Kurdish villagers express joy as Turkey ends incursion

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Sign the petition for Iraq's three-region solution March 2, 2008 Kurdish villagers express joy as Turkey ends incursion 

AFP 

QARAWOLA, Iraq • Iraqi Kurdish villagers expressed joy at the end of Turkey’s eight-day military operation inside northern Iraq yesterday, but many said they were worried that Ankara’s soldiers could return. 

“Thank God! They withdrew their troops from our soil,” said Esmail Kojer, 73, at his farm near the village of Qarawola, a mere 100M from the Iraq-Turkey border. 

The village, known for its almonds, grapes and citrus trees, is home to 70 Iraqi Kurdish families. Family members hugged each other in joy as news of the Turkish withdrawal spread. 

On Friday the Turkish military announced the end of its incursion in the mountains of northern Iraq, launched on February 21 and aimed at flushing out rebels from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) from the area. 

The ground offensive was the second launched by Ankara in three months targeting PKK guerrillas who have been fighting for a self-rule in southeastern Turkey since 1984. 

“The last thing we need in this country is Turkish troops staying for a long time,” Kojer told AFP. “We have suffered the most from the devastation caused by Turkey... suffered from its tyranny, and we are fed up with its presence.” 

Other Qarawola villagers echoed Kojer’s view. “Thank God they left voluntarily,” said Mateen Berwaryi, a Kurdish peshmerga. “Otherwise we would have thrown them off our soil. We do not want our land to be occupied by anyone,” he added. 

“The Turks must solve this problem peacefully and not through force. History is the proof that force does not help resolve problems — it only complicates them.” 

He attributed Ankara’s decision to pull out its troops to sustained pressure from Washington. 

“The US does not want to complicate the situation in Iraq. This is the only safe place in Iraq,” Berwari said. 

Shirin Sendi, 28, a teacher in the village’s only primary school, could not control her joy at the news, since the steady fighting and explosions in the region had scared her students. 

“My students used to hide under the tables whenever there were explosions. You have no idea how happy I am. I can’t describe my feelings as I too was terrified,” she said. 

“It is awful when you can feel the battle near you, people are dying and yet you have to continue as if nothing is happening. I am so happy to see these soldiers leaving in their tanks.” 

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