Turkish military operation in Iraq threatens Christian presence in the region

NINEVEH PLAINS and NOHADRA (DUHOK), Iraq – The ongoing Turkish military operation in northern Iraq has led to the displacement of thousands of Christians families, some still displaced from when the Islamic State (ISIS) occupied their home

Turkish artillery and air strikes across the region, supposedly targeting members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), have caused a new wave of displacement. Hundreds of peaceful towns and villages now lay empty, the more than 5,000 Christian families inhabiting them having left their homes in search of safety after dozens of civilian deaths.

Samira Hanna, a Syriac-Assyrian woman living in one of the Christian villages of Nohadra (Duhok) Governorate, said that she had to leave her village of Shransh as a result of the Turkish bombing and she now lives with her family and other Christian families in poor living conditions.

Fifty-five churches were closed recently due to continued Turkish bombings, an indication of the difficulties faced by the Christians in Nineveh Plains and Nohadra.

Moayad Nissan, a Syriac-Assyrian from the village of Shransh, demanded that the Iraqi government, the United Nations, and the international community take urgent measures to prevent the ongoing war in the region and protect them from Turkish bombings that spare no one.

Nissan wondered why the Turkish forces are targeting his village despite the absence of PKK elements there and accused the Turkish government of attempting to force Christians to leave their villages and hometowns in order to change the demographics of the region just as it has done in Afrin and other territory it occupies in Syria.

Jabbar Yawar, Secretary General of the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs in the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq, stated that about 100 villages around Zakho and Amadiyah have been completely evacuated due to the recent Turkish attacks. Approximately 450 villages along the Turkish–Iraqi border were previously evacuated.

Dozens of civilians have been killed according to Yawar and media sources, their fields and crops burned and livestock killed as a result of Turkish air strikes and artillery bombardments.

Spokesperson for the PKK, Zagros Hiwa, stated that at least 100 Turkish soldiers have been killed in recent fighting and denied any presence of PKK fighters in populated areas.

Hiwa pointed to the outbreak of fierce fighting along the 300 km and explained that the goal of the ultimate goal of the Turkish state is to occupy the former territory of the Ottoman State, saying that, “These attacks are part of a plan to occupy Aleppo province in Syria and Mosul province in Iraq.”

The Turkish government maintain they have no such ambitions.

Media outlets have highlighted a tweet by former Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari about the recent Turkish military incursion into Zakho district as a serious geopolitical development.

Zebari claimed that the Turkish incursion into Zakho district was a dangerous geopolitical development, explaining that calls by Turkish leaders to revive Mosul’s historical claims were even more disturbing.