This article originally appeared in Kurdistan 24.
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Fighters with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) continue to attack Turkish forces inside Turkey and return to the Kurdistan Region, according to the Kurdish government spokesperson, who added the PKK is the main reason for Turkish shelling which results in civilian casualties.
Turkish bombardments in the Kurdistan Region’s Duhok Province killed three Kurdish civilians in the district of Sarsing, Thursday early morning.
The Turkish army regularly shells the Kurdistan Region’s bordering area, claiming it is targeting PKK fighters which Turkey, the EU, and the US consider a “terrorist” organization.
Airstrikes Turkey conducts have killed dozens of civilians in mountainous areas of the northern Erbil and Duhok provinces since Ankara reignited its war on the PKK in mid-2015, following the collapse of peace talks between the two parties.
The Turkish army maintains a ground presence in some areas up 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) deep into the Kurdistan Region.
“First of all, I would like to say the purpose of our military operations [in the territory of the Kurdistan Region] is to combat PKK terrorists,” Turkish Consul-General in Erbil, Hakan Karacay, told Kurdistan 24 on Thursday.
“It often has been seen that the PKK uses the territory of Iraq to attack Turkish forces. We believe Iraq has not done enough to stop it.”
He mentioned that Ankara wishes to abstain from hurting civilians in the area.
“Turkey’s political and military leadership does not want civilians to be harmed, […] but the PKK does not care about the civilians becoming victims as it establishes hideouts and bases in villages and populated areas,” Karacay argued.
Kurdish officials, including the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani, over the past few years have repeatedly asked the PKK to avoid launching attacks on neighboring states and return to the Kurdistan Region’s territory afterward.
Barzani has also called on the PKK and Turkey to contain their conflict to within Turkey’s borders rather than use the Kurdistan Region’s territory as battlegrounds.
“The presence of the PKK in the border areas has become the main reason for Turkey to attack the [Kurdistan] Region. Unfortunately, civilians are often the victims of these attacks, or end up displaced due to the Turkish bombardments,” Safeen Dizayee, the spokesperson for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), told Kurdistan 24 on Thursday.
He mentioned the issue is not limited to border tensions with Turkey, explaining that the presence of the Iranian Kurdish opposition fighters on the Kurdistan Region’s mountainous areas straddling Iran has led to shelling by Tehran’s border forces.
“We will discuss this matter with the Turkish side, and we will try to prevent such incidents from repeating themselves, but unfortunately we have seen that the PKK continues to attack Turkey and return to the Kurdistan Region, where they advertise their actions,” Dizayee said, criticizing the armed group.
Kurdistan 24 tried to contact PKK leaders in the region, but they refused to comment.
In 2018 alone, 12 civilians from Duhok have been killed by the Turkish shelling.
Editing by Nadia Riva
(Additional reporting by Blesa Shaweys)
This article was originally published in Kurdistan 24.