PKK recruiting children from Arbat camp in northern Iraq: reports

PKK recruiting children from Arbat camp in northern Iraq: reports
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party - embroiled in conflict with Turkey for decades - is accused of recruiting minors from a refugee camp in northern Iraq. The group however denies the reports
3 min read
16 September, 2022
The Arbat camp is located east of Iraqi Kurdistan's second largest city of Sulaymaniyah [Getty]

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is reportedly recruiting children fighters from a refugee camp in northern Iraq.

Recent reports have accused the party – designated a terrorist group by several countries around the world – of increasingly recruiting minors in the Arbat camp, located near the Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah.

"The Arbat camp, classified a civilian camp by the UN and sponsored by international organisations, has been witnessing PKK activities for a while," Iraqi Kurdish media quoted security officials from the Kurdish Internal Security forces, or Asayish, as saying.

"The group has established several cells there and is seeking to establish a special armed group under the pretext of protecting the camp, then seizing it," sources from Asayish were quoted as saying.

A senior official from the Asayish also confirmed the reports to The New Arab’s sister site, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

"We also have information about repeated visits by some leaders of the PKK to the camp," the official said.

The official said the visits come after the PKK’s positions in areas such as Makhmour, Sinjar and Qandil were discovered and destroyed by the Turkish military.

Ankara has battled a decades-old insurgency by the Kurdish militants, and regularly targets them in airstrikes in northern Iraq.

Turkish military advancements into neighbouring Iraq have however contributed to crippling ties with Baghdad. Turkish shelling in July killed nine Iraqi tourists and injured at least 20 others.

An employee at the Sulaymaniyah Governorate office told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that there have been several attempts to recruit young men and children by the PKK over the past two years which were thwarted by the camp’s protection forces.

"But during the past few weeks, the PKK were able to attract some young men," the unnamed employee revealed.

"These attempts have forced dozens of families to leave the camp, despite the lack of an alternative for them, but they preferred the unknown and to get away from the danger caused by the PKK,” the source added.

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An official in the PKK Relations Committee denied these reports to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

"The visits made by party members are to inspect the conditions of the displaced, in addition to delivering aid to the residents there, especially after the decline in the services provided to them by the Kurdistan Regional Government," he said.

He rejected all claims that the PKK had any military presence in Arbat camp or was intending to recruit anyone from there.

The Islamic State group once controlled large swathes of territory in Iraq, especially in the north. Hundreds of thousands were displaced due to conflict and genocide.