IRAQI KURDISTAN: “All we want is to know the fate of our beloved people”

The wives, mothers and daughter of those killed and missing in Deraluk

It was just twenty-three days after the New Year when the Turkish jet fighters bombed Matin Mountain in Deraluk and the villages around it in Iraqi Kurdistan. This airstrike marked the first incident of killing and targeting civilians in 2019.

The jets struck the Mountain and Zele and Hetut villages for more than one hour. They killed six civilians; four of the bodies were recovered, but the fate of two others is still unknown.

CPT visited Deraluk two days after the tragic event, and again on 24 April for further follow-up with the family of the six victims, who were still wearing the black clothes of mourning.  They shared the story of losing their beloved sons.

“My brother was working, fishing with the others, when the Turkish airplanes bombed them,” Haider’s brother, Habib told CPT. “My brother and four others were fishing in Zele village, where there were not any Turkish military bases around. My brother was working, fishing with others, but the Turkish airplanes bombed the area. Two of my brother’s friends were killed and their bodies were found in that spot; but the fate of my brother and one of his friends is still unknown and we do not know whether they were injured or killed, arrested or something else. Haider and his friends were innocent.”

CPT met with the families in Deraluk

Haider left behind four children. His wife spoke to us with deep sorrow, “My husband was a Peshmerga fighting in the frontlines of the battle fields against ISIS. Now he has left four children and there is nobody to take care of them and we are a poor family. Nobody takes our terrible situation into consideration and all I want is to know the fate of my husband, dead or alive.”

“It has been four months I have lived with the hope of having my son returned. As a mother I will not give up until the fate of my son is uncovered”

Redar is another victim of the tragic event whose fate is also still unknown. His family is counting the days until they discover his fate.  Redar and Haider and their two friends, both named Azad, were Peshmerga soldiers. Because of the financial crisis in Iraqi Kurdistan, they couldn’t depend solely on their salary. As a result they started fishing for food and a good livelihood for their families.

“Our son has been missing for months. Sometimes they say he is dead, and sometimes they say he is alive, but still I live with the hope of having my son returned. There is no place left that we have not searched for him. I ask God to uncover the fate of my son. As a mother, I will not give up until the fate of my son is uncovered,” Redar’s mother told CPT.

The relatives of Redar and Haider asked the PDK, which is the ruling party in the region, to find out what happened to their sons. But the PDK told them that their sons were arrested by the PKK (the Kurdish guerilla group fighting the Turkish government in the mountains). When they asked the PKK to tell them what really happened to the missing men, they said that the PDK is the ruling party in the area and is responsible for protecting the lives of people there, not the PKK. The younger brother of Redar explained to CPT, “Redar had a bag with him. The bag was left on the road undamaged, but there was no sign of him, either dead or alive.” Thus, he believes that his brother is still alive and has been arrested.

In the same hour that the Turkish jets bombed Zele, they hit Hetut village, destroying the village’s horticulture and killing two civilians.

Since 2014 the Kurdistan Region has faced a financial crisis due to the disputes between the regional Kurdish and the central Iraqi governments. This situation has forced people not to depend solely on their salaries but begin working in multiple areas to try and provide a decent life for their families.

Bakhtyar and Zyad had started beekeeping due to the financial crisis. They were in Hetut on 23 January taking care of their bees. The Turkish jets bombed the village. It took two days for their bodies to be found.

 

“We live in our villages, on our land, in our mountains. We want to live in peace but they come and kill us in our homes.”

 

Laijan, Bakhtyar’s wife, told CPT that she had asked her husband many times not to go to that area, as the Turkish airplanes may bomb it because Turkey does not distinguish between civilians and PKK guerrillas. “They do not care who we are, what matters for them is that we are Kurds and they kill us.”

Bakhtyar and Zyad used to visit their hives twice a month to observe the bees. “We live on our land, we farm crops and animals and keep bees. But Turkey and the armed groups have turned our land into a battlefield, and we, the villagers and the innocent residents of the borders, become the victims. We want to live in peace, but they come and kill us in our homes,” Xam, Zyad’s wife, said.

 

When the mountains behind Deraluk are bombed, the villagers homes shake.

Following the three days of Turkish airstrikes on the outskirts of Deraluk, there was a demonstration on 26 March in Shiladze organized by relatives of the martyrs and other citizens of Shiladze and the surrounding area. The protesters marched towards the Turkish military base in Sire. There, Turkish soldiers opened fire on the protesters, killing a 14-year-old boy and wounding ten others. The Turkish government also used jet fighters and sound bombs in an attempt to intimidate and disperse the protesters. The Asaish arrested some of the protestors and journalists and dispersed the crowd. Turkish soldiers are now once again stationed in Sire.

“The International Community is silent. The Iraqi government condemns Turkey and the KRG calls us troublemakers”

Halkawt, a friend of one of the victims of the Turkish bombardment and a lawyer, is deeply concerned about the silence of the international community on the airstrikes carried out by Turkey and Iran in Iraq. He believes that the KRG holds a weak and shaky stance against Turkey in this regard. “Turkish forces kill us on our land, and the international community and world superpowers do not utter even a word. Following the protests in Shiladze, the Iraqi foreign ministry sent a firm message to the Turkish government through the Turkish embassy to Iraq. In the message the Iraqi government condemned the Turkish government over killing the villagers and the civilians on the borders. Surprisingly enough, instead of taking a firm stances against Turkey, the KRG calls us troublemakers!”

Turkey has bombed the border for many years under the pretext of fighting PKK guerrillas, but many of the victims are civilians and unarmed people living near the borders. As the result of the bombardments many villages have been evacuated and many farms have been destroyed. The villagers seek a peaceful life and demand that Turkey immediately cease bombing their villages and fighting on their land.

 

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