Airstrikes or Apples?
Merkegia, and neighboring villages in this region have been beset by cross-border airstrikes and shelling by Turkey that have destroyed orchards, crops, livestock and homes. The people have seen their way of life, once threatened by Saddam, now at the mercy of a foreign air force.By Charlie Jackson / The Rag Blog / April 27, 2009
MERKEGIA, Iraq -- At the unpaved end of the road near Iraq's border with Turkey lies the tiny village of Merkegia. The coral pink buildings and church stand in contrast to the lush green of Kurdistan. A few families have ventured back to their apple orchards -- famous even in far away Baghdad -- despite Turkish forts and tanks at bases inside Iraq that they must pass each day to reach their town.
The villagers celebrate St. George's Day, hopeful that they will be able to harvest their crops this year -- if Turkish airstrikes cease.
Merkegia, and neighboring villages in this region have been beset by cross-border airstrikes and shelling by Turkey that have destroyed orchards, crops, livestock and homes. The people have seen their way of life, once threatened by Saddam, now at the mercy of a foreign air force.
They ask "Why?"
"We only want to live peaceably and harvest our apples," says one resident who returned with his family to the town that once held more than 100 families. They don't understand why their own central government, along with the United States, doesn't stop Turkey from bombing.
As we travel to other villages we hear a similar refrain. "In past years, Saddam tried to empty our villages and kill our families," says the father of a displaced family. "Now, it appears that others want to do the same." More than 190 villages in the region have been attacked and their families forced to flee from airstrikes during the past two years -- even as recently as a week ago. Bridges to their homes have been destroyed as well and the land is littered with mines, cluster bombs and other unexploded ordinance.
When asked, officials in Ankara claim that armed insurgents with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) have crossed over into Iraq from Turkey. The villagers say there may be PKK in the mountains, but not in their towns so they can't understand why their rural livelihood is under attack. The faces of their children, eager to play amidst the trees and fields, don't reflect the fears and sadness of those who have witnessed the ongoing destruction of this bountiful land. They only know that today is a beautiful Sunday.
[Charlie Jackson is the founder of Texans for Peace.]
The Rag Blog