Deadly Attack on Civilians at Tourist Site in Iraq Shows ‘Shocking’ Disregard for International Humanitarian Law, Senior Official Tells Security Council
Iraqi Minister Accuses Turkish Forces of Shelling, but Türkiye Representative Insists Terrorist Organization Be Held Responsible
Briefing the Security Council today on the recent attack in Dohuk Governorate in the autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq, a senior United Nations official for the country stressed that such an attack on civilians demonstrated a disregard for international humanitarian and human rights law.
Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), briefing the Council, recounted that in the early afternoon of 20 July, five rounds of artillery struck Parkha resort — a well-known tourist destination that was packed with visitors. Nine civilians, including three children, one of whom was a one-year-old infant, were killed and 33 were injured.
“This horrific attack on a well-known and clearly identifiable tourist site demonstrates a shocking disregard for civilian life and for the universally accepted standards of international humanitarian and human rights law which seek to protect civilians,” she stressed. Iraqi officials, after investigating evidence, attributed the attack to Turkish armed forces, she reported, adding that Türkiye’s Government had reached out to the Iraq Government expressing readiness to address the issue jointly with Iraq.
Fouad Hussein, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iraq, welcoming the Council’s 25 July communiqué condemning the 20 July attack, said that the Turkish army had carried out the attack against his country’s territory and civilians. Türkiye has ignored his country’s repeated calls to put an end to its military aggression, he said, calling on Türkiye to withdraw its forces from Ira. He asked the Council to discuss the crime perpetrated by the Turkish army, adding that conflict should be resolved through diplomatic means with mutual cooperation.
The representative of Türkiye, expressing condolences to the people and Government of Iraq, reported that immediately after the attack, his Government was in touch with the Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional Governments, ready to take all steps to unveil the truth. However, he stressed that Iraq was being breached by terrorist organizations — not Türkiye. The PKK [Kurdish Workers’ Party] terrorist organization has been present in Iraq since the 1980s, but authorities are unable or unwilling to fight them. Iraq cannot castigate its neighbour for using its right to self-defence, he said.
In the ensuing discussion, Council members united in supporting Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, stressing that attacks against civilians are always unacceptable and prohibited under international law, and calling on all parties to refrain from acts that might destabilize the security of the country.
Ireland’s representative pointed out that the civilians killed in the attack in Dohuk added to the alarmingly high number of civilian casualties caused by the indiscriminate use of explosive weapons. Member States should support the Political Declaration on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas, recently concluded in Geneva. As Iraq has shown continued commitment to enhancing regional dialogue, all actors should engage in constructive dialogue now and refrain from any unilateral, provocative and escalatory actions, he stressed.
Kenya’s representative said Iraq should be protected from becoming an international arena for States and non-State actors to settle scores to the detriment of the security, political stability and socioeconomic progress of the country. Noting that the escalation of violence will only further undermine peace and stability efforts on Iraqi territory, he called on the region and neighbouring countries to support Iraq to build its domestic resilience against terrorist networks.
On that point, the representative of the United Arab Emirates said terrorist groups, including Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as Da’esh, continue to target civilians, security forces and critical infrastructure. The recent attack risked exacerbating political and security challenges, he said, noting that nearly nine months have passed since the holding of parliamentary elections without the formation of a new Government.
India’s representative pointed out that the Council must address some of the concerns outlined in the letter from Iraq’s Minister for Foreign Affairs asserting that Turkish forces committed aggression against Iraqi territories. Relevant parties must abide by international humanitarian law and cooperate with the Government to ensure accountability, he said, adding that a strong, stable and sovereign Iraq would lead to greater security and stability in the region.
China’s representative concurred, underscoring that Iraq stands at a location of strategic importance and should become a booster for regional cooperation — not an arena for geopolitical competitions. Regrettably, foreign troops have repeatedly conducted operations there without the consent of the Iraqi Government. The Iraqi people are writing a new chapter in national reconstruction and regional cooperation, he said, calling on the international community to firmly stand by them.
Brazil’s representative, Council President for July, speaking in his national capacity, noted that the Iraqi people have spearheaded the fight against terrorism. Iraq should be a bridge between countries, cultures and faiths, he said, adding that the Government has worked to foster regional cooperation, including the Baghdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership. There can be no stable Middle East without a safe, sovereign Iraq, he said.
