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01/22/2021 Iraq (International Christian Concern) – A new report issued by Assyrian Policy Institute showcases the plight of Assyrian Christians in Iraq struggling to survive as victims caught between Turkey and the terrorist organization PKK. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) operates primarily in southeastern Turkey, northeastern Syria and northern Iraq. As Turkey seeks to combat the PKK, they routinely order airstrikes and ground initiatives well into Iraq’s borders. It is here that Assyrians sustain serious attacks as innocent bystanders.

Official counts indicate that there were 52 airstrikes by Turkey in Assyrian-inhabited land, although the actual number is suspected to higher. Turkey, despite being a NATO member, has received international criticism for failing to take precautions to avoid civilian deaths and destruction of civilian territory. According to API, these airstrikes continue to force Assyrians off of their land and therefore severely restricting their livelihood. As primarily agricultural workers, Turkish airstrikes in northern Iraq make the land uninhabitable for Assyrian Christians, further diminishing the number of Christians remaining in Iraq. API cited the Assyrian village of Chalik as an example, where the population decreased from 70 households to six in recent years.

Further exacerbating the issue, Iraqi and KRG forces inadequately respond to the threats against its people. Assyrians also have little faith or hope in their ability to do so. ICC’s joint report on Turkey cites one Assyrian as saying, “the PKK is trying to show a good picture. The only problem we have is that when the PKK comes near our villages, there are airstrikes because Turkey attacks them. In our village, people don’t know where Turkey will target. So, we don’t know where to go.” According to ICC’s report, Turkey fighting in northern Iraq entangles local Christians between two competing military groups. If Iraq’s Christians are to have any future, then it is essential that Turkey shows leadership in pursuing human rights for ethnic and religious minorities.

For more information, see ICC’s joint report: Turkey – Challenges Facing Christians 2016-2020.

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