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TURKEY has been accused of intimidating and interrogating Kurdish villagers in the border area of Iraq, blocking farmers from their land and handing them over to mercenaries.
Agricultural workers have spoken of their arrest by Turkish soldiers operating in the Batifa district of Duhok, in the mountainous region that separates the two nations.
Farmer Idris Younes explained to the Rudaw news website: “The Turkish government captured me while I was in my car.
“They took me to our village [Ris]. Then a Turkish commander handed me over to the commander of mercenaries, who held me for some three hours and released me upon receiving an order from the Turkish commander.”
It is understood that the mercenaries are from Kurdish border villages inside Turkey who are paid by the state and under the control of the Turkish interior ministry, a long-term practice operated by Ankara in sensitive areas.
Turkey says that Operation Claw Eagle, a campaign it insisted was targeting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), ended successfully in September.
Scores of civilians were killed during a bombing campaign which included targeting the popular tourist resort of Kuna Masi, around 30 minutes’ drive from the city of Slemani in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Drones remain a constant threat with daily flights over civilian populations in both rural and urban areas with residents explaining to the Morning Star that they pray they will not be bombed in their sleep.
At least 502 villages in the border areas have been largely emptied since 1992 due to the constant threat of bombings and ground attacks from Turkish soldiers, according to a Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) report last month.
Last week the Morning Star was told of plans agreed between Turkey and the KRG to open a military base in the Qandil region, where the PKK retains popular support.
Since June Kurdish workers have had to seek permission to enter their villages and their land from Turkish soldiers.
Batifa Mayor Dlsher Abdulsattar said that residents were living in fear.
“After being interrogated by [the] Turkish army, the locals of the villages that are part of Batifa subdistrict can’t go to their farmland.
“This has caused instability, and has harmed them psychologically. They fear that they could be targeted in bombing,” he said.
The KRG has so far not commented on the Turkish incursions.
Under a decades-old military agreement Ankara is able to pursue groups opposing it up to 30 kilometres inside Iraqi territory.
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