B u l l e t i n

c o m p l e t

Bulletin N° 349 | April 2014



The first Iraqi elections since the departure of the US troops took place in a tense atmosphere marked by acts of violence. They began on 28 April as the security forces voted two days before the rest of the citizens, planned for the 30th.  Already on the 28th there were bomb attacks on polling stations, causing at least 27 deaths. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) had already announced that it would carry out reprisals against Sunni Arab Iraqis who turned out to vote.

 As far as the Shiites were concerned, bomb attacks on election meetings resulted in 37 dead and many injured, some being in a critical condition.

Thus on the 30th, about 60%of the Iraqis, out of the 18 million electors, defied the terrorism by turning up at the polling booths to elect 328 members of Parliament for a 4 year term of office.  Parliament will then have to elect the President of Iraq, who will then appoint a Prime Minister responsible for forming the government.

The electoral system adopted is proportional representation with open lists. The eighteen constituencies (governorates) must elect their representatives — 7 to 34 depending on the size of the constituency’s population. This is the first time this system has bee used in Iraq, following a decision of the Supreme Court. Previously the modified Saint-Laguë method was used which allocated a quotient to each seat, thus favouring the bigger parties. This is just the reason the Supreme Court put forward as “discriminating against the smaller parties” to advocate a change in the polling method. Thus “seven compensating seats” have been allocated to parties whose results, at national level are not reflected in each of the constituencies. Finally, there are eight seats reserved for religious minorities — five for Christians, and one each for the Mandeans, Yezidis and Shabaks.

The Iraqi High Electoral Commission had authorised 276 political entities to field candidates. These entities have formed coalition lists the winning one of which has, according to the Constitution, someone at the top of the list who is due, should it win, become the Prime Minister. This does not, however, prevent the parties from forming new coalitions after the election results have been declared.

The largest political parties in the field are the State of Law Party, led by the present Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, the Sadrist Movement (a Shiite militia), Masud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, that this time has not formed a coalition with either Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan or with Gorran (an opposition party with which it is negotiating to form a government in the Kurdistan Region). In addition there is the Iraqi National Alliance led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a pro-Arab secular party that includes Shiite and Sunni Arabs.

Some new parties have formed since the 2010 parliamentary elections, including the “League of People for Truth” that brings together some Shiite paramilitary groups close to Iran and the White Block, a break away from the Iraqi National Movement formed when eight of its members of Parliament left it in March 2011 to form their own group following disagreements with Iyad Allawi. In the 2013 provincial elections they had joint a list led by Nuri Maliki but will be standing on their own for the parliamentary elections.

Because of the increasing political and sectarian tensions in Iraq, everyone expected the vote to be more “community oriented” than inspired by the various lists’ political programmes (often pretty laconic). As well as the Sadrist Movement, the “religious” Shiite votes could go to the Iraqi Supreme Islamic Council (ISIC), a religious Shiite party very influential in Southern Iraq, which has, however, lost ground to Nuri Maliki’s State of Law party. The ISIC proposes a form of autonomy for the Shiite South, but of a pretty theocratic character.

In addition to the Iraqi National Alliance, Sunni Arab voters have a choice between Al-Hadba, an Arab nationalist movement led by Atheel Al Nujayfi, brother of d’Usama Al Nujayfi, the present Speaker of Parliament, and the Iraqi National Front for Dialogue, a coalition of five parties, four of which are mainly Sunni Arab and one Christian Party.  Al-Hadba has a strong base in the Nineveh-Mosul area where it has often clashed with Kurdish elected representatives on the provincial councils

The results will only be made known on 25 May, after the High Electoral Commission has ruled on the many objections that have been filed with it.

In Kirkuk Province, the final results, as for the rest of Iraq, will be published on 25 May. However, it already appears that the PUK come out top, with an overwhelming victory for the present governor, Dr. Karim Najmaldin, who won 200,000 votes, far ahead of the KDP (63,347) the Turcoman Front (50,000). Then comes the Arab Alliance (30,000), Gorran (23,713) and the two Kurdish religious parties, Yekgirtu and Komal, with 7 and 4 thousand votes respectively.

At first sight, and subject to the final official results, neither Gorran nor the religious parties will win a seat on the Kirkuk Provincial Council.

Since no party will be able to win a majority of the seats, several months of haggling can be expected before a coalition government with a parliamentary majority can be formed.

On the Sunni and secular Arab side, Al-Hadba, led by Atheel Al Nujayfi, is likely to win between 33 and 37 seats, the Iraqi National Alliance, founded by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, is likely to win between 17 and 25 seats and the Iraqi National Front for Dialogue might have another 10 seats.

