Saturday, September 3, 2011

4 men, 2 women

Friday's Diane Rehm Show, the first hour guests were Michael Scherer, Jeanne Cummings and David Welna. The second hour was James Kitfield, Anne Gearan and David Sanger. And we're going to be writing about DR at Third so I'm shutting up on that. On Third, it may post late. Ava, C.I. and I were talking. Their wish (and I'm for it but it's not going to happen) is that since it's Labor Day weekend, they should just work on it Saturday night and Sunday (as usual) but post on Monday and that way no pressure. But it is called The Third Estate Sunday Review so there's some push back on that. But their attitude is that we need to do a Diane Rehm feature (we have two planned, time may mean we fold them into one) and that it needs to be done no matter how long it takes.

And don't you love C.I.?

I love her for many, many reasons. Among them she doesn't take crap, to be sure. But she's also the first one to defend others. When Al Jazeera Arabic published that article this week that was yet another hate piece ('Jews are invading Iraq and stealing the country's treasures, even the US military agrees' -- that's the summary), C.I. didn't hesitate to fire back with a response piece ("'A bunch of damn Jews'") calling out that b.s.

In the snapshot for Wednesday August 31st, C.I. called out Michael S. Schmidt ridiculous New York Times article "Iraq War Marks First Month With No U.S. Military Deaths" which uses the term "milestone" and gushes Operation Happy Talk.

Many have followed. Few have demonstrated the passion or the maturity. And I was going to hold my nose and link to an asshole but I just got a text from C.I. asking if I'd seen it? I have, I think I'll carry that over to Third. So no link to the asshole but do look for a piece at Third on this.

This morning, Mike called. He, Wally and C.I. run every Saturday morning before C.I. and Wally leave Boston. So I asked Mike to call me.

I used to run back in high school and college but there's this thing you may have heard of called "life." Yeah, it does get in the way. But a friend at work is now on a crash diet because her doctor told her she has to lose X pounds. And that got me thinking about how diabetes runs in my family and it's really not smart of me not to be active now. So today was my day back. I didn't run. I just walked. But I stayed on the phone with Mike and walked while they ran (and while they walked -- they ran 55 minutes and then walked 15). So that was an hour and ten minutes of walking for me. It wasn't a problem except my left sneaker must have a problem because the sole of my foot is irritated. (Problem? I mean a worn spot that's not showing up yet but will probably be a whole in the sole shortly.)

Ava and C.I. usually grab 30 to 45 minutes during the writing edition of Third to speed walk and they said they can get on the phone with me if I want to join them on that. And I think I will. I felt so much better today having gotten that exercise in.

So much better that I've babbled through a lenghty post.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"


Friday, September 2, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Troy Yocum completes his Hike for our Heroes tomorrow in Louisville, Human Rights Watch calls out the bombing of northern Iraq, additional info about the 2006 massacre of an Iraqi family by US forces, and more.
Starting in the US, Hike for our Heroes is a non-profit started by Iraq War veteran Troy Yocum who is hiking across the country to raise awareness and money for veterans issues. He began the walk last April. From the Facebook page:

Iraq War Veteran Troy Yocum, his wife Mareike and Emmie the super dog are hiking 7,000 miles across America to help military families in need. They took their first steps of the 16-month cross-country quest on April 17, 2010. Backed by corporate sponsors, many volunteers and support members, Team Hike for our Heroes/Drum Hike are taking on the challenge of raising needed funds by hiking 7000 miles across America. The journey will take 16 months passing through 31 states and 38 large cities. The team will have to average over 20 miles a day while enduring each season. Funds donated go through The Wish Upon A Hero Foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization that seeks to supports the community of individuals working online who grant the needs and wants of others making a wish. We believe that no wish is too large, no hero is too small and that everyone can become a hero. The idea for the hike has been evolving since Troy joined the Army in 2001 but it is now when our economy is struggling and military families are in most need that he and his family will put one foot in front of another to connect and help struggling families. Help our mission by making a donation today!

