IRAQ: Hundreds displaced by Iranian, Turkish bombardments of Kurdish rebels
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Hundreds of Kurdish civilians in the far north of Iraq have fled their homes because of the recent bombardments by both Turkey and Iran against Kurdish rebels based in the remote Qandil mountain area.
Aid workers say more than 650 families have fled their villages, and many are now living in primitive conditions without shelter or sufficient food in a humanitarian crisis that has drawn little attention from the authorities in Baghdad.
At the Dara Kouta camp at the foot of the mountains east of Su, 530 families are living huddled together, some without tents because resources are limited, said Hoshyar Mustafa, spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Iraqi government has given each family 1 million dinars – about $850 – but the sum is not enough to cover the needs of the families, he said.
For the camp’s residents, the bombardments are another cause for despair after the brutal Anfal campaign, waged more than 20 years ago by Saddam Hussein against Kurdish villages.
‘We have a new Saddam to bomb our village and displace us all,’ said Fatma Rasoul Khuder, 50, one of the refugees. ‘Who cares about us? We are living in no state. Iran and Turkey both are bombing.’
The remote mountainous area, which lies beyond the direct control of both the Iraqi government and the Kurdish regional government, has been subjected to repeated attacks for many years by Iranian and Turkish forces trying to dislodge Kurdish rebels who have set up bases in the area.
This latest campaign by Iranian troops started earlier this month, after rebels from the Iranian Kurdish Free Life in Kurdistan group, known as PEJAK, killed an Iranian officer in the border area.
The Turkish bombardment began when the Turkish Kurdish rebels from the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, killed nine Turkish solders inside Turkey on June 22.
The Kurdish regional government’s representative in the area, Abdullah Ibrahim Hassan, said that although guerrillas were using the mountains to launch attacks, it was civilians who were paying the price. ‘They’ve been displaced for political reasons, and it’s not their fault,’ he said. ‘They are living in tragedy, and the bombing is unjustified.
‘It’s true that the gunmen exist, but the bombing killed civilians and destroyed their villages, while the gunmen are unscathed.’
Two 14-year-old girls have been killed so far in the bombardments, one by Iranian shelling and the other by Turkish warplanes.
-- Asso Ahmed in Dara Kouta, Iraq, and Nadeem Hamid in Baghdad
[For the record, 5:48 a.m.: An earlier version of this post included an incorrect reference to ICRC executive manager Abd Allah Hassan; the correct source was Kurdish Regional Government representative Abdullah Ibrahim Hassan.]