No sooner has the conflict over hydrocarbons calmed down than a new trial of strength has started between Irbil and Baghdad over the Kurdish regions separated from the Kurdistan Regional Government, whose fated was to have been settled by a referendum in 2007.
At the beginning of November the Kurdistan Region authorities protested at the arrival of Abdulamir Zaidi, commander of the Dijla forces of the Iraqi Army, at Qaratepe, a district where the Kurdish Peshmergas are responsible for ensuring security. Their protests were made public by some members of the Iraqi Parliament, in particular by Shwan Taha, a member of he Parliamentary Security Commission. The latter considered this a “breach of the Iraqi Constitution. Security in each region is the responsibility of the Provincial Councils — these movements of the Dijla forces will destabilise the security of this region by upsetting political reality”.
Indeed, Prime Minister Nuri Maliki suddenly decided to fuse the Ministry of the Interior forces (that he controls) with the Kirkuk and Diyala police forces under the command of the Dijla (Tiger) forces. Since Diyala, as well as Kirkuk, contains several regions with a Kurdish majority population, the Kurds had attacked this fusion of forces as an attempt to ensure an Iraqi stranglehold over the province despite Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution. The Kurdish governor of Kirkuk Province, Najmaddin Karim, stated that he did not recognise the Dijla forces, or believe in their operational effective eness.
Far from calming down, Maliki envenomed the discussion still further by an outburst during a televised interview on 6November “Kirkuk is an Iraqi province and the Iraqi Army can, under the Constitution, to to Kirkuk, Irbil, Salah adDin and Suleimaniah”. Yet the Kurdistan Constitution states that the Peshmergas are the only armed forces of Kurdistan and, apart from a brief incursion in 1996, no Iraqi soldiers have set foot in the three provinces of the Kurdistan Regional Government since 1991. While he was at it, the Prime Minister accused the Kurds of having secured arms “from the former Iraqi Army”, saying that tanks, artillery and rocket launchers were in Kurdish hands while the Iraqi army, according to him, “only had light weapons”. Nuri alMaliki affirmed that he had written proof of this, namely copies of the transactions.
Jabbar Yawar, the General Secretary of the Kurdish Ministry of Defence Forces (Peshmergas) nedied these allagations as well as an alleged arms contract with Israel and called on the central government ”to observe the Constitution” by arming and financing the Pershmerga troops. Indeed, the maintenance of the Kurdish forces another old source of dispute, like the Oil Law and the sharing of the Federal budget. It is, indeed, hard to imagine that, at such a time when clashes have taken place, Baghdad would allocate a budget to arm the Kurds. On the contrary, the Iraqi Prime Minister demanded that the Peshmergas be placed under Iraqi command — that is be under his personal orders as since the last elections he has not appointed either a Minister of Defence or one of the Interior but runs directly runs all the country’s police, security and defence forces.
However, without waiting for Baghdad’s approval or financing, the training of Kurdish “Hamrin” batallions (named after one of the region’s mountains) was announced as a riposte to the Dijla forces so as o ensure “the defence of Kirkuk”. According to the Kurdish daily Awene, Massud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party and Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan have thus provided themselves with a military command including the Peshmergas (troops), the Asayish (Intelligence) and the Kirkuk police, following a meeting in Kirkuk on 6 November of Jaafar al-Sheikh Mustafa and his assistant, Anwar al-Haj Othman with the Kurdish officials responsible for the province’s security, to discuss forming the Hamrin forces, their chain of command and their logistics. These forces would be under the command of the Minister for the Peshmergas and his assistant, the PUK’s Asayish will be answerable to the governor of Kirkuk, Dr. Najmaddin Karim, a Kurd close to Jalal Talabani and the police to the Director general of the Kirkuk Police, Jamal Tahir.
