Protests break out as Turkish artillery fire kills 9 and injures several others in Zakho in Iraqi Kurdistan

The Iraqi government demanded an official apology from Turkey as well as the immediate withdrawal of all Turkish forces from the country. Opposition groups in Turkey called the attack against civilians a war crime

July 22, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Turkish attack in Iraqi Kurdistan
(Photo: Rudaw)

Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets on Wednesday, July 20, after hearing of the death of nine people from Turkish artillery fire from across the border. Nearly two dozen people were also injured in the attack. The attack was condemned by both the Iraqi government and opposition forces which demanded the immediate withdrawal of all Turkish forces from the country.    

In the second such attack within a week, Turkish forces fired a barrage of artillery at the Parkhe village near Zakho city in northern Iraqi Kurdistan. 

The Iraqi government sought a formal apology from the Turkish government. The Iraqi Foreign Ministry said that the attack was a “flagrant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and constitutes a clear threat to the security of civilians.” The official statement also claimed that the issue will be taken up at top diplomatic levels and Turkey’s repeated attacks inside Iraq must be reported to the UN Security Council.  

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi declared that “Turkey must submit an official apology and withdraw its military forces from all Iraqi lands.” 

President of Iraqi Kurdistan, Nechirvan Barzani, called the Turkish bombings “unacceptable”.  

The Iraqi Communist Party termed the attack “heinous Turkish aggression” and asked the Iraqi government to make sure that such attacks are not repeated.”  

The attack in Zakho was also criticized by the Turkish opposition parties. The left-wing People’s Democratic Party (HDP) issued a statement on Thursday calling the attack “a crime against humanity and war crime” and accused the Turkish government of committing a “massacre in Zakho.”

Turkey denies responsibility, blames PKK for the attack

All those killed or injured in the attack were reported to be tourists from other parts of Iraq. Parkhe is a tourist destination near Zakho city in the Dohuk governorate of Iraqi Kurdistan. It is close to the Turkish border where, according to the Turkish government, “terrorists” of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) are allowed to operate freely by the Iraqi government.    

Turkey officially denied that it carried out the attack on Wednesday. It instead blamed the attack on the PKK, and said that it seeks cooperation with Iraq “in bringing the real perpetrators of this tragic incident into light,” Rudaw reported.  

However, Muhsin Bashir, mayor of Zakho, claimed that Turkish forces bombarded the village on the pretext that members of the PKK were present there, Rudaw reported. 

Critics have rejected Turkey’s claims and cited various incidents in the past when Turkish forces have been involved in attacking innocent civilians. 

Turkey had launched a cross-border offensive in April, the so-called operation Claw-Lock, and taken over control of some of the villages at the border, displacing thousands of civilians there in order to fight the PKK and its affiliates. Turkey has banned the PKK as a terrorist organization and accused it of carrying out terrorist attacks inside the country for decades in which thousands of people have been killed. 

The attack comes days after at least five people were killed in a drone strike in Mosul carried out by the Turkish forces on Sunday. The attack was condemned by the Iraqi authorities who called it a blatant violation of Iraqi sovereignty. 

Turkey had at the time conveyed that it will not stop the offensive inside Iraqi territories until Baghdad takes action against the PKK. Turkey has earlier claimed that its operations inside Iraq are in coordination with the governments of Iraq and the Kurdistan region. Both the authorities denied the claim after opposition groups raised the issue. 

According to the International Crisis Group, at least 597 civilians and 266 persons with unknown affiliations have died in different Turkish invasions inside Iraqi Kurdistan since 2015.