A coalition of Assyrian organisations in Europe has urged Turkey to stop bombing Assyrian villages in northern Iraq “under the pretext of fighting the Kurdish PKK”, the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) said on 26 Jan.

The aerial bombardment by Turkey was part of an intensified campaign, ongoing since late August 2015, according to a statement by the Assyrian Confederation of Europe.

The latest bombardment by the Turkish Air Force on 17 Jan. “forced 80 Assyrian families to flee the village of Sharanish in Nohadra [the Assyrian name for Dohuk in northern Iraq],” the statement said.

In Sharanish, the bombings have led to widespread damage to homes and … other infrastructure essential to life, making the prospect of Assyrians returning to their village far more difficult,” AINA quoted the statement as saying.

“More broadly, Turkish bombardment in and around Assyrian villages has led to a constant sense of fear and further exodus,” stated the umbrella grouping of Assyrian federations in Belgium, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Together with other minorities, Assyrian Christians have suffered since Islamic State’s invasion of the Nineveh Plains in the summer of 2014.

The statement also called upon Kurdish PKK militants to cease “occupying Assyrian land and coercing Assyrians into providing them with support and shelter”.

Referring to earlier events in the 80s and 90s, it said Assyrians were forced to pay the price for a Kurdish political project, leading to the mass exodus of the indigenous Assyrian people.

The statement asserted the need for “direct international support” if Assyrians are to survive in their ancestral homelands.

Assyrians of today trace back to an ancient Biblical people, which has been established in northern Mesopotamia for four millennia. Centuries before Islam, Assyrians, together with other near-Eastern peoples, came to be identified as Christians, bearing the brunt of successive waves of jihad-inspired attacks.