Shepherding Peace

CPT meets with villagers affected by the Turkish bombing of the Zahko region.
A young child stands in a field of yellow grass, in the distance there are green trees visible dotting the hills of the valley.
Aihan was looking after his family’s flock of sheep when the Turkish bombing began.

As villagers from Bagova led CPT down the road, we were all keenly aware of the large Turkish outpost lined with razor wire and bunkers of sandbags looming just over the next hill to the left. We were also aware of the large mountain to the right, a suspected area of operations for the PKK. We scanned the hilltops for military movement, but it wasn’t until we stopped that we noticed the young boy tending his family’s sheep in the field between these two forces. This was the exact same spot he was three weeks earlier, unnoticed by fighter jets, as Turkish bombs rained down.

On June 7th, 2019 an armed clash between the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Turkish soldiers stationed at a Turkish outpost near Zakho, Iraqi Kurdistan broke out. As a response, the Turkish military sent planes and drones to bomb the surrounding hills and valleys. The bombs sent deadly shrapnel flying throughout the area, and the impact caused windows to break in neighboring villages.

Aihan, Age 13 was with his mother tending to their flock of sheep that day. When the Turkish Air Force began to bomb, the two of them were stuck on the side of the mountain. Aihan told CPT that, with their heard, they made their way as fast as they could down to the main road. Aihan told CPT that he was so terrified by the falling bombs that he passed out in the field. Aihan’s father quickly drove from their home in Bagova to help his family escape. Kak Sanhan told CPT that as they began to flee the area, a bomb fell near their truck. The explosion killed seventy-two of their animals and forced their truck off the road where it flipped over four times. Kak Sanhan’s wife, Shems Khan was badly injured as the truck rolled. She had a severe wound on her head requiring several stitches and sustained injuries to her arm. Three weeks later Shem’s injuries are still visible.

Two people stand looking out towards the fields, one wears a read CPT hat and striped shirt, the other is bald with a white shirt.
A local villager pointing out an area that is frequently bombed.

Residents of four neighboring villages spoke to CPT on June 20, 2019. In this area incomes are sustained by raising cattle. All the villagers had stories of shepherds being stuck in fields during Turkish bombings, animals being killed, and people sheltering behind rocks. “We only need peace” one man told CPT. Villagers either said that the Turkish outpost needed to be moved, or that the PKK needed to leave. All the villagers agreed on one thing, that a diplomatic and peaceful agreement needed to be reached soon. Kak Sanhan added, “Until we have peace, we can not live comfortably.”

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