Also speaking were representatives of the United States, Gabon, Norway, Ghana, Mexico, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and Albania.
The representatives of Türkiye and Iraq took the floor a second time.
The meeting began at 5:07 p.m. and ended at 6:27 p.m.
JEANINE HENNIS-PLASSCHAERT, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), updated the Council on the recent tragic events in Zakho District, Dohuk Governorate, recounting that in the early afternoon of 20 July, five rounds of artillery struck Parkha resort — a well-known tourist destination that was packed with visitors, as expected at this time of year. The first round hit an unpopulated hillside overlooking Parkha. However, the next rounds hit the centre of the resort, killing nine civilians, including three children, one of whom was a one-year-old infant, and injuring 33. Immediately following the attack, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi established a committee which, on the same day, visited the site of the attack to collect evidence and engage with witnesses and local authorities. Based on its assessment of the evidence collected, the Government of Iraq attributed the tragic events to Turkish armed forces.
She went on to say that, in the meantime, Türkiye’s Foreign Ministry issued a press release stating that his country was against all kinds of attacks targeting civilians and that it was ready to take all steps “to reveal the truth”. The Prime Minister also invited “Iraqi Government officials not to make statements under the influence of the rhetoric and propaganda of the treacherous terrorist organization and to cooperate in bringing the real perpetrators of this tragic incident into light”. Detailing subsequent actions by Türkiye, the military wing of the PKK [Kurdish Workers’ Party], Iraq and the Security Council, she said that, while no one wishes for further escalation, Iraq has demanded that Türkiye withdraw its forces from all Iraqi lands and has called for an investigation. “This horrific attack on a well-known and clearly identifiable tourist site demonstrates a shocking disregard for civilian life and for the universally accepted standards of international humanitarian and human rights law which seek to protect civilians,” she stressed.
While all parties to any conflict must take all feasible precautions to avoid harm to civilians at all times, this was clearly not adhered to, she observed. In her conversation with Iraq’s Prime Minister yesterday, he once again emphasized the importance of a transparent and thorough investigation, independent or jointly. He also stressed that it was vital to put a stop to speculations, denials, misunderstandings and rising tensions. She added that it is her understanding that Türkiye is also ready to address the issue jointly with Iraq, in order to determine exactly what happened. “Iraq rightfully rejects the notion that it can be treated as an arena for external and regional rivalries, as an arena where neighbours, and any other actor for that matter, routinely, and with impunity, violate its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” she said, stressing that all attacks on Iraqi territory must cease.
FOUAD HUSSEIN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iraq, thanked the Council for convening this urgent meeting. He welcomed the communiqué that the Council adopted on 25 July condemning the 20 July attack which the Turkish army carried out against the territory of Iraq and Iraqi civilians through the use of artillery and violent projectiles on a tourist facility. One child died and 33 people were injured. Civilian infrastructure was damaged. Condemning this flagrant aggression against innocent civilians, he said it was a military aggression against the security and territory of Iraq, a threat to international peace and security and a violation of international law and international humanitarian law.
He went on to say that it was also a violation of the Charter of the United Nations. Türkiye has ignored Iraq’s repeated calls to put an end to its military aggression. Since 2008, there have been 296 bilateral notes verbales addressed from the Foreign Ministry of Iraq to the Foreign Ministry of Türkiye to denounce these violations. Iraq has already made the Council aware of these violations, he said, calling on Türkiye to withdraw its forces from Iraq. He asked the Council to report on these incidents and discuss this crime perpetrated by the Turkish army, adding that the conflict should be resolved through diplomatic means with mutual cooperation.
He also asked the Council to uphold Article 35 of the Charter and called for a resolution that would oblige Türkiye to withdraw all of its forces. Türkiye is broadening its presence in Iraq, he said, adding that he expected Türkiye will, as a pretext, link events to the PPK. These actions breach Iraq’s sovereignty and Türkiye has violated the Charter. He reaffirmed that there is no security agreement that allows for the presence of Turkish forces in Iraq. Stating he rejected Türkiye’s approach, he emphasized that Iraq must not pay the price for Turkish domestic problems. He again called on the Council to investigate the matter and again asked for a resolution that would request Türkiye to withdraw its forces where they are stationed illegitimately. The aggression must be strongly condemned. Because it is a threat to Iraqi security and regional security, the matter should be placed on the Council’s agenda. He also requested compensation for the damages, which have undermined tourism and other activities.