Hence in Kirkuk the Dijla forces in mo way seem to impress the Kurds, even if on his arrival in Diyala, its Commander ordered that the forces of that province as well as of Kirkuk and Salahadddin should make no move “without his orders”. However Halo Najat, Kirkuk’s security chief (KDP) stated: “they will never see the day when the Peshmergas, the security forces and the police work under their command. This is just the start of another confrontation between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Region”.
Ahmed Askari,, whopresides the Security Committee of the Kirkuk Provincial Council is also certain that a “new era of confrontation” is beginning and that Iraq is getting further and further from the objectives ithad set itself at its liberation — that of breaking with the policies of the former Baath regime. In an interview with the daily Rudaw, he even compares the Dijla forces to the commander, Ali Hassan Majid (Chemical Ali), in charge of the Anfal operation in Kurdistan — operations for which his cousin, Saddam Hussein, had given him a free hand to settle the Kurdish question. He said: “The Command of the Dijla f orces wants to kill two birds with one stone — indirectly confront the KRG, take full control of the disputed territories and intimidate some of the Arabs in the Province”. Ahmed Askari evokes a “secret agenda” of these forces — that of “driving the Kurdish security forces and the Peshmergas out of Kirkuk”.
In Diyala, the arrival of these battalions is far from being wrlcome. Talib Mohammad Hassan, who presides the Provincial Council recognises that the security situation in the province was better before their arrival. He also reported the lack of confidence among the Dijla officers, who admitted that they had no real powers of action: “We receive orders from Baghdad but we do not carry them out”.
The bloody clashes that were feared soon took place: on 6 November one person was killed and 13 others injured in a clash between Iraqi troops and PUK forces who were guarding a house belonging to a leading member of the party at Tuz Khormato, a locality inhabited by Kurds, Turcomen and Arabs, which is now in Salahaddin Province but was originally part of Kirkuk until Saddam carved up the provincial and district boundaries.
The next day, Massud Barzani ordered the Peshmergas “to show some restraint in the face of provocations but to be nevertheless ready to face up to any aggressive actions by being fully on the alert”. For his part, Lieutenant-General Abdulamir al-Zaidi, commanding the Dijla forces, stated to AFP that this was nor an incident “aimed at the Peshmergas” but the arrest of a person accused of murder and kidnapping.
This growing tension is worrying the United States that, according to a Kurdish diplomatic source cited in a Kuwait daily paper, has offered to again deploy troops in the disputed territories. According to the same source, Massud Barzani had accepted the American offer while Maliki had rejected it. However, Joe Binden is said to have pointed out to the Iraqi Prime Minister that the clash at Tuz Khurmatu was a breach of the “red line” and that if fighting broke out in Kirkuk the USA would intervene regardless. According to Shafaq News, the Americans are convinced that the troop movements are attributable to Syria and Iraq who want to weaken the influence of Turkey and the Sunni Arab Gulf states in the region through Iraqi military control of Kurdistan. These states broadly support the Syrian rebels as part of an anti-Shiite and anti-Iranian axis.
On 30 November Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish President of Iraq, also condemned the formation of the Dijla forces “that will cause chaos, fear and insecurity” in the country. Ali Musawi, one of Maliki’s advisors then challenged the President to find and use constitutional means of dissolving them, recalling that the Prime Minister was “commander in chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces”. Other members of Maliki’s Dawa Party criticised Talabani’s statements. However he is supported by both his own party, the PUK, and Massud Barzani’s — as his spokesman, Jaafar Ibrahim, has pointed out: “Jalal Talabani has never been alone but always been supported by Barzani and the KDP. We have sometimes had different points of view, but on vital issues like Article 140 and the problems of Kirkuk the KDP members support Talabani and the PUK”.
