ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Security forces in the city of Sulaimani blocked the screening of a film related to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) at a public park on Friday, three days after ordering a movie theater closed for planning to show the same movie.
The film revolves around Sakine Cansiz, a co-founder of the armed group, who, along with two other female Kurdish activists named Fidan Doğan and Leyla Şaylemez, was murdered on the night of Jan. 9, 2013, in Paris, France.
On Tuesday, security forces (Asayish) closed down the city's Salim Cinema as it was preparing to screen the feature, one day after the sixth anniversary of Cansiz' death.
A day later, the theater opened its doors once again in a what seemed to be a capitulation to security's demands. The film's producers, hoping to still present it to audiences, attempted to screen the piece in Sulaimani's Azadi Park instead.
The public park has a special area called "Sako-i Azadi," or the Kurdish for Stage of Freedom, where Kurdish-themed plays and films are performed and shown.
As crowds gathered for the event, multiple Asayish vehicles arrived at the gates of the park closest to Sako-i Azadi and ordered the show interrupted, arresting multiple individuals thought to be pro-PKK activists or members of the PKK-affiliated Freedom Movement of Kurdistan Society (Tavgari Azadi).
In late November, security in Sulaimani closed multiple offices of Tavgari Azadi in the city and elsewhere in the province. The party alleged that the move had come on the orders of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) as the leading political party in the area that holds significant authority over local Asayish and Peshmerga forces.
The PKK, which says it is fighting for broader Kurdish rights in the region, is deemed a "terrorist" organization by Turkey, the European Union, and the United States. Locally, many revere the group for their fearlessness in fighting Ankara.
The PUK has been at the heart of allegations of providing aid to the PKK. Turkey has also made similar claims against the Sulaimani-based Gorran (Change) Movement. Tensions reached a climax in 2017 when Ankara expelled the PUK representative in the country.
Both Gorran and PUK officials have rejected Turkey’s accusations.
Following the Kurdistan Region’s September 2017 independence referendum, Iraq halted all international flights to the semi-autonomous region. Months later when the ban was lifted, Ankara decided to resume flights between Turkey and Erbil but has yet to allow service between Turkey and Sulaimani, publicly stating alleged PUK support for the PKK as the reason.
The ongoing crackdown in Sulaimani appears to be a PUK bid to mend ties with Ankara. If recent reports by PUK-affiliated media outlets which claim that Turkey-Sulaimani flights are set to resume in the coming weeks end up being true, such measures could prove to be successful.
Editing by John J. Catherine