1 May 2018
IRAQI KURDISTAN: They are killing us because we are Kurds.
by the CPT Iraqi Kurdistan team
|A villager from Sarkan telling CPTers about the bombing by the Turkish warplanes|
They were four friends, two of them cousins: Bezhan Mustafa, Mohammad Ismail, Darbaz Mohammad and Sherko Mahmud. Two graduated from the college of law to become protectors of people through law, and two were Peshmergas (Kurdish soldiers).
On 21 March, they celebrated the festival of Newroz in a popular mountain valley together with thousands of others. Newroz celebrates the coming of a new year and commemorates the people's liberation from tyranny.
Bezhan, Mohammad, Darbaz, and Sherko left the Newroz celebration and arrived in the night at their summerhouse in the village of Sarkan. According to the accounts of their neighbors, the four young men made a fire, grilled meat on the hot coals, and sang joyous songs.
At 1:15 a.m. that night, a Turkish warplane dropped a bomb that ended the lives of the four friends.
When I arrived, I saw pieces of their burned bodies spread around, mixed with shreds of blankets and fragments of the house. I could not even recognize the bodies. I then collected the remnants and put them in the back of the pickup truck, a Sarkan village elder told members of the Christian Peacemaker Iraqi Kurdistan team.
|Father of one of the bombing victims telling CPTers about his son|
“We could not believe this happened. Sarkan has never been bombed,” Kak Mustafa, father of the 20-year old Bezhan, said to the CPTers. Still in shock, he added, “They were in no way connected to the PKK. We were very close with my son and shared about everything.” He went on angrily, “They are killing us because we are Kurds. Please tell them: Why are they killing us? What did we do?”
Bezhan’s mother talked with CPTers at her home, telling them the tragic story about the death of her son and his friends. With tears streaming from her eyes, she shared how much she loved her son and how much her son loved his friends. She also talked about the other mothers who lost their sons in this bombing by Turkish warplanes. She explained that friends are eager to visit and stay in their homes, but they no longer feel safe to go to their villages due to the Turkish bombing. With anger and sadness, she told CPT that no one is stopping Turkey from killing Kurdish people.
The Turkish state has bombed villages within Iraqi Kurdistan for years in a campaign against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an armed Kurdish resistance group. The constant fear of being bombed at any time has been the reality for many living in the border region and new areas have been bombed in recent months. Thousands traditional farming and herding families who call Qandil and the nearby Zagros mountain ranges their ancestral home, live under the continual threat of death, injury and the destruction of their livelihoods.
Several days after the bombing, four CPTers visited the village of Sarkan to meet the grieving families. Sarkan is a civilian settlement where seven families live year-round, while an additional twenty to twenty-five families stay in the village from spring to autumn.
CPT ate dinner at the home of a relative of one of the young men killed by the Turkish bombing. While their hosts served tea, they heard the loud noise of fighter jets flying low overhead. The CPTers followed a young woman from the family onto the roof of the house. She and a young neighbor man pointed out the lights of the two warplanes streaking toward the dark mountains. They said this happens nearly every night. They spoke anxiously about where the warplanes might be flying to bomb this time. A short time later the fighter jets flew back directly overhead.
The next morning, CPT received a call from a partner in the mountain village of Baste who reported the Turkish military had bombed a nearby cemetery during the night. The young woman and man speaking to CPT on the rooftop the previous night had accurately predicted the region where the warplanes would drop their missiles.
Bombing civilians is a violation of the basic human rights of people to live in peace and without fear. It is also a violation of the international humanitarian law. In this case, as well as many others documented by CPT, the Turkish state has committed a war crime in Iraqi Kurdistan. Turkish airstrikes often do not distinguish between civilians and combatants and target civilian settlements and crops, killing or wounding civilian inhabitants of ancestral lands.