BARZANKE, Iraq — Unlike in nearby villages recently captured from the Islamic State (IS) by the armed forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), not a single villager has returned to Barzanke.
As I go from house to house, it becomes clear why: There is nothing for the residents to return to, as virtually all the houses have been destroyed or damaged by bombs or fighting. Most were evidently blown up from inside.
The peshmerga, as the KRG forces are called, offer conflicting explanations for the mass destruction. Some say that their own colleagues had blown up the houses because the villagers supported IS. Others say that IS fighters bombed all the houses before they left – a questionable narrative, as retreating militants did not destroy nearby Kurdish villages. Why would they destroy an Arab village? Other peshmerga say they had to blow up the houses because they were booby-trapped, and warn us not to go into the village because of other traps in the streets. There are also those who claim that the destruction was the result of fighting, even though no sign of battles in the village is evident; no pockmarked walls or spent munitions or cartridges.
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