The election campaign in Turkey was marked by spectacular measure to control Internet by the AKP government, which firstly blocked Twitter at the beginning of March following a court ruling on 26 February, solely to prevent the broadcasting of recording of phone calls that compromising phone calls. These seem to backup the charges of corruption against the Prime Minister and his government that have been building up over the last few months.
In an interview televised on 6 March, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan even stated that the ban could be extended to Youtube and Facebook (which, indeed, did happen to Youtube soon after).
The European Union and the United States and a major part of international public opinion condemned these measures. They were, however, pretty ineffective since Twitter and many social sites and networks immediately circulated technical means for Turkish Internet activists to access its site via messages in English and Turkish. Consequently, Twittter’s traffic fro Turkey rose spectacularly to almost 39% of connections at its peak.
More dramatic was the death of a 15-year-old Kurdish Alevi, Berkin Elvan, on 11 March, which increased the tension all round. Hit by a tear gas grenade during the Gezi Park demonstrations (in which he was not taking part), he had been in a coma for several months, from which he never recovered. His funerals in Istanbul, on 12 March, were attended by a most imposing procession pictures of which were taken up by demonstrations in several other Turkish and Kurdish towns. These were marred by police violence, which often degenerated by nightfall into clashes between Erdogan supporters and demonstrators — resulting in yet another death, this time of a 22-year-old AKP supporter in Istanbul, Can Karamanoğlu. He was killed by a firearm in circumstances that have not yet been explained, though a suspect was arrested the next day.
Berkin Elvan’s death, however, in now way bothered the Prime Minister, who simply described the young man as a “terrorist”, accusing him of having been masked when he was hit by the police, although all the witnesses, his family and friends, have made it clear that he had only left his house to go and buy some bread.
In the Kurdish regions, the 21 March celebrations of the Kurdish New Year, Newroz, were marked by BDP meetings and, as in last year, the reading of a new message from Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned PKK leader, read out before 300,000 people in Diyarbekir. This time, however, it was not a “surprise” event but a directive issued to “continue the dialogue process”, that Ocalan described as “important”, even though no concrete agreement has yet been reached between the PKK and the Turkish State.
The “government’s stalling methods and the one sided way the process has been carried out by avoiding setting up any legal basis” were highlighted by the PKK President as well as the machinations of an “international conspiracy” to wreck the process (an allusion to the Fethullah Gülen Brotherhood, strongly opposed to both the AKP and the PKK as well as any solution to the Kurdish question).
On 30 March, the municipal elections took place throughout Turkey. The outcome of this election has been regarded both by the AKP government and by its opponents as indicating either disavowal or support for Erdogan and his authoritarian deviations. While the acts of violence never reached the extremities of the 90s, several fights broke out between supporters of rival parties, from Ankara to Iqdir, causing several deaths and injuries and accusations of fraud immediately flourished everywhere from opposition parties, both the BDP and the CHP. These were enhanced by the fact that electricity cuts plunged several towns and villages in darkness, from Istanbul to the Kurdish regions, just at the time the votes were being counted. Some polling stations were then mysteriously sacked and bundles of ballot sheets disappeared. Thus, according to the Turkish Daily News, at Düzici, sacks of ballot sheets were found in the dustbins of six schools of Osmaniye Province where voting had taken place. . .
In the Tillo district of Siirt Province, the candidate of the Saadet Party (SP), Behmen Aydin, was even murdered by stabbing when several masked people jumped out of another car and attacked the car in which he was sitting with 5 other people, who were also wounded. Later the newly elected AKP mayor, Mehmet Mesut Memduhoglu, was arrested as suspect with 15 other people as an official municipal car was used for the crime.
Replying to charges of fraud under cover of the electricity cuts, the Fuel and Power Minister, Taner Yildiz, caused great hilarity on the social networks, particularly those targeted by Erdogan’s blackout policy, when he explained that a stray cat that got into a transformer had caused all the blackouts from Istanbul to Mardin . . . More seriously, an article in Hürriet gave a map of all the electricity cuts across the country showing that the areas, which had suffered these fortuitous black-outs were those supplied with electricity by government0controlled companies.
