Security in Sulaimani shuts local cinema for screening PKK-related film

The local security in the Kurdistan Region’s Sulaimani province on Tuesday closed Salim Cinema for insisting to screen a film related to the biography and activities of some co-founders and senior leaders of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
author_image Sangar Ali

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The local security in the Kurdistan Region’s Sulaimani province on Tuesday closed Salim Cinema for insisting to screen a film related to the biography and activities of some co-founders and senior leaders of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“The film was planned to be screened on Dec. 1, 2018. It is about the struggle of some Kurdish political prisoners from Northern Kurdistan [Turkey’s Kurdistan],” who were tortured in Turkish prisons in the 1980s, the cinema said in a statement released on Tuesday.

The film revolved around Sakine Cansiz, a co-founder of the PKK, according to an anonymous staff member at the cinema.

Cansiz, along with two more female Kurdish activists, Fidan Doğan and Leyla Şaylemez, were murdered during the night of Jan. 9-10, 2013, in Paris, France.

The PKK, who have been fighting for broader Kurdish rights in Turkey, is deemed a “terrorist” organization by Turkey, the European Union, and the United States.

Salim Cinema planned to screen the film on Friday, one day after the anniversary of the murder of the three Kurdish activists.

“On Tuesday afternoon, a security force from Sulaimani Asayish (Security) entered the Salim Cinema and closed the theatre without any official documents with them to do so,” the statement continued.

“Over the past few days, [the security] repeatedly informed us in different ways that ‘this film should not be screened,’ without giving any reasons or providing an official document. This film has an official license from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Ministry of Culture.”

The cinema also mentioned that they would not remain silent but take the necessary measures.

The local security previously prohibited the cinema from screening another film named “July 14” directed by Hashim Baydemir, which was about the struggle of some Kurdish political prisoners in Turkey’s Kurdistan.

On Tuesday, a source from the Kurdistan Region’s Interior Ministry told Kurdistan 24 they were not aware of the Sulaimani security’s decision to close Salim Cinema, labeling it an “inappropriate action.”

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) is the leading political force in Sulaimani who holds a significant authority over local Asayish and Peshmerga forces in the province and Garmiyan areas.

In late November 2018, security in Sulaimani closed the offices of the alleged PKK-affiliate Freedom Movement of Kurdistan Society (Tavgari Azadi) in the area. Tavgari Azadi said the order came directly from the Deputy Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region, Qubad Talabani, a senior PUK member.

Tavgari Azadi is a Kurdish party in the Kurdistan Region known for its close ties to the PKK.

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.

Following the Kurdistan Region’s September 2017 independence referendum, 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.

Turkish officials, including Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, accused both Gorran and the PUK – whose strongholds are in the Sulaimani province – of aiding the PKK.

Both Gorran and PUK officials rejected Turkey’s accusations.

Ankara’s complaints 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 the PUK leadership of perceived ties with the PKK.

“Now, the PUK tries to ease relations with Turkey by distancing itself from the PKK,” Khalid Sabri, a Kurdish political analyst, previously told Kurdistan 24.

From October 2017 until now, Turkey has halted all its flights to Sulaimani despite city officials’ repeated attempts to resume flights.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany