Karwan Faidhi Dri 30 Nov 2020 – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) “abducted” two villagers on Kurdistan Region’s border with Iran on November 17, their family has told Rudaw.
Cousins Twana Haji, 26, and Qaraman Abdullah, 19, are from the village of Prdashal at the foot of the Qandil mountain range – known as the headquarters of the PKK.
Their family claims that PKK forces in the area summoned the two villagers, from Erbil province’s Warte subdistrict, without reason on November 17, and have not seen their relatives since.
“We do not know why they have been detained but they asked them to visit them. They firstly took away their mobile phone and have neither told us about their whereabouts nor showed them to us,” Haji’s brother Tanya said on Sunday.
The PKK is an armed group struggling for the increased political and cultural rights of Kurds in Turkey. However, its armed conflict against Ankara has also taken place in the Kurdistan Region and disputed areas of Iraq for decades.
Scores of villages in border areas of the Kurdistan Region have been emptied due to clashes – or fear of conflict – between Ankara and the PKK.
The foothills of the Qandil mountains have been under the military control of the PKK since 2002, but are governed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which also has offices in the area.
Twana works as an employee for Warte municipality, but could be fired if he is not released before the beginning of the new year, according to local mayor Mohammed Abdulrahman.
“He is a polite and neutral boy. His contract is renewed annually. We will wait for him until New Year’s Eve, or else he will be fired,” the mayor told Rudaw.
Locals in Warte told Rudaw that PKK fighters have been confiscating the mobile phones of young villagers since November 17, and have prepared a “wanted” list.
Three young villagers, who say they are on the list, told Rudaw that a recent anti-PKK protest held in the area is behind the recent targetings. They have fled PKK-controlled areas to avoid possible detention.
“Three of my friends were detained by the PKK after we held a peaceful protest. They [PKK] met the protesters with weapons. Three of us have been prohibited to enter the foothills of the Qandil moutains,” one villager told Rudaw on the condition of anonymity.
A Peshmerga source in Warte, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Rudaw that the PKK has detained 19 young villagers this year.
Bahram Yasin is the commander of the KRG’s Ministry of Peshmerga Halgurd Command.
He warned that they will respond “strongly” if the PKK does not release the villagers, adding that they are in contact with relevant authorities to secure their release.
“No other force with any name [other than the Peshmerga] or excuse should detain the people of Kurdistan. Undoubtedly, if these cases continue, Kurdistan’s Peshmerga forces will respond strongly,” the commander warned.
The PKK has previously abducted people it believes to be spies – claiming that Turkey hires locals in border areas to help them reveal the whereabouts of PKK fighters.
The group captured Jutiyar Muhsin, a resident of Amedi in Duhok province, on January 29. He was accused by the PKK for spying on behalf of Turkish intelligence.
The PKK released a video via its media in May, purportedly showing Muhsin confessing to involvement in a number of espionage missions. It is not clear under what circumstances Muhsin confessed to the offense, which the PKK can punish by execution.
Muhsin’s father Hussein denied his son was working for Turkish intelligence – claiming he lacked the necessary skills.
Tension between the Kurdistan Region’s ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the PKK has escalated recently after the deployment of a Peshmerga force to a PKK-held area in Duhok province in late October, resulting in the death of a Peshmerga fighter in a November IED explosion.
Additional reporting by Bakhtyar Qadir