Three killed after Turkish attack on clinic in northern Iraq

Among the dead is a YBS leader who was on his way to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Khadimi
Un soldat monte la garde au poste frontière à la frontière irakienne dans la province de Hakkari, en Turquie

AP/TURKISH DEFENSE MINISTRY  -   Un soldat monte la garde au poste frontière à la frontière irakienne dans la province de Hakkari, en Turquie

While the international community's attention remains focused on Afghanistan, Turkey is taking advantage of the situation to advance its regional agenda by launching new cross-border attacks on Iraqi soil. This time, the air offensive has claimed the lives of at least three people and wounded five others, according to the AFP news agency, all of them in the northwestern region of Sinjar. A Yadizi-majority province that is part of Ankara's geopolitical aspirations.

Turkey on Tuesday attacked the hospital in Sekaina, a village in the southern Sinjar mountain range. It was the second consecutive offensive in the area by Turkish forces. The Ottoman army used drones, according to witnesses, and bombs reduced the clinic to rubble, making it difficult to search for the dead and wounded. The medical centre was reportedly associated with the Sinjar Protection Units (YBS), a Yazidi militia active in the fight against Daesh and close to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), according to Ankara.

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AFP/AFP - Map of Iraq on which the Sinjar district is located

A day earlier, two Yazidis were also killed in Sinjar by the Turkish army, including Saeed Hassan, a well-known YBS leader. According to AFP, Hassan himself was taken to hospital in Sekaina after the vehicle in which he was travelling exploded. He died there hours later. His role within the YBS organisation was important, as evidenced by the communiqué issued by the organisation, which blames the "fascist Turkish state" for his assassination for his defence of the Yadizi people. The group also warned that the attack "would not go unanswered".

"Saeed Hasan was an Iraqi Yazidi who had no political agenda or activity inside Turkey," explains scholar Matthew Travis Barber. "For years he witnessed tremendous bloodshed, as many of his friends died defending the Yazidis against Daesh. He became the administrative head of YBS, a role that did not include military command, but involved liaising with Iraqi bureaucracies and government agencies." According to Travis Barber, Saeed handled interactions with the Al-Khadimi government. "He also handled public relations, media consultations and represented YBS in international forums dealing with Yazidi issues."

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REUTERS/GORAN TOMASEVIC - Members of the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), a militia affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), in the village of Umm al-Dhiban in northern Iraq

The Turkish offensives have coincided with the first visit of an Iraqi prime minister to Sinjar since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. Mustafa Al-Khadimi was on his way to the region at the time of the attack on Saeed. Expert Travis Barber said via Twitter that he "was on his way to a meeting with the prime minister". "The Iraqi Army contacted him two days ago and asked him to attend a meeting. Today they called him again before the meeting." If true, Turkey would have assassinated an Iraqi leader of a registered militia who was on his way to a meeting with the head of government.

"This place has become holy because pure blood has been shed here, the blood of our honourable Yazidis, and the blood of the young men from all over Iraq who liberated it," Al-Khadimi said on his arrival in Sinjar, where he did not comment on the Turkish attack. "The atrocities committed by ISIS gangs here in the name of religion revealed the brutal face of terrorism and its hostile rhetoric," he recalled. The attacks came on the anniversary of the Sinjar massacre, Daesh's genocide against the Yazidi people in 2014 that killed more than 5,000 people.

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PHOTO/AP - Iraq's Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi

Only 50 metres separate the hospital that was attacked from the nearest Iraqi military post, local sources said. Turkey is an important trading partner for Iraq, a factor that explains Baghdad's inaction in defending its citizens and sovereignty. The weakness of the Iraqi government and the need to maintain support in the region tie the authorities' hands.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government considers YBS to be part of the Kurdish separatist movement. The Sinjar Protection Units' collusion with the PKK, which Turkey classifies as a 'terrorist organisation', poses a threat to the unity of the state, Ankara argues. For its part, the organisation defends its role in defending the rights of Kurdish citizens in Turkey. The Turkish government's crusade against the pro-Kurdish forces is materialised above all in the harassment of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), the country's third largest parliamentary force.

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PHOTO/AP - An aerial view of relatives preparing to bury the remains of Yazidi victims at a cemetery in Sinjar, Iraq, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021. 104 Yazidis killed by the Islamic State group six years ago were given a proper burial at a cemetery in the Kocho village of Sinjar, northern Iraq
Turkish interference

However, this persecution crosses borders. "The Turkish aggression, which we consider a blatant interference, a gross violation of Iraq's sovereignty against the Yazidi citizens of Sinjar, and a heinous crime for which Turkey must be held accountable," said the president of the Sinjar academy, Murad Ismael. "If there are problems with individuals or groups it is an internal Iraqi matter. It is the responsibility of the Iraqi judiciary and the Iraqi authority to resolve it according to the law," he said.

"While we know very well that Turkey's ambitions in Sinjar, Nineveh, Kirkuk and other areas in northern Iraq are geopolitical ambitions to control these areas. We suggest integration so that Turkey has no excuses," Murad said on his Twitter account. Ankara's plans are to control the region under the pretext of threats to its national security, a motive that has led it to establish a dozen military bases over the past 25 years. From these areas, the Turkish army launches its offensives.

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Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Handout via REUTERS - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets members of his ruling AK Party during a meeting at the parliament in Ankara, Turkey 26 May 2021

The increased frequency of attacks has been detrimental to the local population, who have been forced to flee their homes. "Turkey has attacked Sinjar every year for the past five years. Continued Turkish air and drone attacks are one of the reasons cited by the Yazidis for preventing them from returning to rebuild and recover from the genocide," tweeted Wilson Center researcher Amy Austin Holmes. "In the month of July alone, 472 Yazidis who had attempted to return to Sinjar and rebuild their lives ended up being relocated to IDP camps in Duhok, according to the Kurdistan Region Joint Crisis Coordination Center." The Yazidi people are paying the price.