Kirkuk was split in half. The area around the city itself was named At-Ta''mim (Arabic: التأميم ‎) ("nationalization"), and its boundaries were redrawn to give an Arab majority.

According to Human Rights Watch, from the 1991 Gulf War until 2003, the former Iraqi government systematically expelled an estimated 500.000, Kurds and some Assyrians from Kirkuk and other towns and villages in this oil-rich region. Most have settled in the Kurdish-controlled northern provinces. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government resettled Arab families in their place in an attempt to reduce the political power and presence of ethnic minorities, a process known as Arabization.

The Arabization of Kirkuk and other oil-rich regions is not a recent phenomenon. Successive governments have sought at various times to reduce the ethnic minority populations residing there since the discovery of significant oil deposits in the 1920s. By the mid-1970s, the Ba''ath Party government that seized power in 1968 embarked on a concerted campaign to alter the demographic makeup of multi-ethnic Kirkuk. The campaign involved the massive relocation of tens of thousands of ethnic minority families from Kirkuk, Sinjar, Khanaqin, and other areas, transferring them to purpose-built resettlement camps. This policy was intensified after the failed Kurdish uprising in March 1991. Those expelled included individuals who had refused to sign so-called "nationality correction" forms, introduced by the authorities prior to the 1997 population census, requiring members of ethnic groups residing in these districts to relinquish their Kurdish or Assyrians identities and to register "officially as Arabs." The Iraqi authorities also seized their property and assets; those who were expelled to areas controlled by Peshmerga were stripped of all possessions and their ration cards were withdrawn.

Kirkuk after 2003

American and British military forces led an invasion of Iraq in March 2003, driving Saddam Hussein and his Ba''ath Party from power. A caretaker government was created until the establishment of a democratically-elected government.

Since April 2003, thousands of internally displaced Kurds have returned to Kirkuk and other Arabized regions to take back their homes and lands which have since been conquered by Arabs from central and southern Iraq.

Under the supervision of chief executive of Coalition Provisional Authority L. Paul Bremer, a convention was held on May 24, 2003 to select the first City Council in the history of this oil-rich, ethnically divided city. Each of the city''s four major ethnic groups was invited to send a 39-member delegation from which they would be allowed to select six to sit on the City Council. Another six council members were selected from among 144 delegates to represent independents social groups such as teachers, lawyers, religious leaders and artists.

Kirkuk''s 30 members council is made up of five blocs of six members each. Four of those blocs are formed along ethnic lines- Kurds, Arabs, Assyrian and Turkmen- and the fifth is made up of independents. Turkmen and Arabs complained that the Kurds allegedly hold five of the seats in the independent block. They were also infuriated that their only representative at the council''s helm was an assistant mayor whom they considered pro-Kurdish. Abdul Rahman Mustafa (Arabic: عبدالرحمن مصطفى ‎), a Baghdad-educated lawyer was elected mayor by 20 votes to 10. The appointment of an Arab, Ismail Ahmed Rajab Al Hadidi (Arabic: اسماعيل احمد رجب الحديدي ‎), as deputy mayor went some way towards addressing Arab concerns.

On June 30, 2005, through a secret direct voting process, with the participation of the widest communities in the province and despite all the political legal security complexities of this process in the country generally and in Kirkuk in particular, Kirkuk witnessed the birth of its first elected Provincial Council. The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq IECI approved and announced the outcomes of this process, which filled the 41 seats of Kirkuk Provincial Council as follows:

  • 26 seats 367 List Kirkuk Brotherhood List KBL
  • 8 seats 175 List Iraqi Turkmen Front ITF
  • 5 seats 299 List Iraqi Republic Gathering
  • 1 seats 178 List Turkmen Islamic Coalition
  • 1 seats 289 List Iraqi National Gathering

The new Kirkuk Provincial Council started its second turn on March 6, 2005. Its inaugural session was dedicated to the introduction of its new members, followed by an oath ceremony supervised by Judge Thahir Hamza Salman, the Head of Kirkuk Appellate Court.

Five churches in Kirkuk were targeted with bombs in August 2011

On 12 July 2013, Kirkuk was hit by a deadly bomb and 38 people have been killed in the attack in a cafe. The blast happened shortly after 22:00 local time (19:00 (GMT). It comes after more than 40 people died in a series of bombings and shootings across Iraq, including in Kirkuk, on 11 July 2013.

On 12 June 2014, the town was taken by Kurdish forces following the success of the ISIL 2014 Northern Iraq offensive in securing control of nearby Tikrit, as well as neighboring areas in Syria.


