The semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq has not been a base for any attacks on Turkey for the last decade, Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Executive Committee Member Murat Karayılan told Dengê Welat Radio in an interview.
“There are discussions pretending that the PKK crosses from Southern Kurdistan to Northern Kurdistan territory, strikes the Turkish state, and goes back to Southern Kurdistan,” Fırat News cited Karayılan as saying on Wednesday, referencing Iraq and Turkey respectively. “There is no such thing in current times. This has not happened for at least the last 10 years.”
The PKK agreed to pull all its forces to Iraq’s Kurdistan region in the ceasefire and peace process between the organisation and Turkey that was in place between 2013 and 2015, Karayılan said. “We did pull some, but we stopped the withdrawal when we saw the Turkish state was not acting in good faith.”
The peace process failed in July 2015, officially ended by Turkey following the June death of two policemen. Although the PKK was blamed for the deaths at the time, they denounced the incident soon after. A set of fingerprints found at the scene belonged to a police officer, but he was not indicted, news website Gerçek Gündem reported. The suspects who were indicted were all acquitted in the following lawsuit.
“Since then, the Turkish state has been unilaterally attacking everywhere we have forces, and we conduct legitimate self-defence and defence of Southern Kurdistan territory,” Karayılan said.
The PKK has not “brought the war over to the South”, but Turkey wishes to add parts of Northern Iraq and the Kurdistan region to its own territory, Karayılan said.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which controls the government in the region, accuses the PKK of causing Turkish aggression, and has been cooperating with Turkey in the country’s ongoing military campaign that started in April.
There are some 100 military installations that belong to Turkey in Iraqi Kurdistan, and at least 30,000 Turkish troops mobilised throughout the region, Karayılan said.
While Turkey denies involvement in the killing of at least nine civilians in a touristic resort in the region’s Zakho (Zaxo) district on 20 July, both the PKK and Iraqi central government officials have put forth evidence that the mortar shells used in the attack were only used by Turkish forces.
“Turkey has denied carrying out this massacre,” Karayılan said. “Even after Iraq proved that they did. This denialism exposes Turkey to the whole world, that Turkey does this all the time.”
The targeting of the touristic resort was deliberate, according to the top PKK cadre. “Turkey knows it was a tourist area. If their technology can identify one person under tree cover, how could they accidentally strike a picnic area? There was no mistake there, and no case of arbitrary whim from a commander in the region,” Karayılan said.
The picnic area that was hit is near the village Perex in Iraq’s Haftanin region, Karayılan said. “Turkey has a large military base there, Kiryareş. Currently 23 hills in Haftanin are under Turkish occupation. Turkey veritably controls the area.”
One of the goals of such attacks, which have occurred in northern Syria as well as other places in Iraq, is to depopulate the area and “achieve total military control”, he added.
Turkey’s past targeting of civilians went mostly uncriticised, Karayılan said. “They did not expect such a reaction … Last year they struck a hospital in Sinjar, killing eight civilians. If the Iraqi government protested it then, this would not have happened today.”
“This time around, the Iraqi people put forth a valuable protest, saying ‘enough’. It was the last straw. Upon a mass protest by the people, Iraqi and Kurdistani officials were forced to issue statements, protesting (Turkey) at the governmental level,” he continued.
Karayılan called for an alliance among Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians and other peoples of the region against “Turkey’s neo-Ottomanist concept”, which he said had killed at least 138 people since the peace process collapsed in 2015.