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Iranian Airstrikes in northern Iraq Displace Hundreds of Assyrian Civilians

Assyrian family from Armota displaced by Iranian airstrikes on September 8, 2018. (Photo: MP Yacoob G. Yaco)

On Saturday, September 8, 2018, Iranian airstrikes targeted the headquarters of two Iranian Kurdish opposition party near the Assyrian town of Armota in northern Iraq. The town is located in the Erbil Province, administered by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The missile attack struck the headquarters of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) which is located approximately 500 meters from the village. At least eleven people were killed and scores of others wounded.

Armota is part of Koya (Koy Sanjaq) sub-district, and is home to approximately 350 ethnic Assyrians. The local civilian population was displaced as a result of the attacks. Most sought refuge in nearby Koya and Ankawa. A group of young Assyrian men from the village stayed behind to ensure the town had been evacuated and to prevent looting. 

The bombings caused damage to some homes in Armota. Multiple families told the Assyrian Policy Institute that their windows were shattered during the attacks. Upon returning to assess the state of the village, locals say further damage appears to be minimal.

Locals called for the removal of PDKI headquarters from their village, citing the threat they posed to surrounding houses. One resident said to the Assyrian Policy Institute, "We don't want them [Iranian opposition parties] stationed here. But who is listening to us?" 

This area has been bombed three times in the past under the same pretext. An Assyrian woman from Armota said they live with trauma and the fear of another attack everyday. "There are children in this village," she said. "I'd like to see one generation of our people [Assyrians] whose childhood isn't marked by bombings."

Most residents have since returned to Armota, but similar incidents have contributed to the steady rate of Assyrian migration out of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry condemned the attack, calling it a "violation of Iraqi sovereignty." 

Armed Iranian Kurdish and Turkish Kurdish groups continue to operate in remote and mountainous border regions in northern Iraq. Neither the Iraqi Government nor the KRG has taken steps to address the issue despite the threat posed to civilians, specifically minoritized communities facing an existential crisis such as Assyrians and Yazidis. 

Just a few days prior to the attack on Armota, the Assyrian areas of Nahla and Barwar were struck by Turkish airstrikes targeting members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, a Kurdish militant group operating throughout the region.


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