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Kurdistan’s Weekly Brief, May 11, 2021

12.05.2021
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Iran

  • Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh responded to a recent report of the involvement of PUK’s counter terror group (CTG) in the US killing of Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani by saying those who are “directly or indirectly” involved will be held “criminally and judicially responsible.” The CTG has refuted the report and denied involvement while saying Qassem Soleimani was a close friend of PUK’s late leader Jalal Talabani. The Kurdistan Region Directorate of Counter Terrorism (CTD) rejected any affiliation with the Sulaimaniyah based CTG which it said is “affiliated with Lahur Sheikh Jangi and his brothers.” The CTD statement added that, “PUK affiliated forces do not comply with the laws of the Kurdistan Region and its institutions.
  • Iranian authorities released two of the individuals arrested in Sanandaj on May 1, though the rest remain jailed, and all of them are facing charges related to activism. Moreover, Iranian security forces arrested an activist named Ali Allawaisi in Sanandaj and two civilians named Darwesh Khaldian and Mohsen Saedi in Qorveh (Qurah) on Thursday. Likewise, Iranian authorities arrested nearly a dozen Kurds in Marivan for protesting a gang of Salafi “vigilantes” linked to numerous assaults on people accused of drinking alcohol. The Kurdistan Human Rights Association (KMMK) claimed the Salafis are backed by the Iranian regime and injured at least two during their attacks. Lastly, the Iranian regime sentenced a Kurdish environmental activist named Simko Maroufi to one year in prison in Bokan and imposed a two-year international travel ban on him for “propaganda against the state.” 
  • Iranian border guards injured a Kurdish border porter (Kolbar) named Massoud Mohammadi near Baneh and a Kolbar named Ako Qadiri near Piranshahr on Monday. Another Kolbar named Farzad Jabari drowned in Urmia’s Benar River while fleeing from Iranian authorities. Lastly, a mine planted by Iranian forces severely injured a Kolbar named Nadir Sabrini near Nowsud.

Turkey 

  • Turkish authorities prevented imprisoned Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu from receiving letters from his party in prison, citing the “security risk” posed by the letters. Meanwhile, HDP Women’s Council spokesperson Ayşe Acar Başaran criticized the Turkish government’s excessive defense spending stating, “In the last ten years, security spending has increased by 86 percent. Taxes are not spent on jobs, bread, and vaccines for the population, but instead, go towards war.” 
  • The HDP launched a campaign to collect millions of signatures demanding the recognition of Kurdish as the country’s second language. As things stand, the Constitution of Turkey considers all citizens Turks and recognizes the Turkish language as the nation’s only official one. 
  • The Turkish government rejected additional visitation requests from imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan’s attorneys last week. Simultaneously, the Kurdish diaspora in Europe continued protests demanding the end of the Turkish government’s imposition of isolation on Ocalan.

Iraq

  • Turkey expanded its incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan and carried out an increasing number of air and artillery strikes last week. Kurdish civilians in at least ten villages, including Kista and Hirror, were evacuated due to the strikes and ongoing clashes between the Turkish military and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). At the same time, Turkish warplanes struck several areas near Sulaymaniyah Governorate’s Mawat District on Saturday. Meanwhile, Turkey’s Minister of National Defense Hulusi Askar released additional PKK casualty numbers that were quickly rejected by the PKK, who also accused the Turkish military of using banned chemical weapons. The ongoing Turkish incursion has destroyed over one thousand dunams of farmland so far. 
  • Iraq’s “Disputed Territories” continued to see an increase in ISIS (Da’esh) terrorist attacks with the terrorists attacking two of the Bai Hassan oilfield’s wells (177 and 183) with explosives and killing one security officer in Kirkuk Governorate’s Dibis District on Wednesday. Da’esh terrorists also targeted Makhmour and displaced several Kurdish families near Khanaqin. Despite several meetings between officials from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Government of Iraq (GOI) to discuss improving security coordination, little or no concrete progress has been made in countering Da’esh’s ongoing operations in the “Disputed Territories.” 
  • President of the Kurdistan Region Nechirvan Barzani met with the leaders of all of Iraq’s Kurdish parties, including the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (KDP), Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Change Party (Gorran), Kurdistan Justice Group, Kurdistan Islamic Union, and Kurdistan Socialist Party to discuss the drafting of a new Iraqi Kurdistan constitution and encourage greater Kurdish political unity. Iraqi Kurdistan still utilizes a draft constitution that was written in 1992 and amended several times due to a lack of political consensus among its Kurdish parties.

Syria 

  • Turkey’s ongoing interdiction of water supplies in northeastern Syria caused the Euphrates River to run almost completely dry in what the region’s Kurds are now referring to as Turkey’s “Water War.” Thus far, Turkey’s actions have affected millions of Syrians by causing the shutdown of thirty water filtration plants across the region and hindering power plants’ efficiency. According to a 1987 protocol signed by the Turkish government, Turkey is supposed to release 500 m³/sec of water from the Euphrates into Syria, of which approximately 58 percent would go to Iraq. That said, Turkey’s cutting of water flows has reduced Syria’s share of the supply by nearly 70 percent. 
  • The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by air support from the US-led coalition, targeted several Da’esh safehouses along the Iraqi-Syrian border in Deir Ez-Zor Governorate’s Wadi Aleajij, disrupting several Da’esh smuggling routes and confiscating a number of arms caches. SDF forces arrested four Da’esh operatives in Deir Ez Zor Governorate and a fifth in al-Hasakah Governorate who were behind a string of recent assassinations. That said, Assad regime forces continue to suffer casualties in ongoing clashes with Da’esh in Syria’s Badia (desert) region. 
  • Kurdish farmers accused Turkish forces and their Islamist proxies of targeting their farmlands with arson attacks and attempting to extort them in the Salim village, ten miles west of Kobane, last week. Arson attacks have previously destroyed irrigation systems and drinking water supplies in Kobane. Additionally, Turkish proxies launched indirect fire attacks on two villages near Tal Abyad (Giri Spi). Separately, the SDF rejected Turkey’s claim it killed SDF fighters in Afrin and said, “There is no SDF presence in Afrin, but Turkey and its mercenaries are the ones constantly shelling the areas.”
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