Turkish Bombing Kills, Injures, and Displaces Kurdish Civilians

“Celebrating the Church of the Brethren’s 300th Anniversary in 2008″

(Jan. 14, 2008) — “It was 2 in the morning, when Turkish planes started bombing our village [Leozha],” Musheer Jalap told us as we sat around the floor of a rented house in another village. By the time the fourth bomb hit his home, Musheer’s family had already fled to a nearby ditch. He was running from his house when he heard his 27-year old daughter Susan scream. She lost the lower part of her left leg that night.

“She is still in the hospital, and is depressed. The most painful thing she has experienced,” Musheer continued, “is thinking her life is over.”

That night, Dec. 16, 2007, Turkish planes bombed 34 villages in central-eastern Iraqi Kurdistan, close to the Iranian border. In Steroka, a piece of a rocket struck Alisha Ibrahim in the head, killed her, destroyed her extended family’s three homes, and killed 480 sheep and goats. Habiba Mohammed, Alisha’s daughter said, deep grief in her voice, “She didn’t do anything to deserve this.” Her brother, Muslim Mohammed, told us, “The Turks are not targeting the PKK [Kurdish Workers’ Party, a militant group]. They are targeting civilians, targeting the whole Kurdish people.” Speaking of the US support of Turkey, he said, “We are surprised and disappointed. We used to support the US.”

This attack also displaced 350-400 families, destroyed a school, and damaged several mosques. Turkish planes flew as far as 50 miles south of the Turkish border across Iraqi airspace to bomb these villages. According to area leaders and the displaced family, no members of the PKK were in or near these villages.

At the end of our talk, Musheer said, “I want America to tell Turkey to stop what they are doing.” This reflects the recent shift in Kurdish Iraqis’ sentiment toward the US, the country they thought would protect them. They are increasingly angry because the US government has provided Turkey with US intelligence and opened Iraqi airspace to Turkish fighter jets.

Governments involved in this conflict justify their actions, pointing to various treaties and historical circumstances. Turkey has repressed its Kurdish population and the PKK have attacked and killed Turkish soldiers. At times in the past, Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) leaders cooperated with Turkish troops to fight the PKK. In August 2007, the Iraqi central government gave permission to Syria, Turkey, and Iran to hunt down and attack the PKK, justifying it by labeling the PKK “terrorists.” Since 1994, and most recently in Nov. 2007, the PKK offered to lay down their arms and negotiate. Many Iraqi Kurds believe that recent Turkish attacks are really motivated by Turkey’s desire to destabilize Iraqi Kurdistan, delay the Kirkuk referendum, and enter Iraq to take Kirkuk.

Whatever political agreements governments involved in this conflict have made, civilians are the primary victims of the recent violence. Those in power must put aside their negative intentions and harmful policies and negotiate in good faith so that the people of these border areas can live peacefully on their land.

–Peggy Gish is a Church of the Brethren member working with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq. Originally a violence-reduction initiative of the historic peace churches (Church of the Brethren, Mennonites, and Quakers), CPT now enjoys support and membership from a wide range of Christian denominations. This report is taken from a CPT release. For more information go to http://www.cpt.org/.

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The Church of the Brethren Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. To receive Newsline by e-mail go to http://listserver.emountain.net/mailman/listinfo/newsline. Submit news to the editor at cobnews@brethren.org. For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.