On 8 January, the President of the Turkish Republic met George W.
Bush at the White House.
Turkish-American relations had cooled off in 2007 because of the threats of Turkish incursions into Iraqi Kurdistan and a resolution of the Armenian genocide passed by the US Congress.
A Turkish diplomat described, off the record, the line of diplomatic relations between the two countries as “more seemly” and welcoming “American efforts regarding the PKK”.
Similarly, the chief foreign policy advisor of the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, expressed his satisfaction on the subject of “Turkish-American cooperation against the PKK”.
For the first time, George bush used the term “common enemy” with respect to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and promised to provide real time intelligence on PKK movements in the Kurdish mountains: “We are dealing with problems we have in common.
One of these problems is to pursue our struggle against a common enemy, the terrorists”, declared the US President.
“And this common enemy is the PKK.
It is Turkey’s enemy, it is Iraq’s enemy, it is the enemy of people who log to live in peace”.
The United States also invited Turkey to cooperate with Iraq for a “long term political solution” for putting an end to the PKK’s actions.
However Abdullah Gul has excluded any direct discussions with this party, comparing the Kurdish movement to al-Qaida and dismissing any negotiated political solution with the Kurdish guerrillas.
Since 16 December, several air raids have been launched against Iraqi Kurdistan from Turkey.
On 11 January, fresh artillery shelling hit the Amadiyah region, North of Dohuk, s confirmed by General Jabbar Yawar, spokesman of the Peshmergas, and by Kurdish border guards.
On 22 January, the Turkish Air Force violated Iraqi air space and bombed several villages in the Amadiyah, Dohuk and Irbil regions.
On the same day, the Turkish army was put on maximum alert and raids continued till 30 January.
Since the beginning of winter, the Turkish Army has massed 150,000 troops all along the Iraqi borders.
A surveillance system has also been set up along 280 kil0metres of the Borders with Iraqi Kurdistan, with hundreds of infrared cameras.
Also, on 19 January, about fifty Turkish tanks carried out manoeuvres with infantry units in the town of Cizre.
Last October, the Turkish Parliament had authorised the Army to cross the border for possible “incursions” against the PKK’s bases in the Qandil, in Iraqi Kurdistan.
But the Iraqi Kurds see this as more of an expression of Turkey’s determination to prevent the emergence of an autonomous Kurdish state by using the excuse of the PKK to occupy the region.
Furthermore, the eight soldiers, who had been taken prisoner by the PKK on 21 October 2007 and then been released unconditionally by the Kurdish movement, have been arrested and tried by a court martial at Van.
The prosecuting counsel has called for prison sentences varying between three years and life.
The heaviest sentence demanded is for a soldier of Kurdish origin, Ramazan Yuce, who is said to have called out to surrender to the PKK fighters in Kurdish, and then answered questions by journalists of the television channel Roj TV, close to the Kurdish fighters.
Ramazan Yuce is charged with “apology of crime”, “resistant insubordination leading to heavy losses”, “support for activities aiming at breaking the unity of the State and the country’s integrity”, “flight abroad”, “propaganda in favour of the PKK and against military service” — according to the Turkish daily Radikal.
This trial, moreover, is being held virtually in camera, and the Turkish media are forbidden to report it by decision of the Van court martial dated 13 November, “in the interest of national security”.
The 21 October attack, which had caused 12 deaths amongst the Turkish soldiers as well as the 8 prisoners, had aroused the indignation of Turkish public opinion and stirred up the partisans of Turkish military intervention in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The free soldiers, for their part, had stated that their arms were defective and almost inexistent and accused their officers of having “abandoned” them in the middle of the mountains.
Despite the hanging of two former Baathist leaders, (Barzan Ibrahim al-Hassan al-Tikriti, one of Saddam Hussein’s half-brothers, and Awad Ahmed al-Bandar, former President of the Revolutionary Court and assistant head of Saddam Hussein’s inner cabinet) violence in Iraq has shown a slight tendency to drop compared with 2006.
It was even possible to celebrate the New Year without any serious incidents — apart from a suicide bomb attack that killed five children and six members of a volunteer patrol in the suburb of North Baghdad.
In total, 481 civilians died of violence in December, compared with 1,930 in December 2006, according to the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior.
The sending to 30,000 extra men by the USA and the fact that several Sunni Arab tribes have turned against al-Qaida, explain this drop.
In addition, on the Shiite side, the six-month ceasefire ordered by the radical Imam Moqtada Sadr has helped, even if the overall loss of life in 2007 remains higher than in 2006 — 16,232 for 2007 against 12,630 for 2006, according to the Iraqi authorities.
In addition, 1,300 police and 432 soldiers were killed as against 4,544 insurgents, while in 2006 the losses were 602 soldiers and 1,231 police killed.
For its part, the World Heath Organisation (WHO) published on 9 January, its first figures on the War in Iraq.
It estimates that, on an average, 120 Iraqis have been victims of violent death every day between March 2003 and June 2006, making a total of between 104,000 and 223,000 deaths.
