VIDEO: Turkey Warplanes Attack in Iraq, Force Kurdish People Flee Their Villages

Sun Apr 10, 2016 17:23:12

Dozens of villages have been partly or entirely abandoned close to Iraq's northern border with Turkey as a result of Turkish air strikes targeting militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

In the 76 villages of the Barwari sub-district of Dohuk governorate, 25 villages are empty, save for a few people occasionally returning to check on their property or work on their farms, according to Kurdish government officials.

On a recent trip into the mountains of northern Iraq, long regarded as a refuge to the PKK that has fought a three-decade war against Turkey for Kurdish rights, Associated Press reporters visited the village of Merga, only a few kilometres from the Turkish border.

The village, a small hamlet of perhaps a dozen houses surrounded by oak, apple and almond trees and set in a green valley among the snow-peaked mountains of the Zagros mountain range, had no inhabitants left, except for four old men who only came there occasionally to look after their gardens.

Last August eight people were killed in the village of Zergele by a Turkish air strike. In the village of Asey, the last populated settlement on the road towards the border area, mayor Serbes Hussein said people had started abandoning their villages in the summer of last year when the Turkey-PKK conflict had restarted and the air strikes had begun.

"He estimated that some 500 families had left their homes in the Barwari sub-district. He said the conflict was having a huge impact on the area because of the impact on farmers' fruit harvests, and that seasonal labour in his village was also suffering from lack of work that the evacuations had caused."

According to Aziz Mohammed Taher, head of the agricultural department in the sub-district, an entire harvest of apples was lost last year. - Since the early 1980s, the war between the PKK and Turkey has caused the death of up to 40,000 people.

A two-year ceasefire was abandoned last summer, leading to fighting in Turkey's south-east and regular Turkish air strikes in northern Iraq. The PKK has used the mountains of northern Iraq as a refuge since the late 1990s.


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