The hike that began in Louisville, Kentucky over a year and a half ago is scheduled to conclude there this Saturday at approximately 1:30 p.m. Ken Neuhauser (Louisville Courier-Journal) notes, "Coincidentally, Louisville native and Iraq war veteran Troy Yocum will complete his 'Hike for Our Heroes' campaign at 1:30 p.m. Saturday across the street at the Louisville Slugger Museum, where he began his 7,000-mile cross-country trek in April 2010. His accomplishment will be recognized as part of the Founder's Day celebration." Devin Katayama (WFPL) reports:


Now he is getting close and he said when he arrives at the finish line at the Louisville Slugger Museum this weekend, he expects a few thousand people to greet him.
"I thought I could finish all 7,880 miles in 15 months and instead we're coming into Louisville around a month and a half late. And that's not a failure in my book. I take from this that perseverance is key to accomplishing any goal and I've been working extra hard this year to make it all the way to the finish line. It's almost surreal to be this close to home. I just passed a sign that said 33 miles and that feels really good," said Yocum.

Late last night, Troy Tweeted, "Feels good to be closing on what has been an incredible journey!" That's tomorrow at approximately 1:30 in the afternoon. His Tweets today include:
Troy Yocum
WalkAcrossUSA The cart is back for the last miles to the finish line! We hope to live stream tomorrow!!! fb.me/El0WEynl
Troy Yocum
WalkAcrossUSA Urgent: If you are coming to walk 9 miles, come prepared with its of water. It will be really hot tomorrow!
Troy Yocum
WalkAcrossUSA This is it my friends, I want to thank you all for the support to get here. To each and every last one of my... fb.me/14dhPzxDQ
Turning to Iraq, Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) notes, "A source in Babel province warned that 45 taxi drivers have gone missing in recent months." And Reuters notes 1 corpse was discovered in Kirkuk (stabbed to death) and that 13 of the 35 who broke out of a Mosul prison (see yesterday's snapshot) are still at large while 22 have been captured.
Wednesday's snapshot noted the ridiculous Michael S. Schmidt article entitled "Iraq War Marks First Month With No U.S. Military Deaths" (New York Times) but something was missed (by me) that community member Terrance caught: most months NYT ignores all but combat fatalities when doing their reports. In addition, we'll note this from John Glaser's refutation (Antiwar.com) of the 'milestone' coverage:
Hailed as a victorious milestone, the achievement merely reveals the failure and disgrace of the Iraq War. [. . .] Milestones apparently don't have to consider civilian deaths, which reached 155 in August.
This supposed "milestone" provides comfort the families of service members? On today's Takeaway (PRI), Celeste Headlee addressed the issue with Jack Jacobs and Rossan aCambron. Excerpt:
Celeste Headlee: Also with us is Rossana Cambron whose son Arturo Cambron is serving his third term in Iraq so that's the opinion of a retired army col Rossana, what's your opinion as a mom? Does it make you feel the situation in Iraq is getting safer?
Rossana Cambron: It's a difficult question to answer because if I say "yes" people get the illusion that they can kind of rest, they apply it to their current situation. But as a mother who has a son in the war it only brings it down just a short notch to the concern I feel and the worry I feel. It doesn't really make a significant difference in how much I worry about my son and his safety --
Celeste Headlee: Well --
Rossana Cambron: -- in the overall scheme.
Celeste Headlee: -- have you noticed any change in the past few months in his messages to you when he talks to you? Does he seem to feel like things have gotten improved or safer there?
Rossana Cambron: Well if we compare it to his first deployment which was late '06, definitely there's less combat, there's less mission where he goes out and he doesn't come back and mention maybe a snippet of what he may have experienced. But, again, I don't want to leave the illusion that it's a great relief, that I've stopped worrying or that I can stop not looking out of my window for somebody that's waiting to give me the bad news or walking up my door -- or things like that. It's not like that. It's just a -- shave off a thin layer of the worry that I have every day, the concern I have every day.
Still on violence, Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) reports on a new Lancet study, "The report documented 1,003 suicide attacks in Iraq between 2003-10, which killed 12,284 civilians and injured a further 30,644. The Lancet authors found 108,624 civilian deaths from violence of all kinds in the period. To put that in perspective by adjusting for population, that would be equivalent to 1 million Americans killed in a seven-year period. And the violence has continued. Earlier this week, 28 worshipers were murdered by a suicide bomber at Baghdad's Umm al-Qura mosque."
