Turkish-PKK clashes cause residents of 117 villages to flee from Kurdistan Region's Sidakan

Residents and local officials say that ongoing clashes between Turkish forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have resulted in the evacuation of 117 villages in the Kurdistan Region's subdistrict of Sidakan.
author_image Hiwa Shilani

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Residents and local officials say that ongoing clashes between Turkish forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have resulted in the evacuation of 117 villages in the Kurdistan Region's subdistrict of Sidakan.

“I have been displaced from my village for two years now and am still not able to return to my home. Turkish bombardment of the area has burned down my farmland, destroyed my house and my car, and have injured several family members,” said one resident named Sabir Khalil who is now living in nearby Brodost, another of the most severely affected areas in terms of both casualties and material damage.

Leading local official Ehsan Chalabi told Kurdistan 24, “Turkish forces are only six kilometers away from the center of Sidakan. Out of 264 villages there, 117 have been completely evacuated, with their residents being displaced to areas closer to the center of Sidakan.” 

“Since 1984, over 80 civilians have fallen victim to the Turkey-PKK conflict, and since 2019, more than 1,400 donums of land have been burned, including farmland and orchards.”

Bradost is an area about 150 kilometers northeast of Erbil province center and is considered a triangle region connecting the borders of Iraq, Iran, and Turkey. Some 40 percent of its villages are now empty, most of its residents having been forced to relocate to surrounding cities.

Authorities say they are unable to provide reliable public services to over 65 villages in northern parts of the Kurdistan Region’s Erbil province due to the PKK presence there.

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

The PKK, headquartered in the Kurdistan Region's Zagros Mountains, has been fighting a decades-long conflict against Ankara over Kurdish rights in Turkey that has led to tens of thousands of deaths on both sides. Rural residents and the local environment continue to suffer from ongoing clashes, including multiple civilian fatalities and other casualties. 

In the past decade, Turkey has regularly shelled areas inside the Kurdistan Region, but operations this year have intensified and widened in terms of scope and territory covered. In some areas like Brodost, Turkish forces have mobilized as far as 30 kilometers deep inside the autonomous region’s border.

As civilians, agriculture, trade, and the local environment continue to suffer from the clashes, residents and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officials have repeatedly asked the PKK and the Turkish government to take their fight elsewhere.

Read More: PKK must end occupation of Kurdistan Region's border areas: Masoud Barzani

Although the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has 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, to the point of actual armed conflict. 

On Wednesday PKK fighters in three separate attacks targeted Kurdistan Region’s Peshmerga forces resulting in two deaths and five injuries.

Read More: PKK attack 'an act of aggression against us and Kurds’: Father of fallen Peshmerga

The Iraqi government has also condemned the incidents, calling them an “attack on Iraq’s sovereignty.” 

Read More: Iraq ‘condemns’ PKK attack on Peshmerga, vows to take measures: statement

Editing by John J. Catherine