Family films moment Turkish air strike hits Iraq's Kurdish population
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A video filmed on June 25 captures the horror of air strikes on Iraq’s Kurdish population. The footage shows a family with two toddlers playing in the river near a picnic area. They are all laughing and splashing when, all of a sudden, a piercing noise cuts through the air and a projectile lands in the water, just a few centimetres from one of the children. The family panics, rushing to get out of the water. None of the people shown in the video were physically injured in the attack.
The incident took place around 5:30pm on June 25, when a Turkish air strike hit a car and a shop near a picnic area in Kuna Masi, a village popular with tourists in the Kurdish province of Sulaymaniyah.
The video was first posted online by Zharo Baxtiar, who appears with his wife and children in the video. His brother reposted the video on Twitter, where it garnered more than 1.3 million views.
"Come on, swim over there, it’s deeper!” says one adult, coaxing one of the tiny children.
“It’s ok, swim, swim!” another says.
The family is speaking Sorani, a Kurdish dialect. They laugh as one of the children takes a tumble. When a projectile suddenly lands near one of them, they start screaming again and again, “Get out of here!”
Our team of journalists verified the video and determined that it was indeed filmed in this village, namely because of a unique, blue building.
The image on the left is a screengrab of the video. The image on the right is a photo posted on Instagram that was geolocalised in Kuna Masi.
Kurdish news channels also filmed the same spot a few hours after the air strike. The family also sent our team the original video file, which includes metadata confirming the date and the location where it was filmed.
The GPS coordinates in the metadata of the video correspond with the village of Kuna Masi. The date and time (June 25 at 5:30pm) indicated on the video correspond with news reports on the airstrike as well as Baxtiar’s testimony.
"A few seconds before the impact, we heard the shrill sound of a missile”
Zharo Baxtiar is the man wearing a black shirt in the video. He was visiting the river with his wife, son and sister-in-law, who is the one who filmed the video.
We decided to go to Kuna Masi because we wanted to show my three-year-old son the Kurdish countryside and get a bit of a break from the town of Sulaymaniyah. Kuna Masi is really popular for families. It’s not at all a place for fighters. On that day, I would say that there were between 70 and 100 people who came to relax on the river bank, like us.
A few seconds before the impact, we heard the shrill sound of a missile. It wasn’t the missile that hit us, it was probably a piece of debris but we aren’t sure. At the moment of impact, it was as if it was raining rocks and pieces of glass. The hill was on fire and there was a lot of smoke. We saw several injured people, including the woman who ran the shop that was hit directly by the missile. She was covered with blood. We later saw on the news that her husband and three children were also injured in the blast.
My family and I are safe and sound but we are traumatized. The sound of the explosion was so intense that whenever we hear a loud sound, we’re immediately transported back into the middle of the chaos. Our son keeps talking to us about it.
Kurdish authorities blame Turkey
The local mayor reported that six civilians were injured during the attack and one so-called “fighter”. PJAK (the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan is the Iranian branch of the PKK) reported that one of its fighters had been killed during the attack and three others were wounded. PJAK added that the fighters were returning from a mission when they were targeted by "Turkish state’s fighter jets and reconnaissance aircraft”.
The military leadership of Kurdistan, an autonomous region in Iraq, said Turkey was responsible for this attack on civilians.
"In the name of the hunting down members of the Kurdistan Workers Party [commonly known as the PKK, this is an armed autonomist group based in Turkey] they [the Turkish government] targeted civilians in the Kuna Masi resort,” said Babakir Faqe, the spokesperson for the ministry of the armed forces of Iraqi Kurdistan (Peshmerga).
Just a few days before this incident, Turkey launched joint operations known as Claw-Eagle and Claw-Tiger with Iran against the PKK in the mountainous region that saddles Turkey, Iraq and Iran. Claw-Eagle, the air offensive, was launched on June 15, while Claw-Tiger, the ground offensive, was launched two days later. The Iraqi government has reported that five civilians have died in the days since the start of this campaign.
The Turkish government says that this accusation is unfounded and “fed by the PKK’s terrorist propaganda”. The government further claimed that it “pays close attention to the safety of civilians while preparing and executing all operations”.