ÖNCÜ KEÇELI (Türkiye) expressed condolences to the people and Government of Iraq, adding that his country’s prayers were with the families of the victims. He also informed the Council that immediately after the attack, his Government was in touch with the Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional Governments, ready to take all steps to unveil the truth. Rejecting the allegations and voicing support for the Iraqi authorities in their investigations, he said was not the first time there was smear campaign against his country. On 22 August 2021, two Iraqi tourists were killed around the same area. Türkiye was blamed, but it was revealed that the PKK terrorist organization was responsible. Iraqi authorities’ calls for cooperation have varied depending on political affiliation — some on the same page as Türkiye, believing in bilateral relations, but others using disinformation to drive a wedge between the two States.
Türkiye has always supported Iraq’s stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity, he said, adding that that country was being breached by terrorist organizations — not Türkiye. In some parts of the northern Iraq, the PKK terrorist organization controls checkpoints and illegitimately taxes local populations. Further, the Iraqi Government cannot exercise effective sovereignty over certain parts of the north, where PKK controls at least 10,000 square kilometres, with nearly 800 villages forcefully evacuated. He also recalled that in July 2019, a Turkish diplomat was assassinated; the perpetrators were not extradited despite repeated requests. For 40 years, PKK has been responsible for the deaths of more than 40,000 people in Türkiye. Yet, while the United States, United Kingdom and European Union have designated it as a terrorist organization, the Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs “could not even call it what it is”.
PKK has been present in Iraq since the 1980s, for reasons well-known to the Minister, but authorities are unable or unwilling to fight them, he continued. If unwilling or unable, “then you are siding either directly or indirectly with them,” he stressed. Iraq cannot castigate its neighbour for using its right to self-defence. He cited 339 attacks by the PKK on Türkiye over the first 6 months of 2022, and nearly 1,500 in five years. In the absence of Iraq’s ability or willingness, “we are obliged to take appropriate measures — just like any esteemed Member of this Council would do,” he stated. He called for Iraq to be ruled by politicians loyal to its own flag and people, stressing that uniting anyone around anti-Türkiye rhetoric is dangerous.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), condemning the attack on 20 July in the Dohuk province of Iraq, said the killing of civilians is always unacceptable and all parties have an obligation under international law and international humanitarian law to ensure the protection of civilians. To that end, she said she looked forward to receiving additional information and further clarity pertaining to the facts of the attack, so as to prevent future attacks and civilian casualties. She also called on all parties to respect Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and to refrain from actions that imperil civilians, inflame tensions and increase the risk of military conflict. Iraq and Iraqis deserve a more secure, stable and prosperous future, she stated.
MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) thanked the Council for its swift response to convene today’s meeting following the attack in Iraq, which was detailed in the letter by Iraq’s Prime Minister. He condemned the Dohuk attack as a flagrant violation of the Charter of the United Nations and international law. Underlining that the attack risks exacerbating political and security challenges, he pointed out that nearly nine months have passed since the holding of parliamentary elections without the formation of a new Government. Terrorist groups, including Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as Da’esh, continue to target civilians, security forces and critical infrastructure. Citing the decisive stance taken by the Council in its press statement condemning the Dohuk attack, he called on all parties to respect Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and to refrain from any acts that may destabilize its security, regardless of the pretext.
BRIAN PATRICK FLYNN (Ireland), condemning the recent deadly artillery shelling in Dohuk that killed eight civilians, underscored that such attacks against civilians are prohibited under international law. He called for an investigation to identify those responsible and ensure accountability and urged all Member States to cooperate with the Iraqi Government and all other relevant authorities in support of these investigations. He also pointed out that the civilians killed in the attack in Dohuk added to the alarmingly high number of civilian casualties caused by the indiscriminate use of explosive weapons in populated areas around the world. Member States should support the Political Declaration on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas, which was recently concluded following a process led by Ireland in Geneva. He also stressed that, as Iraq has shown continued commitment to enhancing regional dialogue over the past year, all actors should engage in constructive dialogue now and refrain from any unilateral, provocative and escalatory actions. “We re-iterate our full support for the independence, sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity, democratic process and prosperity of Iraq,” he added.
