Over the past few days, Turkish forces have expanded their operations against Kurdish militants, both senior leaders and fighters, in a clear message that there is no longer any safe haven for them, whether in Iraq, Syria, in the cities or on the top of the mountains.
Turkey said on Thursday that its National Intelligence Organization (MİT) carried out an operation to assassinate a leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) during an operation in northern Iraq.
Security sources told state-run Anadolu Agency that MİT agents were monitoring the movements of Hatice Hazar, alias Pervin Zilan, but did not specify when the murder took place.
The Anadolu Agency report said the MİT team “returned safely to Turkey“. The PKK, on the other hand, has yet to make a statement.
The attack reportedly took place in the northern Iraqi town of Sulaymaniyah, days after another prominent Syrian Kurdish leader was assassinated in the same Iraqi town near the Iranian border.
Observers believe that Turkey carries out relentless attacks on Kurds, regardless of where they are and which parties are sponsoring or harboring them. It appears that Turkey wants to demonstrate its determination to carry out its assault despite widespread protests, including from Iranians, Russians and Americans, who oppose Ankara’s growing influence in Kurdish areas.
Since the July 18 summit in Tehran between the Turkish, Russian and Iranian presidents, Turkey has accelerated the pace of its killings in areas controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), whose backbone is made up of Kurdish fighters.
Turkey has ignored official and popular protests after targeting an Iraqi tourist site last week when dozens of civilians were injured and killed. Meanwhile, an increasingly weak Iraqi government has failed to pressure Ankara into agreeing to withdraw from Iraqi territory.
Hazar joined the ranks of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), designated a terrorist organization in Turkey, in 1991 and was in charge of the women’s branch of the organization in Armenia in 2004, according to Turkish security sources. She then presided over the activities of the Iranian wing of the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK) of the PKK in Syria in 2017.
The PKK is based in the Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq and is active in many towns, regions and valleys, from where it launches attacks against Turkish sites.
The most recent operation came just days after Turkish intelligence services killed Kurdish leader Farhad Shibli, vice-president of the Joint Presidency of the Autonomous Administration for North and East Syria (AANES ).
The Anadolu news agency quoted Turkish security sources on Sunday as saying that Shibli, nicknamed “Farhad Drake”, had been given a mission in Iraq by the PKK leadership. The sources added that he was close to PKK leader Farhad Abdi Shahin.
AANES accused Turkey of assassinating Shibli by targeting a civilian car with a drone in Sulaymaniyah, when the Kurdish leader was visiting for medical treatment.
Ankara’s recent operations are a wake-up call for Iranian and Kurdish authorities in Sulaymaniyah, observers say, noting that Turkey is ready to target any Kurdish leader anytime, anywhere.
The counter-terrorism agency of the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan said last Friday that a Turkish drone also killed four PKK militants and injured another in Sulaymaniyah.
The escalation follows Ankara’s threat nearly two months ago to launch a military campaign against two areas controlled by Kurdish forces. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesday that his country would continue to fight terrorist organizations in northern Syria, despite international warnings.
On Thursday, Kurdish security forces also known as Asayish in the regions of Jazira, Euphrates and Afrin announced the killing of four of their members, including three women, following a Turkish strike.
In a statement, the Asayish condemned Turkey’s ongoing aggression and said a drone strike in the town of Ain Issa in Raqqa had led to the “martyrdom of four people”.
In April, the Turkish Defense Ministry announced that Ankara had launched a major cross-border military offensive against PKK militants in northern Iraq.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Turkish forces were targeting “terrorists only” and had taken extra precautions to avoid civilian casualties and damage to cultural heritage.
Iraqi President Barham Salih’s office said it considered the Turkish offensive a threat to the country’s national security, while Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu said Turkey’s goal was to protect its borders.
(This article was originally published in Arabic weekly and reproduced here with permission.)