The Prime Minister, especially, is hoping to win a third term of office, but he is in conflict with the Kurds and the Sunni Arabs as well as a substantial part of the Shiites. Were he to take office, the country is in danger of breaking up in the coming years.

Since the Parliamentary and Provincial elections were in full swing, the issue of Nuri Maliki’s cuts in the budget allocation to the Kurdish Region has not been resolved.  In an interview given to the Arabic language daily, Al-Hayat, Masud Barzani expressed the opinion that Iraq was falling apart and that this political reality had to be faced: “major instability” and “rampant terrorism in the Western regions of the country”, that has a Sunni Arab majority and where the ISIL is establishing itself on a lasting basis, and where “the government has completely lost control of some cities and where some terrorists are operating in a public manner”.

In his view, the heart of the conflict between Erbil and Baghdad is their different interpretation of the Iraqi Constitution: “Mr Maliki thinks that he is the only one to decide and that everyone else has only to obey. He does not support the Constitution as we in the Kurdistan Region do (…) He thinks that everything belongs to Baghdad”.

As for the Sunni Arab provinces, in a state of quasi insurrection, President Barzani points out that just after the fall of Saddam, he had tried to persuade the Sunni Arabs to form their own region, as had the Kurds, since he already foresaw a bloody conflict with the Shiites:  It was possible at the time, but they refused and still believed that, in Iraq, power traditionally and historically belonged to the Sunnis. They had not realised the extent of the change that had occurred. Now they are demanding it [to form their own Region] but now it seems harder and more complex to carry out. They are demanding and Baghdad is refusing it”.


At the same time as the parliamentary elections were taking place in Kurdistan as in the rest of the country, the three Kurdish provinces and Kirkuk were electing their provincial councils. 

In 2013 these elections had taken place in most of the Iraqi governorates except the Kurdish provinces and Kirkuk, Nineveh and Anbar. The last two provinces on 20 June 2013.

As for Kirkuk, Article 23 of the electoral law placed the decision about holding and carrying out of provincial elections to a “multi-ethnic committee” operating according to a rue of “general consensus”. However, in August 2013 the Iraqi Federal Court annulled this Article, on the grounds of its ineffectiveness (the elections had been postponed several times) and the Parliamentary legal commission had drafted a new electoral law that did not depend on the assent of all of the province’s ethic, religious and political components for approval. This decision of the Federal Court had been opposed, mainly, by the Arab and Turcoman minorities, who feared to lose their political influence in the face of the numerical superiority of the Kurds.

In the rest of the Kurdish Region, these elections and the election campaign that lasted throughout the month of April, had more of an impact on public opinion than the Parliamentary elections, as several international and Iraqi media noted — especially as the provincial councils had not had any elections for the last eight years. “This was particularly noticeable with the campaign of posters that plastered the streets there — those regarding the provincial elections outnumbered those for the Iraqi parliamentary elections. The same went for the local media” (Hayman Hassan in the daily Niqash)

There are several explanations possible for this: a “disillusionment” or scepticism on the part of the Kurds regarding the real influence that their M.P.s can have on Baghdad’s politics towards them but also an increased interest in the competition between the Region’s three major parties, that have been negotiating since the Regional Parliamentary elections of September 2013 about forming new cabinet. Coming barely 8 months after the PUK’s defeat by the Gorran party, these elections were a way for these political factions either to consolidate their victory (in Gorran’s case) of to avenge its defeat (for the PUK) by rising from 3rd place to 2nd. The religious parties, Yekgirtu and Komal, that had also had a good score, especially in Suleimaniyah, could also hope that their results might be confirmed or even improved.

Above all, the KRG electorate has also changed. Previously, the Provincial governors were directly appointed by the Region’s Ministry of the Interior. This governor, in turn, could choose and appoint high officials without consulting the provincial councils. Henceforth, however, as part of a determination to decentralise, it will be the Provincial Councils who appoint the governors, which has, obviously, increased interest in these elections, which will determine the weight of the parties in these councils.

Unlike the rest of Iraq, these elections took place in a calm atmosphere, without any terrorist attacks even though, here and there  (especially in Suleimaniyah) accusations of fraud were made against the dominant parties who have a certain degree of control of the police and security forces.