EDWIGE KOUMBY MISSAMBO (Gabon) noted that Iraq remains resolutely committed to a way out of the crisis, and that peaceful legislative elections held on 10 October 2021 resulted in the election of a significant number of women. In addition, there has also been a marked improvement in the country's humanitarian situation. Furthermore, the Iraqi Government remains determined to maintain dialogue with the international community and to cooperate with the United Nations on the ground, with a view to resolving security problems. She condemned the attack perpetrated on 20 July killing 9 people and injuring 23, an indiscriminate attack on innocent civilians that is unacceptable. In addition to being cowardly and despicable, this act constituted a flagrant violation of international law. She called on the Iraqi authorities to shed full light on the circumstances and to establish responsibility so that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India), condemning the recent deadly artillery shelling in Dohuk, Kurdistan region of Iraq, said the attack was a clear violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and showed a blatant disregard for international humanitarian law. The Council must address some of the concerns outlined in the letter from Iraq’s Minister for Foreign Affairs in which he asserts that Turkish forces committed aggression against his country’s territories. It is critical that Iraq’s territorial integrity and sovereignty be respected, and relevant parties abide by international humanitarian law and cooperate with the Government to ensure accountability. “Peace, stability and security in this region is of utmost importance to India,” he stressed, adding that a strong, stable and sovereign Iraq would lead to greater security and stability in the region.
MONA JUUL (Norway), joining others in condemning the attack in Dohuk, emphasized that intentionally directing attacks against civilians was unacceptable and illegal under international law. “All civilians must be protected,” she added. Calling for a transparent investigation and accountability for those attacks, she stressed that stability and security in Iraq and the region are essential. She encouraged all parties in Iraq and the region to help de-escalate the situation and promote development and security based on Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
CAROLYN ABENA ANIMA OPPONG-NTIRI (Ghana) condemned the attack in Dohuk, stressing that attacks directly targeting civilian populations are not acceptable under any circumstances. She called on all actors to continue adhering to their international obligations in ensuring the protection of civilian populations and infrastructure. “Those responsible for the violations of international humanitarian law must be held accountable, if we are to provide a measure of justice for the victims and their families,” she said, calling on the international community to support the Iraqi Government’s efforts for a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the attack. Given that the security situation in Iraq remains volatile, she urged the parties involved to exercise restraint and refrain from any actions that could provoke retaliatory attacks. Stressing that the foremost path for resolving differences is through peaceful means, she added that all actors must fully and unconditionally respect Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
JUAN GÓMEZ ROBLEDO VERDUZCO (Mexico) expressed his solidarity with Iraq regarding the 20 July attack that killed civilians, condemning the attack in the most emphatic terms. Any attack on civilians is a violation of international law, especially international humanitarian law. He called for an impartial, independent investigation, adding that he opposed any actions that would undermine the region’s stability. It is urgent to opt for mechanisms to build trust in the region, he stressed.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France), calling the attack against civilians unacceptable, underscored that Iraqis’ aspiration to live in peace is more legitimate than ever before. It was essential to “shed full light” on the attack in order for the perpetrators to be held to account. She emphasized the importance of cooperation between the federal authorities and the autonomous region of Kurdistan, particularly in regard to security. Welcoming the commitment of Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi to regional security and stability, she further highlighted the efforts of Iraq and its neighbours to establish relations rooted in the principles of good neighbourliness and non-interference. More so, she called for de-escalation to avoid any additional destabilization that would harm joint efforts to fight Da’esh, in Iraq as well as in Syria.
