MESOP MIDEAST WATCH | Iraqi Army Removes Picture of PKK’s Ocalan in Sinjar

RUDAW 12.2.2022 ERBIL — Iraqi Army forces on Saturday removed a picture of Abdulla Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), from a street in the Yezidi town of Sinjar, northwest of Mosul.

The Iraqi government is struggling to implement the 2020 agreement signed by Baghdad and Erbil which requires the withdrawal of all the armed forces outside the state’s command, including those affiliated with the PKK and Iran-backed Shia militias of Hashd al-Shaabi.

However, PKK and its affiliated groups remain in the region to challenge the rule of Baghdad, in response to which an army commander visited Sinjar and replaced Ocalan’s picture with an Iraqi flag.

Brig. Gen. Asir al-Rubaie, the commander of the 20th Division of the Iraqi Army, appeared in a video circulated on social media threatening that anyone putting PKK symbols on display in the public would be strongly punished.

PKK created a foothold in Sinjar first after the invasion of the Kurdish town by the Islamic State (IS) in 2014, and later in 2017 when the Kurdistan Region’s Peshmerga forces left the region in the wake of political conflicts with Baghdad, it further reinforced its positions.

Erbil and Baghdad, however, blame the PKK for destabilizing and preventing the return of hundreds of thousands of Yezidis who were displaced by the IS massacres and fear a safe return to their homes eight years after the tragic incidents.