August 7, 2015, Hewlêr (Erbil)
Several reports and footage have been released recently, documenting civilian loss following the Turkish Armed Forces’ airstrikes on Qandil located in the Kurdistan Federal Government territory on August 1, 2015. The AKP government spokespeople and state officials have denied civilian loss despite the reports of the local sources. Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) Central Executive Committee has instructed our committee for a fact-finding mission to clarify the discrepancy and shed light on the true nature of the events.
Our committee members, Sanlıurfa MP Osman Baydemir, Siirt MP Prof. Dr. Kadri Yıldırım, İstanbul MP Hüda Kaya, Vice co-chair Nazmi Gür and Central Executive Committee member Hatice Altınışık paid a visit to the Kurdish regional government on 4-6 August and carried out research and investigation at Hewlêr, Qandil and Sulaymaniyah. HDP Hewlêr representatives, Şilan Eminoğlu and Abit İke, accompanied our committee during our visit.
Our committee was accompanied by Erbil Governor Nevzat Hadi during their hospital visits to those wounded by the August 1 airstrikes. The committee visited the village of Zergelê as well, identified the damage caused by the airstrikes on site and interviewed eyewitnesses of the airstrike. We were accompanied by the district governor of Revandus, the mayor and the village headman during our visit. Our committee met with representatives from Movement for Change, the Kurdish National Council and Tevgera Azad in Sulaymaniyah to discuss the attack.
Our committee met the Kurdistan Regional Government’s President Masoud Barzani and Prime Minister Nechervan Barzani in Hewlêr.
The Investigation Committee Report has been drawn up pursuant to our members’ observations and our meetings with the eyewitnesses, the injured and the local and regional government officials.
The committee paid a visit to Muhammed Emin Hidir (1971) and Şükriye Ahmed, whom were injured by the airstrikes on the village of Zergelê, on August 4th at hospitals in Hewlêr. Since Muhammed Emin was severely injured and in the intensive care unit and consequently unable to interview, we have consulted Sukriye Ahmed’s account. The committee met the below-listed injured survivors of the attack and also conducted eyewitness interviews at the village of Zergelê.
Şükriye Ahmed Mirmuhammed, Gurbet Ahmed Mirmuhammed, Hatice Muhammed Süleyman, Muhammed Emin Hidir Muhammed Emin, Abdullah İbrahim Resul, İsmail Abdullah Kadir, Cegir Cabar Hıdır, Muhammed Hasan Resul, Hasan Ebubekir Ali, Davut Hüseyin Ali, Hıdır Muhammed Emin Hıdır, Cilan Reşit Ahmed, Abdullah İbrahim Mahmut, Ayşe Muhammed Emin, Senur Melan, Siyabend Abdurrahman, Helat Cahit, Rahman Sofi Mina, Sina Hüseyin Ali, Selim Hıdır Hamed Emin, Hıdır Hamed Emin Resul Muhammed Emin, Ana Hamed Salih, Pavel Dilşad Hidir Hamed Emin (8), Muhammed Dilşad, Muhammed Emin (5), Mehri Aziz Veli, Fettah Osman Hamed Emin are all the children, young, women and elderly survivor villagers of Zergelê. The villagers here are civilians who make a living off agriculture and trade.
VISIT TO THE VILLAGE OF ZERGELE AND FINDINGS
The village of Zergelê where we arrived on August 5th -located in the valley of Qandil region where a main highway and two rivers cut through – has been a civilian settlement for decades. Both during our interactions at the village of Zergelê and with regional representatives, many have expressed their dismay at the misinterpretation of this village as a military base. Our committee has also confirmed that the village of Zergelê is a residential area of 37 units including houses, a mosque, a school, local administration buildings, and tens of stables. The residential nature of this village has been documented by the numerous domestic and international news outlets and press agencies during our visit as well.
During our visit to the village, we have observed that the following properties have been completely destroyed:Residential property and vehicle of Selim Hıdır Hamen Emin,
Residential property of Cegir Cabar Hıdır,
Residential property of Dilşad Hıdır Hamed Emin,
Residential property of Hıdır Hamed Emin,
Residential property and vehicle of Karox Hamed Emin,
Residential property of Necip Rojhelat,
Residential property and stable of Zagros Rojhelat.
STAGES OF AIRSTRIKES AND EYEWITNESSES
Our committee has been informed by the testimonials of the survivors of the airstrikes at the village of Zergelê that:
combat air patrol had been thoroughly surveilling the area with drones as of two days before the airstrikes,
the first airstrike started on August 1 at 4.00 am and at least two other airstrikes followed the initial one until 6.00 am concurrently while combat air patrol drones directed the attack.
THE INITIAL ATTACK
A massive explosion followed the sound of jets at around 4.00 am. Eyewitnesses were able to identify that the explosion was the result of bombs being dropped by the jets due to their familiarity with airstrikes in the region for years. One house was torn down by the initial airstrike during which 70 year old Ayşe Ahmed Mustafa lost her life.
