Delegation reaches Iraq to receive hostages from PKK
ARBIL / ANKARA
A group, including two Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) lawmakers and non-governmental organization representatives, entered northern Iraq, after leaving Turkey through the Habur border gate early this morning, in anticipation of the handover of the Turkish officials kidnapped by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and expected to be freed as part of the ongoing peace process.
The delegation, which consists of BDP Bitlis Deputy Hüsamettin Zenderlioğlu, BDP Hakkari Deputy Adil Kurt as well as Human Rights Association (İHD) head Öztürk Türkdoğan, İHD Diyarbakır Provincial Chair Raci Bilici and the head of Mazlum-Der, Faruk Ünsal, is heading to the point where the handover will take place.
“Hopefully we will come back with good news,” said Adil Kurt.
Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay said in a televised interview today that the handover could be realized today or tomorrow, adding that the hostages would then be transferred to their family addresses via helicopter.
The hostages would be delivered to the group tomorrow, the PKK said in a statement carried out by Fırat News Agency, known to have close links with the PKK.
Turkish President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had warned last week that the handover should not be turned into a show, in a veiled reference to the Habur incident of 2009, during which a process launched by the government to accept eight PKK members and 28 Kurdish refugees from the Makhmour Camp in the Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq was disrupted by a festive welcome at the Habur border gate.
The incident was perceived as “a show of force” by the government and sparked public outcry throughout the rest of Turkey, eventually causing the peace initiative at that time to come to a halt.
BDP Istanbul Deputy Sebahat Tuncel, on the other hand, did not enter northern Iraq and stayed in Diyarbakır’s Cizre district. Daily Hürriyet said the shift was due to a travel ban on Tuncel.
A government delegation, led by a deputy undersecretary of the Interior Ministry, has been stationed at the Habur border gate since March 8, Interior Minister Muammer Güler had said on March 10, adding that the abducted soldiers and public servants are expected to join them at the gate.
It is expected that some officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) will accompany the delegation.
The Turkish officials held by the PKK were kidnapped on different dates.
The eight captives have been named as district governor candidate Kenan Erenoğlu, sergeant Zihni Koç, non-commissioned officer Abdullah Söpçeler, sergeant Kemal Ekinci, police officer Nadir Özgen, soldier Ramazan Başaran, soldier Hadi Gizli and Reşat Çeçan.