The People’s Defence Centre (HSM), the military wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has officially announced the complete withdrawal of all its guerrilla forces from the Makhmour (Mexmûr) Refugee Camp in Iraqi Kurdistan.
In a written statement published by Fırat News Agency on Thursday, the HSM said that since 2017, their forces had
withdrawn from Kobani (Kobanê) in North and East Syria, Kirkuk (Kerkûk) and its districts, and most recently, from Sinjar (Shengal) in April 2018. The latest and final step in this process was the secure withdrawal of their forces from Makhmour, the HSM said, explaining that the population had achieved the ability to ensure its own safety and guerrilla forces were no longer necessary.
The HSM recalled that after the Islamic State’s (ISIS) invasion of significant cities in Syria and Iraq, Kurdish guerrillas actively intervened and fought against the fundamentalist group in various regions over PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan’s call to mobilise. “It is known that we intervened in Sinjar on the first day of the ISIS attack to prevent the genocide of the Yazidi people,” the organisation said.
The HSM further recalled the Turkish government’s extensive attacks against Kurdish forces over the past eight years “with the aim of eradicating guerrilla forces and subjecting the Kurdish people to genocide”. However, with the defeat of ISIS, the HSM argued that Turkey’s policy suffered a major blow.
“Our people played a leading role with the defence forces in preventing ISIS from establishing an empire in the Middle East and in saving humanity from a great catastrophe,” the statement concluded.
Following the HSM’s statement, PKK Commander Murat Karayılan also released a video message addressed to the people of Makhmour. In the video recorded on 11 September, Karayılan stated that the people of Makhmour had brought themselves into existence by facing great difficulties, adding that they had the status of political refugees, a fact that no one could dispute.
“We entrust the defence there to the youth,” said Karayılan, stating that the Kurdish guerrilla forces in Makhmour had completed their mission.
The Makhmour Refugee Camp is a UN-recognised refugee camp located near Iraq’s Mosul and 60 km southwest of Kurdish capital Erbil (Hewlêr). The camp, housing approximately 12,000 Kurds who had fled state violence in Turkey, has been the target of a number of Turkish airstrikes in recent years.
The camp has faced various challenges in the past, including being targeted by ISIS attacks and enduring an embargo imposed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in July 2019.