You don’t need to drive very far from the major Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah to exit the terrain controlled by the government of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Twenty minutes from the small sub-district of Sangasar one passes the last checkpoint controlled by the official authorities of the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi KurdistanThis new area is under the control of the often-controversial Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK.
The PKK has been fighting for Kurdish independence and rights in Turkey for years, in an ongoing conflict that has seen tens of thousands of both Turkish and Kurdish people die. In fact, the PKK is categorised as a terrorist organisation by some Western nations.
But here, in the area the group refer to as Hareme Media, the PKK are in charge.The route into Hareme Media passes through some difficult terrain, up until you reach a new checkpoint, this time staffed by PKK fighters. A billboard of PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan, shows you that you have arrived.
According to the group, there are around 8,000 locals living here in about 26 different villages. Most of them, the PKK say, are not particularly involved in politics, although, thanks to the presence of the PKK, they come under threat from Turkish warplanes regularly. The Turkish military regularly make incursions into Iraqi airspace to bomb the group whom they consider their enemy.
“Shelling by Turkish warplanes has led to the destruction of more than 100 homes and the deaths of dozens of innocent civilians,” Sarhad Varto, the spokesperson for the Union of Kurdistan Communities, or KCK, told NIQASH; the KCK is a kind of organizing authority associated with the PKK.