“Peace delegation” barred from entering Kurdistan Region of Iraq

QAMISHLI, Syria (North Press) – Since Saturday, the self-described “International Delegation for Peace and Freedom in Kurdistan,” consisting of individuals from various countries has been prevented from entering the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRG) with all of its members, amid both local and international condemnation of a Turkish military operation in the region’s north.

The delegation consists of 150 individuals, including politicians, academics, humanitarians, and journalists, all aiming to “get direct impressions of the situation and stand up to end the war and destruction,” according to a public statement released by the delegation on Saturday, of which North Press obtained a copy.

“The Kurdish Regional Government prevented the delegation from establishing dialogues with most political actors in South Kurdistan. Organisations we had planned to visit were intimidated into withdrawing from their meetings with us,” the statement read.

25 people have been or are soon to be deported from Erbil, and at least 27 people were prevented from leaving Dusseldorf Airport in Germany for Erbil, including two members of German Parliament, Cansu Ozdemir and Hakan Tas. Sources close to members of the delegation also told North Press 60-70 delegation members in total were either stopped while in transit in Dusseldorf, Doha, or other places, or deported upon arrival to Erbil.

The statement stressed that the delegation is apolitical, and that they are “outraged by the illegal deportations…and the travel bans on the grounds that these people ‘appeared to be political.’”

It concluded with several demands, which included that those who were denied entry to, detained in, and/or deported from the Kurdistan Region be freed and allowed to rejoin the delegation, the continuation of intra-Kurdish political dialogue, and the withdrawal of Turkish forces from the KRG.

On Thursday, the Autonomous Administration in North and East Syria demanded the release of three individuals arrested by KRG security forces in Erbil, including the representative of Syria’s Autonomous Administration in Erbil Jihad Hassan and two members of the Democratic Union Party’s (PYD, the leading party in northeast Syria) foreign relations office, Mustafa Khalil and Mustafa Aziz.

The Kurdistan Regional Government has witnessed tension recently, as Turkish forces continue to expand their military presence in the region’s north and bombard Kurdish-majority regions with airstrikes. Tensions were further heightened by an incident in KRG’s Metina region in which five Kurdish Peshmerga fighters were killed; the Peshmerga blamed the attack on the PKK, who denies killing the fighters.

Reporting by Lucas Chapman