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Despite bombing them, Turkey sets fire to orchards in Barwari Bala

  2021-07-03  | 
 Zhyan News Network
Devastated trees and agriculture on top of a hill from the Turkish military’s bombings nearby Hrure village in Duhok’s Barwari Bala area, Kurdistan Region, Iraq. Photo Credit: Christian Peacemaking Team in the Iraqi Kurdistan (CPT-IK)
 Zhyan News Network

SULAIMANI – In addition to bombing agricultural lands, the Turkish army sets light to orchards in villages in  Barwari Bala region northeast of Duhok’s Amedi district overnight, a watchdog says, as Turkey has launched an extensive military operation since late April.

Since April 23, Turkey has launched a fresh cross-border land and air military operation called "Claw-Lightning and Claw-Thunderbolt" against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the mountainous areas in northern Duhok, erecting at least four new military bases adding up to almost forty others in the Kurdistan Region.

PKK is an armed Kurdish opposition group that has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish authority, calling for Kurds’ cultural rights in Turkey. It is headquartered in the Kurdistan Region's Qandil mountain range.

More than 10,000 dunams of agricultural lands have been torched in the Turkish artillery fires and airstrikes in Barwari Bala, the Christian Peacemaking Team in the Iraqi Kurdistan (CPT-IK) said on Friday. 

Burned trees are seen after Turkey warplanes orchards in Hrure village in Barwari Bala area of Duhok, Kurdistan Region, Iraq, June 3, 2021. Photo by Mehvan Mecid/ Zhyan News Network/Screengrab 

“Most of the farmlands from our village have been burnt because of the Turkish military’s artillery shelling, and helicopter and drone bombardments, “a villager in Hrure village told the CPT-IK. 

“Some nights we don’t hear any bombing or shooting, but we hear Turkish soldiers coming down into the village and burning our farmlands and orchards.”

Families are receiving threats from the military to stop farming their land, according to the watchdog quoting locals. 

“We have been told by the Turkish soldiers that if we go to irrigate and work on our lands, we will be considered PKK guerrillas. Then they will fire at us,” the villager said. 

Turkey’s airstrike and shelling are almost a daily recurrence in the Kurdistan Region, more notably in the border areas. It launches cross-border operations every now and then.

40 villagers have been evacuated fearing the conflict, seventeen village Darkar sub-district and others in Batifa sub-district in northern Duhok, adding up to hundreds of others in Duhok governorate. 

On Friday evening, the Turkish warplanes were intensively bombing the PKK sites in the vicinity of Hrure, villager Hariwan Salih told Zhyan News Network.

“The Hrure village and its surroundings were bombed lats night and, in the morning,” 

The age of some destroyed trees was more than a hundred years old, Kani Masi Sub-district Manager Sarbast Sabry told the CPT-IK. 

“I ask the international community to break their silence and take a stand against the Turkish military’s environmental abuses,” Sabry said. 

“Whenever a tree would be cut anywhere, environmental organizations are vehemently condemning this, but why are they saying nothing about the cutting and burning of thousands of trees by the Turkish military force in our region?”

The watchdog called on the Turkey to put an end to its military operations “so families and their agriculture, orchards, forests, and farmlands in the Kurdistan border region villages may no longer be devastated by state violence.”

On Saturday, Binari Qandil Municipality affiliated with the PKK said in a statement that the national power grid had went out in Zargali, Bokreskan and Lewzha after the Turkish warplanes bombed the main road in Qandil mountainside near Zargali. 

The road was cleaned by the municipality and work is being done in cooperating with Warte electricity office to restore the national power grid to the affected areas. 

Turkey has also come under attack for chopping down trees and deforestation in the forests in the restive areas.

A civilian has been killed and four others have been wounded in separate airstrikes and shelling by the Turkish army since the new operation started. 

The venue of the airstrikes sometimes are located near the residential areas. On June 19, a PKK vehicle was bombed in a Turkish aerial strike in Galal village in Sulaimani's Mawat district. 

At least thirteen people were killed in a Turkish operation dubbed "Claw-Eagle" through 2020. 

Since May 2020, Turkey has constructed 81 kilometers of new roads in Duhok’s northern Zakho and Amedi that can be liked with increased logging of trees. These roads are likely used in the Turkish military campaign against the PKK, Wim Zwijnenburg from the PAX, a war monitor, tweeted on June 2.

Since July 20, 2015, the conflict between Turkish security forces and the PKK has claimed more than 5,464 lives on both sides in Turkey and the Kurdistan Region, including 549 civilians, 1,296 Turkish state security members, 226 individuals of unknown affiliation and 3,393 PKK members, according to the latest data by the Belgium-based International Crisis Group.

Zhyan English could not verify the actual numbers.

(Zhyan English)

Christian Peacemaking Team in the Iraqi Kurdistan (CPT-IK) and Zhyan News Network Reporter Mehvan Mecid contributed to this story.