25 September 2017
IRAQI KURDISTAN: Family impacts of the Iranian cross-border bombardments
by Julie Brown
Khatun Ali lives in Shora, a small village in the Choman district of Iraqi Kurdistan. She is the head of a household in an area that Iranian military regularly targets in a cross-border war between the Iranian state forces and the KDP-I or Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran. Khatun is a widow with three other people living in her home, a daughter-in-law, two small children and herself. One of her sons is a Peshmerga who is often away.
Khatun Ali talking to CPTers at her home in Shora. Photo by: Julie Brown
“When my husband was alive, I lived like a princess honestly. I didn’t have a lot of responsibility. Now I have to look after a lot of trees, our herds and the children,” Khatun said as she pointed to the sheep grazing on the hill just behind her home. She told members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) of how her home and crops were burned three separate times during the time of Saddam Hussein but she and her family managed to rebuild. “We were poor then but we had a good life. Things in the region have improved but here there are no salaries, food, or kerosene and now we are scared.”
On 3 July 2017 Iranian shells and large caliber bullets fired from within Iran and targeting KDP-I positions hit the village of Gwndazhor and the surrounding mountains around Shora. The attack wounded four people, destroyed two homes and killed several livestock. “Our villages are very close so the bombing in one area affects all the nearby villages” Khatun explained to CPT.
Villagers of Iraqi Kurdistan have been affected by cross-border wars for decades. These attacks have stirred little notice from the international community however the human rights impact in the region has been huge. The shelling on 3 July started in the very early morning as people still slept in their homes. Khatun explained that at first she thought the loud sound was a landmine exploding. (This area is also riddled with unexploded landmines dating back to the 1980’s, leftovers of the Iran/Iraq war.) Her son, a member of the Peshmerga military forces, awoken with the sounds and told his mother that it was shelling from Iran. ”We were petrified. The children were shouting and we left the village,” Khatun recounted how they all piled into her son’s vehicle and fled the area along with the residents from all of the surrounding villages. “I was out of my soul,” she said recalling the fear and chaos. During active bombings displacement of villagers is very common. Whole areas flee to the larger towns where no structure for support exists.
The effects of these bombings are lasting in the region. People's deaths or injuries, displacement of whole communities, damaged houses, lost livestock and burned crops are not the only effects. CPT has met numerous people with high levels of anxiety and trauma. The rate is especially high among the children. Khatun’s family is just one example. “Even when I sleep in the nights now I am petrified,” Khatun said. Khatun fears because she has no idea when Iran will shell her village again.
Iran and Turkey have been bombing the border regions of Iraqi Kurdistan for decades. The bombardments have not been an effective solution to these regional conflicts and are causing great human suffering among the populations inhabiting the areas. The international community should remain aware of the impact these attacks are having on the civilian population and urge all involved parties to seek a diplomatic solution.