WHO also points out that “more than half of these deaths occurred in Baghdad” — and that violence was the principal cause of death amongst men between the ages of 15 and 59.
Armed actions are the main source of these deaths (80%).
As well as the death rate, the war has led to a great number of refugees fleeing violence and the UN High Commission for Refugees (HCR) has asked for $ 261 million for 2008 to rescue the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have fled their country to neighbouring countries, mainly Jordan, Syria, Iran, Egypt the Lebanon, Turkey as well as some of the Gulf States.
Ron Redmond, the HRC spokesman, points out that the total number of displaced persons in Iraq is close on 2 million, but that “bringing help to a great number of them is extremely difficult because of the insecurity in a great part of the country.
Most of the Iraqis who have fled their country live urban in areas in Syria and Jordan.
Many of them are short of money and have more and more difficulty in surviving”.
The Iraqi government, for its part, has pointed out that 30,000 families that had left Iraq had returned home by 2007 — which the HCR has not been able to confirm.
The funds for which the HRC has asked are due to be allocated to schooling 100,000 young Iraqis, as well as financing the most disadvantaged families.
As well as the Iraqi nationals, the HCR is responsible for 41,000 Iranian or Turkish and 13,000 Palestinian refugees living in Iraq under very difficult conditions.
However, the “political progress in Iraq”, was welcomed by Condoleezza Rice during an unexpected visit to the country mid-January.
The US Secretary of State particularly welcomed the vote, on 12 January, enabling former Baathists to again hold civilian and military public office.
“This law is clearly a step forward in the direction of national reconciliation, it is clearly a step forward in the process of healing the wounds of the past”.
As for George Bush, who was touring the Gulf at the time, he spoke of an “important step towards reconciliation.
It is an important sign that the leaders of this country must cooperate to satisfy the aspirations of Iraqis”.
After the fall of the old regime and the UN vote that had confirmed the US as an occupying power, the coalition’s Provisional Authority, run by Paul Bremerm had wanted to “deBaathise” the Iraqi state by removing Baathist from all pubic offices and army posts.
This has had the effect of fuelling and reinforcing the Sunni Arab insurrection’s manpower by depriving hundreds of thousands of Iraqis of their jobs.
Going back on this policy, the US has been urging Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for several months to get this “rehabilitation law” passed.
Thus 143 of the members of Parliament present, out of 275, unanimously voted this “Law for Justice and Transparency”, the text of which had been drafted months earlier.
Falah Hassan Shanshal, head of the Parliamentary committee on “DeBaathisation” presented it in these terms: “This law gives members of the decision making circles of the Baath, who have not committed any crimes, the right to retirement pensions and the possibility of being reinstated” in public office, except for certain “leading positions”.
On the other hand, certain former members, found guilty of crimes, will be tried and sentenced while special courts, to compensate victims of the Baath, will be set up at the demand of the Shiites.
As for the “Justice and Transparency Council”, which will be formed, it will have the task of fighting Baath ideology in public and political attitudes.
However, this law is not unanimously welcomed by the ex-Baathists, many of whom fear that the accusations and trials by “victims” might in fact be acts of personal vengeance against them, even though they had been compelled to join the Party to secure of keep their jobs.
Reconciliation between Shiite and Sunni Arabs is also being negotiated at government level.
The Concord Front, the principal Sunni Arab party, that had left al-Maliki’s government, says it is “ready to return under certain conditions”, in particular a greater representation of Sunni Arabs within the power structure, both political and military, and the release of some prisoners.
For its part, the US Army is accusing Iran and Syria of responsibility for the civil war.
The States particularly accuses the Iranian General Ahmed Foruzandeh, of the al-Qods force, an elite unit of the Iranian Guardians of the Revolution, of “directing terrorist operations” against the US Army and of initiating the assassination of Iraqi public figures.
It has imposed sanctions on him as well as the al-Zawra (al=Thawra) television channel and three Iraqis living in Syria.
These sanctions include the banning of any business dealings between those subjected to them and US nationals, as well as the freezing of all their assets accessible to the US courts.
According to Stuart Levey, Under-Secretary of the Treasury responsible for terrorism and financial intelligence, “Syria and Iran are fuelling the violence and destruction I n Iraq.
Iran trains, finances and arms extremist Shiite groups, while Syria gives asylum to Sunni Arab insurgents and paymasters.
Today’s initiative throws a spotlight on the murderous activity of these characters and we call on the international community to act alongside us to insulate them from international economic relations.
On 17 January, the Kurdish journalist, Ako Kurdnasab, who had been arrested six months ago and sentenced to 3 years imprisonment, was finally released.
Similarly, the documentary film director, Mehrnusheh Soluki, was able to leave Iran to seek refuge in France two days after the ban on her leaving the country, to which she had been subjected, was lifted.
She had also served a month’s imprisonment.
Ako Kurdnasab was arrested on 21 July 2007, at Sanandaj, capital of Kurdistan Province, by the Iranian Intelligence services.
