Report by CPT-IK, June 2021

Originally published:


This report documents the impact of the Turkish Armed Forces’ (TAF) Operation Claw-Lightning on the civilian population living in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). Operation Claw-Lightning is a cross-border military operation that Turkey began on April 23, 2021. Turkey claims that the operation targets the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to eliminate terrorism in the Kurdistan Region. To launch its operation, Turkey has deployed paratroopers across the Turkey-Iraq border to construct military bases in the Kurdistan Region with the accompaniment of aerial and artillery bombardments. As Turkey has constructed these bases, it has further advanced into the Kurdistan Region to establish what Turkey claims is a security zone, spanning along the Turkey-Iraq border. While Turkey has gained control over Kurdistan Region territory, clashes between the Turkish military and the PKK have intensified in the region. Turkey has then conducted bombardments in the region targeting the PKK; though, as Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) reports, many of Turkey’s aerial and artillery strikes have directly targeted civilians.

While Turkey claims to target the PKK in Operation Claw-Lightning, the reality is that civilians living in the border regions are most critically impacted by Turkey’s bombings. These bombardments have devastated the region where hundreds of families live. Thousands of dunams of land and approximately 1,300 beehives have been destroyed, all of which are crucial resources for families. Turkey’s bombings not only threaten the livelihood of families, but also their lives. Four civilians have so far been injured by Turkey’s bombardments, and more than 1,500 civilians from 22 villages have evacuated their villages to escape Turkey’s assault. CPT fears that these families may never have the ability to return to their homes, as Turkey has built nearby military bases armed with artillery that now threaten the lives of civilians.

Families living in the border regions of Kurdistan Region should not be forced to be targets in Turkey’s conflict with the PKK. To ensure civilian safety, Turkey should immediately cease its military operations targeting civilians in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Only then will families be able to return to their homelands.

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View the report here: Civilian-Impacts-Claw-Lightning-eng