The Community Peacemaker Teams (CPT) report imminent risks to civilian life and villages in northern Iraq as Turkey plans a military operation on Mount Gara, and underlines the urgent need for a peaceful resolution to the long-standing conflict between Turkey and the PKK.

Turkey risks uprooting 190 families and killing civilians if its planned operation on the Gara mountain in northern Iraq goes ahead, warned Community Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in its latest report on the escalation of Turkish military action in the border areas of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Since December 2017, with the strategic aim of controlling the Iraqi-Turkish border, Turkey has carried out seven military operations, both air and land. These operations have resulted in Turkey establishing control over 86.2 percent of this border area, and further consolidating its presence through the construction of 64 military bases inside Iraqi territory, some of which extend up to 40 kilometres inside the border.

The forthcoming operation, according to the CPT report, aims to “completely seal” the border to dismantle and prevent the movement of Kurdish guerrillas. The preparatory phase of this operation has already had serious consequences, including the deaths of four civilians and the serious injury of another.

The military significance of Mount Gara, which rises to 2,251 metres above sea level and stretches 38.9 kilometres, is underlined by its geographical position, linking the governorates of Erbil and Duhok and the 94 villages that lie at its base and on its slopes – 55 of which have been deserted since 1996 because of Turkish bombing, leaving only 39 inhabited.

The report also details the intensity of Turkish military action in 2024, with at least 141 bombardments in the Duhok governorate in 70 days, 75 of which targeted Mount Gara. These actions are aimed at displacing villagers and civilians, a tactic reportedly used by Turkey to gain control of civilian areas within Iraqi Kurdistan for military operations.

The history of Turkish military involvement in Mount Gara includes a notable operation in February 2021 involving helicopters, fighter jets and drones aimed at securing the area from Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) control. The operation resulted in a number of casualties.

The CPT concluded the report by calling for a peaceful resolution to the four-decade conflict between the PKK and Turkey, and urged the Iraqi federal government, the Kurdish regional government and the international community to intervene to protect civilian lives and villages near the border.