Reviewing the month's violence and starting with what was reported by the media (and noted in the snapshots). August 1st, 2 dead and four injured; August 2nd, 6 dead and thirty-three injured; August 3rd, 18 dead and eleven wounded; August 4th, 3 dead and fourteen injured; August 5th, 1 dead and fifteen injured; August 6th, 1 dead and three wounded; August 7th, 6 dead and eight injured; August 8th, 8 dead and twenty-four wounded; August 9th, five wounded; August 10th, 1 dead and seventeen injured; August 11th, 5 dead and seventy-one injured; August 12th, five injured; August 13th, 3 dead and thirteen wounded; August 14th, 6 dead and eight injured; August 15th, 75 dead and two-hundred-and-fifty injured; August 16th, 8 dead and thirteen injured; August 17th, 8 dead and twenty-two wounded; August 18th, 10 dead and twenty-one injured; August 19th, 3 dead and six injured; August 20th, four were reported injured; August 21st, 8 dead and twelve injured; August 22nd, 6 dead and eight injured; August 23rd, no reports (the next day will find Reuters dropping back to cover the 23rd) ; August 24th, 8 dead and twenty-four wounded; August 25th, 23 dead and seventy-one injured; August 26th, 3 dead and nine injured; August 27th, 14 dead and twenty-six injured; August 28th, 35 dead and fifty-four injured; August 29th, 6 dead and thirty-eight injured; August 30th, 2 dead and eleven injured; August 31st, 4 dead and thirty-five wounded.
That's 262 dead and 855 injured. Iraqi Body Count counted 395 civilians killed (our 262 count is all killed, not just civilians -- the 262 leaves out Turkish and PKK claims on how many PKK fighters were killed due to the fact that the two sets of number conflict).
AFP notes that the Iraqi Ministry of Health, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense released their figures for the month and are insisting only 239 Iraqis died in August ("155 civilians, 45 people and 39 soldiers"). But they've been undercounting forever. And with the exception of a pushback (from AFP) earlier this summer, the press just spits out the 'official' count -- from two ministries that don't even have Ministers. (Nouri cannot appoint a minister. He can nominate one. Parliament then decides on the nominee. If Parliament doesn't decide, there's no minister for that department.)
I'm not a fan of Alyona Minkovski or The Alyona Show (if needed, Ava and I can go into that at Third) but there's limited coverage of the WikiLeak released State Dept cable about the 2006 slaughter of an Iraqi family. Of the three choices I'm aware of that are radio or TV, her show was the strongest. She spoke with blogger Kevin Gosztola and we'll skip the whole Christopher Columbus claim of discovery of something already in the public sphere. We'll also skip the b.s. that doesn't address the cable. (But we will note when you yack and yack about others defocusing, why don't you yourself focus.) Excerpt:
Alyona Minkovski: Yeah can you give us a few more of the details that have been released in this cable about this raid?
Kevin Gosztola: Right, in this cable it's a communications log to the Mission in Geneva and he basically placed an inquiry, asking a number of questions about information he had received about multinational forces raid going into a home and, as you said in the set-up of your segment, five children were killed and four women were killed. And they were taken outside of the home and they were lined up and they were handcuffed -- they were in handcuffs -- and they were executed. And the autopsies show from the morgue they were able to see that they were shot in the head and that they were handcuffed. And then afterwards, a[n] airstrike came along and demolished the home so there wasn't any evidence left for any investigators to go [. . .]
And that's about all that was wroth it. Of course there was evidence even with the house demolished. That was the best of the three and, yes, that is very sad. John Glazer (Antiwar.com) wrote about the cable earlier this week noting the dead killed in the 2006 raid:
Mr. Faiz Hratt Khalaf, (aged 28), his wife Sumay'ya Abdul Razzaq Khuther (aged 24), their three children Hawra'a (aged 5) Aisha ( aged 3) and Husam (5 months old), Faiz's mother Ms. Turkiya Majeed Ali (aged 74), Faiz's sister (name unknown), Faiz's nieces Asma'a Yousif Ma'arouf (aged 5 years old), and Usama Yousif Ma'arouf (aged 3 years), and a visiting relative Ms. Iqtisad Hameed Mehdi (aged 23) were killed during the raid.
And this is news and should be treated as such but I want to get back to the Christopher Columbus issue. John Glaser has written on the raid this week and done it very well. If he wanted to claim credit, I wouldn't bat an eye, though I doubt Glaser would take credit for doing more than he did. But to hear the blogger quoted above and the infotainment presenter go on and on about his big discovery and how now we know about a raid --now? Click here for Matthew Schofield's March 19, 2006 report for Knight Ridder Newspapers and this is Schofield's opening:

Iraqi police have accused American troops of executing 11 people, including a 75-year-old woman and a 6-month-old infant, in the aftermath of a raid last Wednesday on a house about 60 miles north of Baghdad.

The villagers were killed after American troops herded them into a single room of the house, according to a police document obtained by Knight Ridder Newspapers. The soldiers also burned three vehicles, killed the villagers' animals and blew up the house, the document said.

A U.S. military spokesman, Major Tim Keefe, said that the U.S. military has no information to support the allegations and that he had not heard of them before a reporter brought them to his attention Sunday.

And we'll drop back to the June 2, 2006 snapshot to note it was covered by the press:
Next, there is Ishaqi which took place in March 15th of this year. For background refer to Democracy Now!'s March report as well as the BBC's report on a tape that has turned up which appears to refute the US military claims. In that incident, the official version is that "four people died during a military operation" when a building that was on fire collapsed on them while the version put foward by Iraqi police is that "US troops had deliberately shot the 11 people." March 23, 2006, Democracy Now! (link is transcript, audio and video) spoke with Matthew Schofield about the story:
AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain exactly what you know at this point?
MATTHEW SCHOFIELD: Well, the story, as you and Juan just outlined it, pretty much goes through the basics of the story. We've talked quite a bit further in the last couple days with people surrounding the story. But what we have is a divergence on the story between the two -- there are two accounts. There's a U.S. military account, and then there's an Iraqi police account of what happened. As you know, the U.S. military account is that after showing up and getting into a shootout to get into this house, the house collapsed during the shootout. People were killed either in the shootout or by the collapsing house. They left. They found four bodies and left. They found this suspect. They arrested him. And that's pretty much that story. The other story is that the house was standing when the U.S. troops went in. They were herded into one room -- eleven people herded into one room, executed. U.S. troops then blew up the house and left. We were talking with the police officer who was first on the scene earlier today. He explained the scene of arriving. He said they waited until U.S. troops had left the area and it was safe to go in. When they arrived at the house, it was in rubble. I don't know if you've seen the photos of the remains of the house, but there was very little standing. He said they expected to find bodies under the rubble. Instead, what they found was in one room of the house, in one corner of one room, there was a single man who had been shot in the head. Directly across the room from him against the other wall were ten people, ranging from his 75-year-old mother-in-law to a six-month-old child, also several three-year-olds -- a couple three-year-olds, a couple five-year-olds, and four other -- three other women.
Lined up, they were covered, and they had all been shot. According to the doctor we talked to today, they had all been shot in the head, in the chest. A number of -- you know, generally, some of them were shot several times. The doctor said it's very difficult to determine exactly what kind of caliber gun they were shot with. He said the entry wounds were generally small and round, the exit wounds were generally very large. But they were lined up along one wall. There was a blanket over the top of them, and they were under the rubble, so when the police arrived, and residents came to help them start digging in, they came across the blankets. They came across the blankets. They picked the blankets up. They say, at that point, that the hands were handcuffed in front of the Iraqis. They had been handcuffed and shot. And the Iraqi assumption is that they were shot in front of the man across the room. They came to be facing each other. There is nothing to corroborate that. The U.S. is now investigating this matter, along with the Haditha matter. That's kind of where we stand right now.

