On 9 October, the Kurdish National Security Council, led by Masrur Barzani, (who is also head of the Asyish) announced the arrest of three men, all three are Arabs and presumed to be members of the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or of the Levant), suspected of being involved in the bomb attack. Their names and pictures were rapidly revealed to the media: Samir Bakr Yunis, Mohammed Khalil Qaddusg and Hashem Saleh Mohammed. They are all originally from Mosul.
According to an Asayish official, Tariq Nuri, the suspects, members of ISIS, bought the two vehicles that were used in Kirkuk, a province outside the KRG. They then took them to Mosul, armed and equipped with explosives the three kamikazis. Samo Bakr Yunis is even said to have admitted that he had himself detonated at a distance the explosion of one of the vehicles.
ISIS is said to have posted a statement on a Jihadist forum claiming the attack and accusing the KRG of supporting the Kurdish forces in Syria that are fighting the islamists. Another hypothesis was suggested in the Arabic language paper Asharaq Al Aswat by an anonymous Kurd: the release of members of the terrorist organisation, who are being detained in the Asayish prisons. The terrorists are said to have seized buildings to free the prisoners and to have failed to get past the prison cordon.
President Masud Barzani threatened to strike at the terrorists wherever they were, even in Syria.
For the moment, the only measures that have been taken have been to seal the Region off, and especially to drastically filter any Iraqi Arabs entering Iraqi Kurdistan, although in that festival period there flocks of tourists. Many of them were turned back, especially men travelling on their own.
However, although the income from tourism was halved compared with previous years, those Kurds who lived largely on tourism did not show any resentment at these measures. The principal concern of everyone in the Region is, above all to remain that “other Iraq” — that is a save enclave for its inhabitants, be they natives or refugees in the provinces of Erbil, Sulaymaniyah or Duhok. This safety would ensure that, in any case, business would soon pick up again. Thus a fairly similar attack that occurred in 2007 had not reduced the feeling of security that all those who travel in the KRG.
The bitterest or most disappointed reactions came from the Iraqi holidaymakers who had been turned back. It should, however, be noted that Arabs who had a valid residential permit were not refused entry, but the Asayish checked all the files on resident foreigners in the KRG, and all those who had no job or were listed as valid residents were expelled.
ISIS is active in Iraq, especially in Mosul, and regularly threatens the Kurdish Region. This attack may be the forerunner of a series of attacks against the Asayish, since the KRG’s General Director of Security announced, at the end of the month, the arrest of the two terrorists carrying explosive belts and members of the same organisation. These two were Guetbah Ahmed Qassem Khatteb (code name Abu Qataba), of Syrian origin, born in Aleppo in 1966 and Qader Nasser Khdaier (code name Abu Abdullah), born in 1947 in Mosul and of Iraqi nationality.
In Mosul these jihadists regularly threaten the Kurdish and Christian religious minorities (Shabaks and Yezidis) and Generally all that they consider contrary to their narrow views of Islam. They even issued a fatwa, recently, against teachers of English in the City, accusing them of teaching a foreign language that Moslems should not learn. The Mosul head of Security told the Kurdish paper BasNews that, since the beginning of October 9 English teachers had been assassinated.
The new Presidency has not softened the fate of Kurdish political prisoners — indeed, the rate of hangings has even speeded up in a very worrying manner bearing in mind the number of Kurds in death row.
While the year 2012 saw a drop in the number of executions, 2013, on the contrary, has seen the number increased, with 304 known hangings and 234 other secret executions, according to sources that Amnesty International considers reliable.
On 4 October, an Imam of the Kurdish city of Sine (Sanandaj), in the course of his Friday sermon called for the rapid carrying out of the death sentence passed on four young Kurds, sentenced for the murder of another of the town’s imams, Sheikh Al-Islam Burhani A’ali. He declared that any further delay in hanging them would be “an insult to Islam and to the Moslems” (BasNews).
