07/22/2022 Iraq (International Christian Concern) – This week, Turkish artillery bombarded touristic locations in the Zakho district of Duhok, in Iraq’s Kurdistan region. The attacks killed at least nine civilians and injured another 23. According to local health sources, women and children were among the dead. The mayor of Zakho, Muhsin Bashir, asserted that members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militia were present in the area, prompting the Turkish bombardment. Turkey’s foreign ministry, however, shirked any responsibility for the attacks and instead blamed the PPK itself. The ministry said in a statement, “We call on the Iraqi government to not make remarks influenced by the heinous terrorist organization’s rhetoric and propaganda, and to engage in cooperation to uncover the perpetrators of this cruel act.”
This attack follows an ongoing pattern of Turkish aggression into Northern Iraq targeting the PKK, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the Turkish government and by Western nations (including the United States). Turkey has denied the prevalence of civilian casualties resulting from its campaign against the PKK, but the International Crisis Group, a conflict research nonprofit, reports that 600 civilians have been killed in the crossfire between Turkey and the PPK.
The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) condemned this week’s Turkish attack in the Zakho district, saying, “Civilians are once again suffering the indiscriminate effects of explosive weapons. Under international law, attacks must not be directed at the civilian population. Therefore, we call for a thorough investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding the attack, and emphasize that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Iraq must be respected at all times.”
The international community has widely condemned Turkey’s military aggression in Northern Iraq, but Turkey’s commitment to these operations against the PKK persists, threatening civilians in the region including Christians. Many parts of Kurdistan, including the Zakho district targeted this week, have a long Christian history. Further, Turkish bombings often directly hit Christian villages. As ICC has previously reported, Turkish attacks have displaced the inhabitants of many, predominantly Christian villages in Kurdistan.
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