In Iraqi Kurdistan, they fled Iran but were caught up in the bombings
When the bombings began in Iraqi Kurdistan, nurse Rezane Hassan found herself in an ambulance helping the wounded in Koysinjaq. Little did she know that her fiancé, a fighter for the Iranian Kurdish opposition faction, would be among the victims.
A barrage of fire swept across the autonomous region in northern Iraq on Wednesday. More than 70 rocket attacks and “kamikaze drone” attacks, alleged by Tehran, targeting the bases of Kurdish nationalist factions in Iran, but also affecting civilian areas.
At least 14 dead, including a pregnant woman. According to the Iraqi Kurdistan counter-terrorist forces, about fifty “mostly civilians, including children under the age of ten” were wounded.
“We drove to the affected places in ambulances,” recalls Rezane, 22, a nurse at a hospital in a refugee neighborhood in Koysinjaq, where Iranian Kurds have been living for decades.
“We evacuated women and children to keep them away from the bombed areas,” she adds with a sunken face.
She will find that her fiancé Mohamed, a fighter for the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (PDKI), is in the area.
“I called him, he didn’t answer,” she says. “I kept calling, someone picked up and told me they couldn’t answer because they were driving. I knew he lied.”
Dressed in black, Rezane receives relatives at her parents’ house who have come to express their condolences on the death of her fiancé. At his side, his mother does not hold back her tears.
Her father is scrolling through photos of the engagement on his phone. Flick to the side, with a serious expression in traditional Kurdish clothing, Mohamed holds the hand of a smiling Rezane. Another photo shows the couple in uniform, Mohamed’s rifle on his shoulder.
– “They bombed us” –
Several Kurdish nationalist factions with leftist tendencies have established themselves in Iraqi Kurdistan for decades to lead an armed insurgency against Tehran. However, their activities have declined sharply in recent years to avoid trouble with the influential Iranian neighbor for the Iraqi hosts.
But these movements remain very active on social media, sharing videos of the demonstrations to promote the protest that has rocked Iran since mid-September with the death of Mahsa Amini.
Bent over on his sofa, Qadir Bapiry wipes away his tears with a crumpled handkerchief. He opened his house in central Koysinjaq for a memorial service in honor of his friend Osman, a fighter like himself in the PDKI, Iran’s oldest Kurdish autonomous party.
When Tehran struck, Mr. Bapiri was at his second home near the PDKI compound. He escaped unscathed.
“I heard a loud explosion. I told the kids + they bombed us + and a second hit happened near the house,” says the seventy-year-old with the brush mustache, alluding to a rocket that dug a crater .
In Tehran, an official with the Revolutionary Guards, the Islamic Republic’s ideological army, recently accused groups in Iraqi Kurdistan of being involved in the “unrest” in Iran.
On Thursday night, the Guardians said strikes against these groups, dubbed “terrorists,” would continue “until they are disarmed.”
– “The fear is over” –
In 2018, 15 people were killed in an Iranian rocket fire aimed at Koysinjaq, the headquarters of the PDKI.
It has been 18 years since Kamil Khafori went into exile in Iraq. “As a (Kurdish) people, we have no rights in Iran,” castigated this PDKI fighter.
“Writing in our language is forbidden. The Kurds cannot speak their language,” he claims.
Sitting cross-legged, assault rifle at his side, the forty-something in military uniform does not hide his support for the protests in Iran.
“I hope the protests continue,” said Kamil Khafori, 43. “Their persecution is a guarantee of the downfall” of Iranian power, he adds. “The fear is over”.
In Koysinjaq – also known as Koya – east of Erbil, a school attended by Iranian refugees was hit by a bomb attack, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
“According to initial information, at least two children were injured and a pregnant woman was killed,” the UN agency said on Wednesday evening.
The pregnant woman died of internal bleeding, according to Iraqi Kurdish broadcaster Rudaw. Her baby, taken from her mother, died Thursday night, local authorities said.
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