UN denounces violence in Tuz Khurmatu as Abadi sends in army to restore order
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The UN on Thursday expressed concerns about reports regarding the destruction, looting, and forced displacement of Kurds from disputed areas in the province of Kirkuk.
“The United Nations is concerned about reports regarding the destruction and looting of houses, businesses, and political offices, and forced displacement of civilians, predominantly Kurds, from disputed areas,” read the statement.
The statement was released three days after Iraqi forces and the Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militia led an incursion into the multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk and surrounding areas, which had been under the protection of Peshmerga since mid-2014 after the Iraqi army collapsed and failed to defend the area from the Islamic State (IS).
The organization says it has received allegations of the burning of about 150 houses in Tuz Khurmatu by armed groups since Monday.
“There were also allegations that up to 11 houses which reportedly belonged to Kurdish families and officials of Kurdish political parties were destroyed by explosives in the city,” the statement continued.
There were also reports of attacks against political offices of Turkmen parties in the Kirkuk Governorate, which was reported as early as Tuesday, with sectarian slogans being written on the walls of occupied buildings.
Photos released on social media suggested the Iraqi Turkmen Front had raised its blue flag on a number of political parties’ offices in Kirkuk, notably those who were in favor of the Kurdistan Region’s referendum on independence.
In response to the incidents of sectarian abuses and violations, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi decided to send the Iraqi army to “restore order in Tuz Khurmatu” on Thursday.
International and local communities have called on relevant security forces to “ensure and act in full respect for law and order and protect civilians and political leaders.”
The UN urged the Iraqi government to “take every action to halt any violations and ensure that all civilians are protected and that the perpetrators of acts of violence, intimidation, and forced displacement of civilians be brought to justice.”
Scenes of people fleeing the violence and threats spread across social media networks, with the Iraqi military incursion into Kirkuk being described as another Anfal campaign (Kurdish genocide) by some, including the Kurdistan Region’s Vice-President.
The number of displaced people since last Monday – close to 100,000, all of whom are Kurds – is expected to rise as the security situation remains unstable and civilians fear the threat of reprisals for their participation in Kurdistan’s Sep. 25 independence referendum.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany