WASHINGTON, D.C. (Talk Media News) – Kurdish forces acting in Northern Iraq, backed by the West in the fight against the Islamic State militant group, have been deliberately destroying Arab homes “to punish them for their perceived sympathies” with IS, a report by Amnesty International released Wednesday concludes.
The report by the humans rights group found, based on field investigation in 13 villages and towns and testimony gathered from more than 100 eyewitnesses, that Peshmerga forces “have bulldozed, blown up and burned down thousands of homes.”
Amnesty International in the report substantiates the claims with satellite photos, which show leveled ground where buildings once stood.
IS is a radical terrorist group made up of Sunni muslims, which has allowed other Sunni Arabs to adopt their lifestyle as they seize territory throughout Iraq and Syria, rather than be subject to harm; the same choice is not lent to members of other ethnic groups.
The Peshmerga have allied with the West to fight IS, with the U.S. providing training, advising and equipment.
They have been deemed by some Western officials the most effective local force fighting IS. Part of their effort stems from a desire to conquer area historically populated by Kurds but within different nations to establish an autonomous Kurdish state.
The spokesman of the U.S. operation countering IS in Iraq and Syria, Operation Inherent Resolve, said Wednesday that while he hasn’t reviewed the new report in its entirety and will not comment on specifics until doing so, the matter is being taken “very, very seriously.”
“As government forces liberate territory, throughout whether it’s in Iraq or Syria, there’s got to be security for all of the civilian population,” Army Col. Steve Warren said. “That’s what we’re here for–in order to prevent these types of actions, and to prevent those with power from taking advantage of those without.”
“These types of actions, if left unchecked ultimately hurt the fight against DAESH,” Warren said, using the Arabic acronym for IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Advisor Donatella Rovera, who carried out the field research in northern Iraq, said that while the Peshmerga, “have a duty to bring to justice in fair trials individuals who are suspected of having aided and abetted IS crimes…they must not punish entire communities for crimes perpetrated by some of their members or based on vague, discriminatory and unsubstantiated suspicions that they support IS.”
On Tuesday, the United Nations published a report announcing that at least 18,802 civilians were killed in Iraq from January 2014 to October 2015, with millions of others forced from their homes because of ongoing conflict–reflecting the “obscene toll” on civilian life.