Turkish forces have targeted several villages in northern Iraq this week as part of their military operation that started last month, reportedly damaging homes and a church of local Christians, Iraqi Kurdish news network Rudaw reported on Wednesday.
The bombing that damaged the church in the Dohuk province’s Miska village started at 2:40 a.m. local time, villager Dawoud Yukhanna told Rudaw.
Miska had been evacuated due to Turkish airstrikes, along with other villages including Kesta and Chalke near Dohuk’s Amedi town. Eight families had returned to live in the village and take care of their properties, Rudaw said.
Operation Claw-Lightning, launched on April 24, has focused on Avashin, Basyan and Metina regions in Dohuk.
Turkey maintains its operations target bases of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), designated a terrorist organisation by Ankara, Washington and Brussels, but locals have been reporting attacks on civilian settlements.
A 20-year-old civilian was injured in Deshish village in the latest bombing, according to Rudaw. There are three households left in the village, it said. Meanwhile, another village, the Edine, became the third village to be completely evacuated since the beginning of the Claw-Lightning.
At least 610 acres of arable land have been damaged in Turkish bombings this year, British newspaper Morning Star reported on Wednesday, while the past decade saw at least 53,000 acres of forestland burn as a result of bombings in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.
“Ankara claims it is fighting ‘terror’ although there have been no major terror attacks in Turkey for many years,” analyst Seth Frantzman wrote for Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. “The real terror, according to the locals, comes from Turkey’s bombardment using drones, aircraft and even artillery.”
Miska is an Assyrian village, which locals also call Musaka, according to Frantzman. It is well on its way to being another evacuated village, with only a few families remaining.
“This looks like ethnic cleansing,” Frantzman said, “similar to how Turkey forced 170,000 Kurds to flee Afrin in Syria after invading the area in 2018 and sending Turkish-backed jihadist extremists to occupy the area and attack minority Kurds and Yazidis.”
In 2019, Turkish airstrikes had damaged Hizane, another Assyrian village in Dohuk, Frantzman said.
There have been no attacks on Turkey originating from Syria or Iraq, the analyst said. Regardless, Turkey has “expanded its dozen bases and posts in northern Iraq’s Kurdish region, even threatening an invasion of Sinjar, the area where Yazidis suffered genocide under ISIS.”
“It is difficult not to draw a connection that Turkey has systematically targeted areas of Christian, Yazidi and Kurdish minorities, seeking total ethnic cleansing and depopulation of minorities in Iraq and Syria,” he added.
Iraq’s Christians have sought refuge with pro-Iranian groups in Nineveh or the Kurdistan region, Frantzman said. “Although ancient Christian villages have remained steadfast, clinging to their identity and history,” he added, “Turkey’s bombardments have caused insecurity for many minorities in Iraq, Syria and the Middle East.”