Jamshid and Jihangir Dehghani, Hamid Ahmedi and Kamal Mewlayi were, however,already in detention at the time of the murder, according to Amnesty International. This absurdity, however, didn’t worry the judges who seem to assume that the Kurds of Sine have a singular gift for ubiquity.
Amnesty International has also warned about the fate of two other Kurds. Hamid Ahmadi
and Sedigh Mohammadi, also sentenced to capital punishment, were transferred to solitary confinement on 26 September, which is often the preliminary to execution. They were convicted on the somewhat flimsy grounds o being “enemies of God” and of spreading “corruption on earth”.
The imams are, at this time, decidedly keen on executions. On 25 October the judicial authorities of the Province of Kurdistan tried to have the death sentence passed on Zanyar and Loqman Moradi (at the moment detained in Radjayi Shahr Prison at Karaj) carried out jointly with the imam of the Kurdish town of Meriwan, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Loqman and Zanyar Moradi were arrested on 2 August 2009 and condemned for involvement in the murder of the imam’s son, for being enemies of god and for having taken part in armed actions of the Komala (a Kurdish movement) although they always affirmed that all the charges had been set up by the secret services and that they had only “confessed” after severe torture.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has since announced that a source in Meriwan had revealed to them that soon after the murder of the imam’s son, some senior officers of the Guardians of the Revolution, involved in the murder of dozens of Kurdish civilians had been arrested by their own Service. It was then established that this group of Revolutionary Guards had assassinated numerous civilians who they had dressed again in military uniforms and recording them as members of PJAK, which enabled them to receive the bonus paid to Guardians for each PJAK fighter killed. According to this local source, the imam’s son could have been one of those unfortunate civilians. However, the case was never publicly revealed by the authorities and the leader of this group, Jiya Tab, who was a Guards major in Kurdistan Province, was secretly executed a few weeks ago. According to the Tabir News Agency, Hiya Tab was strongly suspected of being responsible for this murder, as well as many others.
In 25 October, Habibullah Gulperipour was executed in an unknown location after being transferred the same day from his isolation cell at Urmiah. He had been imprisoned since 2007 and had suffered severe torture. His family was only told at the last minute and when they arrived at the detention centre Habibullah was already dead. They were not able to see his body and even less to recover it for burial.
Habibullah Gulperipur had been arrested on 27 September 2007, at Mahabad. On 14 March 2010 he was sentenced to death as an “enemy of God” and a member of PJAK after a five-minute trial. He always denied having engaged in any kind of armed activity and declared he had been tortured during his interrogations.
A clandestine Kurdish Press Agency, Mukiran News, affirmed for its part that on 29 October eleven prisoners in Urmiah Prison were executed, six of them Kurds, on charges of “drug trafficking”.
Two days later, the 31 October, the Iran High Court approved the death sentence on Mansour Arwend, detained in Urmiah Prison and arrested two years earlier at Mahabad for political activism. Ismail Arwend, his brother, pointed out to the Kurdistan Press Agency that that the Revolutionary Guards themselves had warned the family that Mansur would shortly be executed. One worrying fact — his lawyer changed both his home and his mobile phone number, leaving them without any news since 2 November.
Even when prisoners are not liable to death by hanging, they are still in serious danger of attacks on their physical integrity on health grounds. Thus the Kurdish woman activist, Zeinab Jalalian, aged 31, and detained in Kermanshah Prison since 2008, may lose her sight in prison, according to the Hranan News Agency. These lesions are the result of the torture and various other attacks she has suffered in prison. She is deprived of any medical treatment and her family was unable to visit her at the beginning of October.
Already, in 2012, a report by doctors of Kermanshah’s Dizel Abad Prison mentioned that Zeinab Jalalian was suffering from internal haemorrhages and intestinal infection — all as a result of torture sessions.
Zeinab Jalalian had been arrested at Kermanshah, accused of being a member of the Free Life Party (PJAK), the Iranian branch of the PKK. She had been sentenced to death on 14 January 2009 by the Islamic Revolutionary Court after a 7-minute trial, without a defence lawyer. Her sentence was then commuted to life imprisonment in December 2011.
