Peshmerga reinforcements have been deployed to Amedi, Duhok province in recent days after a video was published by a group calling themselves the Southern Kurdistan Defense Forces threatened to attack Turkish troops in the Kurdistan Region.
In a statement read in the video, published on June 27 by the PKK-affiliated media agency ANF News, the masked men say the “invaders in Southern Kurdistan will be our primary target.”
“The Neo-Ottomans have been threatening to invade all of Kurdistan, especially the Bradost, Kirkuk and Behdinan areas,” the filmed statement said in reference to Turkish operations in the Region.
A Zeravani Peshmerga unit reinforcement was sent to Amedi, a town in Duhok province historically vulnerable to Turkish military action, as a means of stabilising the area, said the official, who did not want to be named.
While Turkish military incursion in the Region are not a new occurrence, they have been stepped up in recent weeks with the launch of Operation Claw, a large-scale operation aimed at disrupting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)’s logistical networks and isolating its Kurdistan Region headquarters in Qandil.
However, Idrees Harki, head of Duhok Provinicial Council’s security committee, believes the group in the video does not pose any real threat. “I believe the group is using media to stoke fear in Turkish troops, but they will not attack the Turkish troops on the ground,” he told Kurdish media Rudaw.
Duhok province is currently home to five Turkish military bases, established back in the mid-1990s when clashes erupted between Peshmerga forces and PKK fighters, with Turkey deploying more than 500 Turkish soldiers to Amedi.
“The group […] will not conduct any attacks on the Turkish military bases. Their main aim is to destabilize the area; however they are not able to do that,” Harki told Rudaw.
The statement also made claims of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) collusion in the Turkish offensive, saying that “certain Southern Kurdistan forces are acting as partners to this invasion.”
“The PKK-affiliated group are publishing this kind of video to put pressure on the Kurdistan Regional Government,” Harki said.
The KRG’s response to Operation Claw has placed sole blame for Turkish airstrikes on the PKK for “endangering the lives of villagers” living close to the epicenter of clashes at the Turkey-Iraq-Iran border, telling the PKK to “stay away” from civilian-inhabited areas.
Zeravani Peshmerga reinforcements have arrived in an area blighted by civilian fear, with 198 of 348 Amedi villages evacuated by locals in the past two decades, and successive waves of crossfire civilian casualties, with five people in the Region killed by Turkish airstrikes in the last week alone.
The PKK has been fighting for greater Kurdish political and cultural rights in Turkey for over four decades, much of which has been in the form of armed insurgency. A short-lived peace process began in 2013 before breaking down on July 20, 2015.