THE SECOND ATTACK
The second airstrike hit Zergele while the villagers were trying to rescue Ayse Ahmed Mustafa, trapped under the wreckage approximately at 04.50 am. Eyewitness’ testimonials express that the second attack caused 4 different explosions resulting from the rockets launched by the jets. Heybet Resul Muhammed Emin (60), Karox Muhamme Emin Hıdır, Abdulkadir Ebubekir Ali and Necip Abdullah lost their lives during the second airstrike as they were trying to rescue Ayşe Ahmed Mustafa.
THE THIRD ATTACK
Four missiles as part of the third airstrike hit approximately at 05.10 am while the villagers were trying to rescue the people under the wreckage. Salih Resul Mehmed Emin, Sema Rüstem and Xabat, who were leading the rescue efforts, lost their lives as a result of this attack.
Our committee has confirmed that the airstrikes of approximately two hours long have unquestionably massacred eight unarmed civilians.
THE HUMAN TRAGEDY AFTER THE ATTACK
As a result of the attack on the morning of August 1st, 6 houses were destroyed and all the residential units in the village, including the mosque and the school, were damaged at the village of Zergelê. The entire village population left their homes in a fright. The villagers of Bukriskan, Livjan, Enzi and Pirdesali have also left their villages as they fear potential airstrikes since combat air patrols still continue in the region. Over a thousand children, elderly, women and young people still fear the possibility of attacks to come.
The headmen of the village of Bukriskan lost his life during the third airstrike trying to rescue his sister who was visiting Zergele for the night.
Necip Abdullah, who lost his life during the attack, has left behind three children of ages sixteen, twelve and only four. Mehri Aziz Veli has expressed that this is the third time his home has been destroyed by the airstrikes of Turkey and Iran and that during this raid he also lost his wife.
Karox Muhammed Emin (26), who lost his life during the attack, has left his wife behind with their three children, Sina (7), Sibel (5) and Senem who is only three months old.
Although the Qandil region has been portrayed to Turkish public opinion, as a settlement only comprised of a PKK base, it actually is home to almost a hundred civilian settlements within many villages. The population in the region peaks during summer as this is the time of the year favorable to agriculture.
Those who have survived the attack believe that this set of airstrikes were orchestrated deliberately to rid off the Qandil region of its civilian population in the villages.
Most of the sources, whom we have contacted, confirm the existence of PKK bases in the Qandil region. However, they have also expressed that no guerillas take shelter in the villages and that their bases are far from civilian settlements. Furthermore, other sources have confirmed that it is against the guerilla’s codes to take shelter from or make contact with civilians. Consequently, the massacre of Zergelê is defined as an attack aimed that evacuating the civilians out of their villages in the Qandil region.
Our committee has come to the following conclusions as a result of its interviews with the injured at the hospitals, villagers of Zergelê and local and regional government officials and representatives:
It has been confirmed that the bombarded village of Zergelê—contrary to the claims of Ankara of it being a PKK base—is a civilian settlement. Those who lost their lives due to the airstrikes were unarmed civilians.
Qandil is a vast region of approximately a hundred villages and many fields. All the local sources confirm that there are no and have never been any PKK bases within or near these civilian settlements.
The statement released by Turkish authorities claiming that the Kurdish Regional Government had been informed about the airstrikes does not reflect the truth. In fact, the Kurdish Regional Government was informed only after the attack.
The statement released by Ankara indicating that the Kurdish Regional Government authorities approve of the military operations in the region does not reflect the truth. On the contrary, the public officials we have met have openly expressed their concerns with and dismay at the airstrikes and its consequences.
The airstrikes and its concurrent consequences are not only against human rights but also clearly breach moral, humane codes. A civilian massacre has been orchestrated by crossing the borders of another country by 150 km and bombarding a village.
Although the responsibility of this attack lies with the Turkish government, the countries who have supplied Turkey with the necessary arms are not exempt from this responsibility either.
The airstrikes targeting the region has not only caused a civilian massacre but also caused massive forest fires devastating the fauna of the region and causing environmental destruction.
The political responsibility of the civilian massacre caused by the airstrikes of the Turkish Armed forces lies with the Turkish government.
Our committee is hereby filing a criminal complaint against those who have ordered and executed the attacks, were a part of the chain of command and deliberately misinformed the public opinion about the airstrikes.
The severity of the consequences of this cross-border air attack puts responsibility on the shoulders of the governments of the nations who have supplied the means of the massacre as well.
We call upon the nations supplying arms to the Turkish government to ask for further guarantee that these arms will not be used on civilians.
We call upon the AKP government to take into account the atrocious consequences of this attack and realize that military operations will not pose a solution to the question at hand. It is evident that the past 30-years of conflict has clearly proved that war will only bring more conflict, tears, destruction, poverty and uncertainty to the region.
We would like to express once again that peace cannot be built with the language and the practices of the war years of 1990s. We would like to reiterate that only dialogue and negotiations can bring solutions. We call upon for a mutual ceasefire to prevent new tragedies, war crimes and irreparable pain.