And here's how Democracy Now! covered it in their headlines on March 16, 2006:
US Strikes Blamed for Death of Iraqi Family Members
Meanwhile, a US military attack in the Iraqi town of Balad is being blamed for the deaths of at least a dozen members of the same family. The dead include five children and six women. The Associated Press is reporting the family's house was flattened by an airstrike from a US helicopter. The victims were wrapped in blankets and driven to the Tikrit General Hospital. Ahmed Khalaf, the brother of one of the victims, said: "The dead family was not part of the resistance, they were women and children. The Americans have promised us a better life, but we get only death."
What is new is a development emerging today. Lara Jakes and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) lead with, "Negotiations to keep U.S. troops in Iraq came under new strain Friday in the wake of WikiLeaks' release of a U.N. letter alleging that an Iraqi family was handcuffed and shot in the head in a 2006 raid by American forces -- not accidentally killed in an airstrike." Donald Macintyre and Jerome Taylor (Independent) note, "The incident is raised in a letter from Philip Alston, the UN rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. Mr Alston's letter to US officials, which went unanswered, challenges the American military version of events. It says that autopsies carried out in the nearby city of Tikrit showed the victims had been handcuffed and shot in the head. They included a woman in her 70s and a five-month-old. The US military had said that the troops seized an al-Qa'ida suspect from a first floor room after fierce fighting left the house in ruins. US officials originally said five people had been killed, although they later accepted a higher toll of 11." Annie Gowen (Washington Post) adds that Nouri al-Maliki's spokesperson Ali al-Moussawi is stating that the investigation into what happened in Ishaqi will be reopened as a result of the cable. We'll ignore the rhetoric of the spokesperson and note Nouri has some sort of a viral outrage that comes and goes. Now he's outraged. But this slaughter happened a month before he became prime minister-designate (the first time, April 2006) and a month after he was prime minister (May 2006), the US military released their white wash report. In fact, from the June 2nd headlines on Democracy Now!:
Iraqi PM: US Killings of Iraqis "Daily Phenomenon"
Meanwhile, Iraq's Prime Minister has lashed out at the US military over what he has called the "daily phenomenon" of US attacks on Iraqi civilians. In an interview with the New York Times, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki said many troops "do not respect the Iraqi people." Maliki went on to say: "They crush them with their vehicles and kill them just on suspicion. This is completely unacceptable."
Again, it must be a kind of viral outrage that comes and goes. Monday's snapshot noted, "Over the weekend, Al Rafidayn reported that the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has refused to meet with Nouri al-Maliki and other politicians. For the last 8 weeks, al-Sistani has refused them. Why? His clerics say that he feels the people's needs are not being addressed and that the government has failed to deliver basic services and to reduce corruption." Aswat al-Iraq reports today Ahmed al-Safi, the Grand Ayatollah's representative, called out today "the absence of trust among political entities" (and it's seen as if the criticism was coming from the Grand Ayatollah). Meanwhile the Great Iraqi Revolution and other youth activists are gearing up for September 9th when they resume protests in Baghdad's Tahrir Square (and elsewhere in Iraq as well). Aswat al-Iraq notes that today Baghdad saw a smaller protest -- "citizens and civil activists" -- calling for US fores to leave, for an end to corruption and for better public services.
Yesim Comert and Ivan Watson (CNN -- link has text and video) reported yesterday afternoon on Kurds protesting in Istanbul. Riot police were sent in, stones and "petrol bombs" were hurled, tear gas was utilized. The reporters note, "The protest in Istanbul Thursday began fairly peacefully. Women in traditional Kurdish costumes led a column of thousands of people, many of them waving BDP flags and carrying banners that said 'peace now immediately' and 'long live the brotherhood of people'." The protests come as these Kurds in Turkey feel the government that has long oppressed them is not following up on the promises of equality and dignity that were made in the last few years. The protests also come as Turkey is in the midst of bombing Kurds in northern Iraq.
Throughout the Iraq War, Turkey has bombed northern Iraq. Starting in 2007, they had approval from Nouri al-Maliki and the US government to conduct the bombings and they also were provided with 'intelligence' by the US military including imagery via US drones flown over the region. As the Turkish press has made clear in the last two weeks, the US continues to provide 'intelligence.' Turkey insists that they are defending themselves from the PKK -- a group of Kurdish people who advocate for and fight for a Kurdish land.