As well as re-uniting the KDP and the PUK (whereas Talabani had saved Maliki from a vote of no confidence in the Iraqi parliament that Massud Barzani had wanted to put) Baghdad’s stubbornness has enables the Kurdish Alliance (KDP + PUK) to secure the support, on this issue, of its own regional opposition, namely the Goran party, the Kurdistan Islamic Union and the Left party Komal although, hitherto neither Goran nor the PUK had supported the KDP’s efforts to dismiss Maliki from office. Serdar Abdullah, the leader of the Goran group in the Iraqi National Assembly has even remarked ironically that Nuri alMaliki has shown little gratitude to Jalal Talabani who had done all he could to save him from this no confidence vote.
On 20 November reinforcing units of the 9th Division of the Iraqi Army, on their way to Kirkuk from Baghdad crossed the Hamrin Mountains and other reinforcements from Tikrit moved towards Tuz Kurmatu while Nuri Maliki issued a warning to the Kurdish forces not to approach the Iraqi Army positions. The next day it was the Pershmerga Command’s turn to publicly state that its troops were considering attacking the Iraqis.
“A major battle can break out at any moment”, declared Mahmoud Sankawi to the Associated Press. `We are fully in a state of alert. We will never allow any force to threaten Kurdistan’s security — we will resist them”. According to him, 30 Iraqi tanks had taken up positions 80 Km from Kirkuk while some dozens of others were deployed in the Hamrin Mountains. Some Peshmergas were sent on the 21st to the Kurdish district of Khanaqin to prevent any Iraqi incursion.
Turkey has also been accused of involvement in this conflict. On 17 November Abdul Salam alMaliki, a member of parliament of Maliki`s parliamentary group, had called on the head of the Iraqi government to form a Northern Army Command to “protect the Kurdistan Region” from Turkish border incursions, on the grounds that the Peshmergas were incapable of ensuring the Province’s security.
“Kurdistan is part of Iraq and it is the duty of the central government to defend its citizens against these continuing Turkish breaches. We think that the Regional Guard forces (Peshmergas) cannot ensure the security of the Region, especially since the Region’s government has asked the central government to intervene to put an end to these violations. Everyone must know that the operational training of the Armed forces in the North must be carried out under the authority of Maliki”.
While it is true that, between 2008 and 2009 the KRG had protested about the Turkish Army’s incursions to attack the PKK bases in Iraq, the central showed little concern about this at the time. Now that the alliances have switched, it is no longer Irbil that is offended by Turkish military operations. As for a Northern Army Command, the last time that such an armed force took control of Kurdistan was in the reign of Saddam Hussein, when Chemical Ali was given full military powers. It is thus easy to imagine the way such a proposal was received by the Kurds.
The Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, Osama alNujaifi (a Sunni Arab) finally undertook a series of talks with the Iraqi and Kurdish political leaders, with the aim of avoiding “a civil war”. On 26 November the Minister for the Peshmergars sent a delegation to the Defence Ministry in Baghdad to discuss national security with several senior security officials. On the same day, during a press conference held in Irbil, the Kurdistan Prime Minister, Neçirvan Barzani declared that dialogue, not force, was the key to resolving the problem.
The meetings continued over 27, 28 and 29 November. The Minister for Peshmergas gave the Press a draft agreement with the Iraqi Defence Ministry. However, the Kurds first demand was the dissolution of the Dijla force, which was refused out of hand by Maliki, thus blocking the negotiations. As from 30 November, Jabbar Yawar had to announce the failure of the round tables, laying the responsibility for the failure on the Iraqi Prime Minister who he charged with refusing to carry out the agreement reached between the Kurds and officials of the Iraqi Defence Ministry and accused of never really wanting to resolve the problem.
In a Press Conference given on 1 December, Nuri Maliki warned about the dangers of “an ethnic war” which would not be in the interests of Kurds, Arabs or Turcomen. To this Massud Barzani retorted, in his own press conference, that his concerns were for all Iraqis and not only the Kurds and that wishing to deal with political issues with the help of the Army was most undesirable.
