Christian villagers under fire in Turkey-PKK clashes

Author: Yousif Musa  

Publication Date: 17/6/2021

Source: Rudaw

Navkandalan is a Christian village in the Batifa sub-district of Zakho in northern Duhok.

The Christian population there has plummeted from 70 to 40 because of conflict between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Turkey.

The village’s residents demand protection.

“We’re back in the village for the fourth time, where should we go?” said Soqa Issac, a Navkandalan resident. He said the villagers were poor and there was no force to protect them, “neither from Iraq nor the Kurdistan Region.”

“We ask the KRG [Kurdistan Regional Government] to give us weapons,” he stated.

“I own this flock of sheep, I can’t take my sheep to the foothills,” said Basam Eliksan, a livestock farmer. “As soon as jets see them, they launch rockets. The Turkish army opens fire with their machine guns and weapons. Also the Workers’ Party (PKK) is blocking our way."

Of the 30 displaced families, 10 have fled to Zakho and Duhok. Other families have left for Australia, the US and Canada.

They were forced to flee to the Kurdistan Region because of the Islamic State (ISIS) and now, they are displaced because of violence between Turkey and the PKK.

“We fled our homes in Mosul to the village because of ISIS,” said Nuya Yousif, a refugee in Australia. “The situation was not good in the village either because of the Turkish army. After fleeing the village, I travelled to Turkey with my children. From Turkey we flew to Australia.”

“Turkey and the PKK have created problems for us. People are fleeing the villages, especially the Christians, in order to find safe villages,” said Basim Gabriel, the chief of Navkandalan. “We don’t stay in conflict zones. The conflict is now intense. We urge the United Nations to find a solution. We, as Christians, don’t want to evacuate our village.”

Nine priests cannot visit churches in the conflict zones, according to the Zakho cathedral.

The pastor of Navkandalan Church has fled to Zakho. He visits the village on weekends, teaching religious lessons to the village’s children. However, the conflict has caused fear among the children.

“The airstrikes threaten us. They bomb the mountains,” said Maryam, a girl from Navkandalan.

Eleven Christian villages have been evacuated as a result of the recent conflict, according to Zakho Cathedral.

Almost 500 Christian families have been displaced so far.