Turkey asks Iraq to remove PKK from Shingal

Members of the PKK trained Shingal (Sinjar) Resistance Units (YBS).

Turkey’s Ambassador to Iraq, Fatih Yıldız, has called on the central government in Baghdad to take “concrete” steps in removing the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) from the Shingal (Sinjar) district, west of Mosul.

Speaking to Turkey’s state-run news agency AA, Yildiz bemoaned the Kurdish group’s presence and added, “We want to see the same efforts deployed by the Baghdad government against the presence of PKK which has been nestled in the area for a long time.”

Referring to the PKK’s relations with certain Yazidi groups it has assisted in forming armed militias, Yildiz said, “the PKK is exploiting some ethnic groups in the region.”

The ambassador also called on the Kurdistan Regional Government to participate in efforts to remove the PKK, which is outlawed in Turkey, from the area. “We want Iraq, as a whole, to take concrete step to remove this threat from its own territory,” Yildiz said.

The PKK entered Shingal in August 2014 to stop the Islamic State (IS) group’s onslaught on the Yazidi community and was credited with saving thousands of lives. Since then the group has continued to grow in influence in the region, especially amongst the Yazidis, who it has helped form at least two separate militias and a people’s assembly.

Responding to calls for its withdrawal, PKK official Murat Karayilan said they would only remove their forces “once the threat of IS in the region has been eliminated.”

Some Iraqi officials have supported the PKK’s presence saying it is not an illegal force in the region and is part of the fight against the jihadist group. However acting KRG President Masoud Barzani and PM Nechirvan Barzani have said the group’s presence is preventing the reconstruction of the Yazidi homeland and aid from reaching the area.

According to reports KRG and PKK officials met in early January to agree on a date for the pullout. However the latest statement by the PKK suggests the group will only leave when they are certain the Yazidi militias are recognised as an official force in the region.