Turkish airstrikes displace hundreds of people in Iraqi Kurdistan

08-08-2020 01:14
A ruined house due to the Turkish airstrikes. Zargali village of Erbil's Rawanduz town January 18, 2015

Peregraf- Masoud Hadi

Hundreds of Iraqi Kurdistan people have evacuated their villages and now live in displacement since the launch of Turkish air and ground attacks in the region in mid-June on the pretext of attacking the guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The villages, that are fully evacuated or are left with least people, are located in Amedi and Zakho districts, which are near to the Iraqi and Turkish borders, that have been the battlefield between the Turkish forces and the PKK militants.

"Now, many villages have been evacuated. There are threats to the life of the villagers," said Nazk Mohammed, a member of the Duhok Provincial Council.

Mohammed claims that the evacuations of the villages in Duhok province have been on the rise year after year due to the PKK and Turkish conflicts, adding that the relevant authorities have not been able to investigate into it.

Peregraf follow ups show that over 10 villages on the border with Turkey have been evacuated due to the Turkish incursion into the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). The villagers have been displaced to Zakho district and Duhok city.

Turkey has launched the Claw-Eagle operation against the guerrillas of the PKK in the Bahdinan areas, Duhok province, since mid-June. The operation began with airstrikes and later included ground attacks in several areas in Bahdinan. Clashes are still erupting between the Turkish forces and the PKK’s guerrillas.

The lion share of the victims of conflicts have been the villagers, who have experienced a long history of misery as a result of the conflict between Turkey and the PKK.

"Despite damaging our house, the airstrikes have for years burned our orchard and the lands have been mined by Turkey… the area is no longer suitable for living," Shirzad Sagfan claimed.

Sagfan has been displaced from his village, Chamcho, for three years and said that, "there are houses in most of the villages that the farmers visit only when they have to go to their farm fields… those people are frequently targeted by the Turkish bombardments."

"Unfortunately, no one listens to us. We have suffered for years. They do not address our concerns and the government does not compensate the loss," he added.

Dozens of civilians have been killed by the Turkish airstrikes, despite Turkey’s denial of targeting civilians. On July 26, Turkish airstrikes killed two civilians in Bamarni town, in Amedi district, Duhok province. Earlier on June 19, another four civilians were killed in a Turkish bombardment in Shiladzi. In addition, Turkish airstrikes have killed several other civilians in Sulaymaniyah, Bahdinan, Makhmour, Qandil and Zini Warte.

Warshin Sliman, the commissioner of Shiladzi sub-district in Amedi, which is a conflict hotspot between the PKK and Turkey, said that, "85 villages have been evacuated in our sub-district since 1995 due to the PKK and Turkey conflict."

Since then, 23 individuals were killed and over 10 persons were wounded, according to Sliman.

"It has been years since we have waited for the situation to stabilize, so that we will return to our villages, but the situation has worsened year after year," Shivan Hussein said.

Hussein is from Piperkha village and has left his village since 1996. He has resided in Shildazi with the hope that the conflict will cease.

"When the farmers visit their farms, they will become the victims of Turkish airstrikes.... and the government is silent toward the attacks by Turkey."

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is yet to demonstrate an explicit stance against Ankara’s violations and has called on PKK to leave the region and move its conflicts with Turkey to northern Kurdistan (Turkish Kurdistan).

Peregraf has learned that 392 villages in Duhok province have been abandoned since the beginning of the PKK and Turkey conflicts in 1996, among which 293 villages are in Amedi, 70 in Zakho and 29 in Akre.

Duhok’s provincial council member said that over 300 villages have been evacuated and the villagers are yet to be able to return, adding that the provincial council, a couple years ago, formed three committees to investigate the damages and loss caused by the Turkish and PKK conflicts, but the investigations are yet to be finalized because of the ongoing fights.

A report that Duhok provincial council submitted to the Kurdistan Regional Government shows that the conflict has caused 50 billion Iraqi dinars worth of damage, but, as Nazk Mohammed claimed, revealing how much the conflict has caused was "useless" because the clashes are ongoing and the damages have been increasing.