Nevertheless, even though tainted by irregularities and ballot rigging, Erdogan seems to have won from Ankara to Urfa, despite the protest demonstrations. Of all the opposition parties, the BDP seems to have come out best, as it announces that it has won eleven towns more than in 2009 (the pro-Kurdish party at that time was the DTP), including Mardin, Agri and Bitlis taken from the AKP, 68 districts and 23 sub-districts; although the results have not all been fully confirmed because of all the charges of fraud still pending. In all, however, this makes 102 municipalities won by the BDP.
In the Kurdish regions, the hopes raised by the peace process could have working in favour of either the AKP or the BDP. In the end, however, the BDP won three towns from the AKP, except for Urfa, that remains in the hands of the majority party, as well as other districts and towns with a mixed Turkish-Kurdish population.
On the other hand, a new Kurdish party, Huda Par, the “Kurdish Hezbollah”, only won a very poor score, being under 8% even where its score was highest. It would be interesting, on analysis, to see whether this neo-Islamist party’s score was won at the expense of the AKP or of the BDP.
Taken nationally, the AKP won (pending confirmation) about 45.44% of the vote, the CHP 27.77%, the MHP 15.27% and the BDP allied to the HDP 6.48%.
In addition to winning Mardin, Aqri and Bitlis, the BDP retained control of Diyarbekir, Batman, Van, Dersim, Siirt, Hakkari, Sirnak and IgdiI
Here are the latest estimates for the Kurdish or mixed population regions (in 2009 the Kurdish party was the DTP):
Provinces won by the DTP in 2009 and remaining with the BDP:
- Batman, Dersim, Diyarbekir, Hakkari, Igdir, Siirt, Sirnak, Van.
Provinces that the BDP won from the AKP:
- Agri, Bitlis, Mardin (with Ahmet Türk standing as an independent)
Provinces that the AKP help on to:
-Adiyaman, Bingöl, Elazığ, Gaziantepe, Kahramanmaraş, Malatya, Muş, Urfa (won by and independent in 2009)
AKP: Justice and Development Party led by Mr. Erdogan
BDP: Party for Peace and Democracy, pro-Kurdish
CHP: People’s Republican Party, led by Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu.
MHP: Nationalist Action Party, extreme-Right, Turkish nationalism
AKP : 56, 46 %
CHP : 21, 80 %
MHP : 12, 79 %
BDP : 6, 20 %
(2009 : AKP : 49, 26 % ; SP : 24, 08 %; CHP : 13, 36 %)
BDP : 45, 92%
AKP : 45, 47%
(2009 : AKP : 36, 91% ; DTP : 32, 37%)
BDP : 56, 35%
AKP : 30, 78%
HUDA PAR : 7, 80%
(2009 : DTP : 59, 67%; AKP : 36, 65%)
AKP : 58, 32 %
BDP : 26, 92%
MHP : 8.74 %
(2009 : AKP : 42, 84% ; DTP : 33, 79% ; SP : 17, 16%)
BDP : 44, 05 %
AKP : 39, 44 %
HUDA PAR : 5, 58%
(2009 : AKP : 43, 10% ; DTP : 34, 43%)
BDP : 42, 46 %
CHP : 30, 80 %
(2009 : DTP : 30 % ; independant : 24, 47 % ; AKP : 21, 63% ; CHP : 15, 07%)
BDP : 57, 78%
AKP : 34, 31 %
HUDA PAR : 4, 78%
(2009 : DTP : 65, 43%; AKP : 31, 57 %)
AKP : 55, 80 %
MHP : 29, 12 %
CHP : 7,3 %
(2009 : AKP : 47, 76% ; MHP : 23, 29%)
AKP : 54, 6 %
CHP : 21, 47 %
MHP : 11, 88 %
(2009 : AKP: 52, 53% ; CHP : 29, 97%)
BDP : 66, 76 %
AKP : 26, 12 %
(2009 : DTP : 78, 97% ; AKP : 15, 93%)
BDP : 43, 89%
MHP : 42, 58 %
AKP : 15, 49%
(2009 : DTP : 36, 62% ; AKP : 30, 54 % ; MHP : 27, 08 %)
KAHRAMAN MARAS :
AKP : 58, 70 %
MHP : 30, 93 %
(2009 : AKP : 65, 31% ; MHP : 21, 97%)
AKP : 62, 88 %
CHP : 16, 74 %
(2009 : AKP : 53, 08 % ; SP : 29, 05 %)
Ahmet TURK : 52, 19 %
AKP : 37, 39 %
(2009 : AKP 45, 4% ; DTP : 36, 32%)
AKP : 48, 25 %
BDP : 41, 54 %
(2009 : AKP : 50, 55% ; DTP : 37, 23%)
