Family impacts of Iranian cross border shelling

Khatun Ali talking to CPTers at her home in Shora. Photo by: Julie Brown

By Julie Brown

Khatun Ali lives in Shora, a small village in the Choman district of Iraqi Kurdistan. She is the head of a household in an area that is regularly targeted by Iranian Military in a cross-border battle between the Iranian military and the KDPI or Kurdish Democratic Party of Iranian. Khatun is a widow with three other people living in her home, a daughter-in-law, two small children and herself.  One of her sons is a Peshmerga who is often away.

“When my husband was alive, I lived like a princess honestly. I didn’t have a lot of responsibility. Now I have to look after a lot of trees, our herds and the children,” she said as she pointed to the sheep grazing on the hill just behind her home. She told of how her home and crops were burned three separate times during the time of Saddam but they managed to rebuild. “We were poor then but we had a good life. Things in the region have improved but here there are no salaries, food, or kerosene and now we are scared.”

On July 3rd Iranian shells, and large caliber bullets fired from within Iran and targeting KDPI positions hit the village of Gwndazhor and the surrounding mountains around Shora.  The attack wounded four people, destroyed two homes and killed several livestock. “Our villages are very close so the bombing in one area affects all the nearby villages” Khatun explained to CPT.

Villagers of Iraqi kurdistan have been affected by cross-border wars for decades. These attacks have stirred little notice from the international community however the human rights impact in the region has been huge.  The shells on July 3rd started in the very early morning as people slept in their homes. Khatun explained that at first she thought the loud sound was a landmine exploding. (This area is also riddled with unexploded landmines dating back to the 80’s, leftovers of the Iran/ Iraq War.) Her son, a member of the Peshmerga military forces, was also woken by the sound and told his mother that it was shelling from Iran.”We were petrified. The children were shouting and we left the village.”  Khatun recounted how they all piled into her son’s vehicle and fled the area along with the residents from all of the surrounding villages. “I was out of my soul.” she said regarding the fear and chaos.  During active bombings displacement of villagers is very common.  Whole areas flee to the larger towns where no structure for support exists.

The effects of these bombings are lasting in the region.  People killed or injured, displacement, damaged houses, lost livestock and burned crops are not the only effects. CPT has documented numerous people with high levels anxiety and trauma.  The rate is especially high among the children. Khatun’s family is just one example. “Even when I sleep in the nights now I am petrified.” Khatun said.  She said that she has no idea when they will shell the area again.  

Cross-border bombings have occurred along the Kurdish borders of Iraq, Iran and Turkey for decades.  They have not been an effective solution to these regional conflicts and are causing great human suffering among the populations inhabiting these areas. The international community should remain aware of the impact these attacks are having on the civilian population and urge all involved parties to find a diplomatic solution.