Photos: submitted to Rudaw
Rudaw.net | By Khazan Jangiz
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has warned Turkey to stop “unacceptable” deforestation in the Kurdistan Region, a government spokesperson said on Monday.
“The Kurdistan Regional Government expresses its concern and dissatisfaction at the Turkish government’s deforestation and harm caused to the Kurdistan Region’s environment, and it has officially warned Turkey to cease deforestation at the border areas, which is unacceptable,” KRG spokesperson Jotiar Adil said in an official statement.
Turkey and the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) must “respect Iraq and the Kurdistan Region’s sovereignty and not cause affliction, displacement and destruction," he added.
The statement follows reports of large-scale deforestation by Turkey in Duhok province to build roads in places where they hold operations, villagers have told Rudaw on the condition of anonymity. Some say trees are being taken across the border to be sold.
The Iraqi and Kurdish agriculture ministries have also condemned Turkey, calling for international intervention.
“This is not only a hostile act against Iraq and the Kurdistan Region’s nature and environment, but it is hostility against humanity and the world’s environment because nature has no limits,” read a joint statement released on Monday night.
On Sunday, the Turkish Defense Ministry said that Turkey shows “maximum sensitivity and attention” to civilians, environment and historical and cultural sites in their operations.
More than 40 civilians have been killed in the Kurdistan Region due to the Turkey-PKK conflict since 2015, according to data collected by International Crisis Group up to May 2021. Hundreds of villages have also been emptied.
The PKK is an armed Kurdish group seeking more rights for Kurds in Turkey.
Turkish airstrikes have directly affected civilians. In the latest incident, two brothers were injured last week when a bomb hit their house in Duhok’s Zakho District while they were sleeping.
Land in Duhok has also been destroyed by Turkish bombardments.
The Kurdistan Region’s Forest Police and Environment Directorate last week told Rudaw English that more than 4,000 dunams of land and green spaces have been burned by Turkish bombardments in Duhok province so far this year.
In the past ten years, more than one million dunams of land have been burned in the Kurdistan Region, of which around 35 percent of this was from Turkish and Iranian bombardments, the spokesperson of the Kurdistan Region’s Environmental Protection and Improvement board told Rudaw English last month.
Turkey regularly carries out airstrikes and ground operations in the Kurdistan Region, against what it says are positions belonging to the PKK.
Several operations have been launched this year, including Claw-Eagle 2, in Duhok’s Mount Gara in February, and the ongoing Claw-Lightning and Claw-Thunderbolt operations, which target Duhok’s Metina and Avashin areas, on the mountainous frontier with Turkey.
Kawa Sabri, head of Duhok’s forestry, told Rudaw that they have evidence that Turkey has been destroying the Kurdistan Region’s forests for more than a year, but are collecting more information to inform the relevant authorities.