The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has criticized Turkey’s main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for expressing support for the country’s recently launched air and ground offensive against outlawed Kurdish militants in northern Iraq, local media reported on Monday.
The latest raids, called Operation Claw-Lock, which come on the heels of operations Claw-Tiger and Claw-Eagle launched by the Turkish army in northern Iraq in 2020, target outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) hideouts in three restive regions near the Turkish border.
Designated as a terrorist group by Ankara, the EU and the US, the PKK has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
Saying that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan aims to bring the opposition into line over hostility towards Kurds, HDP spokesperson and deputy Ebru Günay on Monday slammed Kılıçdaroğlu for expressing support for the recent operation in Iraq.
“With this war, he [Erdoğan] is trying to legitimize all his actions. [And] look at the opposition leader’s reaction. Is this your resolution to the Kurdish issue?” Günay said, in reference to the Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader’s previous remarks stating his desire to resolve the Kurdish issue.
The Kurdish issue, a term prevalent in Turkey’s public discourse, refers to the demand for equal rights by the country’s Kurdish population and their struggle for recognition.
“The solution to the Kurdish issue and Turkey’s democratic future isn’t about dying and killing. Defending life and [a peaceful] resolution are what’s sacred during the holy month of Ramadan, instead of shedding blood and causing deaths,” Günay added.
Kürt sorunun çözümü ve Türkiye’nin demokratik geleceği, ölmek ve öldürmekten geçmiyor. Mübarek Ramazan ayında kan dökmek, ölümlere sebeb olmak yerine yaşatmayı ve çözümü savunmaktır kutsal olan.
— Ebru Günay (@av_ebrugunay) April 18, 2022
Her tweets criticizing Kılıçdaroğlu came after the CHP leader on Monday expressed support for the new Turkish offensive in Iraq, saying, “Our prayers are with our heroic army in the Claw-Lock operation in northern Iraq.”
Irak'ın kuzeyinde yürütülen Pençe-Kilit operasyonunda, dualarımız kahraman ordumuzla birlikte. Allah bu mübarek ayda, Mehmetçiğimizin ayağına taş değdirmesin.
— Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (@kilicdarogluk) April 18, 2022
The opposition leader’s remarks came after the CHP, along with the HDP, rejected for the first time since 2013 a motion to extend the military’s mandate to launch cross-border operations in Syria and Iraq by two more years in October 2021.
The mandate, the motion for which was first approved in 2013 to support the international campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group and has since been renewed annually, was extended with the votes of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its election partner, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), as well as the opposition İYİ (Good) Party.
The HDP also made a statement on Twitter condemning the Turkish operation in northern Iraq and accusing the AKP government of having launched the operation for its interests.
The military attack on Kurdistan Regional Govt (KRG) territory is not only illegitimate but also against international law. Seeking to paint itself as a peacemaker in the Ukraine-Russia war, AKP has shown its true face. This war is about AKP's survival, we cannot remain silent! pic.twitter.com/0qHJfAEOnm
— HDP English (@HDPenglish) April 18, 2022
Meanwhile, Turkey’s Defense Ministry on Tuesday said in a written statement on its official website that 1st Lt. Ömer Delibaş, who was injured in the latest offensive due to a blast from an improvised explosive device (IED) that was planted by Kurdish militants, had succumbed to his injuries at a hospital despite all medical efforts.
“Due to this incident that drowns us in deep pain and sorrow, we wish God’s mercy upon our heroic martyr and offer our condolences and patience to his precious family, the Turkish Armed Forces and the nation,” the ministry added.
Operation Claw-Lock was launched two days after a rare visit to Turkey by the prime minister of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, Masrour Barzani, suggesting that he had been briefed on Ankara’s plans.
Barzani said after his talks with President Erdoğan that he welcomed “expanding cooperation to promote security and stability” in northern Iraq.
The government of Iraq’s Kurdistan has an uneasy relationship with the PKK militants, whose presence complicates the region’s lucrative trade ties with Turkey.
But the offensives have added strains to Ankara’s ties with Iraq’s central government in Baghdad, which accuses Turkey of failing to respect the war-torn country’s territorial integrity.