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KURDISTAN’S WEEKLY BRIEF

02.03.2021
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A weekly brief of events that occurred in the Kurdish regions of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.

Iran 

  • The Cooperation Center for Iranian Kurdistani Parties (CCIK) denounced the Iranian regime’s ongoing campaign against the Kurdish language that has resulted in the jailing of dozens of Kurdish teachers and activists. The CCIK also released a statement upon conclusion of celebrations of the International Mother Language Day that read, “In Iran, the Persian language is the only officially recognized language and the rest of the ethnicities are deprived of studying social, cultural, and political activities in the mother tongue. Furthermore, any language-related activity is considered a crime as the prisons of the Islamic Republic are full of people whose only sin was to defend their mother tongue and their culture.” 
  • Iranian authorities launched a crackdown in the nation’s Kurdish region to deter anti-government protests last week, with the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights reporting Iranian intelligence officers (Ettela’at) detained four Kurds in Marivan on Sunday. Iranian authorities also arrested a Kurdish man named Bihzad Adwaje in Sarvabad (Salawa). Meanwhile, an appeals court in Urmia reduced a female Kurdish activist named Shanaz Sadeqi’s prison sentence from 15 years to five. Sadeqi was previously accused of “membership of the Kurdistan Freedom Party.” The Iranian regime has now arrested nearly 150 Kurdish activists since January, many of whom remain in Ettela’at custody. 

Iraq 

  • The Council of Representatives of Iraq (CRI) passed the Yazidi women survivors bill via the unanimous consent of all 180 present lawmakers on Monday. The bill includes 15 articles and entitles Yazidi survivors of ISIS’s (Da’esh) 2014 campaign of genocide and sexual slavery to financial compensation. Moreover, the bill bans anyone involved with supporting the genocide from receiving government amenities and directs the Government of Iraq (GOI) to file lawsuits against them.
  • A Da’esh mortar attack injured ten Iraqi federal police near Kirkuk Governorate’s Daquq District on Wednesday. The Iraqi Army and units from the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) responded by launching a sweep targeting Da’esh cells in the area on Sunday. The security situation in Iraq’s “Disputed Territories” has steadily worsened since Iraqi forces and the Iranian-backed PMF expelled the Peshmerga on October 16, 2017. 
  • Tensions remain high in the Yazidi town of Shingal (Sinjar) amid the increased back-and-forth between Turkey and Iran’s diplomats in Iraq, with the Iranian ambassador to Iraq Iraj Masjed informing Rudaw that Iran does not accept Turkey’s right to “intervene in Iraq militarily or advance or have a military presence in Iraq.” On the same day, the Turkish ambassador Fatih Yildiz responded via Twitter and said that “Iran would be the last person to lecture Turkey about respecting the borders of Iraq.” Both nations then summoned their counterparts in Tehran and Ankara to further discuss the exchange. Turkey has long accused the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) of maintaining a presence in Shingal and recently threatened to invade the town. On the other hand, a large number of Iranian-backed PMF units deployed to the town and vowed to resist any Turkish incursion last week.  
  • Several Kurdish and Iraqi officials made a semi-official announcement about both sides’ ongoing attempt to reach agreements on outstanding disputes that have held up the passage of Iraq’s 2021 budget bill for months, including the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) share of the federal budget. The CRI intends to vote on the bill this week in response to public pressure stemming from the ongoing delays. On another note, the KRG followed the rest of Iraq’s lead and imposed a new set of restrictions intended to halt a recent resurgence of the coronavirus. 

Syria

  • Deir Ez Zor Governorate remained plagued by an increasing number of terrorist attacks last week, as suspected Da’esh operatives assassinated an 80-year-old man in al Sabha town and two more people in al Shheel and al Shaafah towns. Meanwhile, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by the US-led coalition, carried out several raids in the region and arrested seven terrorists. At the same time, Da’esh operatives clashed with Russian-backed Syrian Arab Army forces in the Badiya al Sham region between Hamah, Aleppo, and Raqqa governorates, with initial reports indicating more than a dozen were killed on both sides during the engagement.
  • Kurdish residents of northeastern Syria, along with local NGOs, blamed Turkey for the dramatically small amounts of water flowing from the Euphrates River to many of the region’s inhabited areas last week. The Kurds also accused Turkey of using the water as a weapon with which to displace the region’s Kurdish residents and/or pressure them into making additional political concessions. The United Nations previously requested Turkey release water from the Alouk plant that provides water to at least half a million people in northeastern Syria. 
  • The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) claimed last Thursday’s US airstrikes on Iranian-backed militias in eastern Syria killed 22 fighters. The Pentagon described the strikes as “defensive” and claimed they were a proportional response to recent Iranian-backed militias’ attacks on the US Embassy in Baghdad, Balad Air Base, and a US facility near Erbil International Airport.
  • Turkey’s Islamist proxies continued to launch indirect fire attacks on SDF-held areas near Manbij and Ain Essa. Additionally, though Russian forces officially remain neutral in the region, Turkish proxies clashed with Assad regime militias near Aleppo and Idlib’s “De-escalation Zones.”

Turkey 

  • The Turkish government continued its campaign of repression against the nation’s Kurds last week, as Turkish police detained eight people in the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir (Amed), five in Mardin Province’s Nusaybin and Kızıltepe districts, and eleven in Istanbul. Most of those detained were members of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), including several senior local officials. At the same time, a Turkish court in Kocaeli handed out prison sentences ranging from six to seven years to seven HDP members and one Kurdish politician from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) for “membership of an illegal organization.” The HDP responded by calling once again for the Turkish government and PKK to restart the peace process. The HDP also accused Turkish Minister of the Internal Affairs Süleyman Soylu of perpetrating a smear campaign after he released photos of HDP members with the PKK during the 2013-2015 peace talks. Meanwhile, the European Union denounced the Turkish government’s most recent moves, and 170 members of the US House of Representatives signed a bipartisan letter to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken that called for President Biden to address Turkey’s poor human rights record and
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