Kurdistan Region of Iraq’s ruling party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), enables the Turkish army to establish positions disguised as peshmerga forces in the region’s Zap, Avaşîn, and Metîna*, Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) Co-Chair Ahmed Karamus said in an interview with Mezopotamya Agency on Tuesday.
“KDP is telling the Turkish state to, ‘come, and invade my country’,” Karamus stated, amid on-going and intensified Turkish attacks in the Kurdistan Region since 17 April 2022.
The KNK’s strong criticism of the Barzani led-KDP marks a significant departure from its traditional stance of remaining above the internal divides in Kurdish politics. This shift can be understood in the context of the party’s deepening relationship with the Turkish government.
Recent developments have seen the KDP intensify cooperation with Turkey, particularly in military operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). This reportedly includes forcing the evacuation of Kurdish villages to facilitate Turkish military incursions into the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI).
Karamus criticised the KDP for aiding Turkey’s military advances, including the construction of roads and military bases in strategic areas. “KDP, by deploying its forces, is opening the way for the Turkish state to occupy the region,” he remarked, condemning the KDP’s alignment with Turkey as a threat to Kurdish national interests and labelling the party’s collaboration as a betrayal of the Kurdish resistance movement.
Journalist Baran Germiyanî reported significant humanitarian concerns, stating that the KDP’s cooperation with Turkey has resulted in the forced evacuation of 158 Kurdish villages, with at least 600 more under threat. “In just two years, at Turkey’s behest, the KDP has evacuated 158 villages,” Germiyanî noted, highlighting these actions as part of a larger strategy to weaken Kurdish resistance and assist Turkish military operations.
Germiyanî also brought attention to the devastating human and environmental impact of Turkey’s use of chemical weapons in the region. “The use of chemical weapons is affecting not only people but also the region’s nature. The Turkish state is attacking not only Kurdish existence but also its nature,” he said, emphasising the severe disruption this has caused to local agriculture and livestock.
Drawing parallels between Turkey’s actions against Kurds and Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, Karamus suggested a similar pattern of aggression. “The war that Israel started against Palestine is the same war that Turkey has been waging against the Kurds for a century,” he asserted. Despite these challenges, Karamus highlighted a historic resistance, stating, “Despite two years of betrayal and support from the KDP, Turkey has not been able to make the progress it desired. This is actually an indicator of their failure in the war.”
Historically, the KDP has been criticised for its controversial alliances, including alleged past cooperation with Saddam Hussein’s regime, which has left a lasting impact on Kurdish political dynamics. The current situation with Turkey is seen as a continuation of the KDP’s contentious political manoeuvres, raising concerns about the implications for Kurdish unity and the broader struggle for Kurdish rights.
In a nutshell, KNK’s recent stance against the KDP is set against a backdrop of the KDP’s controversial historical actions, particularly its involvement in events impacting the Yazidi community and its role in Turkey’s ‘Claw-Lock’ (Pençe-Kilit) military operation.
The KDP leadership, including President Nechirvan Barzani and Vice President Masrour Barzani, have been criticised for calling on the central Iraqi government’s ground forces to occupy the predominantly Yazidi region of Sinjar (Shengal), devastated by ISIS’s genocide and human trafficking in 2014. KDP peshmerga forces had been instructed to abandon the region as the ISIS siege began to slaughter the Yazidi population, leaving PKK-trained Yazidi forces as the only remaining vital line of self-defence. The occupation of the Iraqi army threatens the proven role of the Yazidi defence forces in supressing an ISIS resurgence.
Operation Claw-Lock was launched by Turkey in Iraqi Kurdistan on 18 April 2022. Iraq’s President, Berham Salih, condemned the operation as a threat to Iraqi national security. The then co-chair of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), now renamed as Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (HEDEP), Mithat Sancar, criticised the Turkish government for this military initiative, emphasising the destructive consequences of such war policies.
Alongside these political reactions, objective data also unmistakably reveals a rising trend that underscores the KDP’s involvement: The increase in armed confrontations between the Turkish army and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Iraqi Kurdistan is evident in the data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). According to this data, by 2021 a significant shift had occurred with the majority of Turkish military operations against Kurdish forces moving from Turkey to the KDP-controlled Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Turkey has ramped up its airstrikes and ground operations in the area.
Despite intense criticism from HEDEP, who advocate for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue, the Turkish parliament recently renewed the Presidential Motion for cross-border military operations in Iraq and Syria.
* Located within the Iraqi Kurdistan, Zap, Avaşîn and Metîna regions carry geographical and strategic importance as part of the mountainous terrain that extends across the borders of Turkey and Iraq.