A weekly brief of events occurred in the Kurdistan regions of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.
Turkish police arrested 21 women affiliated with Kurdish movements for holding an event on International Women’s Day in Mardin on March 16. Among the detained were several senior HDP members, the president of the Rosa Organization for Women’s Issues, Adalat Kaya, and the former co-mayor of the Sur District, Filiz Buluttekin. Simultaneously, a high criminal court in Istanbul dismissed the objections of detained human rights activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala’s attorneys and extended his detention. The Turkish government has accused Kavala of aiding protests in Istanbul in 2013. Finally, Turkish authorities arrested at least ten people in Adana for criticizing the government on social media. Millions of Kurds defied the Turkish government’s ban on celebrating Newroz in traditional clothes, though Turkish authorities persisted in attempting to crack down on Kurdish political and cultural activity. Turkish police in Aydin arrested several musicians for singing and playing “forbidden songs.” Likewise, police in Diyarbakir (Amed) banned hundreds of Kurds who were wearing Kurdish clothes featuring the colors of the Kurdish flag from joining celebrations in the main square. At least 298 Kurds including 100 children were illegally detained in Amed according to the Diyarbakir Bar Association. That said, thousands of Kurds went out in freezing temperatures to celebrate Newroz in Istanbul and Dersim.
Iranian authorities implemented stringent security measures in Iran’s Kurdish region, including the deployment of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) personnel, to prevent Kurds from celebrating Newroz with music, dance, and the display of the Kurdish flag. Iranian security forces also threatened several Kurdish activists for organizing Newroz gatherings that advocated Kurdish nationalism. Despite the Iranian regime’s efforts, however, tens of thousands of Kurds defied restrictions and celebrated Newroz. At the same time, several exiled Kurdish parties in Iraqi Kurdistan called for participation in Newroz celebrations because the “Islamic Republic failed to control the population with threats and crackdowns.” Newroz traces its roots to the legend of Kawa the Blacksmith’s liberation of the Kurds from the Assyrian tyrant Dehak in 612 B.C. and has coincided with numerous Kurdish revolts and uprisings. Khoy’s Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced a Kurdish man from Turkey, Hatem Odemiz, to death for “membership of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).” Moreover, Urmia’s Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced a Kurdish activist named Amen Iranibzadeh to two years and six months in prison and another, Shirzad Shawqi, to three years in prison for “membership of banned parties” and attempts to “disrupt national security.” Concurrently, Iranian intelligence officers (Ettela’at) detained two Kurds, Burhan Darkhashani of Marivan and Bahman Chesthta of Piranshahr, for unspecified reasons. Lastly, Ettela’at rejected Zara Mohamadi’s request for a temporary release from prison to celebrate Newroz. Mohammed was sentenced to five years in prison for teaching the Kurdish language.
An investigative committee formed by Iraq’s Council of Representatives and an Iraqi security committee headed by National Security Advisor Qasim al Araji inspected the site of a March 13 Iranian ballistic missile attack in Erbil. On March 17, Rebar Ahmed, the Minister of the Interior of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), presented a report on the attack and demanded “a comprehensive investigation” conducted by Iraq, Arab states, and the international community with “Iranian participation” during a special session of the Council of Representatives. The KRG previously rejected the Iranian regime’s claim it was targeting an Israeli Mossad facility. Iran and its proxies have carried out numerous attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan since 2020. The Council of Representatives scheduled a vote for Iraq’s next president on March 26. The leader of Iraq’s largest parliamentary bloc, Muqtada al Sadr, called for “independent deputies who love their country” to vote in the March 26 session and avoid obstructing the election by being part of the “disabled third,” which consists of lawmakers who have yet to side with Sadr’s bloc or the Iranian-backed parties. Granted, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) remain committed to their respective presidential candidates and show no signs of reaching a compromise.
Syria Thousands of locals and internally displaced Kurds protested the Turkish invasion of Afrin on its fourth anniversary on Friday. Further, some Kurdish business owners in Afrin defied pressure from Turkish proxies and went on strike. Concomitantly, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) General Commander Mazloum Abdi blamed the international community for ignoring its “responsibilities towards the people of Afrin” and added, “Ending the Turkish occupation and facilitating the safe return of Afrin’s people to their homes and land is our cause and responsibility.” US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Ethan Goldrich, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran Jennifer Gavito, and Director for Iraq and Syria at the National Security Council Zehra Bell traveled to the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) and held separate meetings with Mazloum Abdi and Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) leader Ilham Ahmed. Several statements from the AANES claimed both meetings focused on countering ISIS (Da’esh) threats and enhancing US-SDF cooperation. On a different note, the UN-backed Syrian Constitutional Committee convened for the seventh time in Geneva on Monday, though it continues to exclude Syria’s Kurds due to Turkey’s veto and has failed to achieve any tangible results so far.