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Protesters demand international investigation in Tuz Khurmatu

By A.C. Robinson 5/12/2017
Protesters from Tuz Khurmatu gathered at the UN compound in Erbil on Tuesday. Photo: Rudaw
Protesters from Tuz Khurmatu gathered at the UN compound in Erbil on Tuesday. Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Dozens of Kurds who fled their homes in Tuz Khurmatu gathered at the United Nations compound in Erbil on Tuesday to protest abuses by militia forces in the city and demand international action. 

“We have come here to make the UN hear our voices and learn about the huge atrocities we suffered,” said Mohammed Rasheed, a resident from Tuz Khurmatu. “The city has seen a lot of repression and Kurds have been the main victim.”

“Let the UN know that, [the Hashd] and the Shiite Turkmen does not accept any other race or nation to exist in Tuz Khurmatu,” he added.

According to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), over 150,000 people have been displaced to the Region since October 16 – the day Iraqi forces and Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi militias began their operations to take over disputed areas, including the diverse city of Tuz Khurmatu. 

Saying that their homes and shops have been destroyed or burned, resident Aram Jassem said Hashd al-Shaabi fighters now tell the Kurds, “You are not from here and do not belong here.”

“Nothing is left behind for us to live on,” he claimed.

Mohammed Rasheed described life in the camp where he now lives as “miserable.”

Many people that Rudaw English spoke to at the protest were wary of having their photos taken for fear of reprisals from militias in their hometown.

Rights monitors Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as the United Nations, have reported killings, attacks, looting, and arson in Tuz Khurmatu. Rudaw’s own cameras have documented the aftermath of atrocities committed in Tuz Khurmatu

The protesters called for international action. 

“I am calling on UN to take action and reach out to us,” Aram Jassem pleaded. 

Farhad Akbar Mohammed, from Tuz Khurmatu, said “We have come here to strike in order for the IDPs to return home who under bullets, mortars and artilleries were forcefully evicted. On October 16 we suffered a major calamity. It was indeed a genocide.” 

The protesters handed out pamphlets detailing their demands that include an international investigation into events in the city on October 16 and in the days that followed, deployment of UN-mandated security forces to protect citizens in Tuz Khurmatu, and removal of all militias from the city with security handed over to the police and Asayesh (Kurdish security).

They also ask for compensation for those affected – echoing demands made by Tuz Khurmatu residents in a protest in Kalar in November. 

“I’m here today to let the UN hear our voices about the suffering from these brutal forces who took our city and attacked the people living there,” said Nabard Mohammed. “I’ve seen them blow up houses of many Kurds and they have caused many problems. Now my family cannot return.’

He said that nobody cares about the Kurds who had to leave their homes.

“The UN should make it a mission to care for the Kurds who were forced to leave,” he pleaded.

“You know what happened after October 16 and we are here to show the world what happened to us, our town and our country,” said journalist Nabaz. He said he is wanted by the Hashd for making a report about events in the city. 

“We have to raise our voices so that the world and UNAMI know what is happening because journalists are not allowed to enter the city to see what is happening.”

KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has criticized global inaction on the reported violence in the ethnically diverse Tuz Khurmatu. 

Iraqi President Fuad Masum, on a recent visit to Kirkuk and the Kurdistan Region, pledged to resolve tensions in the city. 

Addressing the UN Security Council on November 22, UN envoy to Iraq Jan Kubis estimated that just 2 percent of those who were displaced have returned to Tuz Khurmatu. 

“The UN and humanitarian partners are there to help, continuing to provide life-saving assistance,” he added. 

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