What's In Blue

Posted Tue 26 Jul 2022

Iraq: Briefing and Consultations on the Attack in Duhok Governorate

This afternoon (26 July), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on the 20 July attack in the Duhok governorate of the Kurdistan region of Iraq. The meeting was requested by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after Iraq sent a letter to the Council on 22 July that called for the Council to meet and discuss the attack. Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert is expected to brief. Iraq and Türkiye will participate in the briefing under rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure. Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein is expected to represent Iraq during the briefing.

On 20 July, artillery shells struck a tourist area in the Zakho district of the Duhok governorate, killing at least nine people and wounding at least 23 more. Iraq has blamed Türkiye for the attack. In a 20 July tweet, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi accused Türkiye of “committing an explicit and blatant violation of the sovereignty of Iraq, and the lives and security of Iraqi citizens, by targeting a tourist resort in the Governorate of Dohuk in the Kurdistan region of Iraq today”. In a 21 July statement, Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it had summoned Türkiye’s ambassador to Iraq, Ali Riza Güney, and handed him a note of protest conveying the Iraqi government’s “condemnation of this heinous crime committed by the Turkish troops, that has topped its continuous aggressions on the sovereignty of Iraq and its territories”. On 23 July, Iraqi lawmakers reportedly formed a committee to investigate the attack.

Türkiye has denied responsibility for the attack. On 20 July, the Turkish foreign ministry issued a statement that appeared to blame the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which it considers a terrorist organisation, for the incident. It said that “such attacks which aim at innocent civilians and are assessed to be organised by the terrorist organisation, target our country’s just and determined stance in the fight against terrorism.” The statement also said that “Türkiye is prepared to take all steps to reveal the truth” and invited “Iraqi government officials not to make statements under the influence of the rhetoric and propaganda of the treacherous terrorist organisation and to cooperate in bringing the real perpetrators of this tragic incident into light”. On 25 July, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reportedly told Türkiye’s state broadcaster TRT Harber that the attack was “similar to normal terror moves of the [Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)]. We are not strangers to this…this once again showed us the PKK’s true face”.

The PKK is a Kurdish group that has waged an insurgency against Turkish authorities since 1984, seeking the establishment of an independent Turkish state. Like Türkiye, the EU and the US have designated the group as a terrorist organisation. The ongoing conflict between Türkiye and the PKK is estimated to have resulted in approximately 40,000 deaths.

On 17 April, Türkiye announced that it had launched a new offensive against the PKK in northern Iraq. The offensive, which Türkiye refers to as Operation Claw-Lock, has reportedly involved commando units, unmanned aerial vehicles and attack helicopters. According to media reports, on 24 July, the Turkish defence ministry announced that 289 members of the PKK have been killed and 330 caves and shelters demolished during Operation Claw-Lock. Kurdish media sources have also referred to the death of Turkish soldiers and reports of civilian casualties.

In its 21 July letter to the Council, Iraq called for “the establishment of a committee to follow the situation between Iraq and Türkiye, and to add an item of repeated Turkish attacks”, as well as “a firm condemnation in the strongest terms towards this aggression and work to ensure accountability for the perpetrators of this heinous act that targeted civilians”. The letter also notes that since 2018, Iraq has sent a series of letters to the Council documenting alleged violations of Iraqi territory and airspace by Türkiye.

On 25 July, Council members issued a press statement on the Duhok attack. Among other matters, the statement condemned the attack and urged all member states to cooperate with the Iraqi government’s investigation.

At this afternoon’s meeting, Council members are likely to condemn the Duhok attack and express condolences to the victims and their families. Some members might note that intentional attacks on civilians and attacks that do not distinguish between military targets and civilians are a violation of international humanitarian law and emphasise that perpetrators must be held accountable. Council members may also highlight the importance of thoroughly investigating the circumstances of the attack and reiterate their support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq. Iraq and Türkiye might expand on the positions outlined in their public statements.

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