Turkey: Kurdish shepherds targeted along Iranian border in undeclared state of emergency

Turkey: Kurdish shepherds targeted along Iranian border in undeclared state of emergency
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Shepherds and their herds in a border province of Turkey have been targeted by soldiers multiple times in recent months because the herds have been taken to "banned" areas for grazing.

A shepherd and his fellows were recently beaten and some of their sheep were killed by Turkish soldiers because they took herds to graze in a "banned" pasture in Turkey's Kurdish-majority province of Hakkari.

Ali Riza Firat, a shepherd from the village of Bilindbasan in the district of Yuksekova, told Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) that he was targeted by soldiers repeatedly in the past two months as he took the sheep to graze in the valley of Qifarok.

He said that the area has been "unofficially banned" out of security concerns over a nearby military base.

"The soldiers say the herds can graze only in allowed areas. We asked the soldiers permission to let us move the herd to another area in a couple of days," the shepherd said.

"Not only have they rejected our request to allow us some time, but they have beaten us. They threw away our food and medicine supplies, our torches. When we tried to object, they slapped us and they hit me on the chest with a rifle butt."

He continued:

"They burned our spare clothing and medicine supplies. They forbid us to enter the area although there is no official ban. They try to prevent us from having our herds graze in the area although it is 5-6 km from the military base. They occasionally shoot at our herd. A month ago they killed five of our sheep. They seized a rifle that we carry to protect the herds from attacks of wolves. We used to be able to take the herds all the way to the Iranian border. The soldiers used to even buy a sheep when they met us. In the last couple of years, however, we have been constantly targeted through threats and beating."

Undeclared state of emergency because of cross border military campaign

The unofficial territory bans along the Iranian and Iraqi border in the province of Hakkari are indications of an undeclared state of emergency in the region, accompanying intensification of military activities on either side of the border.

Turkish forces have been conducting military campaigns in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) for 30 years, allegedly to combat fighters affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), but such campaigns in KRI soil have intensified after "Operation Claw" was launched in May 2019, the latest phase of which has been launched in mid April, dubbed "Operation Claw-Lock."