The vote on Baghdad’s budgetary allocation to the Kurdistan Region only served to increase tension. While Iraq has increased its 2013 budget (113 billion dinars) the share allocated to the Kurds was to be reduced by 7%. There has been an agreement of several years standing that the Kurdistan Region would receive 17% of the central budget until a population census was carried out. Following this the central government was to share the money between the provinces in proportion to their populations.
However this census has repeatedly been postponed since 2007, essentially because of the controversy over Kirkuk and Baghdad’s fear (according to the Kurds) that the results would show too high a majority of Kurds in that province — as a result of which there has been no Iraqi census since 1963.
At the beginning of the month, the Syrian opposition opted for the complete refounding of the Syrian National Council, increasingly powerless and criticised for its disorganisation and ineffectiveness on both the international level and on the battlefield, where it has no hold.
Supported by the USA, which hoped that this new platform would serve as an interim government, the National Coalition of the Revolution Forces and the Syrian opposition was thus set up on 11 November. It incorporates the Syrian National Council, some independent public figures, the Kurdish National Council, a variety of organisations, union and leagues and the local councils of 14 Syrian towns, making a total of 63 members. Sheikh Moar alKhatib alHasani (Damascus local council) was elected President and Mustafa alSbbagh (Syrian Business Forum) is General Secretary.
Meanwhile, on the battle field, the situation has become increasingly tense and confused in the Kurdish areas, militias more of les controlled if controllable by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) clashing with those of the Kurdish PYD, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) that are trying to prevent the FSA from entering their areas. The Syrian rebels accuse the PYD of helping the government forces by hindering their movements, either by attacking them on the outskirts of the Ashrafieh and Sheikh Maqsud quarters that are mainly Kurdish. Some Kurds have demonstrated against the entry of this militia, who then opened fire killing or wounding a dozen people. In reprisal, the YPG announced that they had killed 19 FSA fighters and captured a number of them.
Finally an agreement was reached between the FSA and the YPG and confirmed by a YPG statement of a common fight between its forces and those of the FSA and by a declaration filmed by the FSA and broadcast on Youtube.
However, no sooner had this truce been announced than fighting broke out at Sere Kanive (Ras alAyn in Arabic) a locality inhabited by Kurds, Arabs and Christians, on the Turkish border. On 9 November militia close to alQaida entered it from Turkey and tried to open another border corridor. The Kurds, for once unanimous, fiercely opposed this incursion by force of arms. The Kurdish National Council immediately called on the rebels to leave the town:
“The Kurdish Council affirms it is taking part in the revolution to overthrow the totalitarian regime but the Province of Hassaké must remain a safe zone for the thousands of refugees that have fled other regions”.
The armed militia that invaded Sere Kariye, the Jabhat alNusrat and Shurabat alSham are jihadists who make the Kurds and Christens of the region fear the worst. These Islamist groups, moreover, entered the Arab quarters of the town, not the Kurdish ones, which were held by the People’s Protection Committees and the PYD.
The proximity of Serê Kaniyê to the Turkish border could have seemed a protection against the possibility of shelling by the regime, which might hesitate to risk other incidents with Turkey after some villages in Turkish territory had been fired upon by the Syrians and several other border incidents. (Such “blunders” by the Baath were not unwelcome by the FSA...) However, on 14 and 15 November Serê Kaniyê nevertheless suffered some air raids causing a dozen victims, the wounded being evacuated to the Ceylanpınar hospital in Turkish territory.
On 19 November clashes were reported between the Arab militia and the YPG, causing 5 deaths among the Kurds and 24 among the Jabhat Al-Nusra and Gharba al-Sham forces. There are 35 Kurds detained by the Arab militia and 11 rebels detained by the Kurds. The incidents occurred when the Kurds demonstrated and demanded the withdrawal of the armed groups.
In all, this new advance by the Syrian opposition forces in Hassaké caused 9,000 refugees to flee to Turkey, in addition to the 120,000 already recorded in Turkish camps and some tens of thousands unrecorded by sheltered by local inhabitants.