The PKK is one of many Kurdish groups which supports and fights for a Kurdish homeland. Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described them in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk." The Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq has been a concern to Turkey because they fear that if it ever moves from semi-autonomous to fully independent -- such as if Iraq was to break up into three regions -- then that would encourage the Kurdish population in Turkey. For that reason, Turkey is overly interested in all things Iraq. So much so that they signed an agreement with the US government in 2007 to share intelligence which the Turkish military has been using when launching bomb raids. However, this has not prevented the loss of civilian life in northern Iraq. Back to Aaron Hess, he noted, "The Turkish establishment sees growing Kurdish power in Iraq as one step down the road to a mass separatist movement of Kurds within Turkey itself, fighting to unify a greater Kurdistan. In late October 2007, Turkey's daily newspaper Hurriyet accused the prime minister of the KRG, Massoud Barzani, of turning the 'Kurdish dream' into a 'Turkish nightmare'."

Nouri's been very good about keeping the press out of the PKK camps. The Times of London, which is no longer in Iraq, repeatedly went to the area to report on what was taking place there and visited the rebel camps. Many other outlets just followed Nouri's dictate. Those who did report from the camps were able to demonstrate that (a) this wasn't taking place in hiding and (b) the mountains had other inhabitants as well.

Nouri's turning those mountains in northern Iraq into a no-press zone was very effective in covering up the toil the bombings were taking on civilians in the region.

This go round, what's really different is that the press paid attention to the fact that farmers and shepherds were being displaced, turned into refugees as they were forced to flee their villages due to the bombings. What's really different is that the deaths of civilians are finally getting attention. And when Turkey issues their ridiculous 'we didn't kill those civilians, that bomb must have been dropped by someone else' claim (see "Mars Attacks Iraq"), it only ensures that the bombings receive even more attention.

As long as Turkey could assert that they were just bombing rebels and it was in response to what rebels had done (and as long as everyone agreed to play stupid and pretend that the PKK sprung from the head of Zeus yesterday and that the Turkish government's actions didn't in fact create the PKK), everyone could just focus on how many bombs dropped and the claims by the Turkish military of killed X number of rebels and the holler back from the PKK of 'no, you didn't.'

The Turkish government seems genuinely baffled that something they've been doing repeatedly for years now is all the suddent a hot issue. At the start of this week, New Sabah did an article on some of the Turkish news coverage of the bombings and noted the Turkish government's stated position that the PKK were terrorists and that Iraq must "clean your land of these terrorists or we will do it for you."

That bully talk used to go over well but now as the bombings create refugees -- forcing hundreds of families to flee -- and as the dead includes not only civilians but small children, the bully talk really isn't being applauded by those who once cheered Turkey on.

And it also doesn't help Turkey's case that northern Iraq is also being bombed by the Iranian military who are also targeting Kurdish rebels. So you've got two countries terrorizing the people of Iraq and destroying the land with these bombs -- as in turning into pockmarked fields -- and probably creating long term health issues because these bombs are probably going to effect the environment. [Today the Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "Imagine if we were not bombed with the lethal American weapons, we would not have had hundreds of thousands of malformed and disabled Iraqi children. Again the Iraqi will beat all odds, great voice and performance."] Even without Iran, the bully position that Turkey's government has taken would probably have gotten old by now on its own and people's patience would have worn thin as well. But Turkey truly seemed to believe that they could continue bombing year after year and the international community would never object.

Those days, as the Turkish government is learning, are over. Human Rights Watch issued the following today:

(Beirut) – Iran and Turkey's cross-border attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan have killed at least 10 civilians and displaced hundreds since mid-July 2011, Human Rights Watch said today. Some of the attacks may have been carried out without sufficient attempts to ensure minimal impact on civilians, Human Rights Watch said.

Both Iran and Turkey say that their military operations, including artillery and aerial bombardments, are aimed at armed groups operating out of Iraqi Kurdistan along the northern and eastern borders. When Human Rights Watch visited those areas in August, Iraqi residents and officials said that many of the targeted areas are purely civilian and are not being used by the armed groups.
Evidence suggests that the regular Iranian bombardments may be an attempt to force Iraqi civilians out of some areas near the Iranian border.

