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Kurdistan’s Weekly Brief, May 25, 2021

26.05.2021
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Iran 

  • The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI) announced two of its Peshmerga were killed in clashes with Iranian security forces between Bokan and Mehabad. The KDPI also claimed five Iranian security personnel were killed during the fighting, including two members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and identified the two slain Peshmerga as Enwer Nasiri and Sohrab Khidirpur. The KDPI has bolstered its presence in Iranian Kurdistan in recent months and recently released a video of a Peshmerga unit carrying Kurdish flags inside Baneh city. At the same time, the Iranian regime has increased its security presence in Iranian Kurdistan to counter the KDPI and prevent additional anti-government protests. 
  • The Kurdistan Human Rights Association (KMMK) claimed Iranian intelligence officers (Ettela’at) arrested five Kurdish activists from Sanandaj last Tuesday. Furthermore, Iranian security forces arrested a Kurdish journalist named Amen Mohammadi in Sirwan city and a prominent activist named Najaf Mehdipour in Darreh Shahr city. Moreover, Iranian authorities arrested 38-year-old Bahman Ismaeli in Urmia, 28-year-old Qassem Azizian in Mahabad, and 43-year-old Ibrahim Moftada in Piranshahr.  
  • Iranian border guards wounded two Kurdish border porters (Kolbars) near Baneh last week. One of the injured Kolbars, Yousif Ameni, suffered severe injuries and was transferred to Baneh’s main hospital. 
  • On Monday, a Kurdish asylum seeker from Bokan named Behzad Mahmoudi died from wounds suffered when he set himself on fire in front of the United Nations building in Erbil last Tuesday. Mahmoudi, along with several other Kurds, previously applied for refugee status from the UN and did not receive a response.

Iraq 

  • Turkish forces carried out additional airstrikes in Iraqi Kurdistan last week, including several near the newly occupied Kista village and Duhok Governorate’s Amedi District. Though Turkey again claimed the strikes were targeting Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants, numerous civilians were wounded, including a 20-year-old Kurd near Kani Mase. Likewise, Turkish soldiers wounded three civilians, including two teenagers, in Erbil Governorate’s Mergasor District. 
  • Several previously formed joint operations commands consisting of Iraqi forces and Peshmerga were activated last week in Kirkuk, Makhmour, and Khanaqin. Another joint operations command is set to be activated in Mosul, while commands in Erbil and Baghdad began operations several weeks ago. The joint operations commands are intended to combat ISIS (Da’esh) terrorists in Iraq’s “Disputed Territories,” which have been plagued by an uptick in Da’esh activity since Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed militias removed the Peshmerga on October 16, 2017. Peshmerga presence in the joint operations commands appears to be symbolic, as only a few Peshmerga officers have been assigned to each command. 
  • Unknown arsonists set hundreds of acres of Kurdish farmland ablaze in Kirkuk Governorate’s Laylan and Dibis districts on Sunday and Monday. Da’esh and Arab ultra-nationalists remain the prime suspects in these attacks, as both have perpetrated similar attacks in the “Disputed Territories.” 
  • The University of Kurdistan held a “Unity and Constitution” conference that was attended by several Kurdish leaders as well as a number of foreign envoys, including the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert. Hennis-Plasschaert praised the Kurdistan region for its achievement but warned the Kurds that political division could cost them their autonomy, saying, “The Kurdistan Region should not remain divided between green and yellow or any other color definitions for that matter. It is high time for genuine reconciliation, for political stability to prevail. You are facing unique geopolitical circumstances. That fact alone should be enough to make one think twice.” The conference was part of President of Kurdistan Region Nechirvan Barzani’s efforts to achieve unity between Iraqi Kurdistan’s political parties before the drafting of the region’s constitution. 

Syria 

  • The Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), in response to the Syrian presidential election scheduled for May 26, shut its border crossings with the Assad regime and said they will remain closed until “further notice.” The Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) has stated it has no intention of abiding by elections that “do not achieve the goals of the Syrians in their lives, rights, and political presence.” The SDC went on to claim the May 26 election violates UN Security Council Resolution 2254 in saying, “we, in the Syrian Democratic Council affirm that we will not be part of the presidential election process and will not participate in it. Our position is firm that there will be no elections before the political solution per international resolutions, the release of detainees, and the return of the displaced.” Much of the international community, including the UN, US, and most European nations, also views the Syrian presidential election as undemocratic and illegitimate. 
  • Several Kurds who were displaced from Turkish-occupied Afrin, protested the recent settlement built for Palestinians by two organizations which are receiving support from Qatar and Kuwait. Afrin has had its Kurdish population reduced from 99 percent to less than 35 percent since the 2018 Turkish invasion. At the same time, Hawar News Agency claimed Turkey and its Islamist proxies have burned hundreds of acres of Kurdish-owned farmland in the city and surrounding areas.
  • The AANES responded to protests in several cities and towns by reversing its decision to increase fuel prices, which now stand at 13 cents per liter in AANES-controlled territory, 75 cents per liter in Assad regime-controlled territory, and 93 cents per liter in the Turkish-occupied zones. Unknown individuals attacked Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) personnel with small arms during a protest in al Shaddadi. The SDF claimed insurgents and agitators were “hiding among the protestors” and reiterated its mission is to ensure security in the AANES. 
  • Two Iraqi sisters were killed with firearms on Wednesday inside the al Hol camp, which continues to hold more than 62,000 refugees and internally displaced people, including thousands of Da’esh operatives and relatives. The SDF launched a campaign to clear the camp of Da’esh support networks and assassination cells in April, though it remains unclear how much of a lasting impact the SDF’s recent operations will have.
  • On Wednesday, Da’esh terrorists assassinated a member of the Deir ez- Zor Civil Council named Moeyed al-Rayash. Meanwhile, the SDF announced the arrest of several terrorists in western Deir ez- Zor Governorate last week. 

Turkey

  • The second session of the “Kobani Trial,” of 108 politicians from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) continued on Friday amid protests from defense attorneys. HDP defense attorney Cemile Balsack said, “An impartial trial is an indispensable condition for a fair trial. Your court does not approach this case impartially.” The next session of the trial, which the HDP continues to label as a political tool for pressuring Kurds and an example of Turkish courts defending Da’esh, will take place on June 14. 
  • Turkish police intensified the state’s ongoing crackdown on the HDP and Kurdish activists by arresting more than 60 people in Diyarbakir (Amed), Adana, Antalya, Ankara, Mardin, Mersin, Dersim, Sirnak, and Istanbul last week. Among the detained were several senior HDP leaders from districts and cities in Turkey’s Kurdish region. 
  • The confessions of Turkish mafia boss Sedat Peker exposed the involvement of top Turkish government officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Minister of the Interior Süleyman Soylu, in assassinations, drug trafficking, sexual assaults, and corruption. Peker also blamed the ultra-nationalist former Minister of the Interior, Mehmet Ağar, for the assassinations of Kurdish politicians and businesspeople during the 1990s.
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