Iraqi president says deforestation in Kurdistan Region ‘a crime against humans and environment’

Iraqi President Barham Salih during a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq on September 02, 2020. (Anadolu Agency)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Iraqi President Barham Salish said on Thursday deforestation in areas on the Kurdistan Region’s border is a “crime against humans and environment”.

“Despite encroachment on sovereignty, violence and displacement of civilians from their homes, cutting down forests in Hirur, Batifa and border areas of Kurdistan Region is a crime against humans and environment, which is not a cause for forgiveness,” Salih said in a tweet.

“It’s our duty in the federal government and the Region to cooperate to halt this rape and looting, and hold criminals accountable,” he added. 

Two Kurdish lawmakers said this week that the Turkish military had started deforestation and logging in areas on the Kurdistan Region’s border areas.

Lawmaker Hividar Ahmed posted several photos on Facebook showing logs piled in several areas where he said the Turkish army had cut down trees on the border areas.

“In evidence, the Turkish mercenaries have cut down and stolen trees in Sindya region in Zakho district,” said Ahmed.

On Monday, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Spokesperson Jotiar Adil said Erbil had requested Turkey to put an end to deforestation in the Kurdistan Region.

“The KRG is concerned and expresses dissatisfaction about deforestation and damaging the nature of the Kurdistan Region, and it has formally requested Turkey to put an end to deforestation on the border areas, which is not acceptable,” Adil said in a statement.

The deforestation comes as Turkey continues its operation which it launched against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Duhok province in April.

Earlier on Thursday, the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT)-Iraqi Kurdistan said dozens of villages had been evacuated due to Turkish military operation on the Region’s border.

CPT director Lukasz Firla said there were about 16 villages that have been evacuated in Avashin region, where fighting is still ongoing between Turkish forces and PKK fighters.

“Only in Kani Mase, there are around 150 families that had to leave,” Firla told reporters, while his interpreter, who’s also a member of the CPT, said 75 villages had been evacuated in Kani Mase sub-district.

He further said the Turkish military had built four bases in Zinary Kesta mountain, as part of its military operation.

“They began to expand to the east along the border in Kani Mase,” he added.

“We are very worried and what is happening now is not just an operation that will finish very soon. We are very worried and afraid that this is an attempt to occupy the border of Kurdistan,” he noted.

“The military bases are already connected by roads to Turkey. We are very worried that the farmers and families that were displaced from villages will never be able to come back. Not only because of the bombing, but also the lands taken, they don’t have any more land. Many of the lands burned and many of the animals are gone now that they had,” he continued.

“It is an attempt to connect all those areas now and to create a zone which Turkey is calling a security zone. We are afraid and worried that Turkey will never leave from this area.”

The Turkish military has established a dozen military bases in the Kurdistan Region’s border areas with Turkey as part of its military campaign against the PKK.

The Turkish military has entered nearly 10 kilometers deep into the Kurdistan Region, according to Kurdish officials.

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