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Kurdistan’s Weekly Brief, May 18, 2021

18.05.2021
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Iraq

Turkey’s invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan intensified last week, as Turkish forces carried out a barrage of airstrikes on Kista village that forced a complete evacuation. Simultaneously, the Turkish government announced its forces killed a senior commander of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) named Sofi Nurettin on Monday, though the PKK quickly denied Turkey’s claim. Meanwhile, PKK General Commander Murat Karayilan again accused Turkey of using chemical weapons in Avashin and Metina and released a video he claimed would provide a detailed explanation of Turkey’s ongoing operations in Iraqi Kurdistan. 

ISIS (Da’esh) terrorists have pursued a two-week campaign of terror in Iraq’s “Disputed Territories” by carrying out persistent attacks across multiple fronts and striking numerous locations in Kirkuk Governorate, including the Daquq and Hawija districts. The Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs promised a “harsh response” to Da’esh terrorists following the recent killing of a Peshmerga officer near Kirfi. Though the Government of Iraq (GOI) and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) conceptualized a plan to carry out joint operations targeting Da’esh in the “Disputed Territories” last year, Da’esh remains on the offensive in the region due to the failure to implement such measures and an ongoing lack of coordination between Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga. 

A family from Iraqi Kurdistan was brutally attacked by a gang of four ultra-nationalist Turks in Mersin on Thursday. Thursday’s attack appears to be the latest in a series of anti-Kurdish hate crimes that have gripped Turkey in recent years.

Turkey 

The “Kobani Trial” of 108 politicians from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party resumed on Tuesday, and the Turkish government instituted restrictions on media outlets and journalists looking to cover the proceedings. Concurrently, jailed former leaders of the HDP, Selahttain Demirtas and Figen Yüksekdağand, were forced to participate in the trials via a remote system. European experts were allowed to join senior HDP members in participating in the hearing where Demirtas claimed, “The name, content, and essence of this case is a conspiracy case against HDP. It is a political revenge case against HDP.” Demirtas also said, “When the real Kobani case opens, the state and government officials who provoked the governors, district governors, and police chiefs who committed the massacre, will be revealed.” The Turkish government accuses HDP politicians of encouraging Kurdish protests against Turkey’s lack of action regarding Da’esh’s 2014 attack on Syrian Kurds in Kobane. 

The Turkish military instituted a curfew for several days in Amed’s (Diyarbakir) Kulp District last week. Several Kurdish sources claimed the Turkish military launched an operation targeting the alleged PKK presence in the area.  

The HDP issued a statement on Kurdish Language Day (May 15) calling for the recognition of the Kurdish language in the Constitution of Turkey that read, “The oppression and assimilation of the Kurdish language have not decreased throughout the history of the Kurds, and this is truly the most in this century.” On another note, three ultra-nationalist Turks attacked the HDP headquarters in Ankara with rocks and stones on Friday night, causing property damage.

Syria 

Two Turkish-based organizations, White Hands and Live with Dignity, began building settlements for Palestinian refugees from Syria in a Yazidi village first occupied by Turkey and its Islamist proxies in 2018. The project, which is backed by Turkey and appears to be another attempt to engineer the region’s demography, also features a sign implying it has received funding from the Palestinian diaspora. 

A US State Department delegation, which included Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Joey Hood, visited the Kurdish-government regions of northeastern Syria on Sunday and met with Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commanders, Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) leaders, and various local council members. SDF General Commander Mazloum Abdi said the meeting emphasized the importance of the international coalition remaining in the region “to achieve complete victory over ISIS and support stability and empower the Autonomous Administration.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported intermittent clashes between Turkish-backed proxies and Kurdish forces in Aleppo’s rural areas but did not provide casualty reports. That said, Turkish proxies launched indirect fire attacks on Manbij’s at Tukhar as Sageer village and remain an existential threat to the region. 

The SDF, backed by the US-led coalition, concluded a four-day clearing operation in Deir Ez Zor Governorate’s Wadi Aleajij that resulted in the seizure of several Da’esh safehouses and smuggling routes. The SDF also announced the “dismantling a terrorist cell” that was planning to launch several attacks on Eid in the governorate’s As Shheell town. 

The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria’s (AANES) decision to raise fuel prices led to several protests in towns and villages under its control last week. The AANES remains blockaded by the Assad regime and Turkey and engages in limited trade with Iraq. That said, gas prices are currently 13 cents per liter in the AANES, 75 cents per liter in Assad regime-controlled territory, and 93 cents per liter in the Turkish-occupied zones.

Iran

The Iranian regime, despite granting bail to two more detainees in Sanandaj, arrested more activists last week. Iranian authorities detained two labor activists named Mahmud Salihi and Osman Ismaeli in Saqqez. Iranian authorities also arrested a Kurdish man named Ali Allahwaissi and gave an activist named Mahmud Salhi five days to appear before a court and answer to charges of “sabotaging national security.” At the same time, a Kurdish political prisoner named Mohammed Muradi was sentenced to 40 years in prison for “carrying arms” and “membership in the Democratic Party of Kurdistan.” Furthermore, the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HARANA) reported a Kurdish painter from Lorestan’s Khorramabad city named Amin Masuri was sentenced to nine months in prison for depicting the Iranian regime’s violent crackdown on protesters in the fall of 2019. Masuri was previously jailed for participation in anti-government protests. 

The Iranian regime continued its ongoing crackdown on Kurdish border porters (Kolbars) last week, with Iranian border guards killing a Kolbar named Zabet Alikhani near Salmas on Saturday. Iranian border guards also wounded a Kolbar named Mohammed Mirzai near Piranshahr, two Kolbars named Kosar Rostamzada and Akram Rostamzada near Nowsud, and another named Farhad Fatihi near Kamyaran. The Iranian regime is now responsible for most of the 56 Kolbars that have been killed and 202+ that have been wounded in 2021, though some have also been killed by Turkish border guards or succumbed to natural causes. 

A Kurdish asylum seeker from Iran protested the denial of his case by setting himself on fire in front of the United Nations building in Erbil on Tuesday. Hundreds of Kurds flee from Iran to Iraqi Kurdistan every year to escape political repression and abysmal economic conditions.

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