It’s called Kani Spi, after the white spring that
flows from the cliff below the snow-capped mountains in Iraqi
Kurdistan near the border with Iran. Mahmoud and his two sons,
standing by the gushing spring, pointed to the meadow below and the
ruins of a mill where they used to grind their wheat for bread before
1977-the year Saddam Hussein destroyed their village.
Mahmoud returned to Kani Spi in 1991, only to have
his foot blown off by a land mine placed by Saddam’s forces to
deter the enemy advance during the Iraq/Iran war. The Mines Action
Group working with the United Nations undertook de-mining operations
and fifty-three families moved back and rebuilt their lives. They
are farmers and shepherds who make the best of the warmer months and
retreat in winter to the town of Choman fourteen km away.
Mahmoud and his family live in Choman year-round now
because for the past two summers, Iran has fired rockets at Kani Spi.
Ostensibly they are aimed at rebel forces in the mountains-none of
whom, Mahmoud assured us, live in Kani Spi. He and his sons showed
us the bomb craters near his house. We collected shrapnel and saw
where one unexploded bomb lay buried in a furrow it created on
impact. The de-miners say they will come and remove it and the
remaining landmines but not until they can safely do so. No one from
the village has suffered death or injury, but the cost in lost
produce and livestock has devastated the twice-displaced villagers.
The Kurdish Regional Government has not followed through on its
promise of material relief for the villagers.
Choman has received displaced people from six
villages, some of them more devastated than Kani Spi, having suffered
direct hits on homes and out-of-control fires. The villagers’ land
is fertile and they can live normal lives if they can go back. They
just need the bombing to stop. But until those in power sit down and
negotiate with the Kurdish rebels in the mountains-from Turkey,
Iran and Iraq-no one will live safely in Kani Spi or the other
When we speak to Kurdish authorities about the
bombings and shelling along the borders of Turkey and Iran, they say
they feel powerless to do anything to stop it: the U.S. is really in
charge here and the U.S. has given Turkey both the go-ahead and the
satellite intelligence information to pursue the rebels into the
mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan. That Iran, a declared enemy of the
U.S., is doing the same adds a wildcard to the game.
Meanwhile villages are bombed, forcing
displacement of civilian populations. This is classic
counter-insurgency as practiced by US client-states in Central and
South America and southeast Asia: “drying up the water so the fish
can’t swim”; if no supportive villages exist to supply
insurgents, they will be starved out.