IRAQ – Turkish Airstrikes Target Iraqi Assyrian Villages — Call for War Crimes Investigation

Assyrian International News Agency | Oct. 3, 2018

The Turkish military launched airstrikes targeting Iraqi Christian villages in northern Iraq, a rights group warned.

Local sources have told International Christian Concern, a U.S.-based persecution watchdog, that seven predominantly Christian villages were targeted by Turkish airstrikes last month. September saw an increase in Turkish airstrikes in the north of Iraq.

“Turkey attempts to justify these airstrikes by claiming that these villages support or have a PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) presence,” an ICC report reads. “Turkey is occupying a significant swath of land in northern Iraq and is deepening its presence daily.”

According to ICC, Christian villages in Iraq have historically faced challenges spurred by the PKK and the Kurdish Regional Government. However, the situation for the Christians in largely agricultural northern Iraq has “worsened while the NATO member continues to gain more territorial control in Iraq’s north.”

“Human rights groups have repeatedly warned that Turkey is using the PKK’s general presence as an excuse to expand its territory and that by conducting airstrikes where there is no specific legitimate military target, Turkey is in violation of international law,” ICC asserted in its report.

In September, Human Rights Watch suggested that there were at least four Turkish military operations in northern Iraq that claimed to have targetted the PKK (recognized by the United States as a terrorist group) dating back to May 2017 that should be investigated for possible war crimes.

The PKK has been active in Iraq, with its presence near the border of Turkey, Iran and Syria. The Turkish government has actively launched operations against the PKK for over 10 years.

Turkey’s airstrikes in northern Iraq have killed at least seven non-combatants and wounded at least one more, witnesses and relatives told the human rights group.