Turkish Airstrikes Leave Christian Village in Kurdistan Region Deserted

A missile-loaded Turkish Air Force warplane takes off from the Incirlik Air Base, in the outskirts of the city of Adana, southeastern Turkey, Tuesday, July 28, 2015After months of reluctance, Turkish warplanes last week started striking militant targets in Syria and agreed to allow the U.S. to launch its own …
AP Photo/Emrah Gurel

Residents of a Christian village in Northern Iraq’s Kurdistan Region have been forced to abandon the settlement in recent months over Turkey’s ongoing military operations in the area, Kurdish outlets reported on Tuesday.

Over the past two months, the small Christian village of Sheranish has been devastated by Turkish airstrikes targeting Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters in the region, which borders Iran, Turkey, and Syria. Christian residents caught in the crossfire told Iraqi Kurdistan news agency Rudaw that they have been forced to desert the hamlet.

“This is our village, the village of Sheranish. They set fire to all of our farms, and they bombed the area around the village, they even bombed the village [proper]. So we left the village and escaped,” resident Amir Nissan said.

Fellow villager Ivan Hikmet said he and his family originally arrived in Sheranish after fleeing long-term violence in Baghdad. Now, they have been forced to abandon their home again.

“We were displaced from Baghdad. We came here. Our village was rebuilt, so we stayed in. We bought this house, furnished it, settled in, assuming it was safe and the village is a Christian village. Then we were displaced because of (the fighting between) Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK),” Hikmet explained.

Sheranish is located in the Kurdistan Region’s Zakho district, near Iraq’s border with Turkey. In mid-June, Turkey renewed its military offensives in the Kurdistan Region to remove suspected members of the PKK – a Marxist, U.S.-designated terror group – from the area. As part of the relaunched military offensive, Turkey conducted a drone strike in the Sidakan area of Erbil province on August 13, killing three Kurds. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) governs Erbil and has repeatedly demanded that the PKK vacate the region.

“Turkey has conducted airstrikes and ground operations against the PKK within Iraq’s borders for years, accusing the federal Iraqi government and Kurdistan Regional Government of failing to take measures against the group,” Rudaw notes. “The PKK is an armed group fighting for Kurdish political and cultural rights in Turkey. It has been clashing with Turkish forces inside and outside Turkey since 1984.”

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