Dear Boris Johnson,
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Joint Diplomatic Committee of Kurdistan’s Political Parties and Organisations would like to express its serious concerns about the continued shocking attacks of the Turkish state in the regions of Shingal (Sinjar) and the UNHCR Makhmour Camp as well as other parts in South Kurdistan (Kurdistan Region of Iraq – KRI), which commenced on Sunday night, 14 June 2020. These actions are against international law.
On Wednesday, 17 June, the Turkish military commenced moving ground forces into the region, supported by drones and helicopters, following a bombardment with rocket launchers and artillery guns that hit more than 150 targets. This Turkish military action undermines the security of the region and risks protracted instability, destabilizing the region, exacerbating humanitarian suffering, and providing a fertile ground for the resurgence of terrorist groups, which will especially undermine progress made against ISIS.
Although Turkey has not ratified any of the additional protocols to the 1949 Geneva Convention, prohibitions of attacks on civilians are a norm of customary international law. Customary international
humanitarian law provides that attacks must not be directed against civilians. Turkey is also bound by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified in 2003, and the European
Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), ratified in 1954, which oblige it to respect the right to life guaranteed to all individuals under its control, even when in Iraq. Both the ICCPR and ECHR provide that if, through its agents, a state exercises control or authority over an individual, the controlling state has an obligation to secure that individual’s rights.
In addition, the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey also guarantees the right to life (Article 17), and the suspension of fundamental rights for war does not apply to the right to life (Article 15). Furthermore,
refugees are protected by refugee law – mainly the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951) and the Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa (1969) – and human rights law, and particularly by the principle of non-refoulement. They fall under the mandate of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
International Humanitarian Law also protects refugees when they are living in a state involved in an armed conflict. Refugees receive, besides the general protection afforded to civilians by IHL, special protection
under the Fourth Geneva Convention and Additional Protocol I. For instance, Article 44 of the Fourth Geneva Convention specifies that Detaining Powers should not treat as enemy aliens refugees who do not, in
fact, enjoy the protection of any government. Article 73 of Additional Protocol I adds that refugees must be regarded as protected persons in all circumstances and without any adverse distinction.
While there are international norms and principles in reality we see the Turkish military forces displaying a shameful disregard for civilian life, carrying out serious violations and war crimes, including air strikes by F16s, provided by NATO, and use of Turkish Bayraktar drones. The Turkish actions amount to unlawful 1999 attacks that have killed and injured civilians, during the offensive into Shingal region and Makhmour campand other regions in the north of Iraq.
There are mounting evidence of indiscriminate attacks in residential areas, including attacks on homes and on schools, being carried out by Turkey. Its military offensive into north Iraq has wreaked havoc on the lives of Kurdish civilians, particularly the Yazidi minority who recently suffered genocide under the hands of terrorist group ISIS. The airstrikes shook Mount Shingal, an area that is home to the Yazidi minority. The Yazidi, in fear of returning to their homes in the towns surrounding the mount Shingal, have sought shelter on the mountain since the ISIS attacks in 2014. They live in horrendous living conditions on the mountains and now they face Turkish bombardment.
Turkey by bombing the region creates further instability and once again forces the Yazidi to flee their homes and live in constant fear of indiscriminate bombardment, abductions and summary killings. This is creating more fear and instability for the civilians and preventing them from returning to their homes. Many of those displaced have nowhere to go and are sleeping out in the open, in gardens and in the streets. Some have sought shelter in schools.
Furthermore, in Makhmour camp, which is under the protection of UNHCR has been a safe haven for those who have fled international crimes under the hands of ISIS, the Turkish military forces have displayed an utterly callous disregard for civilian lives in the camp, launching unlawful deadly attacks in residential areas that have killed and injured civilians. Turkey’s continued military offensive has driven thousands of already displaced people from what had been places of safe shelter.
Turkey’s actions risk hampering the delivery of life-saving assistance and medical aid to those in need, causing a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe in a region already ravaged by war. The area has been unable
to recover because of the constant threat of Turkish airstrikes and presence of armed groups, especially ISIS on the outskirts of Makhmour camp.
Turkey, which is a NATO member, never bombed Shingal when it was under siege by ISIS. Turkey waited until the Yazidis slowly returned to their homeland and then began to bomb and kill them. Furthermore, the remnants of ISIS militants have retreated to Qarasukh, near the Makhmour camp. Outrageously, the Turkish airstrikes are not directed at the terrorist ISIS militants but rather are aimed at innocent civilians.
There are real fears about whether the displaced people in Shingal and the Makhmour camp are getting enough food, clean water and medical supplies – and how those in need will continue to receive assistance in
the longer term. In the camps for the internally displaced, such as Makhmour camp, the population is entirely dependent on humanitarian aid. The offensive could lead to cutting off aid to the population. Furthermore, the continued air strikes could lead to the displacement of more people, with serious concerns about water shortages in the hot summer months.
Therefore, the increase of airstrikes in sensitive areas, where Yazidi live and where IDP and refugees live, makes life impossible for those trying to rebuild their communities after ISIS. Turkey has never invested in
supporting refugees or Yazidi in Shingal; it only uses resources on bombings!
We demand an immediate end to this unacceptable offensive. This use of force continues to endanger the lives of the civilian Kurdish people of the region.
Refik Gefur, on behalf of The Joint Diplomatic Committee of Kurdistan’s Political Parties and Organisations
The Joint Diplomacy Committee for Political Organizations and Parties in Kurdistan, consists of the following parties and organizations:
1. KNK’s Foreign Affairs Committee
2. Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)
3. Democratic Union Party (PYD)
4. GORAN Movement
5. KCDK-E (The Congress of Democratic Kurdish Communities in Europe)
6. E.S.U (Union of Assyrian in Europe)
7. HSDK (Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party)
8. TJKE – (Kurdistan Women Movement in Europe)
10. The Syrian Union Party – Rojava
11. Kurdistan Free Life Party -PJAK
12. Representative of Europe, HDP
13. PİK – Kurdistan Islamic Party
14. P.D.K.S (Syria’s Kurdish Democratic Party)
15. Association of Islamic of Kurdistan
16. Toilers Party
17. PDK-S-al-Parti (al-Parti Demokratism Kurd-Syria)
18. Kurdistan Workers Party – The European Union’s Fundamentalist European Union
19. PDPK-S (Kurdish Democratic Party- Syria)
20. Brussels Kurdish Institute
21. Kurdistan Yezidi Federation
22. Democratic Advisory of Yarsan
23. MŞD – Sinjar Assembly out of Homeland
24. KKP (Kurdistan Communist Party)
26. Kurdistan Communist Party-Iraq
27. T.N.K.S (Movement for the Reform of Kurdistan – Syria)
28. PÇK-S (Kurdish Left Party – Syria)
29. Kurdistan Green Party (Rojava)
30. The Contract for Democracy for Justice in Kurdistan
31. PRK (Kurdistan Liberation Party)
32. P.Ç.D.K-S (Kurdish Left Democratic Party – Syria)
33. Party Kurdistan for Ownselves
34. Syrian Ezidian Allience (HES)