Kurdish groups throughout Europe protested against a Turkish airstrike that targeted passengers of a vehicle near a market place in Sinjar (Shengal), Iraqi Kurdistan, which resulted in two deaths.
The strike on 16 August killed Said Hassan, a senior commander of the Shengal Defence Units (YBS), and his cousin Isa Khwededa, a YBS fighter. Three civilians were wounded.
Kurds organised a protest in the French port city of Marseilles and protested in front of the Representative Office of the European Union with a banner that read, “Turkey has committed a massacre in Shengal.” Protests were also staged in different neighbourhoods in Paris, Toulouse, Berlin, Bremen, Bielefeld and Stockholm.
The air strike took place only a short time after the release of a report which warned that Turkish airstrikes in Sinjar hindered the return of the Yazidi people to their homeland, even seven years after the attacks by the Islamic State (ISIS) in Sinjar.
Providing data on airstrikes that have been conducted within the past five years, the report by the International Centre for the Study of Violent Extremism also underlined that there has been no international monitoring of these strikes.
While Turkey’s most recent air strike and military operation in Sinjar involved a violation of Iraqi airspace and was carried out in a residential area, it failed to invoke any international reaction, just like the previous operations which were reported to have killed at least 33 people since 2017. The global media has also reacted indifferently to these operations and attacks.
The only reported international reaction to the most recent airstrike in Sinjar appeared to be a tweet by Nadine Maenza, the Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which stated: “USCIRF urges Turkey to cease these attacks in northern Iraq that endanger Yazidis and other religious communities, preventing refugees and internally displaced people from returning to their homes. We urge the US government to condemn Turkey’s actions.”
While thousands of civilians were killed and thousands of women and children were captured by ISIS in August 2014, the ISIS attacks also resulted in the complete displacement of the Yazidi people living in the towns and villages south of Mount Sinjar in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Half a million people fled and were left defenceless against the attackers as the peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and units of the Iraqi government withdrew. Tens of thousands of Yazidis had to suddenly take refuge in Mount Sinjar. It is estimated that almost 350,000 Yazidis are still living in refugee camps in Iraqi Kurdistan and other areas.
Said Hassan, killed in the last Turkish airstrike, was a commander of the YBS, which had been formed to defend the Yazidis from a genocide during the ISIS attacks. The Yazidis were, at the time, reportedly trained by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which led initial rescue efforts in Sinjar in August 2014.
Government media in Turkey boasted and claimed after the airstrike that “a top figure of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) was killed, in a hunt by drones”.