Kurdish tourists from Kurdistan Region targeted in Turkey

7/30/2019 1:18:17 PM

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Diliman Abdulkader
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Recently, a video circulated across social media and caused uproar among Kurds. A group of Kurdish tourists from the Kurdistan Region of Iraq taking photos with a scarf with the official Kurdish flag was attacked by a mob of Turks.

The attack inside the northern town of Trabzon, Turkey against Kurdish tourists is the product of the racist environment created by its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Ultra-nationalism is alive and well in Turkey and Kurds are the clear target. Unsurprisingly, the tourists not the attackers were detained and were deported back to the Kurdistan Region.



Kurds from Iraqi Kurdistan often travel to Turkey for vacation because it is cheap, nearby, and sometimes have little to no options for travel elsewhere. Despite its autonomy, residents of the Kurdistan Region hold Iraqi passports, which is weak and has a negative track record. The passport of Iraq has a score of 33 according to Passport Index - which is very low. Iraqi nationals have visa-free travel to only 7 countries, 26 countries allow visa on arrival, and 165 countries require a visa in advance. In addition, Kurds lack the adequate safety information they need before they travel abroad.

Kurds across the region and in the world are fully aware of the Kurdish-Turkish tensions that have existed for nearly a century. But Iraqi Kurds are in a unique position, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is led by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) which has close relations with Erdogan’s government and its Justice and Development Party (AKP). However, the KRG has failed to encourage people to people relations with their Turkish counterparts, the tie is exclusively an AKP-KDP one. Therefore, when Kurds from the KRG travel to Turkey, they’re under the assumption it is safe simply because their governments share close ties.

Turkey has a history of banning and targeting Kurds for representing their identity through colors of their nation, whether it be scarves, flags, or anything else that bears the red, white, and green tricolor and the sun. But certainly, such instances have increased under Erdogan’s government.

Speaker of Parliament Dr. Rewaz Faiaq tweeted “according to Law No. 14 of 1999, Kurdistan flag is the official flag of the region, and the Iraqi Constitution does not prohibit regions from having their own flag, Therefore, the position of the Government in defending Kurdish tourists in Turkey is constitutional and legal.” Furthermore, the Kurdish government released a statement stating newly appointed Prime Minister Masrour Barzani “has expressed his concern over the incident, and has tasked KRG’s relevant authorities to intervene with their Turkish counterparts to secure the tourists’ immediate release.” While also acknowledging that “the flag of Kurdistan Region is recognized by the Iraqi Constitution and has been previously displayed at Turkish airports to welcome official delegates from the Kurdistan Region.”

But more needs to be done by Kurdish authorities with regard to protecting their citizens when they’re abroad. The Kurdistan Parliament must implement laws that have the interests of their citizens in mind, hold accountable the authorities and departments which fail to establish clear language and action against states which harm and illegally arrest their citizens while abroad.

Kurdistan Regional Government must also fully inform its citizens with honest travel alerts for places like Turkey, where their lives may be at risk. The KRG and its Parliament must be prepared to fully back its citizens when such situations occur with immediate and direct responses. Kurdistan Parliament must also implement a law requiring the Kurdish media to portray the reality of the situation inside Turkey against Kurds so that Kurds in the KRG can make rational decisions when deciding to travel.

The KRG must demand that the Turkish government and its civilians respect all Kurds, regardless of the region they come from, and be allowed to travel in a safe, risk free environment distant from racist targeting. Finally, the Kurdish government must put its citizens before KDP-AKP ties to fully safeguard its people.

Until then, Kurds should refrain from traveling to Turkey.


Diliman Abdulkader is a Middle East analyst and the Director of External Relations at Allegiance Strategies, LLC. Follow Diliman on Twitter @D_abdulkader

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of NRT.