Faced with this wave of hangings, a number of Kurdish political prisoners have begun a hunger strike in the towns of Kermanshah, Urmiah and Tabas.
At Meriwan, a protest demonstration with the town’s inhabitants waving placards in Persian, English and Kurdish: “Do not execute Kurdistan” was immediately attacked by Revolutionary Guards, who arrested several people. Some soldiers were also sent into the streets to disperse the smaller groups.
Some public protests also took place outside Iran, such as in the town of Van (Turkish Kurdistan) at the initiative of the BDP.
Following the announcement by Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of constitutional reforms that have turned out to be very disappointing if not virtually inexistent, the Kurdish BDP Party and the PKK have expressed their criticisms and their frustration. However, it was necessary to wait for the reaction by Abdullah Ocalan to know what sequel was likely to be given to this “peace process” that he had initiated jointly with the AKP government.
On 8 October, the PKK leader received a visit from his brother Mehmet, who reported his remarks to the DIHA Press Agency, making the point that Abdullah Ocalan intended publicly making his views known on 15 October — the date he had already given for an “ultimatum” to Turkey to advance concretely along the peace process.
However, according to Mehmet, he is said to have commented that the reform package had “nothing to do with the Kurds, that from the start of the peace process it had been prepared and announced by the government and left the Kurdish question aside”.
Ocalan, however, is said to have been “satisfied” with the truce set up and the fact that there had been no deaths “in either of the two camps”. Nevertheless, the Turkish government should pave the way to enable the advance of the peace process, which cannot be carried out unilaterally. In passing he clears himself of responsibility for the difficulties and hitches that stall the process, explaining that he had been kept out of everything for the last few months and envisaged withdrawing from the process eventually:
“I will express my reflections to the BDP and State’s delegation whose visits I expect in the next few weeks. The rest — whether of not the process advances is out of my reach since I’ve been unable to do my part in the process. Otherwise we would have helped the developments and my conditions would have been improved. If the State and government do not succeed in opening the way to involving me further in the process, that will be all — and I could withdraw from the negotiations if the process take that path. I do not know who will then take part in the negotiations. Perhaps the BDP and Qandil would have to accept to continue”
Regarding the coming elections, at least Parliamentary and local (Turkey could also organise its presidential elections as well as the referendum on the Constitution) Abdullah Ocalan gives his view of what the local government should be:
“Decisions should be taken all together, not just by the mayors or municipal councils. There must be a basic common organisation and people must run the municipalities, whose administration must be based on a system of co-presidency and public participation”.
On 15 October, a BDP delegation composed of Pervin Buldan and Iris Baluken met Ocalan at Imrali and it was confirmed that the common discontent of the BDP and of the PKK/KCK would be moderated by the moderately optimistic vision of their leader. Ocalan repeated that he still hoped for the success of the peace process but that Turkey had to move this “far-reaching” process into “top gear”.
“I have presented my proposals to the State both in writing and verbally. I am waiting the State’s reply for serious and deep negotiations”.
According to Pervin Buldan, speaking to AFP, the PKK leader considers that this process of resolution has, nevertheless, seen neither an advance nor the establishment of a legal base, but he does not yet despair.
Abdullah Ocalan also confirmed his resolute appeal to the Kurds who are more religious than revolutionary (his speech extolled Moslem brotherhood in terms that the AKP would not have refused) hoping for the holding of “a democratic Islamic congress in Diyarbekir” to counter the influence of “those circles that betray Islam, like al-Qaida and al-Nusra” that are trying, like the PYD, to recruit young Kurds for the Syrian front
The other expected reaction was that of Qandil, and especially of its new Commander, Cemil Bayik.
On 22 October, he declared that his troops were “ready to go back to Turkey” if the government did not restart the peace process (here, too, the tone was the same as during the summer). Cemil Bayik repeated, after Ocalan, that “serious and deep” negotiations must be started, while threatening “civil war” in Turkey if they were not.
The demands were also unchanged: improvement of the conditions of detention of the PKK’s President, amendment to the Constitution (the reform package being judged “empty” and the participation of a third party in process.
On the Syrian question, Cemil Bayik considered that Turkey had displaced its front against the Kurds and accused Fethullah Gulen, head of a powerful religious fraternity in Turkey and Kurdistan, of recruiting and training islamist “groups of bandits” to fight in Syria. On the other hand Bayik denied sending any PKK fighters to reinforce the Syrian YPG: “We do not want to send them to Western Kurdistan. If the Turkish government wants it, the battlefield will be in Northern Kurdistan. However, those PKK Kurds who were originally from Syria are free to return and fight in their region of origin and many young men in Turkish Kurdistan want to join the ranks of the YPG”
Finally, Cemil Bayik, as usual, criticised the success of Iraqi Kurdistan, describing t as based on “oil, gas and the economy” and “doing nothing for the Kurdish problem”: “Turkey used to fight Southern Kurdistan in the field but now they want to win the war inside the fortress”.
Apart from these remarks, which were no different from those of his predecessor Murat Karayilan, there was, for the moment, no particular action or reaction from the PKK. But a few days later it was learnt that Cemil Bayik had carried out some personnel changes in the structure and of the KCK, replacing the people appointed by Karayilan by his own people, such as Ahmet Deniz who was head of the PKK external relations, his assistant Roj Welat, who was also chief editor of the news site FiratNews, Duyari Qamichlo who supervised the media, Heval Demhat, Qandil’s chief co-ordinator, Hevak Heqi, also worked in the media.
APKK leader, Zagros Hiwa, a member of the committee for foreign relations stated to BasNews that it was only a normal internal shuffling and not the sign of the outcome of a conflict, even though BasNews reported signs of tension in the Qandil leadership.
Finally, this month saw the formation of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) that brings together the BDP and several other small parties of the Turkish Left and is trying to get closer to the Gezi Park Urban and Citizen Movement that is seeking to differentiate itself from the CHP (the first opposition party with a secular ideology but very nationalist).
Thus the HDP wants to be a third way for the AKP’s opponents (and particularly the Alevis) who are not entirely satisfied with the CHP and sometimes vote for it by default to block the government party. In practice the BDP and the HDP will partition Turkey between them: the BDP campaigning in the East, the HDP in the West, particularly aiming at the Alevis, who make up about 60% of the CHP electors, and a good part of the Gezi Park protesters, who are disinclined to follow the CHP’s nationalist line (the Leftists, the feminists, the LGBT, the Armenians etc, even though the BDP and the Kurds were not very involved in the movement).
However, the HDP’s main handicap is to appear, in the eyes of the Turkish opposition, as a pro-Ocalan movement, even if this is denied by its leadership. (However some of them, like Tuncel and Kurkcu, are simply BDP people who have resigned to fulfil their new role.) On the other hand, Ocalan’s “Islamophile” statements in March 2013 can cool off the Alevis, while the “progressive”, pro-Alevi, pro-LGBT and Left character displayed by the HDP is not calculated to attract part of the Kurdish electorate that remains conservative and votes AKP for this reason. As the rather religious Kurdish M.P. Altan Tan observed:
“A considerable part of this marginal Left is in contradiction with religion and Islam. Neither the Kurdish Islamists nor the Turkish Moslems are favourable to them in general. Even some of the liberal circles are in opposition to this marginal Left. So much so that the HDP project, which was supposed to rally all the liberal democrats and the majority of the Kurdish people, has shrunk to a project limited to the Turkish marginal Left”. (Al-Minitor)
HDP may have some success in Istanbul: Sirri Sureyya Onder, a member of Parliament affiliated to HDP will certainly stand as HDP candidate there as he is popular and can counter CHP there. HDP can also have an opportunity in all the Turkish municipalities Where the Gezi Park movement found support and (perhaps) in Dersim, where the CHP often bars the way to the BDP.
