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Entanglements & Complexities in Sinjar and Rojova

Melike Gul Demir

Turkish warplanes struck Kurdish militant targets in northern Iraq, killing six Kurdish fighters known as Peshmerga and injuring seven as part of a widening campaign against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Three of the wounded were sent to Turkey for treatment.

Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) released a statement saying there was no loss of life from their forces due to the Turkish strikes.

Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government officials blamed the nearby presence of PKK fighters for the casualties, emphasizing that the strike was a “mistake” and that it was not “intentional.” Both Turkish President Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called the Kurdish Regional Government President Masoud Barzani on Tuesday to express their condolences for the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in Sinjar.
The same day, in a separate strike, Turkish warplanes targeted YPG positions in Syria. The US-backed People’s Protection Units (YPG), the armed forces of Rojava region, stated that they lost 20 fighters in the bombardments. US relies heavily on Kurdish YPG forces on the ground, but Turkey views YPG as an extension of the separatist PKK.
According to YPG’s statement on April27th twelve of the killed were female fighters, 5 of them Turkish citizens. This might be a sign of that the Rojava war has moved to the Turkish border; becoming more regional and handicapping the Kurdish problem in Turkey further.

Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) Rojava Attacks

After the ‘peace process’ dissolved, which aimed to solve the Kurdish problem peacefully, TSK shelled many Kurdish cities, especially Nusaybin, Cizre, and Sirnak, killing nearly 2,000 and internally replacing hundreds of thousands. The end of the ‘peace process’ reflected on the Turkish relations with the Kurds in Rojava.

The AKP government regards Rojava’s YPG, a local armed force, as an extension of PKK -for following Ocalan ideology, one the founders of PKK- and as a threat to Turkish National Security. The Kurdish movement, with the US relying heavily on Kurdish land forces, started to spread to a large geographical area within Syria, Iraq, and Turkey.

The Turkish government, with the help of local opposition groups, took control of some areas in Syria, such as Al-Bab, to sever links between Rojava cantons. Some claim that Turkey’s move against the YPG was aiming to drive a wedge between the United States and the Syrian Kurds. To some extent it did. Syrian Kurdish officials said that they expected more than verbal condemnations and asked for a no-fly zone over the areas under their control to be able to focus on the war against ISIS further south.

Why an attack on Sinjar

In 2014, ISIS attacked Sinjar, home to Yazidis in Iraq, because of their religious beliefs. Peshmerga, unable to protect the region left after the arrival of ISIS which led to PKK fighters to move in. By the end of 2015, Yazidi Kurds organized their local forces (YBS) and declared autonomy in the Sinjar despite the protests from the Barzani administration. Following the withdrawal of ISIS from the Sinjar, Barzani government asked PKK to leave the area in March.

Status of Sinjar

Although Barzani wants to annex Sinjar to the Kurdistan Federal District, the region is still among the disputed territories such as Kirkuk city. According to the Iraqi Constitution, the status of the area will be determined by a referendum.

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