ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Members of the Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militia blew up the home of a Kurdish family in Tuz Khurmatu on Saturday, according to local reports.
Human rights violations of an ethnic nature and targeted attacks against Kurds have increased in the oil-rich disputed province of Kirkuk, notably in Tuz Khurmatu which had already been suffering from instability prior to the Oct. 16 military takeover by Iraqi forces and Hashd al-Shaabi militias.
Since then, a new wave of displacement and humanitarian crisis hit the region as thousands of people, mostly Kurds, left Kirkuk and Khurmatu fearing targeted abuse and threatening behavior from Shia militias.
According to the KRG, in the aftermath of the October attack, over 180,000 people, mostly Kurds, have been displaced from Kirkuk and other disputed cities and been the targets of arsons, lootings, and threats, incidents confirmed by official bodies and international humanitarian organizations such as Amnesty International.
Local media reported that the gunmen were riding in cars belonging to the Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) when they destroyed the house of Kurdish Khurmatu resident, Kareem Bakir.
“The attackers were driving two cars belonging to the federal police and one belonging to the PMF,” a local Sulaimani-based news outlet reported.
Bakir and his family fled to Sulaimani hours after the Iraqi government seized the disputed town of Khurmatu.
He claims his house was deliberately destroyed. It is not exactly known how the house was demolished, but others in the area have been burned down and blown up.
Activists on social media circulated pictures of a house in ruins they asserted belong to the Kurdish family. Kurdistan 24 could not independently verify the claims.
Witnesses also added that abuses against the Kurdish population in Khurmatu are still being carried out by Turkmen militias operating under the umbrella of the PMF.
Kurdistan 24 could not reach any PMF official for comment as Iraqi authorities have banned correspondents from accessing the areas under the federal government’s control.
Kurdish officials have repeatedly called for the international community and the UN to interfere in its ongoing dispute with the Iraqi Federal Government to put an end to existing tensions and abuses through peaceful dialogue.
In December, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani called on his Iraqi counterpart to investigate abuses against Kurds in Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatu. Others have warned of attempts to “disrupt the demographic composition” of Kirkuk and other disputed cities “through the forced displacement of Kurds,” describing it as a new Arabization campaign to which Baghdad is turning a blind eye.
Kurdish officials have called on the UN to send a “fact-finding” group to “investigate and collect information” on the Kurdish villages being targeted by the new campaigns of forced displacements. The Kurdistan Region’s Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani, has repeatedly warned that the UN has not taken the Khurmatu situation seriously.