An official in northern Iraq said that the PKK terrorist organization's activities have been harming tourism in the region as many places were closed due to security concerns. Çiya Emin, a tourism director in the Zaho district of Iraq's northern Duhok city, told the Anadolu Agency (AA) that PKK terrorists tried to extort local tourism operators, which caused the closure of 15 touristic areas in the region.
Stressing that they have developed many projects in tourism, Emin said that none of them could be implemented due to the existence of the terrorist group.
Northern Iraq has frequently been hit by the Turkish military since the early '90s due to terror threats directed by PKK terrorists from the Qandil mountains, located roughly 40 kilometers southeast of the Turkish border in Iraq's Irbil province. The mountains are used as headquarters by the PKK and its Iranian affiliate, the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK).
Since March 2017, the number of operations in the region has escalated and the Turkish military set up bases for tanks, helicopters and drones for the operations aiming to eliminate the PKK leadership. Mount Qandil became the PKK's main headquarters in the 1990s after it used the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon as training grounds for many years.
The terrorist organization has a strong presence in Duhok and sometimes incite the local population against the Turkish army in the region. In January, in a protest incited by PKK terrorists, demonstrators attacked the Turkish military camp near Duhok in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region and burned two tanks and other vehicles. The action drew strong reaction by the Turkish government and Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). Following the provocation, the KRG shut the office of the PKK-linked NRT TV over its provocative broadcasting regarding the attack.
Emin called on KRG to take measures against the PKK, warning against infiltration of terrorists into district centers.
Turkey had previously warned the KRG and Iraqi governments numerous times about eliminating the PKK's presence to maintain Turkey's border security. Despite top officials from both governments often expressing their discomfort with PKK camps and activities, saying that they won't allow militants to attack Turkey from their soil, no serious action was taken in this regard. With no concrete results from Iraq and the KRG, Turkey decided to take things into its own hands and assumed a hard stance against the PKK presence in northern Iraq. An Iraqi tourist, speaking under condition of anonymity due to security reasons, told AA that the PKK's existence poses a threat in the Duhok area, adding that they live in fear of abduction by the terrorists.
In mid-2014, the PKK managed to establish a foothold in Sinjar on the pretext that it was protecting the local Yazidi community from Daesh, expanding its presence in northern Iraq. Ankara has been highly vocal in its criticism of the PKK's presence in Sinjar, as the terrorists' position on the Turkish border poses a significant threat to the country.
Turkey's predominantly Kurdish-populated southeastern region also had suffered from PKK terror for long years. However, since the terrorist group was cleared from the region with successful counterterrorism operations in 2015, residents of southeastern provinces have been enjoying terror-free lives and benefit from tourism opportunities. In one of these places, southeastern Hakkari's Çukurca district, locals have started to flock to leisure activities, whereas these areas had seen no activity previously due to security concerns.
Formed in 1978, the PKK terrorist group has been fighting the Turkish government for an independent state. Its terror campaign has caused the deaths of more than 40,000 people. The PKK is an internationally recognized terrorist organization and is listed as such by the U.S., Turkey and the European Union.