Thus brutally woken from their relative peacefulness, other Kurdish towns are preparing themselves for possible clashes, attacks being possible from either the Syrian Air forces or the FSA. At Derbassiyeh and Tell Tamr, the PYD forces announced that they had taken control of the town since the Syrian Army was no longer there, having withdrawn without fighting in the face of the YPG.
At Qamishlo (a non-liberated town where the Kurdish National Council is stronger than the PYD), the population fears an imminent battle between the regime’s forces and the opposition, especially as Turkey and the jihadists are trying to win over the Arab tribes originally from the Euphrates that were settled in Qamishlo by the regime in its plan to “Arabise” its borders known as the “Arab belt” stretching along 240 ken of the border from Derik to Seré Kaniyé.
Feeling that there had never been a greater need for understanding between the Kurds, The President of the Kurdistan Regional Government invited, once again, all the parties in Syrian Kurdistan, including the PYD, to meet in Irbil to consider a joint military force uniting the YPG, the Syrian Peshmergas trained in Iraqi Kurdistan that the PYD had so far refused to let enter Syrian Kurdistan, although its own forces are increasingly surrounded by the jihadists and the FSA.
Sponsored by the Kurdish Presidency in Irbil, the meeting was opened by a speech by Massud Barzanu urging all the parties to greater cohesion and rejection of civil war, threatening to withdraw his support if their dissention persisted. After three days the meeting ended with an agreement between the Kurdish national Council and the PYD announced on 24 November. According to Ismail Hama, the General Secretary of the Kurdish Union Party, the PYD had accepted to place its YPG units under a unified military command, alongside the Peshmergas and answerable to Supreme Kurdish Council.
Some voices have already expressed scepticism about the application in practice of such an agreement — the previous one that only covered political and administrative management of the Kurdish areas never having been really effective. Abdulbasset Seyda, former president of the Syrian National Council, who favoured a Kurdo-Arab alliance against the Baath expressed his doubts to the daily Rudaw: “The problem with this agreement is that the PYD accepts agreements every time but that once back in Syria does not apply them. The Kurdish National Council follows the Kurdistan Regional Government’s agenda and the PYD that of alAssad. This cannot work”.
However Tala; Ibrahim Pasha, speaking in the name of the Kurdish National Council considers that this latest agreement will gradually succeed in being carried our in the field, even though statements from the YPG continue to blow hot and cold about this agreement, which provides for the Peshmergas finally entering Syria once the CNK and the PYD have agreed on the composition of the Military Command.
On 22 November Istanbul’s N°12 Criminal Court reversed the acquittal of Pinar Selek, which that same court had decided on 9 February 2011, although legally such a decision can only be annulled by the Court of Appeals.
The case of Pinar Selek has been dragged on for over 14 years — this is his third acquittal — and, according to his defence committee: “the judges decided this before the hearing during a meeting lasting an hour and a half, with the Prosecutor present but not the lawyers. At the hearing they just informed the lawyers without giving any explanation or allowing the Defence the possibility of objecting (…) It should be added that the decision to cancel comes twenty-one months after the decision to acquit, at a time when the judge who had been in charge of the case was on sick leave — he was replaced by a magistrate who only had a superficial knowledge of the case, seconded by assessors and judges as new to the case as he”.
Thus on 14 December Pinar Selek will be tried for the fourth time for an “bomb attack” the reality of which had been disproved during the police enquiry.
In fact, on 9 July 1998 an explosion and fire in Istanbul’s Bazaar that had caused seven deaths and 127 injured had, initially been attributed to “a terrorist group”, the PKK being straight away designated as responsible. A “suspect” was arrested and, under torture, confessed to having placed a bomb in the bazaar. He also gave Pinar Selek’s name as his accomplice.
