With the threat of Turkish military aggression and airstrikes looming over northern Kurdistan, the PKK based out of Sinjar have made the decision to withdraw from the region at the demand of the Iraqi government in an effort to protect the Yezidi and Kurdish citizens there. According to Sinjar’s governor, Mehma Xelil, made it clear that this demand resonated among local officials and residents alike. Due to Sinjar’s location in proximity to the Turkish border, it holds strategic relevance as a base of operations for the PKK. The PKK had 2 days to leave Sinjar under order of the Iraqi army, they exfilitrate late Sunday afternoon. Governor Xelil stated that, ‘’They took their heavy weapons and vehicles and left in the direction of Syria.’’

Governor Xelil couldn’t give an exact amount in regards to the number of PKK militants that left Sinjar but insisted that it was the wish of not only Sinjar’s residents but the Kurdish Regional Government’s as well. He elaborated with, ‘’We thank them for leaving and and protecting Sinjar. They have defended Sinjar and Kurdistan. In a statement they released, the PKK indicated that they are leaving because the people of Senjar can protect themselves. It was an apt decision on their part. I can’t speak to their departure due to Turkey’s threats. Why they left isn’t so important; what is important is that they responded to the request of the people.’’

The series of events that led to the PKK’s departure from Sinjar began with the Turkish military attacking portion’s of Iraq/Kurdistan’s northern border region in an effort to eliminate PKK fighters. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave the central Iraqi government an ultimatum; if Iraq did not deal with the PKK on Turkey’s doorstep then they would.

 The mayor of Sidakan, a village near the border, reported bombardments over the weekend. Mayor Ihsan Chalabi said, “Since 8 a.m. Turkish unmanned drones had been flying overhead and started bombing the villages and mountain areas of Sarchaman, Khuakurk, Lolan, Khinera, and Bestoon at 7:50 p.m.” He added that, “This time artillery shells and bombings are very intense and instilling fear among the villagers. The warplanes have been intensely bombing the villages of Bokriskan and the mountainous areas of the Warte region.” While no one has been killed yet, widespread damage to local agricultural resources has been reported.
The United States State Department spokesman, Heather Nauert made it clear that Turkey needed to inform the correct authorities if it intended to militarily enter Sinjar during press conference. She said, “Sinjar and the United States expect that any operations in Iraq would be done with the approval of the Iraqi Government. So if Turkey is coming into Sinjar, they need to coordinate that with the Government of Iraq.” Despite this, Turkish President Erdogan said that Turkey had to do “what is necessary” to eliminate the threat of the Kurdish PKK.
Featured Image Courtesy of Kurdishstruggle [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr