With the 54th day of Turkey’s air-and-ground campaign in the Zap, Metina and Avashin in Iraqi Kurdistan, an autonomous region in northern Iraq, many residental areas on the Iraqi-Turkish border have been evacuated.
Massive Turkey-led logging operations in the region exacerbate the tension brought about by Turkey’s military presence in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the construction of roads to be used by military vehicles gives rise to debates that Turkey might be in Iraqi Kurdistan to “stay” for the long term.
While the Zap-Metina-Avashin mountain region has been witness to serious clashes between the forces of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Turkish armed forces, MA reports that the Kurdistan Democracy Party (KDP) has adopted a position of blaming the PKK for all ills, and has been much criticised by Kurdish and international political circles alike for their military and intelligence cooperation with Turkey.
Kurdish journalist Fehim Işık has frequently reported from Iraqi Kurdistan and has also played an active role in Kurdish national unity talks. He shared his opinions regarding the debates on the current conflict in Iraqi Kurdistan with MA.
He said: “US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Ruth Sherman went to Rojava (North East Syria) and met with SDF General Commander Mazloum Abdi. Then she went to South Kurdistan. According to information coming from there, which is hard to confirm, in their meetings with the KDP officials, they conveyed that the Turkish state was planning a comprehensive attack on the region, but diplomatically suggested that the KDP should somehow keep their relations with the Turkish state from becoming too close. There is such information.”
Işık noted that Britain, France and Germany take certain positions in Turkey’s war against the Kurds depending on their interests from the war.
He said: “Just as we describe global powers as different power blocks, so we can describe the KDP in the same way. There is another structure within the KDP. There is similar structure within the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). This is partly as a result of being in power. Both parties have been ruling powers since 1991 in South Kurdistan.
“It is possible to say that Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, Regional President Nechirvan Barzani and Mr. Masoud Barzani, the most prominent player in the region and one of the most important names in Kurdish politics, are in different positions in the balance. President Nechirvan Barzani and Regional Prime Minister Mesrour Barzani do not seem to be very compatible with each other.
“This inconsistency also shows itself in relations with Turkey. Nechirvan Barzani was a regional leader who previously acted more harmoniously with Turkey. But since Masrour Barzani became the Prime Minister and Nechirvan Barzani became the Regional President, it appears that Masrour Barzani has started to have better relations with Turkey.”
Pointing out the inner conflicts within the KDP, Işık says that some individuals in the KDP make speeches as if they were members of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
“Fazıl Mihrali and Ali Avni are effective cadres of the KDP. When you look at the comments they make, you see they express clearly that they think no differently from Turkey.” he said.
“Read Ali Avni’s statements and I am ashamed to say this, but you would not even think it was a member of the AKP but rather that it was a member of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) speaking! This reflects how tightly knit is their relationship based on self-interest.”
Işık shared his view that due to the war and other conflicts in the Middle East, almost all needs are met through “companies of South Kurdistan origin” in Turkey.
“Therefore, there is a media structure, an advanced political and commercial relationship. Naturally there are politicians and traders who exploit this. If you look at the Wikileaks files again, I believe that many of them will appear in there,” he said. “Those who take steps forward in the region and in Kurdistan walk upon the centres of power and relations built of self-interest.”
“Such a base was formed in South Kurdistan. I believe that many things can be more clearly understood when we look at the World Trade Center in Istanbul, at the volume of trade there of the companies based in South Kurdistan and the businesses they are engaged in.”
“I say one thing as a person who stayed in the region for many long years,” Işık noted, “I can confidently say that KDP Chair Masoud Barzani is not involved in this dirty business to the degree we have mentioned. But Masoud Barzani is a political figure who needs to be convinced in this respect. I believe that influential groups from all four parts of Kurdistan should come together, explain their thoughts to Mr. Masoud Barzani and ensure that a dialogue is established with the PKK.”
Sharing his comments regarding the tension between the KDP and the PKK he said: “The recent statements of Murat Karayılan (one of the co-founders of the PKK) broadcast on Sterk TV had a great impact. He had a very sincere and friendly approach. Karayılan’s statements came across as sincere to many people, whether they were members of the KDP, or the PUK, or people from other parties.
“We had the opportunity to talk to many of them in the meantime. This is a very good opportunity and a good chance. The Kurds should evaluate such an approach, such a chance. All parties should take responsibility in this regard, because there is literally no time, no time at all. We all follow the region closely, there is a very dangerous picture there.”
He continued: “Before, when Turkish soldiers came to these areas, PKK forces would re-enter the areas and carry out actions there so that the Turkish military could not stay there permanently, because they were suffering too many losses.
“But now peshmerga – I am even bothered by calling them peshmerga, let us say the military forces affiliated with the KDP, because personally I do not believe that true peshmerga would do such a thing – move into the areas that are evacuated after those bombings.
“Karayılan also announced that the PKK had been instructed not to respond to the peshmerga in any way. So now the Turkish forces are starting to advance there. The PKK is making efforts to avoid a heated conflict. Karayılan expressed this very clearly. But how far can this go? You surround the [PKK] guerrilla there on all four sides in Metina, and at the same time, they are bombed from above, and when they withdraw, you settle in the areas they have left. This is not a situation that will persist.”
“One thing is very clear,” Işık further noted, “Turkey wants to establish a permanent sultanate in the Middle East and it aims to extend its sovereignty to 2071. Erdogan will not live that long, but he wants his mentality and dynasty to maintain power until 2071. We must prevent this.”
“The main event that would carry Erdoğan’s mentality to 2071 is a war between Kurds. It’s that simple. They destroyed Kurdish homes a hundred years ago too, but the Kurds today are not where they were 100 years ago. The Kurds are much stronger today,” he said.
“There is a federal state in South Kurdistan. There is an autonomous administration in Rojava. These are both huge achievements. The war between the Kurds has the potential to destroy all this. We should all see these facts.”