As the year begins, Iraqi Kurdistan began exporting crude oil to Turkey through the new pipeline that connects them directly. Two million barrels are due to be sold under an Invitation to Tender, and the Kurdish Minister of Natural Resources has announced that 6 million barrels will be sold next February and March.
The Iraqi Government, unsurprisingly immediately expressed its opposition to this export, describing it as illegal, because decided without its prior approval. The Iraqi Oil Minister expressed his “deep regret and astonishment at this flagrant violation of the Iraqi Constitution”. As on every occasion when the Kurds did without the central government in reaching agreements with foreign companies, the Iraqi government threatened legal proceedings against any companies that dealt with the Kurds on the grounds of “smuggling”.
This doesn’t seem to have unduly upset the foreign investors, as Todd Kozel of Gulf Keystone said to Reuters: “We have become used to reading and hearing these words since 2007. It is the musical accompaniment heard by anyone operating in Kurdistan. It’s the small change of our assets”.
However, in addition to threatening the oil companies, Nuri Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, is envisaging cutting the Kurdish Region’s funds by cutting the 17% of the national budget that is due to it and that, he claims could have been done earlier since the Kurds had not sent Iraq the 250,000 barrels a day they had promised in 2013.
Finally the Deputy Prime Minister responsible for Energy, Hussein Sharistani, a long standing opponent of the Kurds on the oil issue, summoned the Turkish consul to tell him about his “objections” to the Turko-Kurdish agreement:
“The Iraqi government considers the Turkish party legally responsible for this action and reserves the right to demand reparations for any resulting damages”.
As for the Iraqi Oil Minister, Abdelkarim Al-Luaybi, he described the export of oil to Turkey as a “red line”, stating that his government envisaged several responses, in particular of boycotting all Turkish firms and cancelling all the contracts between the two countries.
For their part, the Kurds are showing the greatest calm, asserting that they had reached an agreement with Baghdad on 25 December 2013, as Safeen Diyazee, the Regional Government’s spokesman told Reuters on 13 January: “The framework [of the agreement has already been accepted by Baghdad — there are just some technical questions at issue”.
However, the conflict broke out again on 15 January on the issue of the 2014 budget, when the Council of Ministers adopted a law, against the advice of the Vice President of Iraq, the Kurd Roj Nouri Shaweys, who was supported by the other Kurds on the Council, while the Arabs and Turcoman Ministers approved the draft budget. According to an anonymous source, published in the daily Shafaq News, the disagreement was over the paragraph showing the amount of oil exports to Iraq from Kurdistan. The Arabs and Turcomen wanted the Region to export 400,000 barrels per day of have its allocation from the central budget reduced. Roj Nouri Shaweys then recalled that the Erbil government had not received the budget allocation for its Peshmergas (armed forces) and that he opposed this paragraph. Refusing to discuss the matter further, the Council of Ministers passed the law by a majority vote, which led the Kurdish Ministers to leave the meeting.
On 17 January, the Assistant Finance Minister of the Kurdish Government, Rashid Tahir, warned that the Kurds might well decide to break away from Iraq if the latter cut its budget allocation, retorting that the since 2007 central Government had not really been allocating 17% of its budget but only 10%.
“If Baghdad takes this step we will deduct the amount due for the Peshmergas pay from the oil revenues we sent to Baghdad. If this solution does not satisfy Baghdad we will have no other choice but to separate from it”. (Rudaw)
According to Rashid Tahir, the Kurdish Region can finance itself with its internal income and its oil exports — revenues that it estimated at about 10.5 trillion Iraqi dinars for last year — and which could increase of the coming years.