Pinar Selek was arrested on 11 July on his return from an on the spot enquiry on the PKK fighters in Turkey’s Kurdish region. She was imprisoned and tortured to make her confess and give the names of the people she had interviewed. It was only a month later that she learnt in her cell, that she was, in fact being accused of being the perpetrator of “the Bazaar bomb attack”.
Imprisoned for two and a half years, the sociologist denied any involvement. Meanwhile it was found that the explosions was due to a gas leak — which didn’t prevent the Turkish courts from continuing proceedings against her even though, following technical assessments, she was released though still charged in 2000.
However, the Police Department sent the Court a report “testifying” that a bomb was the cause of the explosion, based on “evidence” that has since been proved to be forgeries, like the alleged “crater” caused by the explosive device. In 2005 the Prosecutor asked for life imprisonment. She was tried and acquitted by Istanbul’s N°12 Assize Court in 2006, the scientific experts having totally refuted the thesis of a bomb attack.
The Prosecutor then appealed to the Court of Appeals — three consecutive times, after each acquittal, without providing any new evidence for renewing his charges.
Acquitter during her second trial in 2008, Pinar Selek was again tried, following a ruling by the Court of Appeals, on 9 February 2011 by the 12th Chamber of Istanbul’s High Criminal Court. At the end of the trial she was acquitted for the third time as well as the person who had originally denounced her. This did not prevent the Istanbul Criminal Court’s Prosecutor from again appealing to the Great Chamber of the Court of Appeals. However, before sending the all files of the case, including the prosecutor’s speech, some subsidiary issues had to be tried on the 22 November by the local Court. The hearing was to take place presided by a substitute judge, the incumbent judge being on sick leave with heart problems.
According to research worker Etienne Copeaux, who travelled especially to Istanbul to attend the trial “it was not even necessary to understand legal jargon to see the scandalous character of this hearing? The president and the judges are at the back of the hall. The public, which is not very numerous, is squeezed into a restricted area near the entry doors that allows us to hear the sound of conversations in the corridor. There is no amplifying system in this ultra modern courtroom. The president, Mehmet Hamzaçebi, speaks in a low barely audible voice that the public cannot understand; even the lawyers have to prick up their ears. One can hardly say that he speaks — he seems very bored, speaks disdainfully when answering the lawyers who he frequently interrupts, with an air of “talk if you want”. Above all, only the president speaks — the two judges don’t open their mouths.
Thus the president in no way played his role of president. He was the accuser from beginning to end of the hearing. So that the lawyers spoke to him as to an adversary, not a moderator, which is what his role should have been. I found this situation dangerous as a polemical tone developed between the defence and the “president”, who was being directly challenged. This was inevitable since, by going outside his real role he laid himself open to attack. It became obvious that the president could not lose face by going back on his decisions and abandoning his stand. He virtually turned a deaf ear to the lawyers’ proposals. The 12th Criminal Court that, previously, had resisted the Court of Appeals this time knuckles under”.
Professor Baskin Oran, who was also present, describes more precisely how the defence was cheated and presented with a fait accompli:
“The hearing was die to begin at qo.30 am but the gates were closed. The lawyers tried to find out what was happening but the new president replied that he was entitled to a lunch break. The hearing was due to begin at 2.pm but only began at… The lawyers took their seats pending the usual identity checks when they saw a computer screen was lit. The clerk of the court was trying to correct a word. They were astounded to find that it was about a decision that had already been taken: “Seeing that the Great Chamber of the Court of Appeals has rejected the petition of objection by the Prosecutor General of the Court of Appeals, the decision to maintain the order of acquittal previously taken contains a technical defect and this it has been decided to annul the order of acquittal. Thereupon the prosecutor thanks the Court and then reads a summing up of the prosecution that he had apparently brought with him and evidently again demanded a life sentence. This means that makes a summing up for the second time in a case for which a final decision was taken a year and a half ago and against which he had appealed”.
