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Kurdistan’s Weekly Brief March 16, 2021

17.03.2021
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Iran

  • The Iranian regime, despite releasing some activists on bail, continued its crackdown on Kurdish political rights last week. On Wednesday, Iranian security forces arrested a Kurdish man from Sarvabad (Sewllawa) named Abdulrahman Abdai in Tehran. Moreover, Iranian authorities arrested a Kurdish environmental activist named Simko Maroufi in Bokan and rearrested Awat Mohammepour, who was previously released on bail, in Oshnavieh (Shinno). Concurrently, the Kurdistan Association for Human Rights (KMMK) reported the fate of four Kurdish activists, Yousif Ahmady, Mohammed Karimi, Bast Sharifi, and Mohammed Faizi, remains unclear following their arrest in Baneh 11 months ago. Lastly, a number of Kurds were sent to prison to begin serving sentences, including five in Urmia and two from Piranshahr and Shinno. 
  • Iranian border guards killed a Kolbar named Jabar Arifi near Baneh and injured five near Iran’s border with Iraqi Kurdistan. On Friday, Turkish border guards killed a Kolbar named Burhan Sulimani near Khoy. A local Kurdish human rights organization claimed Turkish forces detained Sulimani and tortured him to death.  

Iraq

  • The disagreements over the Federal Court bill prevented the Council of Representatives of Iraq to include the 2021 budget bill to its Monday agenda. The Federal Court bill has created severe disagreements between the Iraqi parties since some secular sides, mainly Kurds, reject federal court arrangement proposed by the Shia religious blocs which suggest adding four experts in Islamic jurisprudence and two legal Islamic jurists (Faqih) to the nice legal judges the Federal Court holds currently. Despite voting on its most articles previously and on Monday, the lawmakers failed to pass one article.  The Kurds and secular blocs fear the bill will turn Iraq further an Islamic State. Meanwhile, it’s unclear when the lawmakers will vote on the 2021 budget bill which the Kurdistan region share stands unsolved. A delegation of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) postponed yet another visit to Baghdad to conclude final disagreement points between Erbil and Baghdad. 
  • The US-led coalition responded to ISIS’s (Da’esh) resurgence in Iraq’s “Disputed Territories” by conducting several airstrikes on Da’esh tunnels and safe houses in the Makhmour District along the borders of Erbil, Kirkuk, and Nineveh governorates. Simultaneously, security forces arrested a Da’esh terror cell in Kirkuk. 
  • Turkey and Iran criticized the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) plan to print a postage stamp commemorating Pope Francis’s visit to Iraq that features an image of a Kurdistan encompassing provinces in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. The KRG’s Minister of Transport and Communications responded by announcing the stamp was designed by an artist and not official. Sayfeen Dizayee, the head of the KRG’s Department of Foreign Relations (DFR), then told the pro-Turkish government Andalou Agency that the KRG respects the “sovereignty” of Iran and Turkey and expects reciprocity on the matter. 
  • Supporters of the Iranian-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) protested the alleged reopening of Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) offices in Kirkuk by closing the main road between Kirkuk and Erbil and setting up tents in front of the KDP’s old headquarters, which has been occupied by the Iraqi military since October 16, 2017. The KDP left Kirkuk when Iraqi forces and the PMU seized control of Kirkuk and removed Kurdish forces from the governorate after the Kurdish independence referendum held on September 25, 2017.

Syria 

  • The US commemorated the tenth anniversary of the Syrian Revolution by releasing a joint statement with the UK, France, Germany, and Italy that condemned the Assad regime and its supporters for “the years of war and human suffering that followed.” The statement also called upon the Assad regime to “engage seriously in the political process” and allow humanitarian aid to reach the Syrian people. Meanwhile, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) called for “democratic forces” to join their project, which includes all Syrians, confront the “illegitimacy of the regime,” and establish a “decentralized, democratic state.” Likewise, the European Parliament called for Turkey to withdraw its forces from Syria and described their presence as an “illegal occupation outside of any UN mandate.”
  • Turkey and its Islamist proxies launched indirect fire attacks on several areas held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), including Ain Essa, Manbij, and the al Shahba region. The attacks killed one child in Manbij, and another was killed when he stumbled across a previously unexploded munition from the attack. Meanwhile, the SDF clashed with Syrian jihadists near the strategic M4 Motorway in Ain Essa on Monday. Turkey and its proxies have expanded their presence in the region by building more military outposts and safe houses and remain focused on gaining control of the M4 Motorway to cut off the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria’s (AANES) access to Kurdish areas in western Syria. 
  • The SDF, in tandem with the US-led coalition, continued operations targeting Da’esh in northeastern Syria last week and arrested nine Da’esh terrorists, including a commander (Amir), in Deir Ez Zor Governorate. That said, the terrorist organization continued its murder and intimidation campaign in the governorate by kidnapping and murdering a young man in Sabi village. 

Turkey

  • Anonymous Turkish social media accounts reported imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan died in prison last week. Turkey’s Kurdish communities, political parties, and cultural organizations responded by joining Ocalan’s lawyers in demanding the Turkish government lift the isolation it has imposed on him, an effort that was complemented by multiple rallies and online campaigns. Ocalan last received a visit from family members in March, and nearly one thousand visitation permits filed by his attorneys have been rejected by the Turkish government. 
  • The Turkish government, despite the fact thousands of members of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) remained imprisoned, continued its crackdown on HDP members and elected officials last week by arresting five HDP members and a supporter in Urfa. Furthermore, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office began investigating HDP lawmaker Berdan Öztürk for voicing support for the Kurdistan map featured in the previously mentioned postage stamp commemorating Pope Francis’s visit to Iraq. 
  • Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Europe Nils Muižnieks joined the EU and other nations in calling for the release of former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas and said, “The continued detention of Osman Kavala and Selahattin Demirtaş makes a mockery of President Erdoğan’s government’s new “Human Rights Action Plan”.” Demirtas remains jailed and last appeared before a Turkish court on Tuesday, March 16, 2021.
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