Turkey Renews Cross-Border Operations in Iraq that have Harmed Thousands of Kurdish Civilians


The recent decision by Turkey’s parliament to authorize the Turkish military to conduct military raids across the Iraqi border, allegedly to combat PKK militants, wasn’t met with any significant reaction from the world community. Kurdish politicians in Iraq have voiced their fears about the renewal of the mandate for operations, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki asked Turkey to respect Iraq’s sovereignty and stop the cross-border raids. Still, Turkey renewed its attacks in northern Iraq on October 13th.

Turkey and Iran have been conducting military raid across the Iraqi border since the 1990s, but most recently, they have increased their activities on the border and launched attacks inside Iraqi territory in 2006. In October 2007, after PKK militants killed 12 Turkish soldiers in Hakkari province in south-east Turkey, the Turkish parliament authorized the military to conduct cross-border raids to fight the PKK. Since then, Iran has escalated its actions too, and there are many indications that the actions between those two countries are coordinated.

The Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP) conducted a survey of several camps that were set up in Northern Iraq for Kurdish villagers who fled their homes following Turkish/Iranian attacks. According to KHRP, thousands of villagers have lost their homes and livelihood since 2006 due to these attacks. Many of those displaced people are still “living in crowded, unclean and unsafe temporary lodging.” They are not receiving support from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which is afraid of upsetting Turkish-KRG relations, and claims to lack funding to assist the displaced villagers. They are also not receiving any kind of significant assistance from the Iraqi government. And since they don’t fall under the category of refugees (being internally displaced), they are not receiving assistance from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Given the compelling evidence that both Iran and Turkey target Kurdish civilians in Iraq, the KHRP noted that it’s important to look at the actions these countries are taking in the context of their strategic goal to weaken regional Kurdish autonomy.