He was sentenced to three years for “attempting to overthrow the government by journalistic means ”.
On appeal, his sentence was reduced to six months, that is the term of imprisonment he had already served.
As for Mehrnusheh Soluki, she remains charged with “propaganda” for a documentary on the 1988 cease-fire between Iran and Iraq.
Moreover, two other journalists, Ejlal Ghavami and Emadoldin Baghi, also in detention, have received permission to leave for medical treatment.
Reporters sans Frontières, who have been keeping an eye on the case of these four journalists, welcomes the release of the first two buttresses that nothing is resolved for Ejlal Ghavami and Emadoldin Baghi, who must return to prison at the end of their treatment.
Emadoldin Baghi, ho suffers from heart problems, was able to leave Evin Prison, in Teheran, where he has been detained for the last three months.
Ghavami, a staff journalist on the weekly Payam-e Mardom-e Kurdistan, suffers from an eye infection, aggravated by the unhygienic conditions of his prison cell in Sanandej.
On 15 January, Ebrahim Lotfi, a 27-year-old Kurdish student, died in detention, having been “suicided” in the same Sanandej prison according to the official version.
His family contests the suicide, alleging that during their visits to the student, they were able to see that he had been tortured, and demanding his exhumation and an autopsy of the body, which the Iranian courts refuse.
Ebrahim Lotfi was arrested on 6 January last, for unknown reasons.
Sean McCormack, US State Depart spokesman, declared he was “deeply concerned by the tragic death and the suspect circumstances” of that death, relaying the call of man Human Rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch.
“We call on the Iranian authorities to carry out a thorough enquiry”, added Mr.
In October 2007, a 27-year-old detainee, Miss.
Zahra Bani-Ameri, died in the same circumstances, this time at Hamadan prison.
In general, a fresh upsurge of executions has been taking place in Iran since the end of 2007.
According to Amnesty International, 297 people were hanged in 2007, as against 177 in 2006.
The Iranian government has launched a “law and order” campaign over the last year, which has expressed itself in an increasing number of executions.
On 2 January, 13 sentenced people were hanged, 8 of them in Evin prison, in Teheran, They had been found guilty of murder or drug trafficking.
Amongst them was a woman of 27, mother of a 5-year-old girl and a boy of 3, sentenced for the murder of her husband.
In Qom, 3 men were hanged for drug trafficking and 2 others at Zahedan.
Since drug addiction is having a devastating effect in Iran, anyone possessing moor than 30 grams (one ounce) of heroin or over five kilos of opium faces a death sentence.
Other offenses that carry the same penalty are “treason and espionage” — offenses that enable the authorities to hound political opponents — murder, armed robbery, drug trafficking, rape, adultery, prostitution, homosexuality and, for Moslems, apostasy.
On 8 January, Turkey was found guilty of inhuman or degrading treatment, of the disappearance in 1997 of a member of the People’s Democratic Party (HADEP) and for ill-treatment of a Turkish student while in detention.
Mehmet Ozdemir, a HADEP activist suspected of links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, was abducted by men in plain clothes near Diyarbekir.
His wife took the matter to the European Court for Human Rights, which considered that this disappearance, without any enquiry being made by the Turkish legal system, was tantamount to “a violation of the right to life”.
It also ruled that Mehmet Ozdemir’s widow had suffered “inhuman and degrading treatment” when she tried to register a complaint with the Turkish authorities.
The missing man’s widow and eight children received 63.
500 euro damages.
As for Ercan Ayaz, a Turkish student at the Free University of Berlin, he had been stopped and placed in detention at Istanbul Airport when he was on his way to Iraq as part of a university working party on Iraqi Kurdistan.
Ercan Ayaz stated that he had been beaten and subjected to sexual abuse.
The European Court considered “implausible” the affirmation of the Turkish courts that the student had “inflicted his injuries on himself” and awarded him 5,000 euro damages.
The Iraqi Parliament was shaken by stormy discussions over the 2008 budget and the management of oil resources.
Despite the appeal of the Government spokesman, Mahmud Mashhadani, to the heads of the political parties at the Assembly, to pass the budget, alleging that delay would only harm the Iraqi people, they maintained their refusal in a declaration dated 21 January 2008.
The Prime Minister’s representative, Barham Saleh, and the Finance Minister, Bayan Jabr Solagh, were again obliged to defend their budget before the Iraqi Members of Parliament (the budget amounts to $48 billion).
Some Shiite leaders, like the head of the Fadhilla Parliamentary Group, or that of the Sadrist block, Nassar al-Rubaie, criticised the budget for insufficiently taking into account needs of the Iraqis, particularly regarding education and supplementary assistance of free food, which the government had decided to reduce, as well as on the inadequacy of measures to fight unemployment and poverty.
However, other Iraqi leaders, such as Osama al-Nujaifi, a Shiite close to former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, and Mahmud al-Azzawi, from the Independent Arab block, attacked the 17% allocated to the Kurdistan Region, wishing to reduce it to 13%.