The rest of the Kurdish electorate in their provinces has been divided for many years between the BDP and the AKP. This oscillates depending on the hopes and promises kept and (especially!) not kept by the AKP. At the last election, Erdogan’s snail’s pace policy regarding the Kurdish question had benefitted the BDP. However, for March 2014, the same snail’s pace policy could work against the BDP, since it is Ocalan who is seen as its architect and principal initiator with his speech of 21 March 2013.
At the beginning of October, four Syrian Kurdish parties, members of the Kurdish National Council and close to the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iraq announced they were uniting in an attempt (there have been others earlier) to recreate the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria, like the one founded in 1957, which had been close to that led by Mustafa Barzani. Calling itself the KDP-Syria, it includes the A1 Party led by Abdulhakim Bashar, the Freedom Party (Azadi) led by Mustafa Cuma, the Freedom Party (Azadi) led by Mustafa Osso and the united Kurdistani party.
Sipan Hemo, a commander of the Units for the Defence of the Kurdish People (the PYD security forces) immediately attacked this regrouping, accusing it of “working to open a Kurdish front, of stopping the progress of the Syrian Kurds and conspiring against the Kurdish cause”, of being more harmful than the enemies (of the PYD) since they were stabbing it in the back.
On 18 October, in an interview with Rudaw, Abdulhakim Bashar, the leader of the KDP in Syria, riposted to these PYD attacks by complaining that “even the Baath regime didn’t do what the PYD is doing. The Baath regime gave more freedom to politicians and intellectuals than the PYD . . . Under the Baath regime there was only one prison in each town. Now, under the PYD there are several prisons in each town and all the prisoners are Kurds”. The leader of the KDP-Syria explained that, for example, the PYD prevents the distribution of his party’s paper, Mojave, and that he could not return to Syria for fear of being killed.
Denying that the PYD was the most powerful party in Syrian Kurdistan, Abdulhakim Bashar affirms that this title belongs to his own party: “It is true that the PYD has more armed forces but we have stronger social organisations and more supporters”.
Regarding the carrying out of the Erbil agreements (or rather the failure to carry them out) Bashar points out that there are few concrete differences between the political line of Kurdish National Council and that of the PYD. However, the latter has arranged things so as to block the whole process in order to preserve its political supremacy and its armed monopoly in the field:
“The PYD refuses to accept a united force and has insisted that our fighters join their forces as simple fighters while any decision on starting or stopping fighting lies solely with the PYD. I think that a civil revolution at Roiava will begin against the PYD … In 25 days we have had six meetings with the PYD and there were only two points of disagreement. However, after each meeting, the PYD came back with a new package of conditions. We thus concluded that the PYD did not really want to negotiate”.
If relations between the PYD and the KDP-Syria are not looking too good its relations with the Iraqi KDP are no better. When Salih Muslim, the PYD leader, wanted to go to Europe via Iraqi Kurdistan he is said to have been refused entry on 23 October. According to his account, he waited 5-6 days at the Pêsh Khabour border post.
Salih Muslim accused the KDP personnel of this, while stating that Massud Barzani was not aware of this but leaving it to be understood that, henceforth he would no longer be persona grate in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Peshmergas at Pêsh Khabour denied having seen Salih Muslim appear at the border post, according to a statement by their commander, Shawkat Barbahari, to the BasNews site.
Salih Muslim claims to see there a manoeuvre to prevent him being present at the Geneva Conference and favouring the position of the newly formed KDP-S, which wants to federate all the Kurdish parties of the Syrian Coalition. The PKK and PYD media have started an indignant campaign, accusing the Iraqi Kurdistan Government of trying to please Turkey. The BDP (Turkey’s Kurdish Party) also got involved and Pervin Buldan, its Vice-President attacked a “barrier to the unity and rallying of the Kurds”.