MICHAEL KAPKIAI KIBOINO (Kenya) condemned the attack in the Dohuk province of Iraq on 20 July, as well as the use of explosive devices, ballistic missiles, airstrikes on civilians and civilian objects in violation of international law and international humanitarian law. Iraq should be protected from becoming an international arena for States and non-State actors to settle scores to the detriment of the security, political stability and socioeconomic progress of the country. Moreover, the escalation of violence will only further undermine peace and stability efforts on Iraqi territory, particularly at a precarious time when the country is still in process of forming its Government. The region and neighbouring countries in particular should support Iraq to build its domestic resilience against terrorist networks. He called on all actors to avoid activities that could undermine the security and stability of the country, stressing the need to uphold its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation), noting that he was observing developments in the region with alarm, said he trusted the attack in Iraq will be thoroughly investigated. He reaffirmed his country’s consistent support for stability in Iraq and the importance of respecting its territorial integrity and sovereignty. He also expressed concern regarding attempts to drag Iraq into a conflict as it works to rebuild, stressing that Iraq should not be a stage for settling political scores. Good neighborly relations are valued and it is important to avoid an atmosphere where confrontation escalates. He also voiced hope that players outside the region will work together to reduce tensions, adding that agreements must be under international law.
ALICE JACOBS (United Kingdom) condemned the 20 July attack in Dohuk governorate and expressed concern about the impact it could have on Iraq’s stability. Expressing full support for the investigation by authorities, she also urged all actors to respect Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Dialogue and cooperation are essential to combating terrorism and protecting civilians, she said, reiterating the need for all actors to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law, and reaffirming the United Kingdom’s steadfast commitment to the security of Iraq and the wider region.
GENG SHUANG (China) condemned the attack of 20 July, noting Iraq has set up a national committee to investigate. He called on the Council to follow that progress. Iraq stands at a location of strategic importance, with diverse ethnicities and religions, and should become a booster for regional cooperation — not an arena for geopolitical competitions. Regrettably, foreign troops have repeatedly conducted operations there without the consent of the Iraqi Government, grossly violating its sovereignty and territorial integrity and threatening regional stability. Over the past three decades, the country has faced many ups and downs and countless hardships for its people — but they are writing a new chapter in national reconstruction, good neighbourliness, and regional cooperation. The international community should firmly stand by them, he stressed.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) deplored the loss of civilian life in Dohuk, stressing that perpetrators must be held to account. An investigation will establish the facts, he said, encouraging both countries to cooperate in that endeavour. Noting that Iraq and its people have suffered from terrorism in the past, he said further acts of terrorism and violence have attempted to derail its course of stabilization and development. However, the holding of elections in October last year and the certification of results represent important steps towards the consolidation of democracy in the country, he said, commending the patience shown by Iraqi political forces in engaging in dialogue to find a way out of the impasse.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil), Council President for July, speaking in his national capacity, expressed condolences to the families and friends of the deceased, and hope that those wounded make a full and speedy recovery. Over the last few decades, the Iraqi people have shown courage, determination and resilience in their struggle for a democratic, stable and sovereign country. They have also spearheaded the fight against terrorism and have made grave sacrifices under extremely challenging circumstances. Iraqi sacrifices have benefited the international community as a whole, but especially its neighbours — for there can be no stable Middle East without a safe, sovereign Iraq. Therefore, there is no justification for violations of that sovereignty, he emphasized, calling for a speedy conclusion to the investigation. Iraq should not be a battlefield, he stressed, but a bridge between countries, cultures and faiths. The Government has worked to foster understanding and regional cooperation, including pursuing initiatives such as the historic Baghdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership. Protection of civilians is a fundamental element of international law, and scenes like those in Dohuk are unacceptable and must be unequivocally condemned.
Mr. KEÇELI (Türkiye), taking the floor a second time, said it was with great sorrow that he was just informed that four mortars had just been deployed near the Turkish consulate in Mosul in Iraq. Such an attack was another flagrant attack and another example of the lack of control of the Iraqi authorities on their own territory. He called on all Iraqi authorities to concentrate on cooperation against all terrorist organizations. He also added that the initial reports indicate that no one was hurt.
Mr. HUSSEIN (Iraq) thanked all Council members and representatives for their condolences and condemnation of the attack. In regard to the Türkiye representative’s announcement of mortar attacks near the Turkish consulate, he said that, if the news was true, and there had been an attack on the Türkiye consulate, he would condemn it, adding that he would also investigate the matter. It is Iraq’s duty to protect diplomatic missions and diplomats in its land, he added.