On 3 June 2021, the Christian Peacemaker Teams’ Iraqi Kurdistan program published a report documenting the impact of the Turkish Armed Forces’ (TAF) Operation Claw-Lightning on the civilian population living in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI).
Operation Claw-Lightning is a cross-border military operation that Turkey began on April 23, 2021. This is not the first of its kind as Turkey has conducted a similar strategy multiple times since December 2017 and has advanced 6 to 35 km south of the border in some areas, expanding its territory by building bases and displacing civilians in the Kurdistan Region like Sidakan, Haftanin, and Zap.
While Turkey has gained more control over Kurdistan Region territory, clashes between the Turkish military and the PKK have intensified in the region. Turkey has then conducted bombardments in the region targeting the PKK; though, as Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) reports, civilians are most critically impacted by Turkey’s bombings as many of the aerial and artillery strikes have directly targeted villages.
Thousands of dunams of land and approximately 1,300 beehives have been destroyed, all of which are crucial resources for families. Turkey’s bombings not only threaten the livelihood of families, but also their lives. Four civilians have so far been injured by Turkey’s bombardments, and more than 1,500 civilians from 22 villages have evacuated their villages to escape Turkey’s assault. CPT fears that these families may never have the ability to return to their homes, as Turkey has built nearby military bases armed with artillery that now threaten the lives of civilians.
Christian Peacemaker Teams calls on Turkey to cease Operation Claw-Lightning in the Kurdistan Region and allow for the unconditional return of all civilian population to their villages and farms. We also call on the Iraqi Government and Kurdistan Regional Government to ensure that the lives and rights of civilian populations in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq are protected and that displaced and otherwise affected families are provided material support and compensation for their losses.
The United Nations, the European Union, and other international organizations must launch an investigation into allegations of violations of the International Humanitarian Law by the Turkish Armed Forces in Iraq, specifically the principles of distinction and proportionality. All countries which provide military support to Turkey should halt their support for as long as Turkey continues to target and displace civilians.