Armenia has denied handing over two Kurdish fighters to Turkey, after Turkish media reported that they had been arrested in Turkey and Kurdish groups accused the Armenian authorities of a ‘betrayal’.
On Sunday, the Armenian government came under fire from Kurdish media for its alleged extradition of two Kurdish fighters loyal to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) to Turkey.
Both Atilla Çiçek and Huseyn Yildirim fought for the PKK’s military wing, the People’s Defence Forces (HPG).
According to an HPG press release, Çiçek and Yildirim crossed into Armenia in August 2021 after carrying out guerilla operations in eastern Turkey. They were arrested for illegally crossing the border.
According to legal documents, Armenia’s Court of Appeal released them late in February of this year, ending the court process.
Gegham Manukyan, a senior opposition MP belonging to the Armenian Revolutionary Federation party, has slammed the government, accusing it of illegally kidnapping the two fighters and handing them over to the Turkish National Intelligence Organisation, despite both of them having a valid court mandated release.
In response to criticism, the Armenian National Security Services denied its involvement in the alleged handover, stating that ‘it was outside the scope of their power’.
Shortly after, the Ministry of Justice also denied the handover, while stressing that it had ‘the right to hand over foreign prisoners to their country of citizenship’.
On 26 September, the ministry revealed that it had declared the two Kurdish fighters wanted, as they were expected to appear in further court proceedings and their whereabouts remained unknown.
The HPG stated that ‘the Armenian state violated both international laws and its own law. It is shameful for Armenia to hand over the revolutionaries of Kurdistan, who struggle to protect the existence and freedom of their people and feel the pain of all oppressed peoples, to the genocidal Turkish state in this way’.
According to Anadolu Agency, the two Kurdish fighters were ‘terrorists wanted by Turkish authorities’. The agency reports that Çiçek took part in a 2012 attack against Turkish forces that killed six soldiers, and another that killed two more soldiers in 2020 in Dogubayazit. Yildirim was accused of being involved in anti-Turkish activities in Syria and Iraq.
Turkish state authorities have not officially commented on the news, but several prominent media outlets have claimed to have information confirming that the fighters were arrested. Hurriyet did not mention Armenia’s participation in the handover, but claimed that the two Kurds were taken into custody during a special intelligence operation along Turkey’s eastern border with Armenia.
The Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) harshly criticised the Pashinyan government for cooperating with ‘the genocidal colonialist Turkish state and the fascist [ruling] government’.
‘The handover of these two friends of ours to the Turkish state reveals that the Pashinyan government has betrayed the cause of the peoples, especially the cause of the Armenian people’, the statement read.
‘The attitude of the Pashinyan government causes great harm to the cause of the Armenian people and their struggle for existence… As the Kurdish Freedom Movement, we call on the Pashinyan government to immediately renounce its collaborative relations with the genocidal colonialist Turkish state and apologise to the Armenian and Kurdish people for this incident.’