Turkey bombs Christian villages in Iraq’s Kurdish region – analysis

Written by Seth Frantzman, originally published at jpost.com

Turkey continued its campaign of bombarding villages in northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region this week, reportedly damaging homes and a church of local Christian minorities.

Ankara claims it is fighting “terror” although there have been no major terror attacks in Turkey for many years. The real terror, according to the locals, comes from Turkey’s bombardment using drones, aircraft and even artillery.

The Assyrian Policy Institute noted that “yesterday, Mar Yousip Assyrian Church of the East in the Assyrian village of Musaka in Barwar, northern Iraq was damaged during a Turkish aerial campaign targeting suspected PKK positions in the area.”
According to the local reports from Rudaw and other sources, the bombing damaged a Christian village and a church. One villager from Miska said that bombs fell near buildings.

It appears Miska and Musaka are related spellings of the name for the same place. In northern Iraq, many towns have multiple names, sometimes including a Turkish, Arabic, Assyrian and Kurdish name and spelling. For instance, the large Christian town of Qaraqosh is also called Hamdaniyeh and Bakhdida. Erbil is called Hawler in Kurdish.

“People were terrified,” a local told Rudaw about Turkey’s bombing of the area. Many families, who are members of ancient Christian minorities, have been forced to flee local villages. According to reports, the villages of Kesta and Chalke have been depopulated and only a few families remain in Miska.

This looks like ethnic cleansing, similar to how Turkey forced 170,000 Kurds to flee Afrin in Syria after invading the area in 2018 and sending Turkish-backed jihadist extremists to occupy the area and attack minority Kurds and Yazidis.

Wherever Turkey occupies Syria, it has ethnically cleansed minorities. Inside Turkey, tens of thousands of Kurds have been massacred during Turkey’s various wars against what it says is Kurdistan Workers Party terrorism.

TURKEY HAS long claimed the right to invade parts of Syria, which it calls a “safe zone,” to stop terror. Although there are actually no terror attacks from Syria or Iraq, Turkey has expanded its dozen bases and posts in northern Iraq’s Kurdish region, even threatening an invasion of Sinjar, the area where Yazidis suffered genocide under ISIS.

Turkey enabled tens of thousands of pro-ISIS members to cross into Syria and Iraq in 2014 and 2015, likely contributing to the genocide. In 2018 and 2019, many ISIS members fled back to Turkey and some went to Idlib and Afrin. The US killed the ISIS leader just a mile from the Turkish border in 2019 in Idlib.

Thousands of villages have been damaged over the years by Turkey’s military operations and airstrikes, and thousands of people have had to flee. Now more are fleeing. Reports say Edine became another village to be “evacuated” due to the fighting. Kurds fear returning to their homes where there are bombardments.

Innocent Kurds are sometimes killed by airstrikes when they go to harvest honey or work their lands. Another village called Dashesh was emptied of people last week. In 2019, Turkish airstrikes targeted the Assyrian Christian Nahla region near Dohuk, damaging the village of Hizane.

It is difficult not to draw a connection that Turkey has systematically targeted areas of Christian, Yazidi and Kurdish minorities, seeking total ethnic cleansing and depopulation of minorities in Iraq and Syria. Every place that Turkish-backed groups control in northern Syria in Turkey’s illegal occupation of Afrin, Idlib and other areas, have no minorities living freely in them.

In many cases, women have also been disappeared from public life under Turkish occupation; councils that once had women are now all militant men.

Iraq has complained since 2015 about Ankara’s increased presence. In recent months, as Turkey threatened to build more bases, there was opposition from the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Units to stop Ankara from invading Afrin.

Christian minorities find themselves divided into areas controlled by pro-Iranian groups in Nineveh plains, or under the Kurdish autonomous region. Many Christians fled ISIS to live in Ainkawa and other areas in the Kurdish region. Although ancient Christian villages have remained steadfast, clinging to their identity and history – such as Al-Qosh between Dohuk and Mosul – Turkey’s bombardments have caused insecurity for many minorities in Iraq, Syria and the Middle East.

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