BDP : 49, 53 %
AKP : 41, 97 %
(2009 : DTP : 49, 43% ; AKP : 45, 77%)
BDP : 59, 55 %
AKP : 29, 90 %
(2009 : DTP : 53, 75% ; AKP : 42, 60 %)
AKP : 60, 76 %
BDP : 30, 7 %
(2009 : independant : 44, 03% ; AKP : 39, 30%, DTP : 10, 49%)
BDP : 54, 14 %
AKP : 40, 84 %
(2009 : DTP : 53, 54%; AKP : 39, 16%)
The recurrent attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant against the “Rojava” (Syrian Kurdistan) and its strategy of encircling the three Kurdish enclaves that the PYD had declared autonomous have finally forced the Syrian branch of the PKK to form an alliance in the field with the Free Syrian Army, previously its adversary.
Thus on 19 March, the YPG central command called for a “general mobilisation” of the Kurds in the three cantons, to “protect the values of democracy and freedom upheld by the YPG´.
Further to the attacks against the Kurdish areas in Raqqa province, where the ISIL is seeking to establish its “State” and of which it occupies the capital of the same name, on 21 March 600 Kurds fled from their villages (Tell Akhdar, Tell Fandar et Tell Abyad) according to the Syrian Research Institute for Human Rights after an ultimatum issued by the ISIL.
According to this Institute, nearly 500 Kurds have crossed the Turkish border, which suggests that the intention of the ISIL is to ethnically cleanse of Kurds the land around Kobani (Ayn alArab) so as to isolate it further.
While visiting Oslo, Salih Muslim, the co-President of the PYD, pointed out, during a press conference given on the same day, that the ISIL had been launching attacks and suicide bombs for the last three weeks against Qamishlo or Kobanî (Ayn al Arab) so as to cut the routs linking the two regions and that the next phase of their plans would be to isolate Afrin in the same way.
On 24 March, Rêdur Khalil, the YPG spokesman, confirmed that Kobani was now encircled by the ISIL with troops that had come from Deir el Zor, Aleppo, Raqqa and Lazkiye, this repeating Salih Muslim’s remarks. He also mentioned tanks with which the jihadists were making these attacks against the eastern part of the Kurdish canton. Passports of Islamists captured or killed showed the variety of geographical origins of these people: Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iraqi Kurdistan, Algeria, Tunisia, Lybia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Turkey and Chechenia.
On the same day, the YPG high command called on “all the Kurdish groups to set aside their differences” to carry out their “national duty” in the face of these attacks. In a communiqué, he pointed out that the aim of the ISIL was to take control of the oil fields of Rimelan as well as to cut communications between the cantons. He re-iterated the call of the YPG to all the Kurds, including the non-Syrian ones to rally round to defend the cantons.
This time, however, the “Kurdish groups” called upon to help were mentioned by name: the Presidency of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, and its three major parties, Masud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Nawshirwan Mustafa’s Gorran, the Executive of the Group of Kurdistan Communities (KCK) the Peace and Democracy party (BDP) of the Kurds in Turkey — in brief all the existing Kurdish parties except those of Iran. However, he failed to specify what help he was calling for in addition to international humanitarian aid, essentially by the Turkish Red Crescent and the opening of the Turkish border posts.
