ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Supporters of a political group affiliated to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Sinjar (Shingal) on Friday caused an office of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) to be closed in reaction to the recent shuttering of its own party offices in Sulaimani, a PUK official said.
Dawoud Jundi, the deputy head of the PUK office in Shingal told Kurdistan 24 that dozens of people on Friday gathered in front of their office in the town of Snune and expressed their concerns about the recent closure of offices of the Freedom Movement of Kurdistan Society (Tavgari Azadi) in the Kurdistan Region’s Sulaimani Province.
The demonstrators' actions led to the temporary closure of the PUK office. The youths also removed the PUK party flag from the location for two hours.
According to Jundi, they were part of the Ezidkhan Youths organization, supported by the Ezidi Freedom and Democracy Party (PADE).
“After we informed PADE, their delegation arrived in the office and held a short meeting with our party officials in Snune. They officially apologized for the incident,” Jundi said.
In a statement to Kurdistan 24, PADE leader Omar Salih Ibrahim stated that those who caused the PUK office in Snune to be closed were supporters of his group, but claimed they had acted without knowledge of the groups' leadership.
Tavgari Azadi is a Kurdish party known for its close ties to the outlawed PKK, which Turkey, the European Union, and the United States designate a “terrorist organization.”
Last week, local Kurdish security forces in Sulaimani closed most of the offices of the party in the province, with the order said to have originated from Deputy Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region Qubad Talabani, a Tavgari Azadi leader told Kurdistan 24 at the time.
On Thursday, Turkish Consul-General in Erbil Hakan Karacay welcomed the closure.
Tavgari Azadi was established in 2014 by leading members of the then-dissolved Kurdistan Democratic Solution Party (PCDK), a political party under the umbrella organization of Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) and considered by many to be the Kurdistan Region’s branch of the PKK.
Unlike other parties in the Kurdistan Region, during meetings and rallies, Tavgari Azadi members usually raise photos of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the PKK. The PKK flag is also regularly seen at its rallies and campaigns.
The PUK, the leading political force in Sulaimani who holds a significant authority over local Asayish and Peshmerga forces, has been at the heart of allegations of aid to the PKK. Turkish officials, including Prime Minister Binali Yildirm and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, accused both the PUK and the other main local party, Gorran, of supporting the group. Both have rejected Turkey’s claims as untrue.
Tensions reached a climax in 2017 when Ankara expelled the PUK representative in Turkey.
Following the Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum in September 2017, Turkey halted all international flights to the semi-autonomous region. A few months later, in March 2018, Ankara decided to resume flights to the capital of Erbil but did not include Sulaimani and its airport.
Ankara’s complaints against the PUK increased after the PKK released a video of its members arresting two “high-level” officials of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) in Sulaimani.
After Turkey shut down the PUK representative office in Ankara, the party’s envoy warned his own leadership of the danger of perceived ties with the PKK.
Khalid Sabri, a Kurdish political analyst, recently told Kurdistan 24, “Now, the PUK tries to ease relations with Turkey by distancing itself from the PKK and hence ordered the closure of the Tavgari Azadi offices in its stronghold areas as a first step.”
Editing by John J. Catherine