(AINA) -- Bahdinani security forces of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) stepped up their campaign of intimidation against the eight remaining Assyrian villages in the Nahla area near Aqra in northern Iraq. The earlier reported August midnight attack on the village of Kesh Kawa was followed by a similar raid on the Nahla village of Belmat on September 10, 1999. As in the previous attacks, approximately one dozen armed security forces of the KDP surrounded the village and fired automatic weapons into the air rousing alarmed and terrified villagers from their sleep.
Assyrians in the Nahla region with grievances have had little if any legal recourse from Kurdish authorities in the past several years. The village of Belmat has been especially sensitized to the difficulties in relying on the Bahdinani concept of justice. In 1995, Mr. Edward Khoshaba, a resident of Belmat, was tending his sheep on his own land when he apparently surprised three Bahdinani bandits who had killed and butchered some of his sheep. Seeing Mr. Khoshaba outnumbered, the bandits attacked Mr. Khoshaba when they were confronted. Mr. Khoshaba was able to kill two of his assailants in self-defense as the third fled to his neighboring village. In order to avoid greater tension between Assyrians and Bahdinanis, Mr. Khoshaba surrendered to the supposed legal authorities in order to have a proper investigation of the attack.
The local Bahdinani police immediately surrendered Mr. Khoshaba to an angry mob of the attacking bandits' family and fellow villagers. Mr. Khoshaba was taken to the Bahdinani village where he was brutally beaten. Then after being tied to a tree he was taunted and tortured for hours before he was finally killed. The whole drawn out, sordid, death ordeal was treated by the Bahdinani villagers as a sort of celebratory festival until the climactic "honor" of finally killing Mr. Khoshaba was given to the eldest woman of the village who repeatedly hacked Mr. Khoshaba on his head with an axe until he lost consciousness and died. Mr. Khoshaba's hacked, bloody, and broken corpse was later ignominiously dumped near his home. Neither the murderous mob nor the legal authorities that denied Mr. Khoshaba due process were ever captured, investigated or punished for his extrajudicial lynching.
The underlying motivation for continued attacks and intimidation against Assyrian villages such as in the Nahla region and other parts of northern Iraq is best illustrated by recent declarations by the KDP regarding the Assyrian village of Millet Arwana adjacent to the Nahla region Assyrian villages. Following intimidation and harassment, many of the Assyrian inhabitants of this village had left northern Iraq. Recently, it has been reported that Mr. Hisbyer Al Zebari of the KDP has ordered that ownership of the village lands be redistributed with over 80% being handed over to Bahdinani settlers belonging to the Zebari Kurdish tribe. Mr. Al Zebari is reportedly a political bureau member of the KDP as well as an in law relative of KDP leader Masoud Barzani.
Various ethnic groups and armed political groups in northern Iraq such as the predominantly Bahdinani KDP, the predominantly Sorani Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and the predominantly Kurmanji Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) have used the pretext of instability and violence to further consolidate their land holdings by force at the expense of unarmed Assyrian villagers. With a premeditated policy of intimidation, threats, and harassment, Assyrians are forced from their ancient ancestral lands as various illegal settlers, often related to the political leadership ordering the violence, occupy more and more Assyrian villages. The Iraqi government has demonstrated complicity in this program in so far as over 200 Assyrian villages were destroyed in the 1960's and 70's and were subsequently resettled by Bahdinanis and Soranis. With a renewed influx of the predominantly Kurmanji PKK, additional tension and conflict can be expected in the future. Since the Gulf War, more than fifty additional villages have been expropriated by various Sorani and Bahdinani groups, the most recent being Millet Arwana. The attacks against the remaining villages in the Nahla region are merely the latest salvos in a continuing policy of ethnically cleansing the region of Assyrians.
These attacks against Assyrians continue unabated within the United Nations sanctioned "Safe Haven" at a time when opposition groups including the KDP and PUK are meeting in Washington and elsewhere in an attempt to forge a "democratic and pluralistic" society in Iraq. Throughout these deliberations, Assyrians have been at best under represented and sometimes completely unrepresented. Those Assyrians most intimately aware of the policies directed against Assyrians by the Iraqi government and the Iraqi opposition are sidelined as certain self-described victims of the Baghdad government within the opposition continue to pursue the same policy of terror, assassination, forced migration, and subsequent resettlement against the remaining Assyrian villages throughout northern Iraq. With the periodic terror forays into the Nahla villages and the continued land expropriations, certain groups within the Iraqi opposition hope to eventually erase yet another chapter of Assyrian history from northern Iraq - the heartland of Assyria.