According to Baskin Oran, who “the courts are unanimous on this point” “the local Court is legally incapable of annulling its own decision, taken an year and a half earlier as the verdict had been finally made; it has always the right to uphold its decision to acquit against the Great Chamber”.
Pinar Selek’s lawyers, for their part, filed a petition on 29 November against the substitute judge who originated the annulment of the acquittal being allowed to preside in the 13 December trial. Moreover the incumbent judge, while still on sick leave, has expressed his astonishment to the daily paper Vatan, in an interview fated 24 November and let it be understood that he would resume his duties on that occasion even if his 45-day sick leave was not over.
According to Baskin Oren there are thus two possible developments in this case:
“1) The judges can go back on their interim decision of 22 November2012, which is considered illegal by the defence. Thus the proceedings will follow its normal course, in other words the verdict of acquittal given on 9 February 2011 will be brought before the Great Chamber of the Court of Appeals together with the other subsidiary cases when they have been finished. The decision of the Great Chamber will be final.
2) If the judges do not go back on their 22 November verdict the trial will continue in an illegal manner. The verdict of life imprisonment could be the subject of an appeal to the 9th Chamber of the Court of Appeals”
Finally the Pinar Selek case will also be followed by proceedings before the European Court for Human Rights on the grounds of torture and inequitable trial (articles 3 and 6).
Pinar Selek is at present living in France where she is continuing her doctoral research at Strasbourg University. A former scholarship holder from the German PEN, she won the PEN International “Diygu Asena” prize in 2009. She has also written four scientific monographs, a novel and a children’s book.
On 18 November 2012, Shokrollah Baban, poet, writer broadcaster, lexicographer and student of folklore, he died at 89 years of age after suffering from Alzheimer for several years.
Born into a major princely family of Sine (Sanadaj, in Kurdistan province), Shokrollah Baban did not take up his family heritage but, according to his son, sold part of his property to go and study in Teheran in 1952. In 1958he became the producer of Kurdish programmes on Teheran Radio and later, in 1963, on Kermanshah Radio for the whole of Western Azerbaijan province, before becoming General Manager of Sanadaj Radio. He was also an author and an active promoter of Kurdish language and literature, being at once a poet, an author a playwright and translator. His works deal with music, poetry, artistic and theatre forms, aesthetic criticism as well as philosophical and mystic reflections.
According to Kamangar Mohammad, one of his fellow travellers at the time that Shokrollah Baban was managing Kermanshah Radio, the broadcasts could be heard in North America and Kurds living there were able to hear them and contact the organisers and producers. His broadcasts were innovative and his very popular programmes inspired other radios outside of Kurdistan.
Thus his broadcast “Karvan helbest wa goranî” (The caravan of poetry and song) was taken as a model by other radios, like “Barnameh Gol Hah” (The flowers’ programme), a programme of Persian poetry and music broadcast.
Shokrollah Baban was also a musicologist and endeavoured to make the singers Hassan Zirek and Khaleghi better known. His former audiences of all ages remember the extent of his broadcasts and the way Shukrullah’s voice was so familiar and popular in Kurdish households.
For the Kurdish intellectuals who followed, he was a pioneer at initiating and institutionalising research on Kurdish tales, literary traditions and modern literature in a language that was clear and accessible to the greatest number of people at a time when bans were weighing heavily on Kurdish writings.
Shukrullah Baban was the author of several works, including the Baban Dictionary, “The Kurds and Kurdistan”, “Salafin Ayyubi” and “The Geography of Kurdistan” that have already been published. Two works, “Names and Symbols” and “An anthology of poetry” remain unpublished.
Dr. Amir Sharafi cites one of the poems that had marked him most when he was 12 years of age, since it was the first poem in free verse that he had ever heard.
You and I suffer from the same pains
We both are gripped by an icy sigh
You, pale and cloudy in the sky
And I aroaming in every town.
