The Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Ministry of Interior made a bombshell accusation late on Thursday (June 10), claiming that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) had sent citizens of European countries to Erbil in an attempt to disrupt the stability of the Kurdistan Region, but did not provide details to back up its allegation.
In an official statement likely to increase already significant intra-Kurdish tensions, the ministry said that hundreds of villages in the parts of the Region that border Turkey and Iran have been evacuated in recent years because of the presence of PKK fighters there with great material damage done to resident’s homes and farms.
The ministry’s statement departed from the typical KRG line, which usually blames fighting between Turkey and the PKK for the situation and calls on the PKK to take its fight with Ankara elsewhere.
On Thursday, the KRG focused exclusively on the presence of PKK fighters as the crux of the problem and did not mention Turkey.
Over the past week, the KRG and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) have escalated their rhetoric about the group following two separate incidents where a total of six Peshmerga died, accusing the PKK of responsibility, which the group denies.
Both have close economic, political, and security ties with Turkey.
Also new was the allegation that the PKK was attempting to use the Kurdish diaspora to disrupt the security of the Kurdistan Region, the alleged details of which it did not lay out directly.
KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani is currently on a European tour, which started on Wednesday in Belgium.
In its statement, the ministry claimed that the PKK was attempting to interfere in the internal affairs of the Kurdistan Region and create chaos and instability.
It warned that the security and stability of the Region in general, and Erbil in particular, represented a “red line,” adding that “we will not allow any group under any excuse and name to disrupt this stability.”
The KDP controls Erbil governorate. Barzani is a senior party member.
The interior ministry said that a group of European citizens had attempted to fly into Erbil under the name of freedom and peace groups with the help of a “local hand,” referring to the PKK.
It called on groups refrain from making themselves tools to destabilize the Region and argued that if their aims are truly peace and security that they should direct their words to the PKK’s headquarters in Qandil because insecurity and violence originate there.
In the past, the KRG and the KDP have alleged without proof that their critics are working on behalf of the PKK.
This past February, a court in Erbil sentenced five journalists and activists to six years in prison in a widely criticized trial, accusing them in part of working on behalf of a range of disparate actors including the PKK, the US and German consulates, and Iran. Human rights groups said that the evidence to that effect was “flimsy and circumstantial.”
Days before the trial, Prime Minister Barzani intervened publicly at a press conference and prejudiced the outcome by accusing the defendants of being “spies” working to destabilize the Region.
In his comments then, he used remarkably similar language to the ministry’s statement on Thursday.
Without providing evidence, Barzani claimed that the defendants’ work as journalists and activists was just a cover, while “behind the curtains they did other things.”