ERBIL — The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) on Tuesday, May 19, handed over more than 150 Islamic State (IS) detainees after it struck a controversial deal with the local administration of Kirkuk and tribal leaders in the disputed Kurdish province.
The IS militants were reportedly captured during the battles against the jihadist group between 2014 and 2017. They were in detention of armed forces affiliated with the PUK in Sulaymaniyah, multiple sources confirmed.
Commenting on the issue, which has triggered a debate on social media and the political arena of Kurdistan Region, Abdul Nasir Ahmed, a member of the Kurdistan Region Parliament from the PUK, confirmed that his party has already handed over the IS jihadists “to the local administration of Kirkuk”.
“Why so much pressure on the PUK? We had no other choice. What we are expected to do? Should have we fought them,” Ahmed said, indicating that his party made the deal under pressure, which is interpreted by political commentators as PUK’s compromise on the crucial issue of IS detainees in return for a greater role in Kirkuk administration which is ran by the Iraqi government since October 2017 when a faction within the PUK made another deal with Baghdad to agree on handing over Kirkuk to the federal government.
“Yes, we handed over the Daesh detainees and we are expecting them to be tried, because not all of them are necessarily [members of] Daesh,” the PUK lawmaker said, using the Arabic acronym for IS.
He argued that the backlash is not against the handover of the IS detainees, but it rather is “jealousy” about PUK’s “progress”.
However, legal experts and administration officials argue that the PUK should have done the process via official channels of the government after relevant approvals as the issue is of high sensitivity.