As adults, we are just afraid for our children
By: Julie Brown
The explosion was massive, even through the small video on Kak Najib’s iPhone you could see the devastation and huge plume of smoke that engulfed the whole side of a nearby mountain. This was just one of many bombs that fell on the area surrounding the village of Merkajia last fall.
Merkajia is an Assyrian village that lies within the northern mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan. These mountains are a dividing point between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan as well as a battleground between the Turkish government and The Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK. While media sometimes gives nod to this decades long conflict, The realities of life for those like the villagers of Merkajia, people whose communities are on the frontlines, are rarely told.
In November the Turkish Government dropped a barrage of bombs on the area surrounding this small village Kak Nagib, the Mukhtar (village leader) of Merkajia, told CPT. When the first bombs fell it was in the evening Kak Najib was in his house with his family. He explained that at first they stayed inside their home and took shelter but as the bombs continued to fall they went outside afraid that one would hit the house and it would collapse on his family. The women and children were sent from the village and only the men stayed behind to protect their homes and property. “As Assyrians we believe that we will die one day and that we should not be afraid of death. I have seen many wars, Saddam forced me to go to Kuwait. As adults, we are just afraid for our children,” he explained.
The bombs also shattered all the windows in every home in Merkajia and cracked several walls. Kak Najib pointed to a large crack in his home just over a large portrait of Jesus hanging in his family room. When CPT asked how people could be in solidarity with the villagers of Merkajia he simply said, “Let people know that we are being bombed.”
When the area quieted, Kak Najib went out from his house into the village’s surrounding lands. There he was shocked at what he saw. When he attempted to survey the damages to the area he found parts of bodies strewn over the landscape. He said that he did his best to collect them and keep them from the wild animals so that these people could have a proper burial. Although Merkajia’s residents are not involved in fighting, and even have an agreement with the fighters to stay away from the village, no one is immune from the effects of the bombings in this area.
Over fifty bombs hit the area in a period that lasted almost a week. In the end 16 people were killed and 63 wounded. All were Kurdish fighters.
Though no one from the village lost their life, civilians in the area also continually feel the effects of these attacks. Many families have left, homes are damaged,and they no longer raise herds in this area because with every bombing the animals are released and lost. The fields are also constantly burned and destroyed around the village. The villagers from Merkajia have land deeds to this area that date back to the Ottoman Empire. Kak Najib held up a large map depicting the Assyrian village’s historic land that his family has lived on for generations. He remarked, “This is our land, even if it is all burned we will never leave.”
This bombing took place in November, however, CPT records show that over forty Turkish Cross-border bombings on Kurdish areas similar to Merkajia have taken place just in the first half 2017 alone.