HIROR, Kurdistan Region – On Sunday, the sound of explosions and gunfire sent children in a village school in northern Duhok province running for cover, screaming with terror. Turkey-Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) conflict had once again come dangerously close to Hiror village.
“The sound of the shelling was so close, as if it was hitting your heart. We can’t bear such a thing. There are grade one students here. Everyone was screaming,” student Nabil Naji said the next day.
The moment was caught on camera. Heavy gunfire can be heard as children flood the hallways and then run outdoors where smoke from a bombardment is rising on a nearby hillside.
“While we were in class at 11:30 am, we suddenly heard a very loud bang. We were so scared and thought it had hit the school,” said student Rojvin Majeed.
Villager Adid Mousa said clashes occurred on two sides of the village. “The fighting was long and shooting continued,” he said.
Classes were cancelled for the day, but resumed on Monday.
In late April, Turkey launched Operations Claw-Lightning and Claw-Thunderbolt against the PKK in the Metina and Avashin areas of northern Duhok, near the border. The PKK is an armed Kurdish group fighting for greater rights for Kurds in Turkey. Ankara considers it a terrorist organization and frequently pursues the group across the border in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq.
For seven months, Hiror village (also called Hirore in Kurdish) in Kani Masi sub-district has been on the frontline of that conflict. Turkey has built numerous outposts on the hilltops overlooking northern Duhok villages, including Hiror, and has carried out deforestation as it constructs roads into the Kurdistan Region’s mountains. The sounds of fierce battles echo off the mountains around the village at night and at least one villager has been injured. The bombardments have sparked fires that raged through Hiror’s forests. One family in the village believes they were exposed to a chemical weapon.
Erbil has called on Turkey to respect its sovereignty and for the PKK to stop using its territory to launch attacks on its neighbor.