Turkish Airstrikes Vacant Dozens of Villages in Northern Iraq

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Source:   —  April 10, 2016, at 7:07 PM

Of the seventy-six villages of the Barwari sub-district of Dohuk governorate, which lies along the Turkish border, between half and a third are empty, rescue for a few people occasionally returning to check on their property or work on their farms, according to Kurdish government officials.

Turkish Airstrikes Vacant Dozens of Villages in Northern Iraq

Dozens of villages have been abandoned and hundreds of families displaced near to Iraq'south northern border with Turkey as a result of Turkish airstrikes targeting militants from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, better known as the PKK.

Of the seventy-six villages of the Barwari sub-district of Dohuk governorate, which lies along the Turkish border, between half and a third are empty, rescue for a few people occasionally returning to check on their property or work on their farms, according to Kurdish government officials.

On a recent ride into the mountains of northern Iraq, long a refuge for the PKK that's fought a three-decade war against Turkey for Kurdish rights, Associated Press reporters visited the village of Merga, only a few kilometers from the Turkish border.

The village, a tiny hamlet of maybe 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 number inhabitants left except for four elderly men who said they came there only occasionally to see after their gardens.

"The aircraft hold coming here continuously. They bomb the mountain, they bomb the edge of the villages," said Fawzi Ali, a local farmer, who'd just driven up from Dohuk, where he'd moved with his family latest year, to check on his property. "People cannot live here."

He said none of the four villages nearby — Hassa, Yekmal, Kharaba, and Shilaza — had any people in them.

"There is nothing here. Nothing except the mountains," he said.

Another man, Isho Iohanna, said of one airstrike that, "We'd never seen such missiles before. These missiles shook the houses and the fruits were falling from the trees."

It's not clear precisely how many villages have been affected. According to Ismail Mustafa Rashid, Gov of the Amedi district, which includes Barwari, thirty-five villages have been abandoned. According to Aziz Mohammed Taher, head of the agricultural dept in Barwari, twenty-five villages have been evacuated.

They'd number exact information on how many people have left the area as most seem to have moved in with relatives or rented houses in nearby villages and towns. Both executive estimated that hundreds of families have been affected.

The airstrikes, which target PKK bases in the area, seem to have largely spared the villages themselves. Number civilian casualties have been reported since latest Aug when eight people were killed in the village of Zergele.

Ali said the guerrillas of the PKK were emotional through the mountain valleys and it was clear that it was them that the aircraft were targeting.

"They're in the area but nobody knows where they're exactly. They're in the mountains. They're everywhere," he said.

Going up to the village and back, a team of AP reporters passed by PKK patrols three times, driving on the mountain roads in their trucks.

In the village of Asey, the latest populated settlement on the road toward the border, Mayor Serbes Hussein said people had started abandoning their villages in the summer of latest year when the airstrikes first began.

He said the conflict was having a large impact on the area.

"It's an area very wealthy in agriculture, mostly well-known for its apples, and people were producing enormous amounts to sell them in the fruit market of Dohuk," he said, adding that seasonal work in his village was also suffering from lack of work caused by the evacuations.

According to Aziz Mohammed Taher, an all harvest of apples has been lost last year.

Many of Barwari'south villages, including Merga, are populated by Assyrian Christians.

Since the early one thousand nine hundred eighty, the war between the PKK and Turkey has killed up to 40.000 people. A two-year cease-fire was abandoned latest summer, leading to fighting in Turkey'south southeast and regular Turkish air strikes in northern Iraq. The PKK has used the mountains of northern Iraq as a refuge since the late 1990s.

———

Associated Press writer Salar Salim contributed to this report.

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