There was also disagreement over the fact that the cost of maintaining the Peshmergas was now to be born by the Iraqi Ministry of Defence rather than by the Kurdistan Region.
Finally, on 25 January, a member of the Kurdish Coalition in the Iraqi Parliament, Sami Atrush, announced that the parliamentary groups had accepted the principle of allocating 17% to the Kurdish Region for the year 2008, until a population census could be taken.
As for the Peshmergas, the Iraqi M.P.s left the decision to the Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, to discuss with the Kurdish government.
Indeed, al-Maliki had accepted to cover the cost of the Peshmergas.
According to the Peshmergas’ spokesman, Jabbar al-Yawar, a meeting took place in 2007, between the Kurds, the Iraqi Defence Minister, Abdul Qader Muhammad, and David Petraeus, representing the US Command.
This had resulted in the decision that Iraq would cover the cost of the 76,000 Peshmergas.
Jabbar al-Yawar criticised the Prime Minister’s about turn, who had then called for a reduction in the number of Peshmergas to 30,000.
Still according to Jabbar al-Yawar, the Shiite government seemed to fear that too man Kurdish armed forces would only serve separatist designs.
The Iraqi government spokesman, for his part, announced that the Iraqi armed forces would be able to ensure the country’s security b the end of 2008.
At the same time, the Kurdish leaders in Baghdad tried to settle the question of the control of oil resources and their exploitation, an issue that has been divided the Baghdad government and Irbil governments for several months.
The situation has become so tense that some Kurdish political leaders are openly demanding the resignation of Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani.
Indeed, the Kurds are defending their autonomy by the strategy of exploiting their natural resources whereas the Iraqi government wishes to strengthen its control over the extraction of oil and contracts made between the Irbil government and foreign companies.
According to Kurdish observers, the disavowal of contracts between these companies and the Kurdish officials have had little effect in the field, where the foreign investors pay little heed to the stand taken by the Iraqi Minister al0Shahristani.
The Kurdish Minister for Industry and Minerals as even announced the opening and start of operations of four small refineries with a total planned production of 40,000 barrels by next August.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has signed an agreement with the South Korean National Oil Company, which allows the Korean company to import Iraqi oil to the value of three times that of their 2006 imports of Iraqi oil.
The Regional government has also signed contracts with 20 other foreign companies, despite the Central Government’s opposition.
Thus tension is thus rising between the Kurdish leaders and the Shiite Arab Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
The former accuse the Baghdad Government of dragging its heels on subjects that are crucial to Kurdistan such as the referendum on Kirkuk or the funding of the Peshmergas, though they insist they do not intend leaving the present government.
“I wouldn’t call this a crisis, but there have been ups and downs and suspicion on both sides”, explained, for his part, Qassim Dawud, a Shiite M.
on al-Maliki’s united list, while Mahmud Othman, an independent Kurdish M.
recognises that the Kurds had been “careless” and committed “mistakes”, adding that federalism was a new thing in Iraq and that it was inevitable that its establishment would rise to some tension.
Thus 145 Iraqi members of Parliament, Shiite and Sunni Arabs, Turcomen and Yezidis signed a declaration of support for the Iraqi government’s determination to control the management of the resources of the whole of Iraq.
At the end of the month, the Kurdish Alliance, a coalition of Kurdish parties in the Baghdad Parliament, which is the second largest parliamentary force in Iraq, with 53 M.P.s including some members in the government, announced the visit to the Iraqi capital of a top level delegation from the Kurdistan Region, to discuss the contracts signed between the Kurdistan Regional Government and foreign prospecting companies.
Ashti Hawrami, Minister of Natural resources of the Kurdistan Government thus again tried to resolve the conflict, which a recent visit by the Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani had been unable to end.
From 26 to 28 January, an International Conference took place on the Anfal campaign and Halabja, on the initiative of the Regional Government and, in particular of Prime Minster Nechirvan Barzani.
Twenty years after the launching of this campaign of genocide against the Kurds by Saddam Hussein, this conference had the following aims: - In Iraq, to call for the execution of the sentences passed by the Court on the officials mainly responsible for the Anfal, who had been tried in Iraq; to secure the passing of a law of repentance and recognition of the crimes committed against the Kurdish people by the former Iraqi regime; to inform the Iraqis of the facts and the nature of the crimes, in particular through the education system; to ensure the recognition of the genocidal character of the Anfal campaign and make it a subject of study and research in Iraqi universities; to create a national institute for collecting and translating documents, publications, research papers and information of the Anfal campaign and on all the other crimes committed against the population of the Region of Kurdistan; to form a committee to identify the companies and countries that had supplied the Saddam Hussein regime with the material means and the knowledge that enabled him to conceive and produce weapons of mass destruction; to provide help at national level for rebuilding all the regions affected by the Anfal campaign and all the other crimes against the population of the Region of Kurdistan; to ensure that a law be passer to compensate the victims of the Anfal campaign; to organise a special conference on the Arab countries on the genocide and other crimes committed by the Saddam Hussein regime against the population of the Kurdistan Region and other peoples of neighbouring countries; to found an Institute that would work in coordination with international institutions on enquiries regarding crimes of genocide committed throughout the world, including those against the Kurds.
