IRAQ: Turkish air strikes continue in Nohadra, killing civilians and displacing vulnerable Christian and Yezidi minorities

NOHADRA (DUHOK), Iraq — More civilians were killed on Monday in Nohadra (Duhok) in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq as a result of the ongoing Turkish military operation in northern Iraq after their car was targeted by a Turkish air strike.

The Turkish operation supposedly targeting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — which has been locked in an armed conflict with the Turkish state since the 1980s — however, local and international observers have questioned the true motivations for the operation.

Vice Chairwoman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Nadine Maenza stated that the Commission was, “concerned with Turkey’s air strikes near civilian areas, especially on those Christians and Yazidis who have already been victims of genocide.”

“It seems these strikes have more to do with Turkey’s regional ambitions than they have to do with security,” Maenza continued.

A map published by the Turkish Presidency showed the locations of the nearly 40 Turkish military bases in Iraq. The map was quickly deleted following criticism.

In Nohadra, there are 12 majority Christian Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian villages, almost now evacuated because of the Turkish operation.

While the PKK maintains bases in the mountain where the Turkish, Iraqi, and Iranian borders meet, Chaldeans-Syriacs-Assyrians and Yezidis in Nohadra say Turkey is targeting areas with no PKK presence and are driving them from their ancestral homes.

“Turkey bombs the Christian villages under the pretext of the existence of PKK militants, but currently there are no PKK militants in our area,” said a Chaldean Catholic from the village of Sharanish to The National.

“We have left our orchards and villages due to the Turkish shelling and we are now living in Zakho district, 50 kilometres north-west of Duhok. We left our church in Sharanish village behind us, the village is empty now, and most of our plantations were burnt due to the Turkish bombings.”

Despite international concerns and criticism, the Turkish operation continues apace, with civilians paying the price. On Monday, a Turkish air strike targeted yet another civilian vehicle, this time in the Bakira area in Amedyeh district of Nohadra. The vehicle was completely destroyed, killing all occupants.

A petition launched early last month calling for the cessation of Turkey’s military operations has already collect some 25,000 signatures from across norther Iraq.

The campaign aims to mobilize local and global public opinion to pressure Turkey to halt its operations. The petition will be handed over to the United Nations, the Government of Iraq, and the Kurdistan Regional Government.