Iraq: Turkish Bombs = Civilian Casualties


by Peggy Gish and Michele Naar-Obed

In December, CPTers based in northern Iraq began investigating Turkish bombing raids on the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) which escalated to the point of Turkish planes crossing the border, entering Iraq and attacking Kurdish villages.  The U.S. government  provided Turkey with U.S. intelligence information and opened Iraqi airspace to Turkish fighter jets.  CPTers met with some of the families who fled the area and who gave details of the attacks.

“It was 2:00am, when Turkish planes started bombing our village,” reported Musheer Jalap.  By the time the fourth bomb hit his home, Musheer’s family had already fled to a nearby ditch.  He was running from his house when he heard his 27-year-old daughter Susan scream.  She lost the lower part of her left leg that night.  “She is still in the hospital,” Musheer continued.  “She is depressed, thinking her life is over.”

That night, December 16, 2007, Turkish planes bombed 34 villages in central-eastern Iraqi Kurdistan close to the Iranian border.  In Steroka, a piece of a rocket struck Alisha Ibrahim in the head, killing her.  The bombs destroyed her extended family’s three homes and killed 480 sheep and goats.  Alisha’s brother, Muslim Mohammed said, “The Turks are not targeting the PKK.  They are targeting civilians, targeting the whole Kurdish people.” 

Another displaced person added, “The PKK resistance fighters are in the mountain regions, not in the valleys where our villages are.”

“I don’t understand why the U.S. supports Turkey when Kurds are the most loyal allies of the U.S. in the Middle East,” said the father of a large family displaced from the village of Laozha.  

In addition to causing loss of life and limb (at least 3 killed and 6 injured), the attacks displaced approximately 3000 people, destroyed a school, damaged several mosques and hospitals, and decimated livelihoods.  Turkish planes flew as far as fifty miles south of the border across Iraqi airspace to bomb these villages. According to area leaders and displaced families, no members of the PKK were in or near these villages.

However complicated the politics of this conflict may be, one thing is clear – ordinary civilians are the primary victims of the recent violence.  Under international law, the U.S. as the occupying power in Iraq is responsible to care and provide for those under its control, not loose a foreign power onto its homes.  Musheer concluded his story by saying, “I want America to tell Turkey to stop what they are doing.”   

CPT learned that many families wanted to return to their homes but were afraid because of the continuous flyovers by the Turkish air force.  Team members offered to accompany villagers in hopes that an international presence could offer them some measure of protection.

Shortly thereafter CPTers began to encounter difficulties with visas and had to restrict their energies to endless hours of navigating bureaucratic waters.