This kind of appeal for mobilisation has been repeated all through the month by the local organs of the PYD and the YPG, but always without fundamentally detailing the nature of this “national duty”. Reacting to this “appeal for unity”, Abdulhakim Bashar, the President of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria (Al-Parti), close to the Iraqi KDP, replied that he was fully prepared to unite against the ISIL and to put an end to a fratricidal conflict:
“We are ready to negotiate with the PYD. It is true that there are differences of opinion between the Kurdish parties, but it is the duty of all to protect the Kurdish regions from the terrorist groups … but on condition that it is under the banner of Kurdistan and in the name of Kurdistan” (BasNews). In other words not under the YPG banner on behalf of the PYD, and this by accepting to form a united political front of Kurdish Parties to carry out the Erbil agreements of November 2012, which provided for the formation of a united military force with a command shared with the Kurdish National Council.
It is probably not one of the PYD’s objectives to see Syrian Kurdish Peshmergas, trained in Iraqi Kurdistan, enter their cantons, but hitherto, to maintain its denial of links with the PKK, it has not appealed (or at least not officially) for non-Syrian Kurdish fighters. Yet Murat Karayilan recently called on the Kurdish youth of Urfa (adjoining Kobanî, to join the “Kurdish resistance” as well as the rest of the young Northern Kurds (Turkey). Rêdur Khalil puts this forward as a normal response to the Jihadist international as detailed by the enemy passports seized by his troops.
There has, so far, been no reactivation of the Erbil agreements, but one of the PYD’s political and strategic changes of direction is the alliance (at least in the military field) of the YPG with the Free Syrian Army. Indeed, Salih Muslim confirmed at a press conference in Sweden, that “in this fight, the Free Syrian Army is supporting us. The population is on the YPG’s side”.
It should e recalled that from the start of the Syrian revolution, the PYD has had no relations with the Syrian Arab opposition, whether of the Coalition or, in the field, with the Free Syrian Army. Any such contacts have been conflictual, especially in areas of mixed Arab-Kurdish population, like Serê Kaniyê (Ras al ‘Ayn) or the areas between Aleppo and Afrin. Indeed, one of the PYD’s criticisms of the Kurdish National Council was its political line of understanding or alliance with the Syrian Coalition and the Free Syrian Army. These were accused by all the PYD’s official bodies and media of being infiltrated by islamists (for example by Jabhat al Nusra) and of playing Turkey’s game.
However, as Kobanî ('Ayn Al Arab) became increasingly encircled by the ISIL, the PYD and YPG came up against the practical limitations of their political and military isolation, which they could not resolve on their own because of the way the three Kurdish areas were geographically and ethnically hemmed in.
Finally, another sign of the shift of alliances, the charge now being made by the PYD against the Bath of it supporting the ISIL behind the scenes in order to weaken the Kurds and prevent the autonomy of the Kurdish zones and their “new democratic experiment”. These are just the accusations formerly made against the FSA while the other Syrian Kurds and the Arab opposition constantly denounced the collaboration, in the field, between the Baath and the PYD.
In an interview given to a Dutch journalist, Wladimir Van Wilgenburg, on A1 Monitor, Redur Khalil thus openly turned on the Syrian government: “The regime is trying to weaken the Kurds. It knows that we are fighting the ISIL and our fight against the ISIL undoubtedly helps them”. He even accused Iran of being behind t5hese manoeuvres, which may indicate yet another change of political alignment and even an attempt to move closer to Turkey. Thus last February Asia Abdullah, the PYD co-president, in a visit to Istanbul stated that her party sought Turkish support and did not want to a confrontation with Ankara.
Indeed, a `reconciliation” with Iraqi Kurdistan to open the Pêsh Khabûr border post would not help Kobani much since, like Afrin its only foreign border is with Turkey. The only way of linking the three cantons would be to occupy areas inhabited by Arabs, Turcomen and Christians. This, however, might involved militarily occupying people who were not supporters of the PYD or, indeed, of a Kurdish autonomous state spread out all along the Turkish border between the PYD controlled cantons.