The most reliable census concerning the ethnic composition of Kirkuk dates back to 1957. Kirkuk province borders were later altered, the province was renamed al-Ta''mim and Kurdish dominated districts were added to Erbil and Sulamaniya provinces.

Mother tongue 1957 Percentage 1977 Percentage 1997 Percentage
Census results for Kirkuk Governorate
Kurds 187,593 48.2% 184,875 38% 155,861 21%
Arabs 109,620 28.2% 218,755 45% 544,596 72%
Turkmens 83,371 21.4% 80,347 17% 50,099 7%
Assyrians 1,605 0.4%
Jews 123 0.03%
Other 6,545 1.77% 0 0% 2,189 0.3%
Total 388,829 100% 483,977 100% 752,745 100%
Ethnic groups

As stated previously, Kirkuk is a multilingual and diverse city with a history of fluidity of identity. The following information concerns a handful of the groups in the city and region that are considered to be distinct ethnic groups.

Arab people

The principal Arab extended families in the city of Kirkuk were: the Tikriti and the Hadidi (Arabic: حديدي‎). The Tikriti family was the main Arab family in Kirkuk coming from Tikrit in the 17th century. Other Arab tribes who settled in Kirkuk during the Ottoman Period are the Al-Ubaid (Arabic: آل عبيد‎) and the Al-Jiburi (Arabic: آل جبور‎). The Al-Ubaid came from just northwest of Mosul when they were forced out of the area by other Arab tribes of that region. They settled in the Hawija district in Kirkuk in 1805 during the Ottoman Period.

Kurdish people

Kurds have a long history in Kirkuk before the Baban family. The Baban family was a Kurdish family that, in the 18th and 19th centuries, dominated the political life of the province of Sharazor, in present-day Iraqi Kurdistan. The first member of the clan to gain control of the province and its capital, Kirkuk, was Sulayman Beg. Enjoying almost full autonomy, the Baban family established Kirkuk as their capital. It was from this time that Kurds in Iraq began to view Kirkuk as their capital. This persisted even after the Babans moved their administration to the new town of Sulaymaniya, named after the dynasty’s founder, in the late 18th century.

Turkmen people

Turkmen migrated to Iraq during the Umayyads and Abbasid eras as military recruits. Considerable Turkmen settlement began during the Seljuq era when Toghrul entered Iraq in 1055 with his army composed mostly of Oghuz Turks. Kirkuk remained under the control of the Seljuq Empire for 63 years. The Turkmen settlement in Kirkuk was further expanded later during the Ottoman Era, when people were brought to the city from there. Tuzhurmati has been one of the historical Turkmen settlement in Iraq.

During the Ottoman period the Turkmen were the predominant population of Kirkuk city but Kurds constituted the majority of the rural population of Kirkuk.


The Seleucid town, like many other Mesopotamian cities had a significant Assyrian population. Christianity was established among them in the 2nd century by the bishop Tuqrītā (Theocritos). During the Sasanian times the town became an important centre of the Church of the East, with several of its bishops rising to the rank of Patriarch. Tensions among Christians and Zoroastrians led to a severe persecution of Christians during the reign of Shapur II (309-79 A.D.) as recorded in the Acts of the Persian Martyrs. Persecution resumed under Yazdegerd II in 445 A.D. who massacred thousands of them. Their situation greatly improved under the Sasanians in the following two centuries. During the Sasanian times the town became an important centre of the Church of the East, with several of its bishops rising to the rank of Patriarch. Tensions among Christians and Zoroastrians led to a severe persecution of Christians during the reign of Shapur II (309-79 A.D.) as recorded in the Acts of the Persian Martyrs. Tradition puts the death toll at 12,000 among them the patriarch Shemon Bar Sabbae. The city was known as the centre of the prosperous Ecclesiastical Province of Beth Garmai which lingered until the conquests of Timur Leng in 1400 A.D. During the Ottoman period most of Kirkuk’s Christians followed the Chaldean Catholic Church whom bishop resided in the Cathedral of the Great Martyrion which dates back to the 5th century. The Cathedral was however used as a powder storage and was blown up as the Ottomans retreated in 1918.

The discovery of oil brought more Christians to Kirkuk, however they were also affected by the Arabization policy of the Baath Party. Their numbers continued to plummet after the American invasion, and they occupy 4% of municipal offices, a percentage though to be representative of their numbers in the city.


