Over 65 villages in Kurdistan Region’s Mergasur district unable to access public services due to PKK: Official

The mayor of a district on the Kurdistan Region-Turkey border says that several villages have been vacated with the PKK preventing the return of the landowners.
author_image Hiwa Shilani

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Authorities are unable to provide public services to over 65 villages in northern parts of the Kurdistan Region’s Erbil province due to Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) presence in the area, a local official said Sunday.

Ghafour Ahmed, the mayor of Mergasur district, located in Erbil on the Kurdistan Region-Turkey border, told local media that “more than 65 villages in the district's outskirts have been denied access to basic services… because of the PKK presence of in the area.”

“PKK is the excuse that allows Turkey to constantly target their bases and camps in the area, which after the uprising of 1991 resulted in the death of 21 civilians in the district, in addition to countless material damages,” Ahmed added.

Ahmed explained that the Turkey-PKK conflict has forced the people of those villages to live in other settlements. He noted that the displaced persons have suffered a massive economic loss.

The villagers “are unable to return” to their homes, deterred by suspected PKK fire once they get close to their villages.

“Ten of [Mergasur] district's villages fall into Barzan subdistrict’s heights, while the majority falls into the Mzury heights in Sherwan-Mazn subdistrict,” Ahmed said.

“If the PKK is to leave the place, the villagers will be able to return, enabling the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to provide them with the proper services.”

The PKK is engaged in a decades-long insurgency against Turkey over Kurdish rights and self-rule in a conflict that has resulted in the death of over 40,000 people on both sides.

Turkish bombing in the Qandil Mountains and sprawling border areas has become commonplace since the peace process between the PKK and Ankara collapsed in 2015.

In the past year, Turkey has carried out military operations against PKK fighters based in the Kurdistan Region with continued regularity, crossing into the region up to 30 kilometers deep in some areas to target the guerilla group.  

Rural residents and the environment continue to suffer from the clashes, including multiple civilian deaths and other casualties. Locals and the KRG have repeatedly asked the PKK and the Turkish government to take their fight elsewhere.

Tensions between the KRG and the PKK have reached new levels recently. On Wednesday, members of the armed group carried out a sabotage operation targeting a pipeline transporting Kurdistan Region oil, halting KRG’s exports.

Read More: KRG condemns 'terrorist attack' targeting oil pipeline

The cash-strapped KRG condemned the operation as a “terrorist attack.” The incident came a few weeks after the KRG and the federal government of Iraq reached a security agreement on the disputed Sinjar district that would force the expulsion of PKK fighters.

Editing by Khrush Najari