Turk Bombings and Civilian Casualties in Northern Iraq

August 30, 2011

Hundreds of Iraqi Kurds hold up torches
Iraqi Kurds hold up torches as they protest to denounce Turkey's latest bombing campaign on Kurdish separatist bases in northern Iraq. (Shawn Mohammed/AFP/Getty Images)

In the early afternoon of August 21, 2011 Hussain Mostafa Hassan, a 61-year-old Kurdish farmer from the village of Bolle near Mount Qandil on the Iraq-Iran border, was heading to the town of Rania, accompanied by six members of his family, when the car he was driving was bombed, reportedly by a warplane belonging to the Turkish armed forces.

Hussain Mostafa Hassan, his 43-year-old wife, Mer Haci Mam Kak, his daughter Rezan Hussain Mostafa, aged 20, together with her two daughters Sonia Shamal Hassan, aged two, and Sholin Shamel Hassan, aged six months, his son Zana Hussain Mostafa, aged 11, and his niece Oskar Khuzer Hassan, aged 10, all died as a result. Later their burnt bodies were taken to a hospital in Rania and buried the same day.

The Turkish Kurdish separatist group the PKK, which has been labeled a terrorist organization by both the EU and the U.S., had killed 40 Turkish security force members in previous days, and the Turkish military was bombing them in retaliation.  On August 24th, the Iraqi government formally protested the seven civilian deaths and demanded an immediate halt to the air strikes along its northern border.

Amnesty International called on the Turkish authorities to open a prompt, thorough and independent investigation into the incident. Two days later, the Turkish military responded that not only were no civilians targeted, but, according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry, the pictures showing the dead civilians “were made up for PKK propaganda.”

Despite the Turkish military’s denials, Amnesty International stands by its call for a thorough investigation.  Seven innocent people were blown apart during Turkey’s incursion into Iraq; someone has to be held responsible for this violation of humanitarian law.