Jews had a long history in Kirkuk. Ottoman records show that in 1560 there were 104 Jewish homes in Kirkuk, and in 1896 there were 760 Jews in the city. After WWI, the Jewish population increased, especially after Kirkuk became a petroleum center; in 1947 there were 2,350 counted in the census. Jews were generally engaged in commerce and handicraft. Social progress was slow, and it was only in the 1940s that some Jewish students acquired secondary academic education. By 1951 almost all of the Jews had left for Israel.

Future of Kirkuk Main article: Kirkuk status referendum

A referendum on whether Kirkuk province should become part of Iraqi Kurdistan was due to be held in November 2007 but has been delayed repeatedly, and currently has no firm date. In December 2007, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made an unscheduled visit to Kirkuk before proceeding to Baghdad, where she called on Iraqi leaders to urgently implement a national reconciliation roadmap.

On June 12, 2014, Kirkuk was taken over by the Kurdistan government, due to an extreme escalation in the insurgency in Iraq.

Main sights

Ancient architectural monuments of Kirkuk include:

  • the citadel
  • the qishla
  • the Prophet Daniel''s Tomb
  • the market Bazari Pirehmerd.

The archaeological sites of Qal''at Jarmo and Yorgan Tepe are found at the outskirts of the modern city. In 1997, there were reports that the government of Saddam Hussein "demolished Kirkuk''s historic citadel with its mosques and ancient church".

The architectural heritage of Kirkuk sustained serious damage during World War I (when some pre-Muslim Assyrian Christian monuments were destroyed) and, more recently, during the Iraq War. Simon Jenkins reported in June 2007 that "eighteen ancient shrines have been lost, ten in Kirkuk and the south in the past month alone".


Kirkuk experiences a hot semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification: BSh) with extremely hot and dry summers and cool, rainy winters. Snow is rare but it has fallen on 1990, 22 February 2004, and from 10 to 11 January 2008.

Climate data for Kirkuk Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year Average high °C (°F) Average low °C (°F) Precipitation mm (inches) Avg. precipitation days
13.8 (56.8) 15.7 (60.3) 20.1 (68.2) 26.3 (79.3) 33.7 (92.7) 39.8 (103.6) 43.2 (109.8) 42.8 (109) 38.7 (101.7) 31.4 (88.5) 22.6 (72.7) 15.8 (60.4) 28.66 (83.58)
4.5 (40.1) 5.7 (42.3) 9.0 (48.2) 13.8 (56.8) 19.6 (67.3) 24.5 (76.1) 27.5 (81.5) 27.1 (80.8) 23.2 (73.8) 18.1 (64.6) 11.2 (52.2) 6.3 (43.3) 15.87 (60.58)
68.3 (2.689) 66.7 (2.626) 57.3 (2.256) 44.1 (1.736) 13.4 (0.528) 0.1 (0.004) 0.2 (0.008) 0 (0) 0.7 (0.028) 12.4 (0.488) 39.1 (1.539) 59 (2.32) 361.3 (14.222)
11 11 11 9 5 0 0 0 0 5 7 10 69
Source: World Meteorological Organisation (UN)
Notable people from Kirkuk
  • Adnan Karim (Kurdish musician)
  • Rafiq Hilmi (a Kurdish poet, writer and academic)
  • Sheikh Rezza Talabani (Kurdish poet)
  • Ibtisam Abdallah (novelist)
  • Mohsen Abdel Hamid (member of the Interim Iraq Governing Council)
  • Najiba Ahmad (writer and poet)
  • Ali Askari (politician)
  • Hijri Dede (poet)
  • Fadhil Al Azzawi (writer and poet)
  • Chopy Fatah (singer)
  • Ismail Ahmed Rajab Al Hadidi (politician)
  • Hajim al-Hassani (speaker of the Iraqi National Assembly)
  • Rafiq Hilmi (poet, writer and academic)
  • Kevork Hovnanian (founder of Hovnanian Enterprises)
  • Adnan Karim (singer)
  • Nemir Kirdar (CEO of Investcorp)
  • Younis Mahmoud (Captain of the Iraqi soccer team)
  • Ali Mardan (musician)
  • Abdul Rahman Mustafa (mayor-governor of Kirkuk)
  • Herdi Noor Al-Deen (soccer player)
  • Rashad Mandan Omar (Minister of Science and Technology in the Interim Iraq Governing Council and the Iraqi Interim Government)
  • Osama Rashid (Dutch soccer player)
  • Mama Risha (prominent member of the Peshmerga)
  • Ferhad Shakely (writer and poet)
  • Bakr Sidqi (Iraqi general)
  • Riza Talabani (poet)
  • Narsai Toma (Metropolitan bishop for the Diocese of Kirkuk)
  • Mehmet Türkmehmet (Turkish soccer player)

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