Gorran, the main opposition Party in Iraqi Kurdistan, on better terms with the PKK, also deplored the Kurdish government’s refusal, as did Yekgirtu, the principal Islamist party, which considers that the KRG’s border should be open to “all patriots”.
More moderate, Mahmoud Osman, a veteran Kurdish politician and leader of the Kurdish Members of Parliament in Baghdad, called, once again, for a “dialogue” between the PYD, the PKK and the KDP.
Faced with these criticisms and the media storm from the PKK-PYD, the KDP stood by it positions and defended them. One of the party leaders advised Salih Muslim to ask help from his “good friends” in Damascus, Teheran or even Ankara, which he had recently visited, should he want to travel outside Syria.
In the end, the KRG Ministry of the Interior, in an official communiqué, confirmed, on 27 October that is 4 days after the start of the affair, that Salih Muslim should go through another country for travelling explaining: “over the last few years, Kurdistan’s borders were open for any person like Salih Muslim and, as a result, it (the KRG) has suffered problems and threats (probably from Turkey). Despite this, Salih Muslim and consorts have enjoyed “unlimited facilities”. The President of the Kurdistan Region has not spared his efforts to support the forces of “Western Kurdistan” under the umbrella of a single nationality in the context of the Erbil agreement. As against this, the PYD, taking advantage of this agreement and the “facilities”(granted by the KRG) has imposed its domination of Western Kurdistan by force of arms, intimidation, murder and by preventing other Kurdish forces from playing their role”. That hitherto Salih Muslim has been able to enter and leave Iraqi Kurdistan, but his improper statements and attitudes ran counter to the Kurdish timetable and the unity of the Kurds and clearly show that he is serving the Syrian regime and its violence as well as violating all the pacts and charters agreed”.
Finally the Ministry asked the PYD to “cleanse itself of its crimes against the Kurdish people educate itself before giving lessons of morals to Southern Kurdistan”
Consequently, it was from Baghdad that Salih Muslim flew to Europe.
As from the day after this communiqué, the offices of the PÇKD (the Iraqi branch of the PKK), that had barely won 3000 votes in the last elections, in which it was allowed to stand after having been banned for several years) were officially closed at Zakho. Derya Khalil Ahmed, an executive official of the party, reported that he had been summoned to close the premises within 24 hours and complained of police harassment
In the field, the PYD and YPG forces won several battles against the jihadists, who they swept out of several localities round Seriyê Kaniyê and have seized a border post opening out to Iraq (probably trying to have other openings than vi Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan). Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria state that they are trying to regain land that they have lost but since the start of the hostilities between the YPG Kurds and the jihadists, the latter have not been up to it and have had to retreat to Raqqa. They have also clashed with the Free Syrian Army in the Arab regions to the South, which adds to the confusion on the Syrian front.
Olga Ivanova Jiagalina, the celebrated specialist in Kurdish and Iranian Studies died in her office at the Oriental Institute of the Moscow Academy of Science on Wednesday 23 October following a violent heart attack.
Kendal Nezan, Joyce Blau as well as all the staff of the Kurdish Institute of Paris offer their grieved condolences to Olga Jigalina’s family as well as her colleagues and friends.
Olga Jigalina was born in 1946 at Krasnovosk, in Russia. St the end of 1964, she enrolled in the philology section of Lomonosov University, in Moscow. After having been awarded her Masters Degree in History in 1966, she defended her PhD thesis in 1973.
In 1974 she was posted to Moscow’s Embassy in Teheran, where she remained for five years, until 1979. She studied Persian and became interested in the Kurdish question, which became one of her main centres of interest.
On returning to Moscow, she was appointed Professor at the Oriental Institute of the Russian Academy of Science. From then on she published a number of works and papers on the Kurdish problem in Iran, most of which have been translated into Kurdish.
When Professor M.S. Lazarev retired in 2004, Olga was appointed President of the Kurdish section of the Oriental Institute of the Moscow Academy of Science.