The freezing of Kurdish oil revenues could have serious consequences on Iraqi finances. Hayder Al-Abadi, who heads the Treasury Commission of the Iraqi Parliament and is a member of Prime Minister Nuri Malaki’s Party, explained to Reuters, on 19 January, that his country would not be able to cover its 2014 budget if the Kurds did not send it the revenues from their oil exports. Similarly, the refusal to pay the 17% of the budget due to the Kurds would also be due to financial reasons as well as to current conflicts. Indeed, Haydar Al-Laybi stated that if those 17% were paid to the Kurdish Region the 2014 budget “would collapse”, especially as Iraqi public expenditure has greatly increased die to increases in pensions and in the minimum wage of the public sector as well as family allowances and scholarships. Even assuming the Kurds were to pay the Iraqi Treasury the amount of its oil exports calculated on 400,000 barrels a day (that many judge unrealistic, pointing out that the most probable figure is about 255,000 barrels a day) the draft budget presented to the Baghdad Parliament would still have a deficit of about 21 trillion Iraqi Dinars (about 18 billion US dollars). Moreover, Hayder Al-Abadi still blames the Kurds for their suspending payments in 2013, when the Kurdish Regional Government had demanded that the oil companies operating in its provinces be paid.
On 19 January, Nêçirvan Barzani, the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) arrived in Baghdad to try and resolve the crisis. However, the two meetings between the two Prime Ministers and Hussein Sharistani, the Deputy Prime Minister did not result in any clear conclusions, especially as the three men gave very contradictory accounts of them.
Speaking to Rudaw on 20 January about this meeting, the Kurdish Prime Minister, Nêçirvan Barzani, stated that there had been a mutual desire to reach an agreement but that that the problems could not be resolved: “could not in one or two meetings”. Referring to Nuri Maliki’s threats to cut the Kurdistan Regions share of the budget, Mr. Barzani is said to have replied to the Head of the Iraqi Government that the language of threats was “unacceptable and not in the interests of either of the two parties”. Regarding the budget, on that the Iraqi Parliament is die to vote on, the Kurdish Prime Minister stated that he “was strongly opposed” to “a certain number of measures against the Kurdistan Region”. Finally he affirmed that he had not given any guarantee that the KRG would not export or sell any oil without the Baghdad government’s approval.
On the same day, his Iraqi opposite number also expressed himself, in a more moderate tone that usual, insisting on the need for “a language of understanding”. However, he contradicted Nêçirvan Barzani by denying having let it be understood that the Kurd’s share of the budget might be cut and also in affirming that the he had secured an assurance from the Kurds no to sell their oil without the central government’s agreement.
However, Hussein Sharistani does not seem prepared, for his part, to adopt the attitude of appeasement and reconciliation. This on 29 January he repeated his threats of reprisals, particularly fiscal ones, against the Kurds if the latter were to sell their oil without prior agreement from Baghdad, according to the Bloomberg news Agency.
Nêçirvan Barzani’s remarks stiffened at this and, in a press conference he compared the behaviour of the present Iraqi regime to that of the old one regarding Kurdistan whereas the latter was “encouraging the resolution of all problems with Baghdad”.
Moreover, the Kurdish Prime Minister denied that the Kurdistan Region had sold its oil on the cheap, outside the world market rates, insisting, on the contrary on the transparency of the drilling and transport operations.
“We do not accept any threatening language from anyone. The KRG’s oil is sold at world rates and we will not accept any justification for cutting Kurdistan’s budget share (…) Today, we can produce and export oil in the Kurdistan Region and the pipeline for sending it to Turkey is ready. However, so far we have not sold a single barrel. We want to reach an agreement with Baghdad on this issue”÷
Nêçirvan Barzani also pointed out the number of foreign companies that were working in Kurdistan to support the constitutional character of the extraction and sale of their oil by the Kurds, stating that if all this were not legal these companies would not have signed contracts with the Erbil government
“After 2 years of extended discussions, the Kurdish government signed a solid agreement with Turkey and dozens of lawyers have been involved in drafting this agreement”.
Probably to further convince the “transparency” of Kurdistan’s oil business, its Minister for Natural Resources has recently put on line its first monthly report, with the “latest news about the production and transport of in the Kurdistan Region, its refining and internal consumption, the activity of the wells, the map and number of platforms, the employment figures and the tallest updates on the contracts and sharing of production”.