Prime Minister Nuri Maliki’s decision to cut the salaries of the civil servants in the Kurdistan Region continues to arouse indignation in Kurdish political circles, who highlight its unconstitutional character in that it discriminates against a certain group of citizens. Masud Barzani, the Kurdistan President, even called this decision a “war declaration”.
Speaking on 4 March at the Second Encounter of the American University of Suleimaniah (which was also attended by the Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu) Nêçirvan Barzani declared that this idea of cutting Kurdistan’s share of the budget “was the work of only one person” (without naming him). He warned that this crisis could lead to the “collapse of Iraq” and that Erbil “would not back down on its constitutional rights” despite the “direct threats” he claimed to have received from Baghdad.
However, the day before, on 3 March, Nuri Maliki, speaking on Al Iraqiyya Television, had stated that he did not understand why these problems were being so exaggerated: “We consider ourselves responsible for Kurdistan and the Kurds, even if the KRG does not see things the same way”. The Iraqi Prime Minister repeated that the budget payment had been “delayed”, not “cut” and that the reason was the 400,000 barrels of oil per day that the Kurds were supposed to deliver to Baghdad.
On 10 March, Masud Barzani, attended the funerals of 93 members of his extended family, who had been secretly murdered by Saddam Hussein in 1983 and whose mass graves had recently been found.
The next day, on 11 March, as the Kurdistan Region was celebrating the anniversary of the 1991 uprising, Masud Barzani recalled, in his speech, that a new generation had grown up in Kurdistan that would not accept any form of dictatorship or foreign occupation but, on the contrary, sought to ensure the freedom and progress of its country, after so many generations had been sacrificed for this end in Kurdistan.
He was, of course, referring to the Iraqi Prime Minister who was trying to force Erbil to give way in the negotiations over oil revenues by cutting the salaries of civil servants in Kurdistan.
On 20 March, after intense US mediation, the Kurdistan Prime Minister announced that, “as a goodwill gesture” he was ready to export 100,000 barrels of oil a day through the Iraqi pipeline so as to renew the negotiations, which were still under way though they had been marking time for several moths.
“The negotiations with Iraq on oil exports and the budgetary issues are under way. These negotiations have not yet arrived at acceptable agreements. As a goodwill gesture and in order to give these negotiations the maximum opportunity of succeeding, the Kurdistan Regional Government has offered to make a contribution to exports through the Iraqi pipelines”.
To date, however, these exports have not yet begun because of the bad condition of the pipeline connecting Kirkuk to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, which had been regularly sabotaged last year by Sunni Arab insurgents and was still not ready, as the Iraqi Oil Minister admitted, to transport any crude.
However, the situation created by the freezing of salaries could become an issues according to some economists, because of the great number of civil servants in the Kurdish Region and a number of weaknesses in the economic system of Iraqi Kurdistan, as Gorran, the principal opposition party keeps pointing out. Indeed, although a coalition government has been agreed in principle, negotiations are still dragging out and Gorran remains in opposition and still stands for a reformation of the political lines and economic decisions adopted by its rivals in office since 2005.
Thus a report by a Gorran member of Parliament, Ali Hama Ali, lays out in detail the faults underlying the Region’s economic developments in the daily paper Chawder News (pro-PUK). Thus the Region alone employs 679,939 civil servants, which is 22.6% of all the Iraqi civil servants. In his view the KRG’s annual budget would only be able to cover one month of the salaries of all its employees. For example, according to this report, in 2013, the estimated revenue for ministry staff was estimated at 651 billion dinars whereas a single month’s salaries would really require 750 billion dinars.
“The KRG is indebted to over 900 investors and does not have any money to give them. There is no international bank to lend them funds because Kurdistan is not a country and no other country is ready to stand as guarantor for the KRG”.
According to this report, the financial crisis is not just due to the conflict with Baghdad. About 70% of the Region\s budget goes to pay its staff; the KRG has also made grants of 3 billion US dollars to firms and also spent money on many unplanned projects like loans for buying houses or marriage or development programmes, some of which, according to Ali Hama Ali, have more disadvantages than advantages. Moreover, the expenses of the two historic parties, the KDP and the PUK, are often charged up to the government, which is also something it’s time we reformed. .
