“We hear the bombs before they hit the ground.”
September of 2018 was the first time in two years that Turkish warplanes bombed the Assyrian village of Chame Rebatke. Turkey bombed again on the 9th of November 2018. This time the Turkish missile, fired from a fighter jet, exploded less than 100 meters from the house of Mr. Ashur Bakes Toma and Mrs. Janet’s house. The impact of the bomb blew out the widows of their home.
The bombing in the fields and mountains nearby has been continuous for years, however this was the second time in two years that the village itself had been bombed and villagers still have no idea why. Currently 14 families live in Chame Rebatke.
The drones and planes came at the same time. No local or international media covered this bombing, but local media covered the previous bombing in September 2018. No one from the government came after the November incident. The inhabitants of the villages affected by bombardments tell CPT that they rarely receive compensation for property damage, killed livestock, or medical care. This makes it difficult for villagers to invest in the future of their farmlands and animals. Villagers, whose main income comes from growing sesame, are scared to work the fields or leave their homes. When CPT asked Mr. Zeya if he can take care of his land he told CPT: “We continue farming, but our hand is on our hearts, that is our reality.” Every time the villagers go out to tend to their sesame fields it’s a huge risk. They are aware that they might become yet another victim of the Turkish bombardments.
“When the drones come, we know bombings will follow. We hear the bombs before they hit the ground.” After the bombings Ashur and Janet were driving to Duhok and there was a peal of thunder. Janet was terrified. Trauma is something that CPT sees on regular basis in the villages impacted by bombardments. “It’s different if you’re in a war zone, but a village is not a war zone.” Janet told CPT.
On the 1st of November Turkish warplanes bombed and completely destroyed a nearby mosque that stood on the road to Duhok, one of the main cities in Iraqi Kurdistan. This road is the only paved road that connects the villagers of Chame Rebatke to other cities and towns nearby. Recently villagers stopped using this road. When CPT asked Mr. Ashur about the incident he told us:“This road to Duhok has become a death road. It makes us feel sick that the bombings would be so close to a village. If this situation continues, the only option is to leave and find a safe new place to live and this hurts us very much.” He added, “We have nothing in Kurdistan; we have only this village. We have no lands and no jobs in Akre or Duhok. We are the main victims of the war between PKK and Turkey.”
Before CPTers left Chame Rebatke our partners told us, “Unfortunately in 2018, we are supposed to be moving forward, but we are going backwards. There is no government in Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) doesn’t care about the people. Our religious leaders do their best, but our voices don’t reach to those people making the decisions.” Chame Rabatke is an Assyrian village. Assyrian Christian Representatives in the KRG advocate for their people and effects of the bombings on Assyrian villages, but there is not a lot of results. They added “We believe the superpower countries should do something about this.”
These stories are not unique to the Christian villages in Iraqi Kurdistan. Christians and Muslims alike face these bombardments. This sad reality is becoming more and more common with the Turkish army moving further into Iraqi Kurdistan and an increase in bombings. Despite these attacks, villagers choose to stay and tend to the land regardless of the daily risks they face.