KHURMATU, Kurdistan Region – Many houses in the Kurdish neighbourhoods of Tuz Khurmatu have been looted, burned and bombed, or appear to have been appropriated by the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi.
Rudaw’s war correspondent Hunar Ahmad and cameraman Mohammed Jawhar documented widespread destruction in the ethnically diverse town – the first investigative report by Kurdish media since the town fell to Iraqi forces and Shiite militia on October 16.
About 3,000 houses appear to have been confiscated – Shiite Turkmen slogans are scrawled on the walls. About 2,000 houses have been looted, according to figures from Kurdish parties. Some 400 houses have been set on fire and more than 50 have been bombed.
The home of an official looks like it was looted of all its contents before being bombed and burned. Just the basic structure remains.
The houses that were targeted mainly belong to volunteer Peshmerga or those who cooperated with the Peshmerga.
A local guide with Rudaw’s team helped them to avoid Hashd checkpoints inside the city. Rudaw is banned from operating in Iraqi-controlled areas.
The guide described the tense situation of the now-abandoned Kurdish areas in Khurmatu, southeast of Kirkuk.
"The Kurds are afraid to come back,” he said, driving the Rudaw team through scarred neighbourhoods.
“The Sunni Arabs from the town were told they will be safe if they returned to their homes. But to this day, they are being killed. There was a bombing the other day that killed 70 to 80 of them, and injured 90. This is what makes people afraid to return."
He said the Kurds are afraid they will suffer the same fate.
“Last night they bombed two more houses. One belongs to a Kurd who is called Jahangir,” he added, explaining why it is hard for Kurds to trust the forces now based in the town.
Banners that paid tribute to fallen Peshmerga have been burned. Buildings of Kurdish parties have been burned or bombed, or turned into a base for Iraqi forces.
Graffiti on the wall of the moderate Islamic Kurdistan Union reads “No, no for the traitors. Yes, yes for united Iraq.”
The destruction was also evident in one of the town’s markets, Halwest Bazaar, where about 180 shops were looted and burned. Other large markets in Khurmatu suffered the same fate.
Hashd al-Shaabi fighters and the Federal Police prevent residents from moving to other areas, confiscating their belongings and giving no reason for stopping the people.