Regarding loans to local firms for prospecting and producing oil, the government cannot advance them funds and international investors balk at doing so because of the 70% budget being reserved for civil servant wages as well as the conflict with Baghdad over oil revenues and exports.
Thus all control over the markets, imports and exports is suffering from a lack of organisation and planning. While important privileges are granted to these companies, both foreign and Kurdish, Kurdistan’s borders are wide open to all sorts of products. Thus thousands of vehicles come in with little or no taxes or check on their technical state, reliability or conformity to standards.
The presence of thousands of foreign workers, mainly in building or service trades also contributes to unbalanced currency exchanges.
Interviewed by the KNN TV channel, Gorran’s leader, Nawsirwan Mustafa, also criticises the “consumerist ” economy of the Region, which makes it dependent, for its survival, on the 17% of the Iraqi budget instead of on its agriculture, livestock or industries, which are virtually inexistent. Revenue from these sources at present cover barely 6% of the Region’s government. Thus the overstaffing in civil servants places Erbil at the mercy of the central government in this economic war.
Despite these pessimistic analyses the Kurdish Region’s capacity of managing even without Iraqi financial assistance and the crisis with Baghdad have revived in both the media and in political circles the issue of possible independence. Some people, even within Gorran, envisage a time when the separation of Kurdistan from the Iraqi State might become inevitable.
Thus Nawshirwan Mustafa himself is said to have told Kurdistan Pas News Agency that President Masud Barzani had revealed that he envisaged independence in the next two years. Another Kurdish political source, speaking off the record, to an Arabic paper Asharq al-Awsat, confirmed that these remarks by Nawsirwan Mustafa were made at a meeting of his party in Suleimaniah, and that he had said, more exactly that the independence of Kurdistan was “discussed as an option”.
According to the same source, the Gorran movement, according to Nawsirwan Mustafa, “would support the declaration of an independent Kurdish State” provided “there were sufficient preparation, particularly in terms of economy and institutions”. This would explain the recently published report and critical analyses regarding the economic viability of Kurdistan in media close to that party and expressed by its leader, who is said to have added:
“We do not want Kurdistan to find itself in a situation similar to that of North Cyprus, whose very existence depends on Turkish support. We do not want to lose the gains so far won by the Region”.
Asharq al-Awsat then sounded the principal Iraqi political blocks for their reactions — here are some of those reactions:
Ali Al-Shallah, a member of Parliament for Nuri al-Malilki’s State of Law coalition, sharply criticised Masud Barzani who “is acting as if he was more important than the Iraqi State” and whose ambitions “could soon meet many problems starting with those from the United States”. He then recalled that if President Barzani “insisted on proclaiming such a State it would be in the framework of the borders in 9 April 2003 (the date of the overthrow of the Baath regime) which would exclude Kirkuk and the disputed regions”.
Another Iraqi MP, this time from the Sunni Arab Iraqiya list, Hassan Al-Zoubai, expressed a more moderate view, considering that “Iraq, today, is closer to being a Confederation than a Federal government”. He added: “The problem is that the Iraqi Constitution gives priority to regions and provinces over the central government — which has allowed Iraqi Kurdistan to develop at all levels so that it has become more powerful than the centre. Iraq, today, is made up of regions, the Kurds being the most powerful at all levels, including the military strength of the Peshmergas, their economy and investments”.
As for Burhan Mohammed Faraj, and MP on the Kurdistan list in Baghdad, he recalled that “the Kurds voluntarily chose to be united with the Arabs in the context of a unified Iraq. The only way of ensuring the unity of Iraq is to provide evidence of a commitment to the Iraqi Constitution and to fully observe its provisions”.
The annual report of Amnesty International on the death sentence throughout the world shows that Iran and Iraq are “the two countries at the source of the considerable increase in the number of executions in the world in 2013. In this they go against to the world tendency towards abolishing the death sentence. The alarming number of executions in a restricted group of countries — principally these two Middle East countries — is has resulted in nearly a hundred additional executions in the world compared with 2012, that is an increase of nearly 15%”.
Salil Shetty, Amnesty international’s general secretary, described the “virtually frenetic rhythm of executions in certain countries like Iran and Iraq” as “scandalous”. Indeed, apart from China where the number of executions is treated as a “State secret” and for which, since 2009, there are no statistics, the significant increase in executions between 2011 and 2013 is generally imputable to the increase in death sentences in Iraq and Iran. As for Syria, the situation since 2012 has made it impossible to enquire into the number of executions.
“Nearly 80% of the executions recorded in the world took place on only three countries: Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran”, while in other countries, taken as a whole, the tendency has been towards abolition,
In Iraq, “the executions announced have increased by nearly 30%. Some 169 people, perhaps even more, have been put to death”. However, the real figure is “probably much higher as many death sentenced are not made public”.
In 2013, 35 people were sentenced to death, including a woman. According to a report of the Iraqi Ministry for Human Rights, “the penal courts passed 2,600 death sentences between 2004 and 2012, an average of over 280 per year”.
In Iran, “at least 359 executions were officially recognised but hundreds of others have been reported from other sources”. The number of executions has increased by 18%, but “credible sources indicate that a great number of executions took place in secret and, according to reliable sources at least 335 other executions have taken place (in at least 18 cases they were women). This would bring the total number of executions to at least 704 for the year 2013”.
Together with Saudi Arabia (where 79 executions took place in 2013) these two countries “alone are responsible for 95% of the confirmed executions in the region”.
In Iraq as in Iran, the method of execution is by hanging. In Iraq, “executions are often carried out in batches very soon after those concerned had been forewarned. Reacting to the execution of 21 men on the same day in April, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that the Iraqi legal system had too many shortcomings to allow even a limited application of death sentences, let alone for dozens to be carried out at the same time. Executing people in whole batches like this was indecent. It was more like slaughtering cattle”.
Iran has carried out a number of public executions: “at least 44 executions took place in public, often using a crane to lift up high a man who had had a rope put round his neck, in front of a crowd of spectators. It is possible that some of those sentenced were minors (at least 11 of the prisoners executed). In any case it is a fact that in Iran many detainees in death row had been minors at the time they committed the offenses for which they were charged”.
Iraq, like Iran, uses torture to extract confessions and in both countries these “confessions” are sometimes broadcast on television “before the trial, in complete disregard of the presumption of innocence”.
In Iraq “these ‘confessions’ are frequently obtained under torture or ill treatment. According to reliable information these include electric shocks on sensitive parts of the body, being hung from their handcuffs, beatings with pistol butts or cables on the soles of the feet (falaqa) and use of drills”.
In Iran, which uses torture just as frequently, the swath sentence may be the obligatory penalty. Yet, as Amnesty International recalls, “the obligatory imposition of this sentence is incompatible with the protection of Human Rights since it leaves no possibility for taking into account the accused person’s situation or the circumstances of the crime”. Furthermore the “crimes” that carry an automatic death sentence are not always homicides but can be offenses linked to drug trafficking or rape. There are also “crimes” of a politico-religious character such as “being an enemy of God”, “treason”, “damaging national security”, “collaborating” with a foreign body or “crimes against the State”.
“The majority of the executions carried out in 2013 were of people sentenced for murder, drug trafficking, rape, espionage, “being an enemy of God” or “corrupting the earth”, the last two offenses being defined in quite vague terms. “Being an enemy of God” is mainly aimed at armed insurrection, but in practice it is used against people who, while not taking up arms, are suspected of links with organisations that are banned in Iran.
There is, in fact, a fairly wide field for which the death sentence may be given. They include, inter alia, “adultery by a married person”, “apostasy”, “sodomy” as well as actions that are not considered “serious crimes” by International standards and even some that that would not be offences at all. In May, President Ahmedinjad proclaimed a law altering the Islamic Republic’s Penal Code — the sentence of “stoning” for the “crime” of adultery is now included in the new Code.
