PKK Members Continue to Occupy Assyrian Villages in North Iraq
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North Iraq (AINA) -- Members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militia continue to occupy three Assyrian villages in the Nahla Valley of north Iraq. The occupation began on November 23 (AINA 2015-11-24). The occupied villages are Rabatke, Upper Hezani and Lower Hezani.

In the village of Rabatke, the house of Oshana Samuel is now occupied by PKK members.

In Upper Hezani PKK members have occupied a house belonging to the cousin of the wife of Emmanuel Khoshaba Youkhana, the leader of the Dwekh Nawsha Assyrian fighting force. The village residents have heard rumors that the PKK plans to build a hospital in Upper Hezani.

In Lower Hezani, PKK members have occupied a house near the school which has 177 students. The house belongs to Mr. Youkhana. The school building houses both the Hezani Primary School and the Merga Secondary School. The primary school has 133 students, the secondary school has 44. The mayor of Lower Hezani spoke with the female commander of the PKK militia, which is comprised mostly of women, and expressed concern for the safety of the students. The commander dismissed his concerns and said nothing will happen. There are 10 PKK fighters in the village with another 100 camped in a nearby valley, waiting to come to this and other villages.

When asked by an employee of the school why the PKK is occupying the village, a PKK fighter said "you [Assyrians] have the opportunity to leave the country, why are you staying here?"

In the village of Jouleh PKK members asked for a list of empty houses which they could occupy. PKK members also asked for a list of empty homes in the other Assyrian villages in the Nahla Valley, including Belmat, Khalilaneh, Kash Kawa, Kasre, Chameh Chale and Merokeh.

On November 25, the second day of the occupation, the seven mayors of the Assyrian villages attempted to speak to the PKK commander but were not allowed to approach her. The Assyrian priest, however, was able to meet with her and told her that it is dangerous for the PKK to be in the villages, especially near the school. The commander assured the priest there was no danger.

According to Mr. Youkhana, the onset of winter very likely indicates that this occupation will continue until next spring, since the mountain hideouts of the PKK would be inhospitable during winter.

"It is not right for the PKK to occupy our villages and use Assyrians as human shields," Mr. Youkhana told AINA in a phone interview. "It is the duty of the Iraqi central government and the Kurdish regional government to safeguard its citizens."

The Nahla Valley is a spectacular and picturesque mountainous farming region that stretches east and north from Duhok toward the Turkish and Iranian borders. It is inhabited by nearly 20,000 Assyrians.

The Nahla Valley in north Iraq.

The Nahla Valley in north Iraq.

The Nahla Valley in north Iraq.

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