I pay you homage
O Mecca of sick hearts
Cure for the pains of lovesick hearts.
Now it is night
And this night has come to my aid
I am alone without friend or beloved
Distraught and tormented, come to my aid
Because I’m a prisoner and oppressed
Subjected to my beloved Shirine.
Shokrollah had 8 children, 5 sons and 3 daughters. Fuad and Siamak Baban are both journalists and presenters of Iranian TV; Bakhtiar Baban was the captain of Iran’s basketball team.
Three Kurdish filmshave been released this month in different countries.
In France, on 21 November, “Red Heart” is being shown. This film is the first directed by Halkawi Mustafa, born in Suleimaniyah, whose family settled in Norway in 2000 and who has become a Norwegian citizen. This is thus a Norwegian-Iraqi Kurdistan co-production. In addition to some Norwegians, the film shooting team includes technicians from Iraq and Iran. It was shot between 19 December 2009 and mid-January 2010, between Rawanduz and Irbil.
Shirin and Soran are two teen-agers who love one another in secret. When Shirin’s mother dies, her father seeks another wife. The woman he chose imposes one condition — that Shirin should marry her son. To save their love Shirin and Soran have no other choice but to run away. When Soran is jailed, Shirin has to face up to her new city life on her own.
The film was shown at a number of Film Festivals in France, and abroad, particularly at the Doha Film Festival (Qatar) and the International Festival of Love Films at Mons. It received the2012 Henri Langlois Prize at the Vincennes International Film Encounters.
During the Day Against violence Towards Women, on 25 November of every year, screenings of Red Heat were organised followed by discussion in a number of cinemas.
“My Father’s Voice”, released in Germany and Turkey, is based on the dark pages of the history of the Kurds in Marash, after the massacre of Alevis in December 1978. The film is acted in Kurdish, but in the local Elbistan dialect: “using the original dialect (of the characters) is very important, since it is somewhat different from standard Kurdish. The people who speak this dialect are rather embarrassed as if they were being mocked. One of the aims of the film is to change this ” explained the director, Zeynel Dogan.
The plot follows the life of a Kurdish family in Turkey from 1979 to 2009, in a docu-fiction style.
Mehmet lives in Diyarbekir with his wife who is expecting. His mother Basé, lives alone in Elbistan (Marash Province) in an almost deserted village. His elder brother, Hassan, has fled to join the guerrillas. As for the father, Mustafa, he has left to earn enough to enable them to live by working in Saudi Arabia and has died there. All he has left his family are the cassettes that he recorded and sent to his wife since they were both illiterate. Before becoming a father himself, Mehmet asks his mother for the cassettes but she at first refuses, not wishing that the image the son had of his father be changed. “My Father’s Voice” is a poetic meditation on identity and kinship links.
Screened first in Amsterdam, the film won the prize at the Adana International Festival as well as that of the best scenario at the Istanbul festival.
Finally, released in Sweden, “Bekas” (Orphans) by Karzan Kader, was also shot in Kurdistan, and is acted in Kurdish with Swedish and English sub-titles. Shown for the first time at the Stockholm International Film festival, it is due to be screened in 13 other countries.
The plot of “Bekas” is set in the 1990s, at the time when the Iraqi Kurds were suffering from the double embargo since Saddam was still in power in Baghdad following the first Gulf War. Its heroes are tow young orphans who lost their parents during the war with Iran. One of them sees a Superman film and dreams of going to America to bring the Super-hero to Kurdistan so as to eliminate Saddam. Together with his brother, they try to arrange their journey.
The principle roles are played by two children, the director sought for ten days in Suleimaniyah schools to fin his actors and took auditioning shots of 2000 children.
Bakhtiyar Fattah, the producer, told the daily paper Rudaw that, despite the difficulties the Swedish team met with on site, particularly in finding equipment that had to be brought from Sweden, she was pleasantly surprised by the welcome they received in the different regions of Kurdistan.