ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A local media watchdog condemned recent raids by security forces of the Patriotic Union Kurdistan (PUK) on pro-PKK activists in Sulaimani province. The operations occurred amid the party’s attempt to reconcile with Turkey and lift a flight ban on the province’s airport.
“Metro Center considers that the restrictions on civil activities are a failed attempt by security forces to silence people,” read a statement from the Metro Center for the Defense of Journalists on Saturday.
The PUK Asayesh forces conducted a series of raids on Tavgari Azadi (Freedom Movement) members in Sulaimani who have enjoyed a freedom to operate in the province that they do not have in Erbil and Duhok due to their tensions with the dominant Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) there.
Turkey imposed a flight ban on Sulaimani International Airport, accusing the PUK of supporting the PKK. The ban has caused millions of dollars in damages
Tavgari Azadi accused the PUK of raiding their offices in a bid to appease Turkey and get the flight ban lifted.
PUK media reported the ban will be lifted within two weeks, saying Iraqi President Barham Salih raised the issued during his recent trip to Ankara.
The airport says it has not received any official confirmation to confirm the report.
The latest Asayesh raid was on Friday when they arrested 52 pro-PKK activists in connection with the commemoration of the assassination of PKK founders. Five were later released. The others have begun a hunger strike behind bars, according to Firat News Agency (ANF). Two of the people detained are journalists.
The Asayesh closed Salim Cinema in Sulaimani last week ahead of a scheduled screening of ‘My Whole Life Was a Struggle’ about Sakine Cansiz who was a founding PKK member and was assassinated along with two others in Paris on January 9, 2013.
The Asayesh arrested
nine Tavgari Azadi members and shut their office in Garmiyan earlier this week.
Metro Center is “watching the campaigns with concerns,” it stated.