This report covers activity since October 2013 and the Ministry points out that the reports for November and December 2013 will be on line mid-February. Thereafter, the reports will be broadcast every month in English and in Kurdish. An Arabic version is also being prepared.
As for the Iraqi Government, it has just hired a firm of lawyers ready, so it says, to undertake legal proceedings against any possible purchasers of Kurdish oil.
Few political observers consider that the Geneva II Conference had much likelihood of ending the war in Syria, especially when, after the UN invitations had started being issued on 7 January, it was learnt that Iran would not be invited to take part, much to the satisfaction of the Syrian National Coalition (which had threatened not to come were it invited) and of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Another uninvited group was the Kurdish PYD, while the Kurdish National Council (KNC) took part as part of the Coalition. The Syrian PKK was demanding that the Kurds be represented by an “independent” delegation but found no support for this from either the UB or the Russians, despite a media campaign through social networks, especially Tewitter, round the slogan “Kurds must be at Geneve2” and protests against a fresh “Lausanne Treaty”. This is based on the fact that the Kurdish State, envisaged by the Sevres Treaty (1920), was buried in 1923 by the Allied Powers and Turkey.
However, the foreseen ineffectiveness of Geneva II and the fact that the Coalition had little influence inside Syria itself made this new Lausanne Treaty highly improbable. In fact, Syria is, at present, in the hands of a variety of armed groups (the Syrian Army, the Hizbollah, the Free Syrian Army, the various Jihadist militia and the PYD’s YPG forces). This has not prevented the question of whether or not to go to Geneva as members of the Syrian opposition Coalition from dividing the Kurds since last December, the KNC being more or less inclined to go there while the PYD accused it of “high treason”.
On 33 January, the Conference was opened at Montreux by the UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon. In a speech that he meant to be optimistic (or at any rate encouraging) he addressed the 40 nations represented and the Syrian parties whom he said, could “make a new start” by ensuring that this conference was an opportunity for “showing their unity” and that, after three years of conflict and suffering in Syria this was a day of hope: “You have an enormous opportunity and responsibility to help the Syrian people”.
The same moderately optimistic tone was obligatory in the statements of the countries that were “friends of Syria” who thought that the simple fact of having brought the belligerents to sit round the same table was an important step even though as William Hague, the British Foreign Minister said: “It would be a mistake to expect progress in the coming days in the form of a breakthrough. Nevertheless, something can be gained when diplomacy begins, when diplomacy is tried. We have seen this with many other subject, including with Iran over its nuclear programme”.
However, the “important step” of bringing the adverse parties to sit round the same table was somewhat minimised by the fact that the representatives of President Bashar al-Assad and those of the Coalition simply refused to sit facing one another but met in different rooms, obliging the UN mediator, Lakhdar Brahimi, to run back and forth between them.
The leader of the Coalition, Ahmed Jarba, unceasingly lay down de departure of Bashar as a nonnegotiable condition, while the Syrian officials retorted that the Syrian President had no intention of leaving office, as the US Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed on the Al-Arabiyya TV channel.
Standing firm on their positions. The two delegations several times threatened to leave the discussions if their respective demands were not accepted and mutually threw the blame for the war atrocities and crimes committed against the civilian population, the Syrian government replying to the accusations of abuse of power by considering the opposition to be responsible for the terrorism.
Thus the session ended on 31 January without any concrete result, a second round of discussions being due to take place on 10 February.
All the UN secured was a humanitarian convoy to Homs be freed while the inhabitants were suffering from a serious famine and Lakhdar Brahimi expressed his great “disappointment” on the subject.
On the other hand, the Geneva I communiqué, dated June 2012, and its 10 point for ending the conflict and establishing a process of political transition was accepted by both sides as a working basis, This is taken as a positive step, even though the document envisages the departure of Bashar al-Assad, which, for the moment, is categorically rejected by the government side.
The other strong points of this document are, amongst others, the stopping of armed violence, the freeing of arbitrarily detained people, freedom of movement for journalists and the humanitarian organisations and allowing the evacuation of civilians and the wounded.
