Boycotts and anger against Turkey in Iraq ahead of UN Security Council emergency session

The artillery attack in a mountain tourist resort in northern Iraq that Baghdad blames on Turkey killed at least nine holidaymakers and wounded 31 others

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Public anger against Turkey continues to deepen in Iraq, after last week's deadly attack on a tourist resort in the country’s north that killed and maimed civilians.

The UN Security Council was expected to hold a session to discuss the assault on Tuesday.

Artillery bombs landed on July 20 in the district of Zakho near the Turkish border in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, killing at least nine holidaymakers and wounding 31 others.

Baghdad has accused Ankara of being behind the attack as its forces have been conducting military operations inside the Iraqi territories without its consent against the Kurdish separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

Ankara has denied involvement in the attack and instead accused the PKK of carrying it out.

Although the attack spurred government action at the diplomatic level, angry Iraqis staged protests, taking down Turkish flag from the old embassy building that is still used by the diplomatic mission and closing visa application centres across the country.

Others have been calling for boycotts against Turkish products and a halt in visits to the country. Cartoons have flooded social media, calling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a “killer” and “terrorist”.

Protesters in Iraq trampled on the Turkish flag and portraits of Mr Erdogan.

For Bilal Nabeel, chief executive of Qasr Al Rawan tourism company, the attack was the straw the broke the camel’s back.

“This is not the only issue we have with Turkey, there is the issue of water and the way they treat Iraqis who visit or reside in Turkey,” Mr Nabeel told The National.

“All these issues can be solved, but when there is blood the one has to reconsider his position,” he said.

“Those who were killed were tourists not terrorists and that they [Turkish troops] had to check before the attack,” he added.

Qasr Al Rawan is among the tourism companies that offer holiday packages to Turkey. Income from arranging group tours, booking hotels and selling tickets make up nearly 90 per cent of the company's revenue.

“If you don’t stand with your people now then when can you do so?” he said.

“We are not politicians, but we are relying on what we have in our hands to express our rejection. If we get united no one will dare to do anything to us,” he added.

The company will resume its Turkey-related services only on one condition, Mr Nabeel said.

“All we need is apology for the blood they shed and that is the most basic right of all,” he said.

Boycotting Turkey

Turkey is one of the top destinations for Iraqis, issuing more than 7,000 visas per day, its embassy in Baghdad has said. Over the past few years, Iraqis have been among the top buyers of real estate in Turkey.

Bilateral trade in 2021 stood at $19.5 billion. Iraq became Turkey's fifth-largest export market in 2021, figures provided on the website of the Turkish foreign ministry show.

Although the attack spurred calls to boycott Turkish goods across Iraq, the move is still modest and it is still unknown whether such action will significantly affect the Turkish economy.

The strongest call came on Friday from Baghdad's Chamber of Commerce, urging merchants to stop dealing with their Turkish counterparts.

The organisation's head, Firas Al Hamdani, said the boycott will “send a strong message to the Turkish government.”

With that volume of trade, the move “will harm the Turkish economy and send a strong message that Iraq has the capabilities to boycott in response" to such breaches, Mr Al Hamdani said.

On Sunday, the National Olympic Committee of Iraq decided to withdraw from the multinational and multi-discipline Islamic Solidarity Games slated to be held in Turkish city of Konya from August 9-18.

“We can’t take part in a championship named Islamic Solidarity while the blood of our sons has been shed,” the Committee Head Raad Hamoudi said in a statement.

Emergency session

Before the UN Security Council session on Tuesday, which was being called following a complaint filed by Iraq, a senior Iraqi military delegation visited the border with Turkey to “evaluate the security situation”, the government said.

The Deputy Commander of Joint Operations, Lt Gen Abdul Amir Al Shammar said officials were “setting plans to secure the borders and they will be presented” to the prime minister.

Hours before the urgent session, the UN Security Council condemned the attack with “strongest terms”.

The council said member states expressed “deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims and to the government of Iraq and the Iraqi Kurdistan Region" and support for the Iraqi authorities in their investigation.

The council also urged its members to “co-operate actively” with Iraq in support of the investigations.

"The members of the Security Council reiterated their support for the independence, sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity, democratic process and prosperity of Iraq," said the UN body.

On Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi discussed with UN special envoy Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert the measures taken by his government.

Ms Hennis-Plasschaert was expected to make a statement in Tuesday’s UN Security Council session, the government said.

On Tuesday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein arrived in New York to attend the session.

Updated: July 26, 2022, 1:43 PM