ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A senior Turkish diplomat in the Kurdistan Region on Thursday welcomed the Kurdish security forces’ (Asayish) move of shutting down offices belonging to a political party with close ties with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting an insurgency against Ankara over Kurdish rights and self-rule.
The Asayish began a campaign two days ago aimed at closing the offices of parties operating without a permit in the Kurdistan Region, among them the Freedom Movement of Kurdistan Society, known as Tavgari Azadi in Kurdish.
Tavgari Azadi was established in 2014 by leading members of the then-dissolved Kurdistan Democratic Solution Party (PÇDK), 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.
Although Tavgari Azadi is officially recognized by Baghdad, it is not a registered party in the Kurdistan Region. Based on this, the Asayish first surrounded the group’s Sulaimani office, giving them a 24-hour deadline to leave the premises, and a day later, closed down four other offices in Sulaimani Province’s cities of Kalar, Qaladze, and Ranya, as well as Erbil Province’s Koya.
The order demanding Tavgari Azadi members vacate their buildings came from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), reportedly pushed by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and with the co-chairs of the PKK-tied group claiming the decision came directly from Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani.
The PUK, a party with significant authority over Sulaimani’s Asayish and Peshmerga forces, has supposedly been under political pressure from Ankara to take action against groups with perceived links to the PKK.
Ankara has accused the PUK along with Change Movement (Gorran) – also with a strong base in the province – of aiding the PKK, an armed group viewed by the US, NATO, and Ankara as a terrorist organization. Both parties rejected the allegations.
Following the Kurdistan Region’s Sep. 25 independence referendum last year, Turkey halted all international flights to the semi-autonomous region.
Tensions rose further in January when the PKK released a video of its members arresting two “high-level” officials of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) in Sulaimani. Two months later, Ankara expelled the PUK’s representative in their country and, around the same time, resumed flights with Erbil but not Sulaimani.
Recently, the PUK has reportedly been working to improve bilateral ties, and the move seems to indicate steps toward allaying tensions.
“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,” Khalid Sabri, a Kurdish political analyst, told Kurdistan 24 on Wednesday.
Turkish Consul-General Hakan Karaçay told reporters in Erbil that the “PUK move” was a step in the “right direction” but “insufficient.”
“Further steps must be taken to close all the offices of the terrorist organizations in Sulaimani,” he said, referring to groups with close relations with the PKK.
Editing by Nadia Riva