Kurdish women sit during a protest in downtown Istanbul, on August 29, 2011. The group of Kurdish women gathered to protest Turkish military air strikes against Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq. - AFP Photo

BAGHDAD: Turkey and Iran have not done enough to protect civilians while carrying out strikes against Kurdish separatists in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, Human Rights Watch said on Friday.

“The evidence suggests that Turkey and Iran are not doing what they need to do to make sure their attacks have a minimum impact on civilians, and in the case of Iran, it is at least quite possibly deliberately targeting civilians,” Joe Stork, HRW’s deputy Middle East director, said in a statement on Friday.

“Year after year, civilians in northern Iraq have suffered from these cross-border attacks, but the situation right now is dire,” Stork said.

“Iran and Turkey should do all they can to protect civilians and their property from harm, no matter what the reason for their attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan.” HRW also said that when it visited northern and eastern border areas in Iraqi Kurdistan in August, “Iraqi residents and officials said that many of the targeted areas are purely civilian and are not being used by the armed groups.” The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) of Turkey carries out periodic deadly attacks in Turkey, while the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) does the same in Iran.

The attacks have triggered air strikes and aerial bombardments by Ankara’s and Tehran’s forces, respectively.

The Turkish military began a bombing campaign on August 17 against PKK targets in northern Iraq after a rebel attack against a military unit in southeast Turkey that killed nine Turkish security personnel.

On August 21, a Turkish air strike in Sulaimaniyah province in northern Iraq killed an Iraqi family of seven, according to Jabbar Yawar, a top Iraqi Kurdish official. Ankara denies its warplanes killed the family.

Iranian troops launched a major offensive against PJAK bases in mid-July, and have also shelled Kurdistan for weeks.

Local officials and the International Organisation for Migration said in early August that Iranian shelling in Iraqi Kurdistan had displaced more than 200 Kurdish families of northern Iraq.

The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community, took up arms in Kurdish-majority southeast Turkey in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed about 45,000 lives.

PJAK rebels have been involved in deadly clashes with Iranian troops.

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