This institute should, annually, organise a conference in different countries in turn.
- In the Region of Kurdistan, to form a special committee to promote information and understanding of the crimes committed against the population, with the help of international organisations, such as the United Nations, the European Union and its Parliament, some foreign Parliaments, the International Court of Justice at the Hague etc; to include the Anfal campaign in the research programmes of the Universities of the Kurdistan Region; to form a special committee to study and enquire into compensation of victims of the Anfal campaign; to speed up the process of resolving the legal status of the Anfal victims; to improve the living conditions of the victims’ families; to conduct legal proceedings against those who had played a role in the genocide campaign; to obtain international recognition and aid for the areas hit by the Anfal campaign and the attendant chemical bombing and shelling; to provide adequate treatment for the survivors of the chemical bombing and to decontaminate the affected regions; to found a national museum to gather the personal effects of the victims, such as their clothes, identity papers etc.
; to build commemorative monuments in all the regions hit by this campaign.
Research workers, writers, politicians and artists had been invited to this Congress.
Shinar Saad Abdullah, Minister for the Anfal and the martyrs and daughter of Saad Abdullah, who was killed in the 2005 Irbil bomb attack, to whose memory this Congress was dedicated, gave a detailed report on the crimes committed against the Kurds, with precise statistics on the death rate in every Kurdish province hit by the campaign and on the high proportion of survivors still suffering from the psychological and physical consequences as well as the difficult material circumstances in which so many of the victims’ families of were still living.
The Presidency’s Chief of Staff, Fuad Hussein, declared that the goal of the conference was to “discuss the genocide” “from every angle” so as to supply clues to the origins and causes of the Anfal campaign.
According to Fuad Hussein, “the genocide against the Kurds is the most important aspect in the formation of the Kurdish nation.
Not only must this tragedy become part of our history, but it must also guide us in building a society freed from hate and violence.
Thus, we hope that one day we will be able feel sufficiently confident to be able to say to our children — and all the generations yet to come — that such massacres … will never happen again”.
A documentary film on Anfal was shown on the first day.
Photographs and works of art were also exhibited.
There was also concert by two singers, Diyari Qaradaght and Melek, who sang Kurdish songs about the Anfal.
There were 37 speakers, from all points of view and parts of the world, then presented their analyses on various aspects of the campaign, such as the Baath ideology, the crimes against children in the course of the campaign, the role of foreign countries in making the chemical weapons, the question of this genocide and international law, the economic, psychological and demographic effects of the campaign etc.
At the end of the Anfal conference, which took place in Irbil in January, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani made a speech, on 28 January, to remind everyone of the gravity of the acts perpetrated by the Saddam Regime: “It was a crime against Humanity, of savage mass killings whose aim was to wipe the Kurdish nation out of existence”.
Nechirvan Barzani continued by insisting on the fact that the international community must understand that the point of view and the attitude of the Kurds is influenced by their past history.
“The consequences and effects of this past oblige us to remain united and strong to protect our people from persecution and injustice”.
He added that Kurdistan was committed to being part of a democratic and plural Iraq because “we cannot tolerate a bitter repetition of history”.
The Government of Kurdistan hopes to save and restore the Citadel in Irbil after evacuating and rehousing the refugee families that have been living there since the 1980s, when Saddam Hussein destroyed so many Kurdish villages.
The earlier inhabitants had left the area in the 1920s to build new, larger and more modern homes in the lower town according to Kenan Mufti, Director of Antiquities, who was himself born in the city, where his family has lived for nearly 500 years.
These refugees, packed into the 10 hectares (4 acres) within the city walls, have no sewage, nor any means of draining waste water.
This is absorbed into the ground, eroding the citadel’s slope.
“Every day 750,000 litres of water is thus damaging the site”, explained Kenan Mufti.
Moreover the work of altering the buildings, sub-dividing or enlarging the rooms is gradually destroying the original architecture.
In November 2006 the families that were living there were rehoused outside the city, with water, electricity, and sewage and $4,000 with which to rebuild a house.
Butt to avoid a total break with the historic continuance of human habitation, the city authorities left one family on the site to maintain and supervise the pumping.
According to Mohamed Jelid, UNESCO’s representative in Iraq, of the 800 dwellings that made up the citadel, there are only about 20 in an acceptable state.
“The site includes remains that bear witness to some 8,000 years of human occupation which make sit the most ancient continuously inhabited place in the world”.
Shireen Sherzad, recently appointed head of the Restoration Committee and advisor to Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, went one further: “We have at the moment a very important monument in the heart of the city — and that heart is dead”.
Mrs Sherzad estimates the cost of the first three years if the restoration project at $35 million, adding that they do not have the resources available for this.
