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HomeGlobal NewsIraq Prepares to Move on Kurdish Camp in Bid to Appease Turkey

Iraq Prepares to Move on Kurdish Camp in Bid to Appease Turkey

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The camp has become a bugbear for Ankara which regards it as a recruiting ground for the PKK in its deadly four-decade insurgency against the Turkish state.

BAGHDAD –

The Iraqi army is preparing to move on a camp housing Turkish Kurdish refugees that Turkey has called an “incubator for terrorism,” officials said.

The plans have sparked protests by residents at the Makhmur refugee camp in northern Iraq, which currently has its own administration and armed camp guards, the officials said.

Videos of clashes and protests, circulating online, appear to show Iraqi army and security forces in a stand-off with camp residents.

The camp was established with UN support in 1998 to host an influx of refugees from the Turkish army’s scorched earth campaign against villages suspected of supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

It has become a bugbear for Ankara which regards it as a recruiting ground for the PKK in its deadly four-decade insurgency against the Turkish state.

“The army plans to establish a perimeter fence with a (single) entrance to secure the camp,” a senior security official said on condition of anonymity.

The aim is to “regulate the movements” of camp residents, the official said, pointing to “security issues” concerning the presence of “PKK families” in the camp.

Iraqi Kurdish official Rashad Kalali said “camp residents demonstrated against the army’s plans.”

“The Iraqi army wants to build a perimeter fence with a single entrance and confiscate weapons” held by camp residents, said Kalali, a local leader of the Iraqi Kurds’ second largest party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

The move by the Iraqi army follows a visit by federal national security adviser Qassem al-Aaraji to the Kurdish regional capital Erbil last week and comes after repeated threats by Ankara over the years to secure the camp itself if necessary.

During a major military operation in northern Iraq in 2021, the Turkish military carried out air strikes that killed several camp officials it identified as PKK leaders.

“We will not allow the gruesome separatist organisation (the PKK) to use Makhmur as an incubator for terrorism,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at the time. “We will continue to exterminate terrorism at its source.”

Listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and its Western allies, the PKK has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

The full story of why the Iraqi army is suddenly attempting to enter the camp remains, however, unclear.

It comes amidst Turkish upcoming run-off elections and increasing involvement by Turkey in northern Iraq.

The Kurdistan Regional Government runs the affairs of the autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, but does not control the camp which is on the border of the KRG autonomous region and the rest of Iraq.

For years there have been controversies around the camp due to claims the Iraqi army wants to blockade the camp and “demilitarise” it.

Source: The Arab Weekly

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