Last month, Turkey started new military operations against the PKK in the mountains in the north of Iraq. The operations are aimed at driving the PKK out of the camps they have held for a long time in areas like Avaşîn, Zap and Metina. But the scope of the operations is wider, and is linked to other operations the Turkish army is carrying out elsewhere in Iraq and in Syria.
In a short series of Medya News podcasts, journalist Fréderike Geerdink speaks to Zagros Hiwa, spokesperson of the KCK. “Our tolerance [with the KDP] has limits.”
From a distance, it is very hard to see what is exactly going on. How is the resistance against the army going?
Zagros Hiwa: “The Turkish army has started an all-out war against the Kurds, and the Kurdistan freedom guerrillas are putting up a heroic resistance against the invading Turkish army in the areas of Zap and Avaşîn. The Turkish army has bombed these areas with army jets nearly 500 times, and thousands of artillery and howitzer shells have been fired at them. Armed drones and reconnaissance drones are hovering over the area 24/7. The areas are also shelled from helicopters. Turkey is using the most sophisticated technology to enter these areas. But the resistance is continuing in the war tunnels, in the form of mobile guerrilla teams, and they have been inflicting heavy losses on the invading Turkish army. The claims of the Turkish Defence Ministry that they have been able to control some of the caves are sheer lies. They have not been able to control any cave of any position of the guerrillas. It’s true that in some places they have been able to land some troops, but the guerrillas are there, there is no withdrawal by the guerrilla forces and the guerrilla are fighting.”
For a journalist, it is very hard to verify news coming from both the Turkish Ministry of Defence and the PKK. Hardly any foreign journalists have been able to visit the mountains to check the situation on the ground and the PKK’s senior commanders have given interviews only to reporters from within the movement. For an outsider, it seems a contradiction that outsiders can’t visit the mountains because of security, while the PKK keeps saying the resistance is going well.
Asked about this, Zagros Hiwa explained that the PKK has been adapting to drone warfare since Turkey started to use US drones around 2007. He said:
“After the armed drones, manufactured in Turkey since 2018, the intensity of the use of drones has increased, but we have long since taken measures to foil the effect of them. Turkey is highly dependent on drone technology, while guerrilla warfare is based on adaptability and flexibility.”
The peshmerga of the KDP are cooperating with the Turkish army in the operations against the PKK, but only, it says, to ‘protect civilians’. We all know that the peshmerga are actively supporting Turkey with intelligence, transport, with setting up camps and more. Are you afraid of direct fighting between the KDP peshmerga and the PKK?
Zagros Hiwa: “Instead of wanting to protect its citizens, the KDP aims to protect Turkish soldiers from protests by civilians and from being targeted by guerrilla forces. Our tolerance has limits. If such things happen, let’s say a fight between KDP forces and guerrilla forces, we cannot define it as intra-Kurdish fighting. We have to define it as a fight between the fascist Turkish army and the Kurds. So everybody has to decide which side he or she wants to be on.”
We can criticise the KDP for its cooperation with Turkey, but on the other hand, it is fully dependent on Turkey for its economic and political survival. The Kurdistan Regional Government is just not strong enough to stand up to Turkey. Or do you see this differently?
Zagros Hiwa: “It’s not the KRG that depends on Turkey for its economic and political survival, it is quite the contrary: Turkey depends on South Kurdistan, on the KRG for its economic and political survival. The Turkish economy is in ruins, the lira is in a free-fall. Thousands of Turkish companies operate in South Kurdistan, Turkey is looting the oil there, so it is Turkey that is dependent. South Kurdistan should depend on the abilities of their own people, not on Turkey’s fascist regime and the AKP/MHP fascist rule.”