Nevertheless, there is general agreement of the necessity of preserving this 650-year-old architectural complex of three mosques, a hammam and houses with arcaded exteriors and interiors decorated with paintings.
“The situation is critical”, said Ihsan al-Totinjy, a leading official of the Czech company Gema Art Group, which has been charged with the restoration of the site.
All the houses are subsiding and in danger of collapsing with the rains.
The Czech company has already taken over 200 pictures of the Citadel’s interior and 250 exterior views as well as satellite pictures and 90 taken from an army helicopter.
Before raking these pictures, all that was available were site plans dating back to the 1920s.
The photos will enable a three dimension virtual reconstruction of the buildings to be created, which will help the restorers in their choice.
The Citadel is on top of a30 metre high hill, formed of the many strata of successive occupations, including the Acadians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians and the Greeks.
The defeat of the Persians by Alexander’s army at Gaugamela in 331 BC took place not far from there, in the Irbil plain, 32 Km to the North of the city.
Recent geophysical tests reveal vestiges of what could be the remains of a temple underneath the Citadel’s centre.
In fear of their lives, the Kurdish community living in Southern Kazakhstan is considering leaving the region, where it has been living since being deported there by Stalin in the 1930s.
The Kurds have been feeling threatened in this country since last October, when a Kurdish teenager was accused of sexually assaulting a young Kazakh.
In retaliation, groups then attacked Kurdish houses, setting them on fire and beating up their occupants.
The violence spread throughout the region inhabited by Kurds.
Since then, despite attempts at reconciliation between the two communities, the Kurds no longer feel safe and complain of an aggressive press campaign against them.
According to Karim Nadirov, who runs the Kurdish Cultural Centre at Chymkent, many Kurds are likely to leave the region for the North of the country.
He adds that the attacks on Kurds have not stopped and that the Kurdish Cultural Centre has recorded 30 cases of aggression since October.
These are mostly acts of arson on the supplies of winter forage of the stockbreeders, forcing their victims to sell off their stock.
Other Kurds report acts of intimidation and criticise the indifference of the Kazakh authorities.
According to official statistics, nearly 46,000 Kurds live in Kazakhstan, 7,000 of them in the South.
These Kurds, originally from Armenia or Azerbaijan, were deported by Stalin in 1937, while other Kurds from Georgia followed in 1944.
At the request of the President of the Kurdistan Region, Massud Barzani, the Kurdish Parliament, sitting in extraordinary session to adopt the new Iraqi flag, to be flown alongside the Kurdish flag.
This new flag, which removes the three stars that recall the former Baathist regime, was adopted by the Iraqi Parliament on 22 January by a majority of the 110 M.P.s present (out of 165).
The phrase “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great), which was added by the Baathist regime in 1991, at the time of the First Gulf War, has been retained — but using the Kufic script, not that adopted by Saddam Hussein.
The former Iraqi flag has been officially banned in the Kurdistan Region since 2006.
Although the Kurds have expressed some satisfaction, certain Iraqi circles disapprove the changes in the flag, which were decided without any national vote.
Thus the Iraqi Association of Moslem Students has denounced this decision as being “illegitimate”.
The Assyrian Congress, meeting on 26 January in Irbil, for its part considered, in a public statement, that “amongst all the political crises that threaten the unity and destiny of Iraq”, the Parliament had lost all sense of priority by legislating on issues so far removed from the crucial problems that the country is facing.
The car bomb attack that took place in Diyarbekir’s town centre on 3 January killed outright five students and injured nearly 70 people.
The bomb was apparently aimed at an Army vehicle carrying soldiers.
Hidden in a parked vehicle it was detonated by remote control as the Army vehicle was passing by a five-star hotel, the Hussein Avni Mutlu, and a hundred yards from an Army base.
Four of those killed outright were students attending private lessons to prepare their university entrance exams.
Another of the students was so seriously injured that he died in hospital on 8 January, thus bringing the death roll to six.
The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, immediately condemned the attack, accusing the PKK of it.
On 5 January he went to visit the injured, while the Chief of Staff, General Yasar Buyukanit arrived at Diyarbekir the day before.
For his part, the US Ambassador to Ankara attacked “this horrible example of the senseless tragedies caused by terrorism”, and added that the United States “reiterated its determination to stand at Turkey’s side in the struggle against all kinds of terrorism”.
For its part, the PKK recognised that certain of its members, who have since been arrested, had carried out the attack but denied that its Presidential Council and party leadership were involved in planning the attack.
Thus they “apologised” to the victims: “this attack was not planned at the central level of our movement (…) We regret that civilians have lost their lives and offer full apologies to our people” declared Bozan Tekin, a senior PKK officer, quoted by the Firat news agency that is close to the Kurdish fighters.
In the course of its enquiries, the police first arrested four suspected people on 5 January but released them on 6 January for lack of evidence.
The searched and overall investigations carried out in the region enabled them to seize some 50 Kg of explosives, grenades and even a home made land mine in a car abandoned near Van, but not anything that could be connected with the bomb attack.