"Year after year, civilians in northern Iraq have suffered from these cross-border attacks, but the situation right now is dire," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Iran and Turkey should do all they can to protect civilians and their property from harm, no matter what the reason for their attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan."

Iran started its cross-border attacks in northern Iraq in mid-July, claiming to be targeting an armed group associated with the Iranian Kurdish Party for Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) operating in the mountainous border region. Beginning on August 18, Turkey carried out attacks across its border with Iraq, targeting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an armed group affiliated with PJAK that is fighting its own decades-long conflict with Turkey.
Shelling by Iran
Since mid-July, Iran's operations against PJAK inside or near villages close to the Iranian border have led to the displacement of hundreds of families, caused the deaths of at least three villagers, and wounded an unknown number of people, according to international humanitarian aid organizations, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officials, and media reports. Farmers from the border regions told Human Rights Watch in early August that the shelling had damaged their homes and that they saw Iranian soldiers cross the border into Iraq and kill farmers' livestock. The attacks on civilians and their property that they described were similar to attacks documented by Human Rights Watch in June 2010.
Human Rights Watch visited the Choman and Qalat Diza districts and Qasre, Sangasar, and Zharawa subdistricts between July 26 and August 6 and interviewed more than a dozen displaced villagers as well as others in villages still being shelled. All villagers interviewed said that Kurdish armed groups had never been in their areas and that there were no other military targets in the vicinity at any point before or during the shelling. The affected areas are in the Qandil Mountains, along the eastern borders of Erbil and Sulaimaniyaprovinces, in the region administered by the KRG.
In the crowded Gojar tent camp in Sulaimaniya province, Fatima Mahmoud, 70, told Human Rights Watch she fled there with 11 family members in late July, after two Iranian shells struck her house in the village of Sune, 30 kilometers west of Qalat Diza. She said the village mosque and school were also damaged by shelling.
"It has been more than six years that Iran has been shelling our area, but this year, it was unbelievable," she said. "I don't know why Iran is shelling our village – we have never seen any PJAK members at all. I have never seen any [PJAK] members in our village."
Attacks by Turkey
On August 18, Turkey began a bombing and artillery campaign against the PKK, which it blamed for earlier fatal attacks in Turkey. On August 21, according to Iraqi officials, Turkish warplanes bombed a vehicle carrying civilians. The attack killed seven members of the same extended family according to relatives of those killed, local officials, and media workers. Turkey denied its planes were responsible.

The family group, which included four children, was driving on a highly travelled main roadway in a white 2011 Nissan pickup truck from the village of Bole to Rania to visit relatives. Shamal Hassan told Human Rights Watch on August 29 that the attack instantly killed his wife, Rezan, and his daughters, Solin, two months old, and Sonya, 18 months old. The attack also killed his wife's parents and two other children.
An emotional Hassan told Human Rights Watch, "The attack was so destructive that we couldn't recognize their bodies. I want the international community to hold Turkey accountable. They ruined my life."

