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Kurdistan’s Weekly Brief, June 8, 2021

09.06.2021
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Iran

  • The Cooperation Center for Iranian Kurdistan’s Political Parties (CCIKP), an umbrella organization consisting of Iran’s Kurdish opposition parties, released several statements and slogans calling upon Kurds to boycott the nation’s June 18 elections, one of which read, “Voting for the regime is voting for terror and mass killings.” Much of Iranian Kurdistan also boycotted the nation’s 2016 parliamentary elections, but this year’s boycott is expected to be even more widespread due to the political repression and poor economic conditions plaguing the region.  
  • A prominent Kurdish activist named Erfan Saedpanah was found dead in Sanandaj. Saedpanah was previously missing for two days and had been arrested by Iranian authorities in 2018 for political activism and being a member of the pro-Kurdish Zagros organization. Concurrently, Iran’s Kurdish community suspects the Iranian regime’s involvement with Saedpanah’s death because he vowed to reveal “unspoken things” in his final Facebook post. Meanwhile, an Iranian court in Kamyaran sentenced a Kurdish labor activist named Haidar Qorbani, who was accused of “spreading propaganda against the state,” to 11 years in prison. Moreover, a Kurdish activist in Mehabad named Farzad Samani began a hunger strike to protest the sixth extension of his hold in the custody of Iranian intelligence (Ettela’at). Samani was arrested alongside several Kurdish college students in January 2021.  
  • A Kurdish border porter (Kolbar) named Wahbai Fatahi died from a heart attack caused by exhaustion near Pawa on Saturday. Also, on Saturday, Turkish border guards wounded a Kolbar named Yousif Farjami near Mako. Lastly, Iranian border guards injured two Kolbars near Baneh and Marivan last week.  

Iraq 

  • Turkey’s ongoing incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan stoked tensions between the Kurdish Democratic Party’s (KDP) Peshmerga forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) last week. On Saturday, the Peshmerga accused the PKK of ambushing one of its convoys traveling to Metina in an attack that killed five Peshmerga, wounded five more, and was denounced by Kurdish and Iraqi officials and US and European envoys. The PKK responded by denying involvement and calling for an “independent investigation.” That said, unidentified assailants killed another Peshmerga member near Zakho on Tuesday, and a joint federal and regional parliamentary group is set to conduct a fact-finding mission in the region soon. Meanwhile, Turkish forces conducted additional airstrikes, plundered more trees from the region, and appear poised to exploit KDP-PKK tensions by launching additional incursions into Iraqi Kurdistan.  
  • Turkish forces made good on a threat from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and ignored US warnings by launching an airstrike on the Makhmour refugee camp and killing three civilians. Erdogan continues to claim the camp, which houses thousands of Kurds who fled Turkish military operations during the 1990s, is providing a safe haven to PKK members. 
  • The first joint Peshmarga-Iraqi operation targeting ISIS (Da’esh) took place east of Tuz Khurmatu on Sunday. The Iraqi Security Media Cell announced Iraqi forces also launched five airstrikes on Da’esh positions during the operation. Likewise, a senior Peshmerga commander told Rudaw 13 Da’esh tunnels were destroyed during the operation. Iraq’s “Disputed Territories” have remained plagued by Da’esh since Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed militias removed the Peshmerga in October 2017.  
  • Anti-government protests continued in Kirkuk Governorate due to ongoing shortages of water, electricity, gas, and waste collection. Dozens of taxi drivers launched a demonstration to protest the lack of fuel, and even non-Kurdish demonstrators praised former governor, Dr. Najmaldin Karim, for his successes in providing services while bashing the current acting governor, Rakan Saed al Jabouri, who was imposed on the governorate on October 16, 2017. 

Syria

  • The Dutch government repatriated a woman and three children of deceased Da’esh terrorists from the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) last week. AANES’s head of foreign relations Abdulkarim Omar then held a press conference with Dutch diplomats and called for the international community to take responsibility for the “very complicated issue of Da’esh terrorists and their families.” The AANES has repeatedly called for members of the international community to repatriate their citizens or establish an international tribunal since the defeat of Da’esh’s “Caliphate” in March 2019.
  • Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by the US-led coalition, continued operations targeting Da’esh and arrested four more terrorists in Deir Ez Zor Governorate last week. That said, Da’esh militants killed 23 more members of the Russian-backed Syrian Arab Army west of Deir Ez Zor and remain particularly active in Syria’s Badia as Sham. 
  • The SDF rejected the Turkish Ministry of National Defense’s claims it targeted the SDF near several occupied areas in a statement that read, “Yesterday, the Ministry of Defense of the Turkish occupation published false news about targeting our fighters in the areas of Serêkaniyê (Ras al-Ain) and the vicinity of the al-Bab area. This news is false, as our fighters did not conduct any activity in those areas during the mentioned period.” 
  • At least six people were killed during an anti-conscription protest infiltrated by Turkish-backed proxies in Manbij. Some protesters accused the Kurdish-led local security forces of being responsible for the deaths, though the security forces responded by accusing agitators of attacking them and inciting violence. At the same time, Arab tribal leaders from AANES-controlled territory met with local officials to diffuse the situation. Though Kurds liberated the predominantly Arab city from Da’esh in 2016, Turkey and its proxies have continuously engaged in subversive activities in Manbij since then and launched dozens of indirect fire attacks on local security forces in May. 
  • Turkey’s ongoing cut of water supplies from the Euphrates River to northeastern Syria caused additional power shortages and further reduced water supplies last week. Turkey’s “water war,” which violates the 1987 protocol signed between Turkey and Syria, has affected millions of Syrians and exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation.

Turkey 

  • The Chief Public Prosecutor of the Turkish Court of Cassation Bekir Şahin resubmitted a case seeking the closure of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). The case was previously returned to Şahin’s office on March 31 due to “procedural deficiencies.” That said, if Şahin’s resubmission is accepted, the HDP will likely be shut down. At the same time, the Turkish government opened more criminal cases against HDP lawmakers, including former lawmaker Sırrı Süreyya Önde. Likewise, a prosecutor is seeking a five-year prison sentence for Democratic Society Congress (DTK) Co-chair Leyla Güven for addressing imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan as “Mr. Ocalan.” Lastly, Turkish police arrested Mustafa Avci, the former co-mayor of Van Metropolitan Municipality who was replaced with a government trustee in August 2019. 
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