Regarding the political process, a transitional government body will have to set up “a neutral climate” so that the Syrian people may determine the country’s future, in particular by approving a new Constitution.
The fact that this document will have to serve as the basis for discussion at the next session on 10 February gives Lakhdar Brahimi grounds for not despairing: “the two camps know that they have to conclude a deal on the formation of a government authority endowed with full powers”.
However, it would appear from their respective statements that the Syrian opposition sees this agreement as the condition for Bashar al-Assad’s departure while the latter’s camp continues to see it as the formation of a new government still presided by Bashar al-Assad, who has not given up the idea of standing as a candidate at the Presidential Elections in the summer of 2014.
So long as, on the battlefield, the status quo remains between the two armed forces, the opposition does not belief in the voluntary departure of Bashar al-Assad, and even expects a renewal of offensives by one side of the other, each camp hoping thus to weigh more heavily in the course of the coming meetings as a result of its military victories. Far from calming the situation, the effect of Geneva II could this be, in the first instance, an intensification of the war and of the humanitarian crisis.
The Kurds, whatever be their camp, pro-PYD or pro-KNC, were not expecting much from this conference. On the eve of its opening, on 21 January, Masud Barzani, the Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s President, expressed his scepticism when appearing before the Foreign Affairs Commission of the European Parliament in Brussels: “The Geneva II Conference will be an opportunity for the Syrian people to decide its destiny, even though I do not, personally, have an excessive optimism. I don’t expect much from this conference”.
The Kurdish President also raised the question of the terrorist threat that weighs on the Iraqi Kurdistan Region because of the intense activity of groups like al-Qaida and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL): “At this hour, it is not to clear that the democratic forces, the Free Syrian Army, will be the alternative to the authorities in power in Damascus because it is the terrorist organisations that have the upper hand”.
For their part, the PYD and the parties close to it are pursuing their “autonomy process” by announcing the formation of canton councils (one for each “canton” of Syrian Kurdistan) beginning with that for Jezireh, which has 22 members with Ministerial duties, responsible, at least on paper for managing the defence, the economy, the finances etc. of their tiny locality. While these councils include Christians and Arabs as well as Kurds, the PYD’s opponents criticise these administrations’ political uniformity.
Thus Hêvidar, a Kurdish Syrian journalist, working in Turkey, expressed himself to the AFP by saying that the Jezireh Council is composed “either of PYD members or people who are afraid of the PYD. I am in favour of all that can guarantee the rights of the Kurds, but the PYD isn’t interested in our rights — it wants to impose its power by its arms . . . How can they announce the creation of a local council if they cannot even provide the population with electricity or basic health care”.
On 27 January, Kobane (at the centre of the country, on the Turkish border) the canton’s general assembly and on the 29th it was at Afrin, at the other end of the country, to the North-West of Aleppo that held its general assembly and elected its President. It has been announced that “general elections” will be held in 4 months time so as to elect new Assemblies without knowing exactly their methods, or their possibility in a situation of war and humanitarian crisis. Moreover, the other Syrian Kurdish parties still report arrests and kidnappings and torture of their members who have remained on the spot by the PYD’s Asayish.
The Yekitî, Al Partî and Azadî parties have joined the Syrian Coalition under a new umbrella organisation “Political Unity”. The President of Al Partî, Abdulhakim Bashar, has also reiterated his opposition to the formation of “Western Kurdistan Cantons” that he described as a “declaration of war” on the Arabic TV channel Al-Jazeera. Mustafa Oso, the Azadî party’s general secretary declared that those members of the KNC who had chosen to fill posts in the PYD administrations should be expelled.
The PYD, on the spot, is now trying to establish links with the regional powers, Iraq and Iran (with whom it is on good terms) and especially Turkey, whose support of the Syrian opposition tended to discredit the Kurds of the KNC who were accused of “collaborating with the enemy”. Thus Salih Gedo, the new “Foreign Minister” of the Jezireh Canton announced the wish to start a series of meetings with the Kurdish government at Erbil and to visit Baghdad, Teheran and Ankara (the PYD president had already visited Ankara in 2013 to meet Ahmet Davutoglu there, but that was before the unilateral declaration of autonomy).
Asia Abdullah, the PYD co-president, arrived at Istanbul to attend a conference organised by the new Kurdo-Turkish party, the HDP, even stated that they were ready to export their oil to Turkey and that her party sought Turkish support and did not intend to confront Ankara. According to the Turkish daily Milliyet, the PYD might already be negotiating this with Ahmet Davutoglu.
Although it is a year since three PKK activists (Sakine Cansiz, co-founder of the PKK, Fidan Dogan, a representative of the Kurdish National Congress (KNK) and Leyla Soylemez, a young activist) were assassinated in Paris in the premises of the Kurdish Information Centre in rue La Fayette, a series of mysterious “leaks” and “revelations” have followed one another in the last few months. It is, however, still impossible to determine either the truth or the real origin of these documents and videos that have suddenly been made public.
The principal suspect, who has been charged with homicide, Ömer Güney, continues obstinately to deny the evidence. However, on 9 January the French magazine l’Express affirmed, in an article by Éric Pelletier, that “some rapid progress had been achieved in the enquiry and that les suspicions weighing on the sole person charged had been considerably strengthened, backing up the thesis of a political assassination rather than one of spying.
The police laboratories have, indeed, succeeded in recovering pictures taken with Ömer Güney’s mobile phone, which he had destroyed, and which showed that, on the night before the murders, Güney had broken into premises of a Kurdish association at Villiers-le-Bel and had photographed files of its members, namely 329 membership forms. Questioned on the subject, the suspect replied that he had done this at the request of the PKK: “Early in the morning, he had taken this list to one of the movement’s sympathisers in the Paris region” (whose identity he did not know and whose address he had forgotten). He is supposed to have erased all this so as not to “overload the memory for nothing”. (Express).
It was also established that Ömer Güney owned 5 mobile phones (2 of which have disappeared) and that he had made a bout a dozen calls to “atypical numbers that could “be similar to technical numbers”.
On 23 January, the Turkish daily Vatan asserted that the French judges in charge of the enquiry, Jeanne Duye and Christophe Teissier, had issued an international rogatory letter 9409/13/2) to the Turkish authorities to obtain some “crucial information” for the investigation.
The first part of the letter laid out the factors collected by the French investigators, particularly the link between the suspect and the firearms used for the murders. The commission asked for the owners of the 57 telephone numbers in Turkey that Güney had called frequently as well as information on his family, the frequency of their contact and physical meetings.
Earlier, on 13 January, an audio recording was broadcast on several social networks, including a video described, in a written introduction, as being a conversation between Ömer Güney and two alleged members of MIT. “One of Güney’s relations” is said to have given this to him in case “something” should happen to him”.
In this recording, the two men alleged to be Turkish secret service agents promised Gûney money with which to buy arms in Belgium. The assassination of PKK leaders like Nedim Seven and Remzi Kartal are discussed and planned.
Members of the Kurdish associations that Güney had infiltrated are said to have identified his voice, according to Firat Mews. It remains for the investigating judge, to whom a copy had been given, to receive the conclusions of the forensic laboratories for a formal identification.
Finally, a document entitled “Sakine Cansız, code name Sara” published by both Turkish and Kurdish media, also mentions the programmed assassination of Kurdish activists. It is signed by an MIT department head, Ugur Kaan Ayik and three other officers of the secret service: O. Yüret, S. Asal, H. Özcan. Classed “secret” and dated 18 November 2011, the document records information about Sakine Cansiz provided by an agent nicknamed “Legionary”.
Another document placed on line and dated 18 November 2012, mentions an agent called “the source” who is said to have received 6,000 euros as “expenses” needed to eliminate Sakine Cansiz.
During his hearing before the judge Jeanne Duyé, Ömer Güney denied being on the recording and still proclaims his innocence.
The Turkish intelligence services have rejected all accusations in an official written denial, and distributed to the media: “Our organisation has no connection with the murders of Sakine Cansiz, Leyla Soylemez and Fidan Dogan. We have launched a necessary administrative enquiry within our internal organisation regarding these allegations”.
If the MIT is the originator of these murders, its motives would seem very complex since its head, Hakan Fidan, was, at the time, given the responsibility for starting negotiations with the PKK. At the time, the rue La Fayette assassinations were said to be aimed at sabotaging the peace process. The sudden appearance of these documents on the Internet networks raises a number of questions: why these revelations a year later, although Gûney has still not acknowledge the fact.
Some people have made a connection between the internal struggle taking place between the AKP government and the Gülen religious network within the police and security services. The involvement of the Gulenists in these murders is, in any case, an argument put forward by some senor leaders of the PKK, and quite early on. As from the Spring of 2013, Murat Karayilan had attacked the hidden hand of that brotherhood, formerly allied to the AKP but since become its worst enemy. On 19 January 2014, the joint presidency of the Democratic Union of Kurdistan Communities (KCK) had clearly accused the Gülen brotherhood of being implicated in the assassinations, as well as the MIT, prior to the split between Erdogan and Fethullah Gülen. The leaks and revelations that have been following one another since the beginning of the year would seem to be a side effect of this internal political conflict that is shaking Turkey.
Several Kurdish prisoners have been holding a hunger strike for 60 days as a protest against the death penalty to which been sentenced as well as the conditions of their detention.
Jamshid and Jahangir Dehghani, Hamed Ahmadi and Kama Molayyee have ceased to take any food since 4 November, just drinking water and refusing any intravenous nourishment. They are now in a critical state and are rapidly losing consciousness. According to the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) the prison authorities have ordered serum injections be given under constraint.
They were sentenced to death by Teheran’s 28th Revolutionary Court on 14th November 2010, charged with being “Enemies of God” and thereby “corrupting the earth”, which is a capital offense. They had been arrested in 2009 with six others soon after the Supreme Guide, Ali Khamenei, had visited Kurdistan Province. The six Kurds had gathered in front of the mosque to protest against the regime’s offensive remarks about Sunni Moslems.
In December 2010 six had been executed, charged with “drug trafficking and rape”. According to the human rights defence organisations in Iran, confessions of common law crimes extorted by torture enable political prisoners to be discredited. The trials had only lasted about ten minutes and took place in the absence of any lawyers.
Sedigh Mohammedi and Hadi Hosseini, who also took part in the same hunger strike, ended theirs on 28 December when their death sentences were cancelled
According to Amnesty International, the Supreme Court had cancelled it because of their mental heath condition and ordered a retrial. It also reports that 40 prisoners have been executed since the start of this year.
Human Rights Watch has published its annual report on the state of human rights in the world during 2013.
The government has taken some important steps in the Peace process with the Kurds, announcing some negotiations with the PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan, at the beginning of 2013m resulting in a cease-fire.
As against this, Turkey continued to pursue journalists in 2013 and several dozen of them are still behind bars. There are 44 journalists or people working for various media in detention — 20 of them since 2011, accused of being linked to the Union of Kurdistan Communities (KCK), which is banned in Turkey as it is accused of organic links with the PKK.
The reforms undertaken in 2013 have hot improved the lot of thousands of citizens accused of “membership of a terrorist organisation”, under article 314 of the Penal Code for having simply taken part in militant peace activities. This clause allows an abuse use of the anti-terrorist laws in Turkey. Hundreds of Kurdish political activists and elected representatives (mayors, members of parliament), officials of the Party for Peace and Democracy (BDP) have suffered long periods in jail, some of them for over 4 and a half years on the grounds of membership of the KCK.
The victims of police brutality, violence by troops and State agents struggle to have any justice. While the statute of limitations has been cancelled for cases of torture, it is still 20 years for cases of extra-judicial executions, which raises anxiety regarding “disappearances” and murders that took place in the Kurdish regions during the 90s.
In June 2013, the Public Prosecutor’s office declared that the case of the attack on villagers of Roboski-Uludere by the army in 2011 was outside its jurisdiction. This attack caused 34 deaths, mostly under age. The file was sent to the military prosecutor, but in the absence of any serious enquiry it is to be feared that the affair will just be buried.
In September 2013, the Court of Appeals decided to annul a verdict passed in 2007 against the assassins of the Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, on procedural grounds. HRW stresses the absence of any exhaustive enquiries on the State’s responsibility or involvement in this murder.
Since the June 2013 elections some political prisoners have been released but numerous civil society activists remain in jail for political reasons.
Iran continues to execute those sentenced at a steady rate. During 2013, 16 people were hanged for “being “enemies of God” or having “spread corruption on earth”, either because they were charged with membership of armed opposition groups or as “reprisals”, as in the case of 8 Baluchis, executed after the death of a dozen border guards on the Iran=Pakistan border. Dozens of others are waiting in death row accused of “terrorism” following iniquitous trials for political activities. Thus, some Iranians belonging to the Arab minority were accused of attacks on the security forces. As for the Kurds, 40 of them were sentenced for terrorism either because of their political or their religious (Sunni) commitment and are awaiting execution.
In general, Iran’s policy towards minorities has in no way improved. The main groups targeted: the Kurds, the Azeris, the Arabs and the Baluchis.
The Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government passed a law against domestic violence in 2011, but little has been done to apply the clauses against family violence and “honour crimes”. Dozens of women victims have been ill-treated by members of their family. The local NGOs complain about the absence of special courts for trying perpetrators of family violence. They also demand the supplementary women police officers be recruited and security agents be trained about these and made aware of the new laws.
According to the UN Office responsible for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 4.25 millions of Syrians have fled their country. Humanitarian aid is having difficulty in arriving because of the military sieges imposed both by the government and by the armed opposition. The regime continues to refuse to open its borders to medical and humanitarian teams and the Free Syrian Army has failed to guarantee their safety.
On the spot, the attacks against doctors and health workers have not weakened and 32 of Syria’s 88 hospitals have had to close. The government forces have imprisoned, tortured and killed hundreds of members of the medical staff and deliberately attacked their ambulances and vehicles.
A recent report of the Human Rights Council concluded: “refusing medical treatment as a weapon is a specific and icy reality of the war in Syria”.
Tofy Mussavand runs the cardio-vascular appliance Programme of the Cardiological Institute of Ottawa University. He is the inventor of an artificial cardiac pump as well as other medico-technological inventions; has published 250 books and articles and received a number of scientific prizes in the course of his career. An American organisation has even selected him as being the 7th most brilliant brains of the planet.
Born 71 years ago in the little village of Varkaneh, near Hamadan, Tofy Mussivand began life as a shepherd in the Iranian Kurdistan Mountains. His village only had a religious school where he learnt the Qoran first, then how to read Persian.
In view of his curiosity and taste fro science, his father, a Kurd from Iraq, finally enrolled him at a school in the town, where he earned his secondary school leaving certificate and so was able to return to the village as a primary school teacher, where as he says: “I was the teacher, the headmaster and the janitor all at once”.
However, wanting to study still further, Tofy Mussivand left for Teheran and began studying engineering. After securing a master’s in Agricultural engineering, he wrote to the author of the textbook he had liked most. The latter, a Canadian, secured him a scholarship, which enabled him to go and study at Alberta University.
Interviewed by Rudaw, Mussavand stated that his °Kurdish heritage” had influenced him significantly in the course of his career and that he hoped most opportunities were offered to Kurdish “brains” to be recognised in the world. The message he sent to young Kurds is: “Never give up”: “Do not say: “I am poor, I am Kurdish and I have no chance”. I never thought that the lack of money could stop me. There was one time in my life when I didn’t even have a piece of bread to eat, but that never stopped me”.