For some time now the Turkish military has been increasing its presence in South Kurdistan (officially an autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq).
It now has nearly 50 military bases in the region and regularly sends its warplanes and killer drones on missions within the region.
But now, it is stepping up its attack on Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) guerilla bases and self-governing Yazidi communities in Shengal (Sinjar) in concert with peshmerga units aligned to the dominant Barzani faction in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
The excuse for the latest aggression by the Masoud Barzani forces was the killing of a security official affiliated with the Barzani regime's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) at the Sarzer border crossing, in Duhok province, on October 8.
The KDP blamed the PKK but this was strenuously denied by the PKK. Subsequently, the KDP claimed it had detained several people who confessed to an alleged PKK plot to carry out terrorist attacks against government officials and foreign visitors in South Kurdistan. This was also denied by the PKK.
PKK guerilla leader Murat Karayilan said: “We were surprised by these statements, so we started our own investigation. In the meantime, we can definitely rule out any involvement of our members. If the KDP was able to back up its claims with evidence, it would have done so long ago.
“Nobody within our movement wants this,” he added. “We are not afraid of war, after all, we fight the enemy every day. But to start an inner-Kurdish war is not what we want.”
Another political faction in the KRG, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) also rejected the KDP's provocative accusations. The PUK's Rewaz Fayeq, who is speaker of the KRG parliament, called for prudence and for a de-escalation of the conflict.
A report issued by the Kurdish Initiative Against a Turkish Invasion in South Kurdistan blamed the escalation on the Barzani regime's desperation to hold on to power in the KRG.
“Since the liberation of South Kurdistan from Saddam’s rule in 1991, the KDP has done everything at its disposal to curb the liberties of the Kurdish people and to abuse the Kurdish cause for its own family and tribal interests.“
In 1992, it instigated a six-year-long civil war with PUK, PKK and other factions.
“After 2003, it has monopolised power in its hands and used it to take control over all spheres of economic, political and social life. This has led to widespread corruption, favouritism, poverty, brain drain and emigration.
“Journalists and opposition figures who dared to discuss these issues in public were intimidated, kidnapped, imprisoned and murdered, including Serdesht Osman (2010), Wedat Huseyin (2016) and Soran Mame Heme (2008), to name just a few.
“Even the KRG parliament, which wanted to make some reforms in the political system, was suspended, with its speaker being banned from even entering Erbil [the capital of KRG]. This has further aggravated the situation for the people.
“People cannot get salaries, while KDP exports more than half a million barrels of oil a day to Turkey and has monopolised the economic gains to the border gates. The money gained from oil sales are illegally transferred to foreign banks and used to buy properties for Barzani family members abroad.
“People who cannot make ends meet and cannot speak have, from time to time, taken to the streets to claim their rights (in Duhok, Zakho and Sheladize), each time to be heavily suppressed by pro-KDP forces and taken into prison in large numbers.
“On November 1, 2020, families of the imprisoned people called on human rights organisations and NGOs to support their case and help end KDP pressures. According to the call, from August 13 until now, 280 people have been arrested by KDP forces. Most have been tortured and have been forced to sign promises that they would observe silence against all KDP practices.”
The report also said that the KDP has escorted the Turkish army 40 kilometres deep into KRG territory and has helped them build nearly 50 military bases and tens of MIT [Turkey's notorious secret police] intelligence and reconnaissance bases in its desperate attempt to preserve its kleptocracy.
“For 13 years, Turkish military and intelligence have been looming around the mountains, villages and cities of Kurdistan and we have witnessed daily air attacks on Kurdish lands. These attacks, conducted under the pretext of fighting the PKK.”
In an interview on October 2, Besê Hozat, co-chair of the Kurdistan Democratic Communities Union (KCK) Executive Council warned: “Turkey is waging a war of extermination.”
“The current position of the KDP must be assessed in this context,” she added. “Turkey wants to destroy all Kurdish achievements. Through the Kurdish genocide it wants to establish a new regime as a Turkish-Islamic synthesis. Its goal for 2023 is to establish a regime of religious fanaticism, nationalism and racism.”
Hozat noted that regular peshmerga forces were not deployed because of their unwillingness to take part in an intra-Kurdish war. Instead, the special Zerevan units, which are tightly loyal to the Barzani family, are being deployed to the zones controlled by the PKK and the Yazidi self-defence forces, the Shengal Resistance Units (YBŞ).
“They [the Zerevan units] are deployed between the guerrilla areas in order to interrupt the connection of different areas,” she explained.
Hozat said that the latest Turkish-KDP military plan was “extremely dangerous” and risked all the gains of the Kurdish people.