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Kurdistan’s Weekly Brief March 23, 2021

23.03.2021
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Turkey

  • Turkey’s Court of Cassation’s Chief Public Prosecutor, following threats from the ruling Justice and Development Party and the AKP-allied Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to shut down the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), filed a lawsuit to close the party. The Turkish government’s move was denounced by much of the international community, including the US and the European Union (EU). Meanwhile, the HDP responded by releasing a statement that read, “HDP is not just a party but also an idea. Millions have closed ranks around this idea. Millions of people will stand in defense of their political will and future.” Nevertheless, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey stripped HDP lawmaker Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu of parliamentary immunity after he was sentenced to two years and six months in prison for “spreading terrorist propaganda.” Gergerlioğlu filed an appeal and refused to leave the parliament before he was arrested by Turkish police.
  • A Turkish court in Ankara sentenced the jailed Kurdish politician and former HDP co-chair Selahhatin Demirtas to three years and six months in prison for “insulting the president,” a charge stemming from a 2015 press conference that was critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Demitas has been jailed since November 6, 2016, and the Turkish government has opened dozens of cases against him that could lead to a cumulative sentence of over 140 years in prison.
  • Kurds across Turkey defied the government’s ongoing campaign of repression and celebrated Newroz last week. Granted, the Turkish government did not relent in its campaign during Newroz and detained dozens of HDP members and Kurdish activists. At the same time, Turkish police arrested at least 11 teens in Konya for lighting the Newroz fire and accused them of violating laws pertaining to meetings and demonstrations. Moreover, Turkish police arrested four Kurds in Hakkari and ten in Adana on charges related to activism on Sunday. Lastly, a Turkish court in Muş sentenced the deposed Kurdish mayor of Muş Province’s Bulanık District, Adnan Topçu, to eight years and six weeks in prison for “membership of a terrorist organization.”

Iraq

  • Another Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) delegation traveled to Baghdad and held a final round of talks with the Government of Iraq (GOI) regarding the KRG’s share of the federal budget and other outstanding disagreements on Iraq’s 2021 budget bill. The talks resulted in an agreement late Friday that was verified by the finance committee of the Council of Representatives of Iraq (CRI), though some Iranian-backed parties changed their positions at the last minute. That said, voting on the 2021 budget bill was delayed again due to demands from Sunni and Shia lawmakers to amend several provincial budgets. On another note, the CRI did not reach an agreement to pass a new law for Iraq’s Federal Court. As a result, the parliamentarian blocs amend Iraq’s 2005 Federal Court Act in an outcome seen as a setback for the Iranian-backed blocs and other religious parties, as the proposed laws would have led to the appointment of four Islamic jurists from the Sunni and Shia sects to Iraq’s Federal Court and grant them the power to veto new laws.  
  • The CRI voted unanimously on the anniversary of the Halabja chemical attack to grant Halabja District provincial status, a move previously undertaken by the KRG. Halabja District is now set to become Iraq’s 19th province and the fourth in Iraqi Kurdistan. 
  • Newroz was celebrated across Iraqi Kurdistan last week, with government officials announcing a five-day holiday. That said, Kirkuk’s Kurds were forced to celebrate Newroz in their neighborhoods and communities because they were denied a permit to hold festivities in Kirkuk’s citadel, which they had previously done since 2003.
  • The Turkish military launched an air and artillery strike in Duhok Governorate’s Akre District’s Batifa subdistrict last week. Turkey has now established at least 40 military bases and outposts in Iraqi Kurdistan as part of an ongoing campaign it claims is intended to combat the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).   
  • The US-led coalition conducted 133 airstrikes on ISIS (Da’esh) safehouses and tunnels near the Makhmour District between Erbil, Kirkuk, and Mosul. The area, which is part of Iraq’s “Disputed Territories,” has been plagued by a dramatic uptick in Da’esh activity, especially in the Qarachogh Mountains. Meanwhile, a Da’esh attack killed one Iranian-backed militiaman and wounded two federal police in Kirkuk Governorate’s Hawija District.

Syria 

  • Kurdish leaders from the Autonomous Administration of North and East of Syria (AANES) celebrated Newroz with the US Deputy Special Envoy to Syria David Brownstein. Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) General Commander Mazloum Abdi joined Brownstein in igniting the Newroz fire.
  • The Turkish military and its Islamist proxies, following months of indirect fire attacks on villages near Ain Essa, launched a ground attack on al Saida village on Wednesday and clashed with the SDF. Though casualties were reported on both sides, the SDF claimed it killed over 30 Islamist fighters while losing four of its own. Granted, the fighting killed one child and wounded five civilians. Concurrently, Turkey continued to launch indirect fire attacks on areas near the Christian town of Tal Tamer and Aleppo’s Shahba region. Meanwhile, Russian forces stationed near Ain Essa remained neutral despite Russia’s role in mediating a ceasefire between Turkey and the SDF following Turkey’s October 2019 invasion of the region. 
  • The SDF arrested 10 Da’esh terrorists as part of its ongoing US-backed campaign against the organization in northeastern Syria last week. That said, Daesh carried out several attacks in the region, including an attack in Deir Ez Zor Governorate’s al Mayadin that killed several Iranian-backed militiamen and four civilian employees of a local gas field.

Iran

  • Iran’s Kurds braved poor economic conditions and the Iranian regime’s ongoing crackdown on Kurdish political activity in celebrating Newroz last week. In Oshnavieh (Shinno), armed Peshmerga from the banned Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI) flew Kurdish flags and deployed in parts of the city for several hours to show solidarity with the city’s Kurdish residents. Concurrently, the Cooperation Center for Iranian Kurdistan Parties (CCIKP) issued a statement criticizing the Iranian regime’s ongoing campaign against political rights in Iranian Kurdistan and called for unity among Iranian Kurds to ensure the “fall of the regime” and a “brighter future.” Though Newroz is celebrated by both Kurds and non-Kurds, the date has come to coincide with several Kurdish uprisings and revolutions. 
  • Marivan’s Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced two Kurdish activists named Hiwa Azizpour and Miraj Mortaziee to 17 months in prison for “cooperation with a Kurdistan opposition party.” The same court, Urmia’s branch, sentenced a Kurdish imam named Rasoul Hamzapour to three years in prison for “nationalist and sectarian propaganda against the state.” Furthermore, Iranian security forces in Mehabad arrested a 15-year-old Kurd named Pishawa Rahmanifar for “supporting an opposition party.”  
  • Iranian border guards injured three Kurdish border porters (Kolbars) near Nowsud and Baneh. The Hengaw Organization for Human Rights reported both of the Kolbars wounded near Baneh suffered severe injuries.
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