DUHOK, Kurdistan Region — Christian villagers in Duhok province say sporadic Turkish airstrikes have deprived them of living a normal life, leading many to abandon their villages altogether.
Shlimon Ahteel, 66, from the village of Dora in the Barwari Balla region, says residents have not been able to comfortably carry out their religious and traditional ceremonies, due to the area constantly coming under Turkish bombardment.
“Our security situation is very bad. We do not dare bury our dead ones in the village cemetery,” Atheel, who only lives in Dora with his wife, told Rudaw on Saturday.
“It has been four years since we did not go to our church [fearing airstrikes]. We do not dare to go. It has been four years since our water supply was cut. We cannot even fix it, because of jets and artillery fires,” the elderly Christian man who has been working as a farmer for 30 years now added.
Civilians have borne the brunt of the massive Turkish offensive.
Of 40 families who had lived in this village, only 18 of them have remained fleeing for their lives due to uncertainty and insecurity, Atheel says
And of the 76 villages in the Barwari Balla region, 23 of them are predominantly Christians and none of them has fully been emptied, according to Sarbast Sabri, a local administrative official in the Barwarai Balla region
For decades, both the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Turkish forces have set up military installations along the Turkey-Iraq border. The rough, mountainous region is home mostly to poor farmers who struggle to earn a living.
Turkey has repeatedly defended its past operations in the Kurdistan Region and northern Iraq, saying neither the Iraqi government nor the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has acted to remove PKK insurgents from the area.
The PKK is an armed group struggling for the increased cultural and political rights of Kurds in Turkey.