New details are emerging regarding the murder of Kurdish feminist Nagihan Akarsel in Iraqi Kurdistan’s Sulaymaniyah province on 4 October.
The province’s security forces, the Asayish, had announced the arrest of suspects at a checkpoint near the regional capital Erbil (Hewlêr). No further information was released to the public, and while there was much speculation about the suspects’ identities, nothing was confirmed. The area is under control of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
On Tuesday, state-owned Voice of America’s Kurdish service published a news story from Sulaymaniyah. A striking story based on information provided by the Asayish, it appeared. The video showed a man in a mask, with his hands bound. There was also a security officer in the video, providing information about the assassination.
However, the story was pulled shortly after publication. There were claims that the Sulaymaniyah Asayish, operating under the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), had pressured the reporter to pull the story. The VoA has not issued a statement, and the reporter has not spoken out either. While claims of pressure have not been substantiated, VoA publishing and then pulling the story, did raise eyebrows. Clearly some people tried to get the word out, but others wanted to prevent it.
Speaking with local sources, I was able to verify for the most part the information that VoA’s story partially mentioned.
Several people were arrested as suspects, not one person as mentioned in some reports. The video shows only one of them, there is no information on anybody else.
The man in the video is said to have been sent to Iraqi Kurdistan and Sulaymaniyah by Turkey’s National Intelligence Service (MİT) three months ago. He was allegedly trained in Turkey and sent to the region for assassinations. Several sources have confirmed that one of the men tasked with the assassination was from Haymana, a rural district of Ankara, although they cannot confirm if the man in the video was the same person.
One may think the assassin was Kurdish, given that Haymana has a sizeable Kurdish population, but apparently the man in question is Turkish. He reportedly crossed into Iraqi Kurdistan on a month-long visa, and stayed in Erbil for two months. In his third month, he came to Sulaymaniyah and stayed there until the assassination.
Meanwhile, journalists in the region say Asayish officials were unwilling to give out details citing the ongoing investigation. This is probably true. After all, the Sulaymaniyah Asayish faces a professional assassination. That the MİT is involved in the matter necessitates a more sensitive and confidential approach as well. This could also explain why the VoA story was pulled, although again, we do not have confirmation that this was the reason.
Let us move on, to statements by Turkey’s ambassador to Baghdad, Ali Rıza Güney.
Ambassador Güney clearly defended future assassinations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) during a press conference in Erbil. In his answer to a question about Akarsel, Güney all but admitted responsibility for the murder. His words clearly hinted at the MİT committing this murder. “Members of the PKK or those who are affiliated with the PKK are indeed our targets,” he said – almost a confession.
There are other bits and pieces of information as well. For one, Turkish authorities have reportedly discussed the Akarsel assassination with the KDP and local government officials. There are rumours that Turkey has demanded that the killer be repatriated. Other rumours include Turkey asking for the matter to be kept under wraps.
In the end, these connections show us that Turkey has once again been caught red handed in the Akarsel murder. Ankara has demonstrated its involvement in this murder with the ambassador’s statements, and the path it reportedly went down during the investigation.