As It Happens

Canada's Kurdish allies are deliberately destroying Iraq villages, Amnesty says

Arab villages across northern Iraq are being systematically destroyed by Kurdish Peshmerga forces, according to a report released today by Amnesty International. Meanwhile, the Canadian Forces are one of the Kurdish Forces' strongest allies in the region.
A photo released by Amnesty International shows destroyed homes in the village of Barzanke in Iraq's Diyala province. Amnesty International's senior crisis advisor Donatella Rovera conducted the field work in northern Iraq for a new report, that says Kurdish Forces were deliberately destroying civilian villages. (AFP/GETTY IMAGES/PROVIDED)

They are harrowing accounts of destruction and displacement, across Northern Iraq -- and not by the hands of Islamic State fighters. 

Amnesty International released a report Wednesday that details how Kurdish Peshmerga forces have been conducting a "revenge" campaign on at least 13 villages where Arab civilians live. The report is based on testimony of 100 eyewitnesses and victims, who report that forces are razing villages, and forcing thousands from their homes.

Amnesty says the violence could amount to war crimes.

They're the same Peshmerga fighters that have been working closely in the region with the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command in the fight against ISIS.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is welcomed by a Peshmerga Honour Guard upon his arrival in Erbil, Iraq in May 2015. The Canadian Forces have been working closely with Kurdish Peshmerga forces for months now. (SEAN KILPATRICK/CP)

As It Happens host Carol Off spoke with Amnesty International's senior crisis advisor Donatella Rovera. Here's part of that conversation.

Carol Off: Canadian military forces are very active in the area you've reported on, and they've been training Kurdish Peshmerga fighters — the very ones you are also talking about here. And of all the coalition players in the region, we understand the [Canadian Forces] have been the closest, most intimately involved with the fighters — going right into combat areas with them. Is it possible that the Canadians would not know about this?

Donatella Rovera: I don't know. I mean, obviously, only they can answer your question. I think that if anyone wants to know, it is not so difficult to know. Because these areas are accessible, they are under Peshmerga control. In the same way that I was able to go there — to take photographs, to take video — so can anybody else. [But] specifically to those countries that are providing military support to the Peshmerga forces, we are asking for them to use their good offices, to raise these concerns with the Kurdish authorities  — with the view to ensuring that these practices stop immediately. And also, that they make sure any military assistance that is provided to the Peshmerga forces is not used in any way to commit these sort of crimes.

This Satellite combo image released by Amnesty International, shows the Iraqi village of Jumeili, left, before and after its destruction at right. Iraqi Kurdish forces are deliberately destroying Arab villages under their control, according to an Amnesty International report released on Wednesday. (DigitalGlobe/Amnesty International via AP)

CO: If the Canadian Forces know that there are revenge attacks going on, what is their responsibility?

DR: Their responsibility is to denounce this crime, if they're aware of them. And their responsibility is to raise these crimes, to document them, and to ensure that none of the assistance they're providing is in any way helping to commit such crimes.

As It Happens has requested interviews with Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs Stephane Dion and Minister of Defence Harjit Sajjan. They were not available.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?