Pre-referendum bombardments

The villagers trying to control the fire.

By: Julie Brown

On 23 September, just two days before Iraqi Kurdistan's scheduled referendum on independence from Iraq, Iranian military fired rockets at Bine Rashkin, a village sitting near the Iranian border in the Sidakan district of Iraqi Kurdistan. Kak Rashad, a CPT partner from a nearby village called CPT during the shelling saying, “Iran is dropping bombs everywhere. It is close to the houses and everything is on fire.”

A villager showing the CPTers the damages that were caused to his house due to the Iranian bombardments.

Four days later, CPT visited the area with Rashad as our guide. He explained to us that one woman was badly wounded and in critical condition in the hospital and offered to take us to her house.

When we arrived at the woman’s home, kak Idris Saadi, a family member, told us about the bombardment of the 23rd and then the woman’s condition. She had been home with her five-year-old son when the attack took place. A shell landed about five meters from her home and the blast blew out all the windows and sent shrapnel tearing through the house. The woman was severely injured by shrapnel and glass from the explosion lodged within her body along one side. Other villagers fleeing the bombing rushed the woman to a local hospital but they could not find her five-year-old son. Hours later her son appeared to be in a nearby village. Someone had helped evacuate him during the bombing and he reunited with his family. The woman had to be transferred to the main hospital in the capital city of Erbil due to the extreme nature of her injuries. Kak Idris told CPT that she was still in Erbil in critical condition waiting to find a hospital that could perform a major surgery to remove the fragments in her spine as well as an organization that would help cover the medical expenses.

As kak Idris was sharing these details, he walked us around the home that the Iranian rockets targeted. He and other relatives had repaired the windows and were working hard to fill the hundreds of holes on the exterior of the house. Mud was covering the walls and the roof. Kak Idris explained that the shell had landed in the small stream in the yard. When it exploded it sent mud and earth flying everywhere. He also said that if it hadn’t been for this small stream, things would have been much worse.

Villagers believe that through this attack Iran was sending a message to people in the region not to vote for independence in the Kurdish referendum. Iran has been shelling this area for years targeting armed groups and the vicinity of the villages. However, this attack hit the Bine Rashkin village directly for the first time even though there had been no recent armed groups activities in the area to warrant a response from the Iranian military according to the villagers.