Civilian Kurds killed in Turkish cross-border attacks in Northern Iraq and Syria

While the Turkish government has been using repressive and militaristic means to suppress any political debate on the Kurdish issue at home since the end of the peace process with the Kurdish movement in 2015, the Turkish army has been carrying out cross-border operations also in Syria and Iraq, killing many Kurdish civilians. Such operations and civilian casualties have increased over the last two weeks. 

On June 15th, Turkish fighter jets simultaneously attacked Makhmour, Sinjar (Shingal) and Qandil areas in northern Iraq. While Qandil hosts a base of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Makhmour is a refugee camp that was under the supervision of the United Nations for a long time. Makhmour’s 15,000 inhabitants are Kurds from Turkey whose villages were destroyed and depopulated and whose family members were killed, imprisoned or tortured by the Turkish army as part of counter-insurgency warfare in the 1990s. There were no dead and wounded in Makhmour this time as airstrikes targeted its outskirts, but some civilians were injured due to the bombardments on Serdeşt area in Sinjar – the historical home of Ezidi people. Serdest has a hospital and a camp for the Ezidis displaced from their homes after the attacks of ISIS in 2014. 

On June 19th, Turkish fighter jets attacked civilian areas in Şeladizê district of Amediye and killed 5 civilians, three of whom were siblings. On June 23rd, armed unmanned aerial vehicles of Turkey attacked a house in the Helince village in Kobane, northern Syria, which is the Kurdish town where ISIS was first defeated in Syria. Three Kurdish women were killed in this attack; namely, Zehra Berkel, Emine Weysi and Hebun Mela Xelil, one of them being the owner of the house and the other two being members of the confederation of women’s organizations in Northern Syria. On June 25th, Turkish airstrikes targeted the Sharbajer district of Suleymaniye in Kurdistan region of Iraq. A picnic area in Kunemasi was bombed and 3 civilians were killed on site. When protests in the social media peaked upon the spread of video recordings of the attack, the Turkish Ministry of Defense simply denied the killing of civilians in the operation.

The Turkish government claims that these cross-border operations are part of “the fight against terrorism.” Iraqi government protested Turkey for violating its air space and sovereign borders and killing its citizens. The United States issued a statement of concern. The United Nations and Europe Union have remained silent. Turkey is member of the NATO and the Council of Europe, none of which expressed a single word on these massacres. Those killed are civilian Kurds, including women and children.

This is not simply a matter of the violation of the borders or airspace of a sovereign country. As a member of the NATO, the UN and the Council of Europe (CoE) and with weapons mostly secured from the US and Europe, Turkey has routinized its attacks on the Kurds in Iraq and Syria in parallel with its repressive campaign on the Kurdish issue at home. The NATO, the UN and the CoE are watching one of their member countries violating international law and killing innocent civilian Kurds with impunity.

Feleknas Uca & Hişyar Özsoy
Co-spokespersons of HDP for Foreign Affairs
30 June 2020