Turkmen Official: Peshmerga protects Kirkuk indiscriminately

All ethnic and religious groups of Kirkuk Province see Peshmerga as their protectors, said a Turkmen official on Monday.

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – People of Kirkuk Province, regardless of their ethnicity and religion, consider Peshmerga their protectors, said a Turkmen official on Monday.

On Sunday, Kurdish Peshmerga forces liberated the Turkmen village of Bashir in southern Kirkuk within 24-hours. Previously, state-sponsored Shia militia Hashd al-Shaabi conducted almost 20 attacks on Bashir within 15 months attempting to free the village from Islamic State (IS) control, but the attacks were unsuccessful.

In an interview with Kurdistan24 on Monday, Najat Hussain, a member of the Iraqi Turkmen Front and Kirkuk Provincial Council (KPC), who is also known as a leader of Iraqi Shia militia Hashd al-Shaabi in Kirkuk, stated that Peshmerga does not discriminate against citizens based on ethnicity or religion.

“I congratulate Peshmerga for liberating Bashir,” he said. “Peshmerga are the protectors of all ethnic and religious groups in Kirkuk, not only Kurds but all of us.”

Hussain stated that Peshmerga has freed many non-Kurdish areas around Kirkuk from IS, and almost all front lines of Kirkuk are enjoying the protection of Peshmerga forces.

“In the past, we [Turkmen] and Kurds were together it is the same for now and the future. Turkmen and Kurds have no other options except co-existence and defending each other,” he added.

Hussain also claimed that Hashd al-Shaabi militia was part of the Bashir operation. “Peshmerga’s role in liberating Bashir involved 90 percent while the rest was Hashd al-Shaabi,” he stated.

Hussain believes the reason that the militia could not liberate Bashir alone was “because Hashd al-Shaabi did not have as many heavy weapons and aerial support as Peshmerga.”

Hussain’s statement comes at a time where Kurdish officials keep calling on the international community to send supplies to Peshmerga because they do not have sufficient weapons and ammunition, and share over 1,000 km (622 miles) border with IS.

He mentioned that there are 2,000–3,000 Hashd al-Shaabi militiamen near Bashir, and they will participate in liberating areas around Bashir. Hussain added that there are 25 villages left in the hands of IS. “The war has not ended yet,” he said.

Commenting on rumors that some Iraqi news outlets published claiming Hashd al-Shaabi freed Bashir alone, Hussain responded, “Everybody knows that Peshmerga is the group that is protecting Kirkuk and that liberated Bashir.”

“Everyone is aware of the capabilities of the Peshmerga…the rumors are baseless,” he concluded.

 

Reporting by Mewan Dolamari
Editing by Ava Homa and Karzan Sulaivany