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Bombing the villagers


The actions of Turkey in northern Iraq will not solve the 'Kurdish problem' and should be roundly condemned by the US and EU

Kerim Yildiz
January 23, 2008

Guardian

The bombardments and air raids carried out since mid-October, and most recently on January 11 by the Turkish air force, are only the most recent in a series of coordinated attacks on civilian populations in northern Iraq by both Turkey and Iran since last August.
Turkey's claims of "self defence" only thinly veil what is a coordinated strategy for the destabilisation of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the only part of Iraq to have enjoyed a degree of stability since the 2003 invasion. Indeed, just last summer Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated publicly that it made no strategic sense to cross the border in search of the PKK, since the majority are based within Turkey's borders.
Turkey, Syria and Iran have a shared animosity towards Kurdish autonomy and have been engaged in a concerted policy to undermine the KRG since its establishment in the 1990s. This is not simply a behind-the-scenes arrangement; as recently as a few months ago the Turkish military's chief of staff, General Büyükanit, branded development of the KRG as the biggest threat to Turkey's future security, while Syria was the only state to vocally support Turkey's authorisation of incursions into northern Iraq in October 2007.
Even before Turkey's authorisation of incursions, Iran was shelling Kurdish villages on the Iraqi side of its border throughout August and September. Central to the actions of these states is the yet-undecided status of Kirkuk. Were the oil-rich city to come under Kurdish jurisdiction, the KRG would become a more powerful regional example of the merits of Kurdish autonomy, in stark contrast to the current situation of Kurds in Turkey, Iran and Syria.
During fact-finding missions by the Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP) to the border regions in November 2007 and January 2008 I witnessed first-hand the effects of Turkish artillery bombardment and air strikes. In the Dohuk region, near the Turkish border, the bombardments have caused serious disruption for local people, including displacement and the destruction of property, livestock, arable land and woodland. The psychological effects of such bombardments, particularly on children, are enduring and extremely worrying.
In the Rania region of the KRG's Sulemanya governate, an area not far from the Iranian border which also suffered Iranian shelling in August 2007, KHRP witnessed the aftermath of the recent Turkish air raids: the destruction of mosques, schools, hospitals and farmland, along with the killing and injuring of villagers. More than 50 civilian villages were affected in the opening bombing raid of 16 December alone.
While the effect on "terrorist bases" has been negligible, these raids have destroyed the crops and homes of hundreds of rural civilians, and with them, their independence and self-sufficiency. Civilians are clearly being targeted in what should be condemned as an act of aggression and a violation of international law.
By adopting the discourse of the "war on terror" in its violation of Iraqi sovereignty, its targeting of civilians and its endangerment of the KRG's stability, Turkey has garnered tacit US approval of such actions and only muted criticism from the European Union. This is particularly shocking when Turkey's actions in the region have been carried out with the full cooperation and support of two "rogue" states that have been condemned by the EU and the US for contributing to instability elsewhere in Iraq and in the region as a whole.
The United States' long association and familiarity with Turkey through Nato should make it fully aware that military action will not bring a solution to the "Kurdish question" in Turkey or Iraq. This, indeed, was acknowledged by George Bush during Turkish president Abdullah Gül's visit to Washington on January 8.
If the US and EU are serious about promoting peace, stability and democracy in the region, they should be very concerned at the current state of affairs. Turkey - a Nato member and EU applicant - is behaving like a "rogue" state, to use US terminology. To allow Turkey to use the anti-terror pretext for such aggression, and to give tacit approval to it, is extremely damaging to the US and EU and leaves them in a very difficult position when needing to deal with the actions of other less friendly "rogue" states.
The actions of Turkey in northern Iraq, and indeed the actions of Iran and Syria, should be roundly condemned by the international community and particularly by the US and EU who both have an enormous interest in maintaining the KRG as an example of stability in the region. Turkey should be encouraged to change its attitude to the KRG, to see Kurdish autonomy not as a threat to its integrity but rather as a lawful example of how its own "Kurdish problem" could be solved.

 

 

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ناوه‌ندی هه‌ڵه‌بجه‌ دژ به‌ ئه‌نفالکردن و ژینۆسایدکردنی گه‌لی کورد (چاك) 
The Center of Halabja against Anfalization and Genocide of the Kurds - CHAK