The death of six civilians from Turkish airstrikes over the last week caused a major protest on Saturday in which a Turkish base was targeted by Kurdish protesters near Diraluk. On January 23 two Kurds were killed by airstrikes, and the death toll later rose to at least six. Women marched in solidarity and hundreds of men gathered on Saturday near a Turkish base at Shiladze.
By late afternoon imaged of burning military vehicles circulated and showed the protesters inside the base. Reports said one protester was killed and that Turkish military vehicles massed nearby. A jet was reported overhead.
Turkey has at least 11 bases in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Some date from the 1990s, but others were constructed more recently. Turkey increased its campaign against the PKK after a ceasefire ended in 2015. Turkey also built a base at Bashiqa during the war on ISIS. In the last year clashes have increased as Turkey seeks to strike at the PKK in Iraq and Syria. Airstrikes hit Sinjar in April 2017 and August 2018. Another hit Makhour camp in December.
Now the protesters near Diraluk have acted with a rare degree of public anger. NRT showed them marching and smoke rising from the base. Rudaw and other outlets were slower to provide reports. Kurdish commentators have discussed the difference in coverage as relating to bias in local media with some arguing media more closely connected to the KDP or PUK downplayed the protests. However by late afternoon with Turkish jets in the air and reports of casualties all the major channels were covering the events.
Commentators have said at least one local was reported killed.
Locals say they are fed up with the fighting between Turkey and the PKK which has cost civilian lives. However protests against the Turkish bases are rare. Turkey has said that it has at least 11 bases in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Turkey launched a more aggressive phase of operations this year against the PKK in Iraq. This comes a year after the KRG’s referendum which strained relations with Turkey and Turkey’s attempt to eradicate the PKK in Syria and Iraq.
This comes amid rising tensions in Syria where Turkey says it will launch a military operation.
The Turkish response and that of Iraq and the KRG will be important to how this develops. If Turkey seeks to send more military to northern Iraq it could provoke a crises. Iraq has protested in the past. The KRG has sought a complex balance between Turkey and the local civilians. While the KRG’s leading party, the KDP, opposes the PKK, it also relies on Turkey as a conduit for oil and imports.
Video posted online appeared to show a jet buzzing villages near the protest
Turkey has vowed to destroy the “terror corridor” along its border in Syria.
The KRG has expressed concern that protesters were encouraged to escalate a legitimate protest. One commentator writes “The demands of the protestors were legitmate and rightfull. But some partisan elements escalated the demonstration into violence. KRG in a statement says ‘it will take necessary measures to hold those responsible accountable’.”
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