Fr. Samir: Twin virus of Covid and Turkish bombs emptying Kurdistan

Ankara's air raids have stopped tourism after a phase of recovery, emptied the fields and blocked work in the factories. The sound of drones patrolling the territory and mapping out the terrain for attacks. Needs remain great among the local population and refugee families. AsiaNews' campaign for the Christians of Mosul continues. 

Erbil (AsiaNews) - In the last year, some Christian and Kurdish villages "have been emptied" because of  Turkish air force bombing of Kurdish targets linked to the PKK fighting movement, considered a terrorist organisation by Ankara (and by part of the West).

For a long time the area "had been spared from the violence," but today the fear "is tangible," says Fr. Samir Youssef, parish priest of Enishke, diocese of Amadiya, in Iraqi Kurdistan, tells AsiaNews, which tells of a population "first frightened by the Covid-19 virus and now afraid because of the virus of bombs." The priest adds that these attacks have "stopped tourism after a phase of recovery and make it difficult to cultivate fields or keep factories open, for fear of being hit". 

On the night between November 6 and 7, "the Turks bombed our mountain, six missiles fell not far from the village and caused a wave similar to an earthquake," he continues. The rain of ordnance has also affected "another Christian village in the area", in over a year "it is the first time they hit near here". For this reason, in recent days "some families have moved to the cities" of Zakho, Dohuk, Erbil, then returned, but the air raids "are continuing on the other side. 

Even during the interview Fr. Samir says he can hear the sound of Turkish drones patrolling the area in search of hiding places to be hit at night or of guerrillas engaged in transfer operations. The raids have heavy consequences on the population, because those who have land "do not want to cultivate it not to run the risk of being hit, because mistaken for a militiaman. The same goes for those who have factories: more and more of them are abandoned. Even tourism has stopped after a positive summer season. The fear of being hit is too high, with the inevitable consequences for restaurants, hotels and other activities that were restarting after Covid-19". 

Fr. Samir confesses "elderly people and children are afraid as bombings we are back to 2003, to the dark time of the war. The PKK guerrillas are present along a strip that goes from our mountains to Sinjar, on the border with Syria, and it will not be easy to hit them, because they are always on the move. The virus of bombs, he observes, "has always kept us company and today the coronavirus is back to affect us: every week two or three people die in our area, the vaccination coverage in my parish is around 60% and in other areas even lower. There is fear and mistrust, also fed by fake news about dangerousness or ineffectiveness that circulate on the net".

Fr. Samir is among the main beneficiaries of AsiaNews' "Adopt a Christian from Mosul" campaign. The devastation of the Islamic State (IS, formerly Isis) despite their military defeat  three years ago is still a visible reality and their mentality still widespread. Moreover, the problem remains of teh thoudsands of displaced persons who often do not even have the basic resources to survive or who find themselves having to deal with further difficulties caused by the pandemic.

The problems linked to the political elections in Baghdad also have repercussions in Kurdistan "where prices have risen, from petrol to kerosene for heating, to foodstuffs, then there are people who have not received their salaries for three months and the situation remains unstable". 

As the Iraqi Church, stresses Fr. Samir, charity initiatives continue including "the purchase of food, gasoline and money to support the neediest families in the area and those of Arab and Kurdish refugees, Christians and Muslims, who have found a welcome here. I still have 35 Syrian families who, since 2013, have been counting on our support." This is why the priest relaunches the AsiaNews campaign and invites those who can to continue to donate, and help. "In this difficult time - he concludes - each community has its own difficulties, but we must not remain indifferent to the needs. Every smallest donation is a precious good for our families and for refugees in difficulty... and without help it is difficult to continue this work."