Turkey has partially annexed the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), using the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as a pretext for its occupation, PKK Executive Council Member Murat Karayılan said in an interview on Wednesday.
The PKK is “ready” to help Iraqi central and Kurdistan regional authorities in pushing back Turkish aggression, Karayılan told KNN TV in what was his first appearance on KRI media for a long time. KNN TV is affiliated with the Goran Movement, a prominent political bloc in the region.
“We are not against Iraq protecting its borders, if they really want that,” Karayılan said. “We could even contribute.”
According to the commander, Turkey has already crossed up to 30 km into Iraqi territory, and deployed some 30,000 soldiers in 128 military bases on Iraqi soil.
Karayılan spoke of the Kurds’ role in the Middle East, prison conditions of PKK founder Abdullah Öcalan, and Turkish attacks against Iraq and Syria ahead of Turkey’s elections in 2023.
Turkey’s new strategy involves neo-Ottoman approaches to expand its borders, Karayılan said.
“After the fight against ISIS, Kurds have become more prominent in the Middle East. The Turkish state has come to fear this, and that Kurds would have their own state, tearing Turkey apart. They developed a new strategy to stop this, a concept based on neo-Ottomanism that requires Turkey to expand its borders to the Misak-ı Milli (“National Pact”),” he continued.
Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is hoping to maintain its hold on power via another anti-Kurdish war, Karayılan said. The intense military operation in Iraq’s Zap region in April was an example to this end, he said.
The PKK has been fighting Turkish troops non-stop for the last two years, the commander said, and confirmed that part of its forces had gone literally underground. The Turkish army has also taken some territory formerly controlled by the PKK, he said.
“We have dug tunnels, and have taken the war underground while we divided ground forces,” Karayılan said. The commander repeated accusations that Turkey had been using chemical weapons against Kurdish forces.