11/25/2022, 19.38
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Iran and Turkey united against the Kurds, says Fr Samir from Iraqi Kurdistan

The UN Human Rights Council approves a fact-finding mission into the violence in Iran. Khamenei's niece and a famous footballer are arrested. Erdogan’s Operation Claw-Sword continues. Fr Samir describes a place and a people caught in a “crossfire”. Iranian rockets have also hit Christian villages.

Erbil (AsiaNews) – In their historic heartland, divided between Iraq and Syria, Kurds are caught in the crossfire between Turkey and Iran, this according to Father Samir Youssef, parish priest in Enishke, Diocese of Amadiyah, Iraqi Kurdistan.

While the Turks “have been bombing the mountains for a long time" around Amadiyah and Zakho, the Iranians have joined them recently “in attacking Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, which are much closer to the mountains.” Here, Iran has hit “Iranian Kurds who fled (their homeland) in the past,” explained Fr Samir, whose parish welcomed thousands of Christians and Muslims who fled the Islamic State in 2014.

“A refugee centre was recently struck, killing at least 11 civilians", including "a pregnant woman" and the child she was carrying "despite doctors’ attempts to save her”.

Meanwhile, despite Chinese opposition, the UN Human Rights Council yesterday approved a fact-finding mission into Iran’s violent crackdown against the wave of protests that followed the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, at the hands of the country’s morality police.

Such a mission is not likely to stop Iranian authorities from using harsh measures. In fact, two prominent figures have been arrested in recent days: Farideh Moradkhani, niece of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, famous for her human rights campaigns, and footballer Voria Ghafouri, who is accused of “insulting the national football team and propagandising against the government”.

For its part, Turkey’s Operation Claw-Sword, launched on Sunday by President Recep Erdogan, is in full swing. Fighter jets, drones and ground forces have been unleashed against the Iraq-based Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK)[*]and the Syria-based Kurdish People’s Defence Units (YPG)[†].

Ostensibly, this is in response to a terror attack on 13 November in Istanbul blamed on the Kurds, which the PKK has denied. So far, the Turkish government has claimed to have “neutralised" 254 "terrorists”, with tanks and ground troops moving in.

For Erdogan this is "just the beginning”; his goal is to secure the border with Syria and Iraq, although for critics, the operation is just an attempt by the president to divert public attention from the country’s domestic difficulties and economic crisis.

“The Iranians have threatened the governments of Erbil and Baghdad,” said Fr Samir; “their aim is to continue their attacks against the Kurds in order to destroy their weapons. In fact, most are refugees, vulnerable to Iranian drones and rockets while Turkish keep bombing.

“This is relentless, non-stop, so much so that it is hard to sleep because of the noise,” the clergyman said. It seems that Iran and Turkey are “somehow working together” against the Kurds, overcoming old, long-standing divisions.

The Iranians might be going after “Sinjar, which had been previously targeted by the Islamic State. It is a strategic asset, a coveted mountain that could be used to strike Israel in response to an attack.”

“The Kurdish people are caught in a crossfire. Iran’s intervention is something new. For the first time, Iranians are bombing cities where opposition groups are supposedly hiding.”

But Iranian rockets have also hit “Christian villages like Armuta, where residents now fear further escalation. Everything is grim, and the heavy bombing is trampling on the country’s dignity and harming Iraq and Kurdistan.”

The Istanbul attack “offered the Turkish government a pretext to strike hard”, while Iran seems to be exploiting its crackdown against protesters to settle accounts with dissident groups who fled abroad and who, according to government statements, are behind “the protest movement.

“In reality, the demonstrations in Iran have many reasons and bring together Christians, Shias, Sunnis, Kurds” in a fight for freedom.

“Of course, we are used to war,” Father Samir noted. “I was born in 1975 and lived through the Iran-Iraq War, the Gulf invasion, the US invasion, and the Islamic State.

“We had become accustomed to Turkish attacks, but this escalation with Iran is harder to accept, psychologically, because it brings up to the surface the suffering of the past.”


[*] Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan.

[†] Yekîneyên Parastina Gel.

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