However, on 7 January, another suspect was arrested with six other alleged “accomplices”, all closely related to the principal suspect.
Indeed, he had bought the car used for the attack a short while before.
Searches of the homes of the other suspects enabled the police to seize arms and explosives.
Finally, on 10 January, the owner of the car, a 23-year-old Kurd, admitted to being the author of the attack and to have acted on the orders of two PKK members who had planned the attack and placed the explosives in the car before driving it into the town centre.
Originally from Karapinar, a suburb of Diyarbekir, where he is living at present, he is said, according to the police, to have been trained in PKK camps based on North Iraq.
He has already been twice sentenced to 5 months jail for “terrorist propaganda”.
Pieter Van Geel, Leader of the Dutch Christian Democratic Party, returning from a visit to Turkey said he was “shocked” by Turkey’s treatment of minorities: “If Turkey want one day to be part of Europe, it must improve on the areas of religious freedom and freedom of expression”.
He also criticised the recent jamming of the YouTube Internet site by Turkey because of videos that “offend” the memory of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Pieter Van Geet, who has already led four coalition governments since 2002, says that, he in favour of Turkey’s membership of the European Union on principle, but has always laid down the condition of Turkey’s respect and observance of Human Rights.
In September 2007 the Christian Democrats in the European Parliament had succeeded in getting a resolution passed encouraging Turkey to continue its efforts in the context of future negotiations.
For its part, Reporters Sans Frontières has criticised the legal harassment to which the media are subjected in Turkey.
Thus, several journalists are facing prison sentences: Yasin Yetisgen, General Manager of the weekly Coban Atesi and Berkaut Coskun are being sued for an editorial published in the review entitled: “Mother, don’t send me to the Army”.
They are accused of the crime of insulting Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, under Article 318 of the Penal Code.
Haci Bogatekin, of the daily Gerger Firat, is accused of propaganda and apologetics in favour of the PKK for having drawn a parallel, in an article entitled “Feto and Apo”, between Fethullah Gulen, a religious leader, and Abdullah Ocalan.
The Regional Government of Kurdistan (RGK) is continuing its active policy of partnership and openness with foreign firms.
With a view to making it easier for them to set up their activities, the Kurdish Ministry of Trade has signed a service contract with the firm of Enterra Solutions LLC, whose head office is in Virginia, USA, for setting up a Business Centre in Irbil.
This Centre will be a contact point for any firm wishing to set itself up in Kurdistan.
“The Kurdistan Business Centre will be a centre for investments and dealings in the region”, explained Stephen F.
DeAngelis, President of Enterra Solutions.
By helping the Iraqi business circles to operate “transparently and in accordance with international criteria”, the Business Centre aims to attract and provide active help to investors and to foreign firms in the Region.
The Business Centre will identify the international companies, help and ease the investment and company transactions and, jointly with the Kurdistan Region, will especially support a certain number of critical and strategic projects highlighted by the KRG.
Moreover, the Irbil-based staff of the Centre will provide marketing, technical expertise and various services aimed at attracting investors to the Region.
Enterra also points out that it hopes to train five students from the Region every year in the area of economic development.
It will also help Kurdistan’s regional industries, as well as international organisations, to create jobs, either in agriculture, fuels and power, chemical and pharmaceutical products, banking and insurance, building materials, services, health and education.
On 24 January, 100 Kurds of Syrian origin and members of the Yekiti (Unity) Party, demonstrated in Eleftheria Square in front of the Ministry of the Interior, calling for the freeing of Mohammed Ali Ahmed, one of the founders of this party, which is banned in Syria.
According to Karyadi, an association for Kurdish-Cypriot friendship, Mohammed Ali Ahmed faces a life sentence if he is sent back to his country of origin.
Ahmed, who has asked for political asylum, was sentenced to 45 days detention for driving without a licence.
However, after having served his sentence, instead of releasing him the police cited a clause in the law that allows asylum-seekers who have been sentenced to be kept in detention pending a ruling on their application.
Thus he was transferred to Bloc 10, where a number of asylum seekers, detained for various minor offences, are undergoing an extension of their sentence.
The Karyadi association states that he has been served with an extradition order.
“He is here quite legally.
They want to expel him and force him to sign his extradition order.
If he returns he will certainly be sentenced to life imprisonment for having founded the Yekiti party”.
Mohammed Ali Ahmed has a wife and four children, who all live in Cyprus.
The Minister of the Interior, Christos Patsalides, came out of the Ministry to discuss with the demonstrators, explaining that the country had to carry out the rules of international law on the right of asylum, and that this detention was in conformity with the law, without mentioning the possibility of extradition.
The representative of a group of support for immigrants, KISA, criticised this “colonial law” that allows the police to keep indefinitely in detention someone who has only committed a minor offence.
“This man is no danger to public safety.
Why must we retain laws that go back to the period of colonial rule?” asked Doros Polycarpou.
The minister finally met the Syrian Kurd’s wife and promised that he would examine the case.
