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Kurdistan’s Weekly Brief February 23, 2021

25.02.2021
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Turkey 

  • The Turkish government continued its campaign of repression targeting Kurds and the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) last week, with the Turkish Court of Cassation confirming HDP lawmaker Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu’s two-and-a-half-year prison sentence. The HDP responded by condemning the sentence in social media posts, and Gergerlioğlu claimed the verdict was an act of political oppression against him. Meanwhile, Turkish prosecutors announced plans to suspend the parliamentary immunity of nine more HDP lawmakers, including co-chair Pervin Buldan. Moreover, a prosecutor in Ankara began investigating Kurdish lawmaker Dilan Dirayet Tasdemir after Tasdemir called for the Turkish Minister of the Interior Süleyman Soylu to prove allegations she visited PKK-linked entities in the Gara Mountains. 
  • A Turkish court in Diyarbakir sentenced a former Kurdish mayor named Filiz Buluttekin, who was previously removed from her post in December 2019, to seven years and six months in prison. Concurrently, a number of Kurds, including three members of the HDP’s youth organization, remain in custody after Turkish authorities carried out mass arrests in Manisa, Urfa, Diyarbakir, and Istanbul last week.  
  • A former Turkish military general named Ismail Pekin admitted Turkey’s involvement in the 2013 assassination of three female PKK members in Paris. Several Kurdish organizations responded to Pekin’s admission by calling for France to hold Turkey accountable. 

Iran 

  • The Iranian regime transferred nearly two dozen Kurdish activists to prisons after weeks of interrogation at the hands of Iranian intelligence officers (Ettela’at) last week. Most of the activists were transferred to the Central Prison of Urmia, including a female activist named Nasreen Mohamadi. The Kurdistan Association for Human Rights (KMMK) reported another female Kurdish activist named Daria Talabani was released on bail. That said, an Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced a Kurdish activist named Hadi Roostami to eight months in prison and 60 lashes for “disrupting national security.” The Iranian regime has now arrested over 120 Kurdish activists in 2021 to prevent anti-government protests against oppression and substandard living conditions in Iranian Kurdistan. 
  • On Saturday, two Kurdish border porters (Kolbars) named Iskander Mohammed and Abubaker Mohammadi drowned in a river while fleeing Iranian border guards near Sardasht. Another Kolbar named Ayoub Qadiri succumbed to freezing temperatures in the mountains near Baneh. Lastly, a Kolbar named Yousif Watan was injured when he fell from a cliff while evading Iranian border guards near Marivan.

Iraq 

  • Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Minister of Interior Rebar Ahmad announced a civilian died from injuries suffered in the February 15 rocket attack on Erbil that was perpetrated by the Iranian-backed militia Awliya ad Dam. Ahmad also announced the KRG and Government of Iraq’s (GOI) joint investigation committee made progress in identifying those responsible for the attack and is now waiting for Iraqi forces to make arrests. That said, Iranian-backed militias launched additional attacks on US interests in Baghdad and Diyala last week. 
  • The Council of Representatives of Iraq’s (CRI) finance committee presented the final draft of Iraq’s 2021 budget bill, though the status of Iraqi Kurdistan’s share of the budget remains unclear due to Iranian-backed blocs’ failure to reach a final agreement on issues regarding the region’s natural resources. The bill, which will likely be voted on soon, has been delayed for weeks due to various disputes among Iraqi parties and the still yet to be resolved allocation of the Kurdistan region’s share of the national budget. 
  • Iraqi Kurdistan was gripped by public indignation after five Kurdish journalists received six-year prison sentences. President of Kurdistan Region Nichervan Barzani, Deputy Prime Minister of Kurdistan Region Qubad Talabani, and Speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament Rewaz Faiq all released statements following the verdict, with Barzani saying, “In accordance with the law, the defendants have the right to appeal the decision, and the Court of Appeal is obligated to review the decision in a way that upholds the legal and human rights of the defendants and the plaintiffs.”
  • The security situation in Iraq’s “Disputed Territories” continued to deteriorate last week, as unknown gunmen killed a Kurdish farmer in Kirkuk Governorate’s Daquq District on Thursday. At the same time, the US-led coalition announced several airstrikes targeting  ISIS (Da’esh) terrorists in southern Kirkuk Governorate near Wadi al Shai. The “Disputed Territories” became a far more permissive operating environment for Da’esh when Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed militias removed the Peshmerga from the region on October 16, 2017.

Syria 

  • Turkish proxies shattered a period of relative calm in Ain Essa by launching indirect fire attacks on neighboring villages and the M4 Motorway. The attacks occurred after the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) stifled an infiltration attempt near the town on Monday in an engagement the SDF claimed resulted in the deaths of three Turkish-backed Islamist fighters and injury of seven. Meanwhile, an IED targeted Turkish-backed Islamists attempting to enter SDF-controlled areas near the Christian town of Tal Tamer, while Russian forces stationed near Tal Tamer and Ain Essa have remained neutral during the ongoing conflict. 
  • The SDF announced the arrest of two Da’esh terrorists responsible for planning and carrying out assassinations near Deir Ez Zor Governorate’s al Shheell town. That said, the region has seen an ongoing increase in Da’esh activity since the defeat of the organization’s physical “Caliphate” in March 2019. On another note, the SDF released more Syrian nationals from al Hol camp in an attempt to reduce overcrowding in the facility that houses thousands of Da’esh relatives and has been the scene of numerous incidents, including escape attempts, assaults, and executions.  
  • Turkish-backed Islamists in Afrin continued to engage in internal fighting over territory and criminal rackets last week, as operatives from the Turkish proxy Jabhat al Shamiyah assassinated a commander of another Turkish-backed group called Jaysh al Islam. On a related note, Turkish-backed Islamists arrested two Kurds in Afrin for working with the previous Kurdish administration.
  • The Russian-backed negotiations known as the “Astansa talks” concluded in Sochi, Russia with a joint statement from Iran, Russia, and Turkey pledging another round of talks in mid-2021 in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. The statement also described the Kurdish-led governing projects in northeastern Syria as “illegitimate self-rule initiatives.” The Russian-sponsored talks began in 2017 and, like the UN-backed Geneva peace talks, have failed to achieve any meaningful agreement.

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