Ameenah Mahmoudi and husband Mawloud Aziz shown in this image on September 18, 2018, have lived for more than 30 years at a camp in Koya, Kurdistan Region, Iraq. Photo: A.C. Robinson | Rudaw
By A.C. Robinson and Mohammed Rwanduzy
KOYA, Kurdistan Region – Shahla Kawa, a member of the Executive Council of the Women's Union for Eastern Kurdistan (Rojhelat/Iranian Kurdistan), was inside the fortress in Koya when Iran struck with seven short-range missiles, killing 17 and injuring 46.
"When the first blast happened, I went to investigate it and suddenly everything became black. I wasn't aware of the other missiles," said Kawa.
She was rescued from the rubble and spent several days in intensive care at a Sulaimani hospital.
"I don't remember anything," she said.
Kawa, 34, sustained serious injuries all over her body and required more than 150 stitches, 57 in her head alone.
Her youngest son, five-year-old Sherwan, is afraid to come near her.
"My son is afraid. He doesn't touch or come near me. He doesn't sleep at night. He wets the bed and doesn't dare to wake us up," she explained.
Shahla Kawa recovers in hospital following the attack which occurred 10 days earlier in Koya, Kurdistan Region, Iraq, September 18, 2018. Photo: A.C. Robinson | Rudaw
He even asked her 'Why did the Iranians do this to us?'
"He is traumatized, very afraid," she added.
Iran fired an “unspecified” number of missiles at a joint communications center near Koya, a city in the northeastern part of Erbil province, Kurdistan Region, Iraq. It housed Kurds from Iran opposed to the regime. They belong to various parties included Komala, the Kurdistan Democratic Party – Iran (KDP-I), and the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI).
"I hope the organizations will take action and the injured will get well soon," she said.
Ameenah Mahmoudi, 52, and her husband Mawloud Aziz, 57, were also in the meeting during the attack.
Mahmoudi, who has lived in Koya for nearly 30 years, also serves as a member of the Women's Union. She sustained injuries to her head, back and legs and has 60 stitches for her injuries.
Her husband only sustained minor injuries from falling debris.
"We call on the UN to provide us with security and protect us," Mahmoudi said. "This fortress has no military purpose. It had children's organizations, women's organizations, and children protection organizations.”
She explained the Peshmerga are in the mountains, while just their families live near the fortress (a former garrison for Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party military).
“There is no military presence there but it was attacked. We want them to protect us so that we are no longer killed, our Peshmerga are no longer killed. We want an end to this suffering,” said Mahmoudi.
The head of the Democratic Youth Union of Eastern Kurdistan Peshawa Alipour shows his bandaged foot on September 18, 2018. He was badly injured in the Iranian missile attack 10 days earlier. Photo: A.C. Robinson | Rudaw
Peshawa Alipour, the head of the Democratic Youth Union of Eastern Kurdistan said he lost 13 colleagues, including two women. A guard hut was also hit, killing two Peshmerga.
"I was part of the meeting of the central committee of the Democratic Party [KDP-I]. We were discussing the conditions of the region and what was happening around us in general," he said.
His foot was fractured in the attack.
"We were in the meeting and suddenly we heard a loud sound," he continued. “We initially thought it may have been a bomb previously planted on the exterior wall of the fortress that may have exploded.
"So we went outside to see what was happening. By that time, the second missile hit, throwing everybody out of the meeting room from the strength of the missile."
Thirteen of his colleagues were killed.
Because the fortress was reinforced, “only missiles more than nine meters long” were capable of inflicting such damage, Alipour claimed.
He said the fortress houses the Women's Union, the Youth Union, media, and some civil organizations.
"Only some Peshmerga are here to guard the building because the UN won't provide protection," Alipour said.
The opposition parties have protested at the gates of the UN mission in Erbil, its headquarters in New York, and at Iranian consulates across the world to demand direct action to address their plight.
"We have asked UN to raise just one flag of theirs and bring some UN protection forces. It would make the people happy, but they won't do that," Alipour said.
Documents and archives were destroyed in the attack. Alipour estimated the cost of the physical damages to the compound at around $1 million.
Very near the fortress are camps for the refugees who are unable to get Iraqi citizenship.
Alipour said the political parties want all of their camps to come under the supervision of the UN as political asylum seekers.
"We need it to be protected, but no one helps these camps. Any of these camps could have been hit by these missiles," he added.
Peshawa Alipour, the head of the Democratic Youth Union of Eastern Kurdistan, on September 18, 2018, implores the international community and especially the UN not to ignore the Koya attack. Video: Rudaw English
Iran’s top military brass has vowed to continue operations against the groups if they are not extradited or expelled.
"We expect more attacks. This regime doesn't respect human rights and doesn't respect the rules of war," he said. "They attack indiscriminately and use terror, especially with the bombings."
The United States — applying heavy pressure on the regime through economic sanctions — twice condemned the attacks; however, the KDP-I said that wasn’t enough. The United Kingdom called the attacks a “disproportionate use of force”.
While presiding over the UN Security Council on Thursday, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said: "Iran treats Iraq as if it was not an independent nation."
"This was not an act of Iranian proxies but of the Tehran regime itself. It was Iran’s first direct military strike into Iraqi territory in over a decade."
Alipour made it clear they are not backed by Western or other powers. The opposition parties historically have championed greater political, minority, and religious rights for all Iranians following the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
"We are not America, Europe, or other people's puppets like the regime claims,” he emphasized. “We stand within and from the Kurdish society demanding the rights of our nation. The regime answers our legitimate demands by missiles."