The Turkish air force has bombed the Assyro-Chaldean Christian village of Upper Sharanish in northern Iraq. Condemning what he called the “unjust act”, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako urged Ankara to “respect the lives and properties of the inhabitants and not to displace them under the pretext of fighting” the Kurdish rebel PKK groups.

Scores of families were forced to flee in the dark, amid freezing conditions, heading for Zakho, a few kilometres from the Iraqi-Turkish border. Louis Sako also appealed to the Iraqi Kurdistan autonomous government to take “the necessary measures to defend its citizens”.

The bombing took place in the early hours of Sunday, 17 January, and lasted more than three hours, the Assyrian Monitor for Human Rights confirmed. AMHR said the bombing caused material damage but no casualties.

Iti s not the first time Assyrian villages have been the targets of Turkish bombers. In August 2015, Turkey bombed seven Assyrian villages, including Upper Sharanish, again claiming to target PKK fighters, known to be active in the mountains nearby.

Back in the 1980s, under Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi army destroyed the Christian village during an anti-Kurdish military operation. Christians escaping increasing pressure in Baghdad and Mosul returned and built Sharanish again, Fides reported.

Several dozen Christian families living on the Nineveh Plains fled to the border region around Sharanish shortly before the conquest of the Islamic State.

Last July, Patriarch Sako highlighted the tragedy of this persecuted community. In a prayer, he pleaded for peace, “before it is too late” and for strength to “stand fast in this violent storm”.

Sources: AINA; Fides