KRG presses Turkey over deforestation in Duhok province

Turkish companies are accused of illegal logging in the mountains of the Kurdistan Region’s Duhok province. (Photo: Archive)
Turkish companies are accused of illegal logging in the mountains of the Kurdistan Region’s Duhok province. (Photo: Archive)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Regional Government has expressed its concern to Ankara over the apparent widespread logging and ongoing deforestation in the border areas of Duhok province blamed on Turkish companies.

The KRG “strongly rejects the Turkish Government’s deforestation of the Kurdistan Region’s precious lands, and it has officially requested Turkey to cease its harmful and destructive activities,” government spokesperson Dr. Jotiar Adil said on Monday.

In a joint statement early Tuesday, the agriculture ministries of the KRG and the Iraqi federal government called on Turkey to stop cutting down trees in Duhok province, calling it a hostile act against the environment. The ministries urged the United Nations and international organizations to act to resolve the issue.

Adil in part blamed the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for the presence of the Turkish army in the region, saying it was a “direct consequence” of militants hiding in the border areas, “which has led to ongoing violence affecting the lives of innocent civilians.”

“We once more demand that both sides respect the sovereignty of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, and put a stop to hostilities that are destroying the homes and lives of the people of the Kurdistan Region,” he concluded.

Duhok is the main battlefield for the renewed fighting between Turkey and the PKK, which has lately resulted in the evacuation of several villages and damage to the local environment, including wildfires.

The KRG has repeatedly asked the warring sides to avoid conflict in the Kurdistan Region.

Environmental Destruction

Duhok Governor Dr. Ali Tatar on Tuesday called Turkish Consul General Hakan Karacay and Ali Hamza Pehlivan, the governor of Sirnak province in Turkey, to discuss the deforestation and logging of trees on the border of the Duhok province. 

The head of Zakho district called his own counterpart in Sirnak to stress that his side would not accept the ongoing logging, and urged citizens to inform local authorities about possible illegal operations.

Reving Hiruri, a Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) MP originally from the village of Hiror, suggested earlier this week that Turkish companies were illegally cutting down trees and selling them across the border in Sirnak and Hakkari provinces in Turkey. 

KDP MP Chiya Hamid Sharif, who is from Zakho, told Kurdistan 24 that coal is also being mined in Dashtatakh and Bahnuna Sindi villages and transported across the border into Turkey.

While coal is rarely used for household heating in the Kurdistan Region, in Turkey it’s used to produce electricity and for heating homes in the winter. Sharif said trucks are being used to transport it to Turkey.

He said the logging is mainly happening in Sanat and Mergashish villages in the Sindi region of Zakho, and in Hiror and Barwari Bala in Duhok.

“We in the Kurdistan Parliament are starting a signature campaign with some friends in the parliament to call on the federal Iraqi government in Baghdad to talk to Turkey to stop this destruction and we want all the consulates [in the Kurdistan region] to speak out about this and we will discuss this issue with them,” he said. 

“We want international organizations to speak out about this issue,” he said. “This is an environmental genocide.”

Sharif called on the pro-Kurdish opposition party in Turkey, the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), to support the effort, since the people involved in the logging and selling of woods in Sirnak are said to be Kurds.

KDP MP Hevidar Ahmed accused Turkish “gangs” of cutting down trees in Zakho, saying some of the trees were over 100 years old.

The KDP faction in the Kurdistan Parliament on Monday said the environment should not be a casualty of the war between Ankara and the PKK.

Turkish Consul General Hakan Karacay visited the Kurdistan Parliament on Tuesday to convene with Deputy Speaker Hemin Hawrami on the issue.

Wim Zwijnenburg, a senior researcher at PAX, a Dutch peace organization, told Kurdistan 24 on Sunday that "initial satellite assessment using imagery from May 2020 and May 2021 shows an increase of road construction through forested areas in areas north of Zakho.”

“This is likely contributing to the loss of trees in this part of Iraqi Kurdistan. More research is needed to understand the size and impact of deforestation linked with military activities in the region,” he said.

Editing by Joanne Stocker-Kelly