New report reveals civilian victims of Turkey’s cross-border attacks in Iraq Kurdistan

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On 19 July  2022 an attack was recorded in the village of Parakhe, near Zakho (Duhok province). The attack saw 9 civilians killed and 24 wounded. This kind of attack by Turkey, which targets civilians, has been taking place for seven years in northern Iraq, and have killed a minimum of 98 civilians, also causing thousands of displaced persons. These are the main findings of a new report published today, 23rd August 2022. 

The research, by the international civil society coalition End Cross Border Bombing Campaign (ECBBC), lays out for the first time and in meticulous detail the civilian impact of an often underreported aggression. 

Since 2015 Turkish forces have launched more than 4,000 aerial, artillery, and ground attacks within the borders of Iraq, of which 1,600 were registered in 2021 alone, the report documents.

Not solely have these operations fueled insecurity and instability in the area, but they disproportionately impact the lives of civilians living in the region, as the report points out. 

Among the key findings of the report are:

  • Turkish military actions have killed between 98 and 123 civilians and in at least 88 incidents since 2015. 
  • Those incidents involving civilian harm have been on the rise, at least 40 incidents have taken place in the 2020-2021. 
  • More than 55 civilian farmers and livestock owners were killed or wounded by Turkish forces while farming or tending their livestock. 
  • 13% of those killed are women, with 87% men. In addition, at least six children were killed in the attacks, with a further 14 injured.
  • An estimated 500 villages have been abandoned during the same period.

“Every story mentioned in this report matters, and we should not wait longer to document more stories. Instead, we all together as human beings must seek and take action for peace for the Iraqi people. Only together can we work to not let the tragedy of history repeat itself on this land,” states Mohammed Salah with Community Peacemaker Teams, an ECBBC member organization. “There has been much discussion of the disastrous US-led invasion of Iraq, but this is in many ways the forgotten invasion of Iraq.” he added.

Diverse mosaic

The region of Iraqi Kurdistan and the governorate of Nineveh are home to a diverse mosaic of communities, many of whom live in mountain villages and practice agro-pastoral activities for a living. For many, airstrikes pose a tangible and all-too-frequent risk to their sustenance and even to their own life. An unknown yet significant number of families have been forced to leave their home as a result of the destruction caused by the bombings, or in fear for their lives, and relocate to neighbouring cities or IDPs camps where no basic service or infrastructure is present.

Under the justification of fighting militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), for more than thirty years Turkey’s aerial forces have carried out cross-border military operations within the borders of Iraq. Ankara has faced few consequences for these aggressions, and in recent years according to local sources more than 60 Turkish military bases and outposts have been built inside Iraqi territory – from which operations are frequently launched with devastating effects.

Since 2015 the Turkish military has launched a number of named campaigns that have involved operations further and further into Iraqi territory. The most recent of these, Operation Claw Lock, was launched earlier in 2022 and has seen Turkish forces operating established only 40  kilometers from major Iraqi Kurdish cities, including Erbil – the de-facto capital of the semi-autonomous region. 

The ECBBC report does not only detail the incidents and provides numbers of killed and wounded civilians but also analyzes the circumstances of all incidents and presents the identities of 155 of the victims.

The collection of the data has been done primarily by interviews with survivors of the attacks and their relatives and community members, by interviews with local government representatives and analysis, as well as cross-checking of publicly available media and social media publications.  

The databases on incidents and casualties, along with other findings of the present report represent a valuable and unique record of the civilian harm caused by Turkish military incursions within the borders of Iraq, and sheds light on the extent and seriousness of the crimes which such operations produce.

There exists a serious gap between the extent of the Turkish operations and their civilian harm, which goes far beyond individual death and injuries, and its documentation. The civilian impacts of Turkish operations remain underreported. Civilians lack channels of reporting the harm and receiving necessary support. We believe that this report will bridge some of this concerning divide.

The Campaign appeals to the international civil society and organizations to help individuate and encourage the parties involved in the conflict to find a peaceful solution to the current situation in the best interest of the civilians who are paying the highest price for the belligerent/bellicist policies adopted by the state actors involved.

End Cross Border Bombing is a campaign born two years ago and it’s an international coalition of local and international that have the aim to advocate  and creating awareness on the topic of bombardaments in the region of Iraq.The coalition is composed by: Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative, Community Peacemaker Teams, Iraq Body Count, CODEPINK, NOVACT, Un Ponte Per, Solidarity with Kurdistan/Solkurd. 

Read the report

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