Regarding the executions themselves, defence lawyers point out that they are not always informed beforehand of their clients’ execution although this is obligatory by law. Their families are not automatically informed of the execution beforehand — nor even, at times, after. Very often, the only indication that an execution is imminent is the transfer of a condemned man to solitary confinement in a cell called “the execution waiting room”. Sometimes the body is not handed over to the family who are not even told where he has been buried.
This in October 2013, a Kurdish political prisoner, Habibollah Golparipour, arrested in 2009 and sentenced to death in 2010 in a trial that lasted barely five minute on the grounds of “being an enemy of God” on the basis of his suspected links with the Free Life in Kurdistan Party (PJAK) was executed without his family being informed. The authorities refused to give them his body for burial.
Amnesty International has collected information on many cases in which the death sentence seems to have been used as a means of political or cultural repression of the country’s ethnic minorities — Ahwazi Arabs, Baluchis and Kurds in particular.
Regarding Iraq, as in Iran the death sentence is always a punishment for homicide but “the overwhelming majority of the executions carried out in the last few years were on the basis of Article 4 of Law 13 of 2005 regarding the struggle against terrorism, and covered a number of people originally from other Arab countries. This law particularly punishes actions defined in vague terms like provoking, planning or financing the committal of terrorist actions or of encouraging other people to commit such acts.
The government’s stand is that the death sentence is necessary in the context of the large number of attacks against civilians by armed groups. Yet there is no evidence that the death sentence has a dissuasive effect on crime or on these attacks. The security situation, moreover, has worsened in the country of the last few years (…) In many cases the death sentences were the outcome of legal proceedings contrary to the most elementary standards of equity, in which the prisoners has no access to legal representation worthy of the name”.
On the other hand, “no execution has taken place in Iraqi Kurdistan since 2008”.
A report published in the daily Basnews about meeting some Kurds of Sudan. It interviewed Jalal Jawhar, who was originally from Khartum where he went to university, and now lives in Raniah. He described his community and the fairly old history of its settling in that country.
The earliest mention of Kurds arriving in the Sudan are the troops that accompanied the Ayoubide prince, Turan Shah, Saladin’s brother, who came to take possession of the country in 1171, after the death of the last Fatimide Caliph. It is said that Turan Shan installed a governor called Ibrahin al-Kurdi, who died early but where descendents remained there.
It is also probable that Kurds also arrived later, through Egypt, at the time of the Ottoman Empire. Thus the historic leader, Osman Dinga (1840-1881), who had a leading role in the Mahdiist revolt, had a Kurdish father who came from Diyarbekir. He was a slave trader who married a woman of the Hadendowa tribe — as is recorded in the Encyclopaedia Britannica:
Osman Dinga “was the first person to defeat a British Army and his military techniques were later taught in British Army Schools. Kurds still hold important posts in the present government. For example Dr. Ali Mohammed Ali al-Kurdi is a high ranking Army officer and politician who has important position in the Ministry of the Interior” explained Jalal Jawher, who associated the name of the Province Kordofan with the Kurds, although linguists see it as a Nubian term (Kordu=man). In any case, there are many localities in the province that bear the nisbeh (epithet) al-Kurdi (Shwwaf al-kurdi, Wadi Buheyrat al-kurdi etc)
“There are about 100,000 Kurds living in the Sudan today, mainly in the East of the country. Unfortunately they have forgotten their Kurdish culture and language, which no one speaks there today. Many years ago we used to celebrate Newroz, but that has ceased”.
These Kurds of Sudan are particularly active in trade and industry. Thus a well-known soap factory is called Al-Kurdi and the Kurds claim to have introduced a number of agricultural tool and techniques.
Jalal Jawher expressed the hope that the Iraqi Kurdistan Government would open a cultural centre in the Sudan so that the Kurdish language might again be taught the Kurdish Channels might have Arabic broadcasts so that the Kurds of Africa might reconnect with their culture, their identity and traditions. Meanwhile he has created a page on Facebook that makes an inventory of the biographies of Kurds who have been outstanding in Sudanese history.