Himda’at Othman pictured with his son
A Turkish war pilot fired the rocket that disintegrated the body of Himda’at Othman and shattered the lives of those who loved him. Himda’at Othman was not a man of war. In his early twenties, the oldest son of Othman Darwish and Jawhar Abdullah and with a wife and infant son of his own, he worked hard to support his family by trading between the parts of Kurdistan controlled by the two dominant political parties.
At the time of the attack, Himda’at was returning home to his family’s village of Barmiza, a forty-minute drive from the arbitrary border dividing Kurdistan between Iraq and Turkey. The road was regularly used by the villagers to access their farmlands. “There were other cars on the road when the rocket hit his car. We don’t understand why…” his father, Kak Othman, told members of CPT.
For the villagers, seeing the Turkish fighter planes overhead has not been rare, nor is hearing the echoes of bombs exploding on the distant mountain slopes. The mountains behind Barmiza have become one of the many battlegrounds of the war between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish state’s military forces. The PKK fight is a guerilla and political insurrection against the marginalization and oppression of Kurdish people in Turkey. The Turkish military, along with heavy weapons and ground forces, uses drones and warplanes not only to attack the armed fighters but also unarmed civilians, along with their homes, fields, orchards and livestock.
The bombings in the area have been sowing deep fears among the residents of Barmiza, a major village of 250 households, whose primary way of life is farming, grazing animals and cross-border trade. In fact, many of the families have moved to Barmiza because the surrounding villages and fertile lands had become a war zone. The villagers knew that Turkish bombings killed civilians in other villages and in different areas of the border regions before. Nevertheless, the killing of Himda’at in the vicinity of Barmiza —nowhere near any armed guerrillas—in the daylight afternoon hours on 13 November 2017, was unprecedented and shocking. Himda’at was not a man of war. He was a husband, a father, a son, a friend.
The aftermath of the Turkish bombing that killed Himda’at Othman in his car.
A month later in December of 2017, Turkish soldiers entered the village. Some of Barmiza’s residents welcomed the soldiers and served them dolma, a traditional meal that Kurds share with respected guests.
“This was very painful for us. The spies working with Turkey welcomed those who killed my son, and invited them into our mosque,” recalled Kak Othman, as he showed CPTers a mosque a few blocks downhill from his house.
This interaction was the beginning of a Turkish military on-ground invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan territory that continues to this day. The Turkish army eventually left Barmiza, but began to build bases and outposts and construct roads that brought in more soldiers, together with heavy weapons. By June of 2018, the Turkish Prime Minister had claimed that their military had established itself as far as thirty km inside Iraqi Kurdistan.
Members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) visited Barmiza and Himda’at’s parents’ home for the first time on 13 November 2018 – the first anniversary of his death. Himda’at’s wife had moved with her baby son to her parent’s home, outside of Barmiza. The family told CPT that just a few miles from the village they can see and hear military operations involving warplanes, helicopters and artillery bombardments nearly every night and day.
Jawhar Khan, Himda’at’s mother, invited CPTers to accompany her to her son’s grave. The group of women dressed in black mourned the ended life of her son under the looming shadow of a Turkish military base.
Later on when back at the house, a relative of the family told CPT, “Turkey built thirteen bases around Barmiza,” and one by one he began to point them out. “Barmiza is a prison. We cannot go to take care of our fields or animals. We can not go to our land.” Kak Othman pointed to a herd of cows on a hill about 400 meters beyond the last village house. “This is the farthest we can go. If we go any further, Turkish soldiers will shoot us with their weapons.” The relative continued, “The only way out of the village is the road that you came on. Many families have already left their homes in Barmiza and more will likely leave soon.”
According to CPT’s sources, the Turkish military continues to occupy more than 110 Iraqi Kurdish villages. In CPT’s estimates, since no precise numbers are available, more than 400 Iraqi Kurdistan’s villages and migrant farming and pastoral settlements live under constant threat of Turkish air and artillery bombardments.