29 May 2017
IRAQI KURDISTAN: As adults, we are just afraid for our
children; residents of Merkejia speak with CPT about the impacts of the Turkish
explosion was massive, even through the small video on Kak Najib’s phone we
could see the devastation and huge plume of smoke that engulfed the whole side
of a nearby mountain. This was just one of many bombs that fell on the area
surrounding the village of Merkejia last fall.
is an Assyrian village that lies within the northern mountains of Iraqi
Kurdistan. These mountains are a dividing point between Turkey and Iraqi
Kurdistan as well as a battleground between the Turkish government and The
Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK. While media sometimes gives nod to this
decades long conflict, the realities of life for those like the villagers of
Merkejia, people whose communities are on the frontlines, are rarely told.
November, the Turkish airplanes dropped a barrage of bombs on the area
surrounding this small village”, Kak Najib, the Mukhtar (village leader)
of Merkejia, told CPT on 11 May 2017. The first bombs fell in the evening when
Kak Najib and his family were in their house. He explained that at first they stayed inside their home and took
shelter but as the bombs continued to fall they went outside afraid that
one could hit the house and it could collapse on them. The women and children left the village and only the men stayed
behind to protect their homes and property. “As Assyrians we believe that we
will die one day and that we should not be afraid of death. I have seen many
wars, Saddam forced me to go to Kuwait. As adults, we are just afraid for
our children,” he explained.
shattered all the windows in every home in Merkejia and cracked several walls.
Kak Najib pointed to a large crack in his home just over a large portrait of
Jesus hanging in his family room. When CPT asked how people could show
solidarity with the villagers of Merkejia he simply said, “Let people know that
we are being bombed.”
Walls inside Kak Najib’s house in Merkajia. Photo by:
the bombing ended, Kak Najib went out into the village’s surrounding lands.
What he saw shocked him. When he attempted to survey the damages to the area
and his fields he found parts of bodies of Kurdish fighters strewn over the
landscape. He said that he did his best to collect them and keep them from the wold animals so that these people could have a proper burial. Although Merkejia’s residents are not involved in fighting, and even have
an agreement with the fighters to stay away from the village, no one is immune
from the effects of the bombings. Over
fifty bombs hit the area in a week. Apart from the fighters, no village
resident lost their life, this time.
the region continually feel the effects of the Turkish bombardments for many
years. Many families have left, homes are damaged, and the shepherds can no
longer raise herds in the area because with every bombing the animals run and
get lost. The bombs have repeatedly burned and destroyed the fields around the
village. The villagers from Merkejia have land deeds that date back to the
Ottoman Empire. Kak Najib held up a large map depicting the Assyrian
village’s historic land that his family has lived on for generations. He
remarked, “This is our land, even if it is all burned we will never leave.”
Kak Najib showing the historical map of his village’s land
to the CPTer. Photo by: Julie Brown.
bombing took place in November of 2016, however, CPT records show that over
forty Turkish cross-border bombardments on Kurdish areas similar to Merkejia
have taken place just in the first five months of 2017 alone.