Sunday, July 31, 2011

Iran's War on Iraq Border

By NAMO ABDULLA



SWUNE, Iraq— Now in Istanbul heading to New York City on Monday to start my master’s at the University of Columbia School of Journalism.

But last week, I was on my final assignment for Reuters in Iraq. I went to Swune, a village on the Iraq-Iran border that was deserted by Iran’s artillery shelling in pursuit of the Kurdish rebels in the Qandil Mountains, a range that separates northern Iraq from Iran.

It was a very strange moment when I, along with a villager and a taxi driver were at the sites which had been bombed by Iran a few hours before. The villager had reasons to fear as he had just escaped a rocket by 10 meters two days before. Chilly ideas crossed my mind too: if the Iranian soldier triggers a rocket to the same target, I would not make it to study at Columbia, my longtime dream.

But lucky was I and I believe in such situations a journalist would only have to hope that nothing bad happens.



Iranian shelling in clashes with Party for Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) guerrillas on the border with Iraq's northern region has killed two civilians and forced hundreds to flee their homes, local officials and aid agencies said on Monday.

In Swune, Iran’s bombs hit through roofs of villager’s houses, burnt farms, and even hit the primary school destroying parts of its wall and windows.



Fleeing residents had settled in makeshift tents along the roadway near their abandoned villages near the Iranian border, leaving behind farmland, livestock and homes.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Monday it was providing assistance to more than 800 displaced people in northern Iraq, all driven from their homes by the recent shelling in the mountains of Qandil.



Local Iraqi Kurdish officials have blamed Iranian bombardments for the displacements.

Ali Muhammad Ibrahim, general manager of local Sidakan Hospital, said two civilians had been killed by shelling.

Fleeing residents had settled in makeshift tents along the roadway near their abandoned villages near the Iranian border, leaving behind farmland, livestock and homes.



"There were bombs inside the village. It could happen any time. Sometimes the bombardments were at 3 a.m., sometimes in the dawn and sometimes in the evening," said Muhammad Abdullah, 26, who escaped the village of Swune near the Iranian border.

The Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration said it had also supplied a temporary clinic and relief supplies to the displaced on the border region.

Iran said on Friday a commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards was killed in an explosion during clashes with Kurdish rebels in northwestern Iran. In April, Iran reported four Iranian border guards were killed by a grenade attack.



PJAK, which has has bases in the mountains where the borders of Iran, Iraq and Turkey meet, is branded a terrorist organization by both Tehran and Washington.

Iran has pledged to step up military action against the group, which is seeking greater autonomy for Kurdish areas in the country.

But the group says that it refrains from killing civilians and is engaged in a liberation struggle for ethnic Kurds in the northwest of Iran.

But the people here are complaining against both the Iraqi and Kurdish governments for what they see as the lack of response to the border crisis that breaches of Iraq’s sovereignty in the presence of US troops.

Abdullah’s wife, Sazgar, is 9 months pregnant. She said her doctor has advised her to stay in healthy environments not in a dusty tent like where she struggles now.

“The environment has been highly polluted. Animals and humans live and sleep together. It’s so hot here. Some people have started vomiting,” said Dr. Jafar Magdid who provides first aid to the patients there.

While expressing sorrow over the life he left behind at home, Abdullah Hammed, 58, is worried that there might be bigger humanitarian consequences if Iran’s bombardment lasts longer.

“Living for one hour in your village is better than living for three years in such a place,” said Hammed. “I have a pool, farm, and fruit trees. But here I have nothing and must buy everything. How can I buy it, I am not a rich man.”

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