A report of the US secret services dated December 2007 states that Iran’s military nuclear programme has been suspended since 2003.
Thus these conclusions rule out the hypothesis of US military intervention.
They also make harder the passing by UNO of a third resolution toughening the sanctions already inflicted on the Islamic Republic to force it to cease its work on uranium enrichment.
Moreover, Iran openly recognises that it has received delivery of uranium fuel from Russia for its Bushehr power station, which has a 1000 MegaWatt capacity and is due to start operating at the end of 2008.
Iran has possessed 3000 centrifuges since September 2007.
This would, in theory, allow it to produce enough enriched uranium to make an atom bomb.
The bulk of the Western groups apply the economic sanctions against Iran that have been voted but, at the end of 2007, the Chinese oil group, Sinopec, signed a two billion dollar contract with Teheran for the Yadavaran field.
The Supreme guide, Ali Khamenei, for his part, considered the US demand to suspend the Iranian programme of uranium enrichment quite unacceptable.
Ayatollah Khamenei reaffirmed that the programme was solely aimed at making his country’s power stations self-sufficient in fuel and so free it from any dependency in this regard or vulnerability to embargo or blackmail.
“If the delivery of this fuel to Iran were one day to cease or be subject to conditions, would the nation have to submit?” he asked on the Yazd television channel.
Meanwhile, even though adopting the intransigent attitude of President Ahmedinjad, the Supreme Guide while excluding any re-establishment of relations with the United States at this time, nevertheless raised the possibility of re-establishing such relations: “The breaking of links with the United States is one of the bases of Iranian policy.
However we have never said that such relations must be broken for ever”, adding “The day when such relations will be of benefit to the Iranian people, I would be the first to approve”.
Teheran’s conditions would essentially cover American security guarantees against any possible military intervention “they attacked Iraq even though they had relations with it”.
Indeed, the Ayatollahs’ regime suspects Washington of wanting to overthrow it, as they did with Saddam Hussein.
The Reform and Jihad Front (RJF) threatened Norway with “reprisals and boycotting of Norwegian products” if it expelled Nejmeddin Faraj Ahmed, alias “Mullah Krekar”, founder of the Jihadist Islamist group Ansar al-Islam.
This expulsion order was confirmed b the Norwegian Supreme Court on 8 November.
The Norwegian authorities consider “Mullah Krekar” to be a threat to national security.
He has repeatedly called for Jihad in Iraq against the US occupation, but as Iraq at present offers no guarantee of his safety, this expulsion is suspended, for the moment.
Born in 1956, “Mullah Krekar” has been living in Norway since 1991.
His movement, Ansar al-Islam, is on the US list of terrorist organisations.
However, while the Kurdish chief recognises being the founder of this Islamist group, he claims not to have directed it since 2002.
Yet in 2003, just before the US operation against Saddam Hussein, the mullah and his group were described by the Americans as intermediaries between al-Qaida and the Baathist regime.
He has been arrested several times in Norway, suspected of terrorism and drug trafficking, but no court has yet sentenced him.
His statements, whether on internet or to the press, clearly support Ussama ben Laden and describe the “American aggression” as “Nazi”.
In Iraq, Ansar al-Islam claimed a bomb attack in Nineveh Province that caused five deaths amongst the American troops, The Iraqi Prime Minister directly accuses this branch of al-Qaida of being the author of a bomb attack against a US Army building in Mosul that caused 50 deaths.
Ansar al-Islam is the author of several terrorist attacks in Kurdistan.
The most murderous of these was at Irbil, in May 2005, when a suicide bomber blew himself up in the Headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) killing 60 people and injuring 150 others.
Clashes between Iranian forces and the PJAK, an Iranian Kurdish party linked to the PKK that is waging a guerrilla campaign in the Eastern Kurdistan provinces of Kermanshah and Western Azerbaijan, are continuing.
Thus, the deputy Governor of the Province of Western Kurdistan announced the dismantling of a “band of saboteurs, equipped and organised by foreign intelligence services”, adding that “certain of these counter-revolutionary elements were killed in the clashes”.
The action, in which the casualty figures were not given, are said to have taken place between the towns of Ravansar and Kamyaran, some 100 Km from the Iraqi border (according to ISNA news agency).
In Kermanshah, the police raided a group of three Kurds suspected of murdering a local police chief and seven Pasdaran (Guardians of the Revolution).
One of the Kurds was killed during the action.
The police seized some explosives and “counter-revolutionary material”, still according to the ISNA news agency.
However, at Salmas, a town in Northwest Iran, it was the PJAK that, on 23 January, launched a series of successful attacks against the Pasdaran headquarters, killing 10 Guardians of the Revolution.
PJAK stated it wished to avenge the execution, on 6 January, of one of its members, Hassan Hikmat Demirm, in the town of Khoy, the murder of three young Kurds by the Guardians in the villages of Gozeresh, Dilezi and Otonaus, and the death under torture of a student, Ebrahim Lotfollahi in Sanandaj Prison on 15 January.