Media photos released by multiple Iraqi Kurdish news organizations of the scene corresponded with Hassan's description, and showed charred and disembodied children and adults splayed on the ground near the remnants of a destroyed vehicle. Human Rights Watch could not independently verify the authenticity of the photographs. There has been no evidence of any military target in the vicinity.
While the Turkish military said that it has killed more than 145 suspected PKK militants with artillery fire and airstrikes in northern Iraq since August 17, it has denied that its warplanes killed the family, saying only that news footage of the destroyed vehicle was not consistent with damage caused by Turkish aerial bombardment. However, Turkish officials have stated that Turkish warplanes were bombing multiple military targets, such as anti-aircraft guns and ammunitions caches, in the area at the time.
Iraqi political and military officials have repeatedly blamed Turkish warplanes for the attack. An August 28 statement from the KRG stated that "[KRG] President Barzani strongly condemned Turkish military attacks," which it said were responsible for the seven deaths.
Civilian Displacement
Abdulwahid Gwani, mayor of the Choman district, which has been particularly hard-hit by Iranian shelling, told Human Rights Watch that the attacks by Iran and Turkey had cumulatively killed 9 civilians and displaced 325 families from Choman and 500 families in the Sidakan area.
"They [Iran and Turkey] don't differentiate between civilians and armed groups, and the bombardments are more intense compared with last year," Gwani said. "We notice that the Turkish bombardments are more random this year – they used to target specific locations in previous years but now it is kind of arbitrary."
Earlier in August, Gwani and several displaced villagers told Human Rights Watch, the attacks forced hundreds of poor farmers to leave their crops unattended, destroying much of this year's harvest. A number of farmers told Human Rights Watch that because there has been shelling each year during the short planting and harvesting season, they believed it showed an intentional effort to drive civilians from the area by harming their livelihood.
As in past years, aid organizations and local municipalities have struggled to meet the displaced families' basic needs. The Kurdistan government does not keep an official registry of displaced villagers.
The representative of an international humanitarian aid organization working in the affected areas told Human Rights Watch on August 30 that the attacks have led to the displacement of 450 families, but that this number includes only families who have resettled in tent camps, and not those still moving around, staying with their families, or elsewhere. A delegation of Iraqi civil society organizations from Baghdad visited the areas on August 3 and reported the displacement of "up to 750 families from the areas of Choman, Sidi Khan and Haji Omran."
The International Organization for Migration told Human Rights Watch on August 26 that it has so far distributed aid to approximately 295 families in tent camps – 275 families in Sulaimaniya and 20 in Erbil – but that another roughly 300 families from Erbil have been displaced and may require future aid.
Government Reactions
In August, the Iraqi government summoned both Iran's and Turkey's ambassadors in Baghdad because of concern about the operations, and both the Iraqi and KRG parliaments have strongly condemned the attacks.
On July 27, an Iraqi parliamentary official who declined to be named told Human Rights Watch that, during a meeting with a high-level Iranian diplomat that day, the diplomat stressed the "importance to Iran" of creating a buffer zone along the Iranian border "with no residents." The official said that the diplomat also suggested deploying the Iraqi army to the area, instead of the Kurdistan regional forces who now patrol the border, because the Iraqis are not "as close" to the Kurdish residents.
Officials of both the KRG and the central government in Baghdad have told Human Rights Watch in recent weeks that Iran and Turkey have been defiant and dismissive in their private responses. Publicly, both countries contend that they have a right to attack the armed groups inside northern Iraq and both countries deny targeting civilians.
At an August 21 news conference in Turkey, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said that the militaryoperations "will continue without hesitation when necessary." The governor of Iran's West Azarbaijan Province, Vahid Jalalzadeh, told Iranian state television on August 6 that, "The operation against the group [PJAK] will continue until all members are killed," but called reports of Iranian soldiers crossing into Iraq "rumors."
The PKK and PJAK both openly admit to multiple guerrilla attacks against Turkish or Iranian soldiers in a self-proclaimed struggle for ethnic equality for Kurds in those countries. Both are considered terrorist organizations by the United States and European Union.
"The evidence suggests that Turkey and Iran are not doing what they need to do to make sure their attacks have a minimum impact on civilians, and in the case of Iran, it is at least quite possibly deliberately targeting civilians," Stork said. "Regardless of their reasons for carrying out attacks, they need to respect international humanitarian law."
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There are many changes that the latest wave of bombings didn't anticipate. Sazan M. Mandalawi (niqash) reports:


Just like their neighbours in other countries, young Kurdish people in Iraq are using the Internet and social media to call for political action. A recent protest in Erbil against Turkish bombing in the area saw protests swiftly organised: NIQASH was there from the beginning.
Shko Nawroly knows only too well why he is taking part in a protest against Turkish military ingressions into Iraq. "I was born in Iran because my parents were Peshmergas [Kurdish freedom fighters] and they had to run away from Saddam's bombing," explained Nawroly, referring to former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's persecution of the Kurdish people in Iraq's north.
"So I know how it feels when you have to flee to survive bombing and air attacks. And I know how it feels when your family is massacred. And this is why I decided to take part in organizing the protests against the bombing raids carried out by the Turkish warplanes on Kurdish soil," the 23-year-old said passionately. "And as a human being it's a moral responsibility."
But unlike their parents and grandparents who fought on the mountains, today's Kurdish youth are using education, technology, the Internet and social networks as well as peaceful rallies to prevent history repeating itself.

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