Turkish airstrikes and ground troops are threatening areas in northern Iraq populated by Christians, Yazidis and Kurds trying to recover following 2014 attacks by Daesh militants.
Initially, airstrikes shook Mount Sinjar, an area that is home to the Yazidi minority and where the militants carried out a genocide against the Yazidi community. On 17th June, Turkish commando forces were then airlifted into the border region of Haftanin, some nine miles from the Turkish-Iraqi border, for what Turkey said is a military operation against Kurdish rebels; however, analysts and others dispute the claim.
“Shelling by the Turkish military hit fields near the town of Bersev, forcing some 10 to 15 Christian families to flee,” said a Chaldean Catholic priest, who wished his name withheld for fear of his safety. “Those families have now returned.”
“But Christians are very fearful about what is going to happen because they are quite aware that neither the Iraqi nor the Kurdistan regional government can do anything to stop this,” said Fr Emanuel Youkhana, a priest, or archimandrite, of the Assyrian Church of the East, who spoke with the priest.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “is taking advantage of the fact that world powers are not making Iraq a priority at the moment. Baghdad and Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish region, are weak. Also, Kurdistan’s economy is linked to Turkey,” said Fr Youkhana, who runs Christian Aid Program Northern Iraq, a programme for displaced Iraqis around the northern Iraqi city of Dahuk.
Picture: Women mourn the death of a man who was killed in a Turkish airstrike in Sheladize, Iraq, on 22nd June 2020. (CNS photo/Kawa Omar, Reuters).