Tens of thousands of people from Tuz Khurmatu, mainly Kurdish, have fled their hometown for fear of persecution from the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi forces stationed in the city since October 16, 2017. Photo: Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Kurdistan Region parliament has labelled acts of violence in Tuz Khurmatu by Iraqi forces and the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi as "genocide" and "ethnic cleansing" in a special session that discussed the plight of tens of thousands of Kurds who have fled the city since October 16.
Deputy Speaker Jaafar Imniki told Rudaw following the session that crimes committed against Tuz Khurmatu’s Kurdish population are "genocide and ethnic-cleansing."
The city fell to Iraqi forces when they drove out the Peshmerga following Iraq’s military incursion into the disputed areas, which also include Tuz Khurmatu.
Soran Omar, head of the parliament’s Human Rights Committee that has investigated what happened in Tuz Khurmatu, told lawmakers that they documented 10 people killed at the start of events on October 16, adding that the figure is higher now since human rights violations have continued.
Dler Mawati, from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), said that of those killed, seven were Peshmerga and two were civilians.
Omar also said that their findings revealed "ethnic-cleansing," a claim backed by the parliament’s committee for the disputed areas.
"What happened in Khurmatu at the hands of the Hashd al-Shaabi by burning houses, looting shops and markets of the Kurds is genocide according to international laws. They contain elements of crimes against humanity," read a report by the committee on Kurdistani areas.
Omar said that the Shiite forces killed people in Tuz Khurmatu in a "brutal manner and their bodies were mutilated."
He added that 41 people, including Peshmerga, were arrested and tortured. These people were later freed, according to the PUK’s Mawati.
Omar showed the parliament photos of people whom he said suffered torture and abuse. In total 115 people were injured and 50 houses were flattened on the first day of the Iraqi takeover.
He also showed a photo that he claimed was an Iraqi MP armed with a gun along with other Hashd fighters in Tuz Khurmatu, "looking for revenge."
He said various government buildings have been looted, including hospitals.
Rights organizations, including Amnesty International
, also recorded acts of killing and looting in the city.
A Rudaw field investigation November 26 found that thousands of houses in Kurdish neighbourhoods had been looted, burned and bombed, or appear to have been appropriated by the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi.
Video: Inside Tuz Khurmatu: Kurdish homes targeted under Hashd rule
Some documentation of what has taken place in Tuz Khurmatu was displayed at an exhibit in the parliament building. Some foreign delegates visited the exhibition.
The local government of Tuz Khurmatu, represented by its mayor Shalal Abdullah Ahmad and a member of the Khurmatu City Council, submitted a list of demands to the parliament.
They called for acts of violence be stopped, a fact-finding committee formed to investigate abuses, an end to changes of government personnel that have so far stripped several Kurdish officials of their roles, and the deployment of either an international or a joint Iraqi-Kurdish peacekeeping force that excludes the Hashd.
Their statement also demanded that "efforts be made for the recognition of the atrocities of October 16 as war crimes and genocide and those who committed such atrocities be tried by an international court."
The committee on the Kurdistani areas demanded the United Nations send an envoy to investigate reported cases of violence.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) noted that the people of Kurdistan, especially in the disputed areas had suffered genocide and Arabization under the former Baathist regime. The events in Tuz Khurmatu prove that there is an "ongoing genocide" against the Kurdish people, the party said.
"Only the name has changed, from Baath to Hashd al-Shaabi," said KDP MP Dr. Mohammed Ali.
Video: Anfal survivor: My house set on fire following Iraq’s takeover of Khurmatu
He said their figures, obtained from various governmental and non-government parties, show that about 100,000 people have fled Tuz Khurmatu, 1,102 houses and 12 buildings of Kurdish parties have been destroyed, and five radio stations and one TV station were looted.
The KDP MP also claimed that a girl was raped by eight Hashd fighters in front of her family. Minister Darbaza Mohammed had told Rudaw on October 21 that claims of sexual abuse were mere rumours.
In Sulaimani on Wednesday, Kurdish parties that used to have presence in Tuz Khurmatu met to discuss the situation in their hometown.
They discussed the deployment of a "neutral" force to the area, compensation for those affected by the wave of violence, and some ethnic-based changes to government positions, the PUK’s Mala Shukir told Rudaw.
People displaced from Tuz Khurmatu have held protests – one in Kalar and one in Erbil – to demand an end to the violence.
The office of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Tuesday issued an order to the Iraqi ministry of the displaced to start assisting Tuz Khurmatu residents to return to their homes in coordination with the federal police and Hashd al-Shaabi.
The Kurdistan Region parliament is expected to prepare a full report on the events in Tuz Khurmatu for distribution to rights organizations, the international community, and the public.