April 27, 2021 A weekly brief of events that occurred in the Kurdish regions of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.
The Turkish government began prosecuting 108 Kurdish politicians, including 28 members of the pro-Kurdish peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), for participation in the 2014 Kobane Protests as part of its ongoing attempt to stifle opposition to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). The HDP’s defense team protested the hearing and demanded speaking time for the defendants, including jailed former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas. Meanwhile, Turkish prosecutors cited social media posts and statements from interviews and press conferences as evidence against the defendants, though international denouncement forced the trial to be postponed until May 3.
Turkish police arrested at least four HDP members in Diyarbakir (Amed) last week. At the same time, an HDP lawmaker of Armenian descent named Garo Paylan received death threats from ultra-right lawmakers and dozens of anonymous individuals after he proposed a bill recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
The Turkish military launched additional incursions into Iraqi Kurdistan on Friday and assaulted several locations in Duhok Governorate, including Ashvin, Metina, Kani Masi, Zab, and Kesta. The head of the Kani Masi sub-district told Rudaw Turkish attacks had destroyed approximately 248 acres of orchard gardens, and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) confirmed it clashed with Turkish forces and accused them of using chemical weapons at least three times. Meanwhile, the Turkish Ministry of National Defense claimed Turkish forces lost three soldiers and killed 37 PKK members during the fighting, which was ongoing as of late Monday and stoked fears of additional Turkish invasions of the region under the pretext of combatting the PKK. Turkish operations in Iraqi Kurdistan have resulted in the establishment of more than 40 Turkish military bases and outposts in the region while killing dozens of civilians and displacing thousands more since 2011.
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) spokesperson Jotiar Adel denied reports from Iranian-backed Iraqi media outlets that the Israeli Mossad maintained a presence in Iraqi Kurdistan and threatened to sue one Iranian-supported television channel for “hostile policies” towards Kurdistan. The KRG also requested the Government of Iraq (GOI) “open a transparent investigation and send an investigative committee to the alleged Israeli center in order to put an end to false and dangerous accusations.” Iranian-backed militias have previously accused the KRG of hosting the Mossad as a means of justifying their attacks on Erbil.
The KRG’s Ministry of Peshmerga responded to recent rocket attacks on the Kurdish town of Kifri by vowing to stand against ISIS (Da’esh) terrorism, though neither Da’esh nor Iranian-backed militias have claimed credit for the attacks. Likewise, the Ministry of Peshmerga renewed calls for the GOI to hash out additional agreements with the KRG to improve coordination between the two parties in the ongoing fight against Da’esh remnants in Iraq’s “Disputed Territories,” which have seen a significant uptick in terrorist activity since October 2017.
Kurdish officials and party leaders released statements expressing solidarity with the victims of Saturday’s Baghdad hospital fire. The fire, which was caused by exploding oxygen tanks, killed at least 82 people and injured another 110, most of whom were COVID-19 patients.
On April 20, pro-Assad regime militias known as “Civil Defense Forces” attacked local Kurdish security forces (Asayesh) in Qamishli’s al Tai neighborhood, killing a security officer and sparking five days of intermittent clashes in the area that killed one child and wounded five civilians. Russia eventually mediated on behalf of the Assad regime and hashed out a ceasefire after a meeting between the Kurds, Assad regime representatives, and local Arab tribal leaders. That said, pro-Assad militants broke the ceasefire and assassinated a renowned Arab tribal leader named Hases al Jarvan, who previously participated in de-escalation talks, in Qamishli. Kurdish forces responded by purging pro-Assad militants from parts of Qamishli and seizing several of their buildings, including an armory. Furthermore, Russian military police conducted a joint patrol with the Asayesh on Monday, and numerous civilians returned to their homes following the end of the most recent fighting. The area of Qamishli known as the “Security Square,” which includes the city’s airport, remains under the control of the Assad regime.
Local farmers and officials from the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East of Syria (AANES) expressed renewed concerns after Turkey caused a drought that threatens to destroy thousands of acres of farmland by cutting off the region’s water supply from the Euphrates River. The Kurds accuse Turkey of using water flows and power plants to exert political pressure on the region amid the silence of the Assad regime.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced the arrest of additional Da’esh terrorists in northeastern Syria last week, including four in Deir Ez Zor and one in Qamishli. That said, Da’esh carried out several additional assassinations in Deir Ez Zor Governorate, clashed with Assad regime forces west of the Euphrates, and killed a local council guard in Hajin town.
Iranian intelligence officers (Ettela’at) arrested four Kurds in Sanandaj on Saturday, including two activists named Marzia Gulam Waissi and Sirwan Abdullah. Concurrently, Iranian authorities arrested a well-known Kurdish athlete named Akbar Haiderpour in Ilmam’s Dehloran and accused him of aiding Kurdish parties. Iranian authorities also detained 14 people in Marivan’s Nie village and accused them of cooperating with Kurdish opposition groups, though they were later released after signing pledges. Moreover, Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced a renowned female Kurdish educator and activist named Gazal Shahi to 18 months in prison for “spreading lies on the internet.” Lastly, a detained female Kurdish activist in Ilam named Somia Kargar’s bail was set at 500 million Iranian rials ($12,000). Kargar had previously been jailed for over seven months.
Iranian border guards wounded five Kurdish border porters (Kolbars) near the Qulqula border crossing with Iraqi Kurdistan on Sunday, several of whom were severely injured and transferred to a hospital in Marivan. The Iranian regime has killed and wounded dozens of Kolbars during its most recent campaign against them that began in January 2020.