The first estimates published on Rudaw’s site, indicate that there was some drop in participation, compared with 2011, despite a 216,211 increase in the number of electors throughout the Region, or by Province:

Duhok :                             + 62 706

Erbil :                                + 60 636

Suleimaniyah :               + 92 869

With these 216,211 new electors, 80,784 less voted than in 2011 (1,887,991 as against 1,968,775 in 2011), giving a 67% turnout for the KRG as a whole, while for each province:

Provisional results of the 2014 elections (GRK + provinces) :


Votes overall





727 372 (39%)

322 000 (72%)

323 240 (50%)

82 132 (10%)


463 861 (25%)

25 230 (6%)

94 631 (15%)

344 000 (43%)


463 861 (25%)

25 230 (6%)

94 631 (15%)

344 000 (43%)


433 484 (23%)

37 282 (8%)

140 702 (22%)

255 500 (32%)


153 700 (8%)

57 000 (13%)

33 000 (5%)

63 700 (8%)


109 319 (6%)

4 132 (1%)

51 500 (8%)

53 687 (7%)


255 (0%)

3 (0%)

207 (0%)

45 (0%)


Compared with the September 2013 Parliamentary elections :


Total Votes





743 984 (38%)

310 816 (70%)

340 668 (48%)

92 500 (11%)


476 736 (24%)

12 775 (3%)

130 000 (18%)

333 961 (41%)


350 500 (18%)

25 176 (6%)

91 072 (13%)

234 252 (29%)


186 741 (9%)

56 660 (13%)

46 000 (7%)

84 081 (10%)


118 399 (6%)

4 814 (1%)

46 300 (7%)

67 285 (8%)


92 415 (5%)

33 566 (8%)

52 448 (7%)

6 401 (1%)


1 968 775 (100%)

443 807 (23%)

706 448 (36%)

818 480 (42%)


As can be seen, the KDP lost 16,612 votes in 2014, but its percentage of the vote increased by 1%. It increased its vote by 11,184 in Duhok (+2%) lost 17,428 in Erbil (-2%) and 10,368 in Suleimaniyah (-2%).

Gorran lost 12,875 votes and saw its percentage rise by 1%. It won 12,445 more votes in Duhok (+3%), lost 35,369 in Erbil(-#%) and won 10,039 in Suleimaniyah (+2%).

The PUK won 82,984 votes compared with 2013 and increased its overall percentage by 5%. It won 12,106 more votes in Duhok (+5%), 49,630 more votes in Erbil (+4%) and 21,248 in Suleimaniyah (+3%).


Total of votes lost/won and percentages:







- 16 612 (+1%)

+ 11 184 (+2%)

- 17 428 (-2%)

- 10 368 (-1%)


- 12 875 (+1%)

+ 12 445 (+3%)

- 35 369 (-3%)

+ 10 039 (+2%)


+ 82 984 (+5%)

+ 12 106 (+5%)

+ 49 630 (+4%)

+ 21 248 (+3%)


- 33 041 (-1%)

- 340 (0%)

- 13 000 (-2%)

- 20 381 (-2%)


- 9 080 (-5%)

- 682 (0%)

+ 5 200 (+1%)

-13 598 (-1%)


- 92 160 (-5%)

- 33 563 (-8%)

- 52 441 (-7%)

- 6 356 (-1%)


Thus, as can be seen, the KDP wins more votes in Duhok, its stronghold but loses in Erbil and Suleimaniyah. Gorran increases its vote in Duhok and Suleimaniyah but gives ground in Erbil. The PUK is the party that has increased its votes in all three provinces, while on the other hand Yekgirtu lost ground everywhere. Komal lost votes in Duhok and Suleimaniyah but won some in Erbil.

Thus the most marked fact is the unexpected rise of the PUK and the diminishing or stagnation of the vote for the two religious parties, Yekigirtu and Komal.


The disagreements between the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government and the PYD, the Syrian branch of the PKK, while not expressed by armed conflict, often resemble media trials of strength with accusations, denials and counter-accusations. Throughout this month the PYD has tried to organise a general protest movement against the digging of a  “ditch” along the Syrian Kurdistan border, comparing this with the wall built by Turkey along the Nusaybin border zone to prevent free passage to the PKK, smugglers, refugees and perhaps some Jihadists. Described as the “wall of shame” and compared to that built by Israel to separate the occupied territories, these measures presented by Turkey as being necessary for  security” have been attacked as aiming to “divide the Kurds”. 

Thus, when the issue of the border trenches along the KRG borders arose, it was on the same theme of “they want to enclose and strangle Rojava”. Some demonstrations were organised along the borders, between Sihela or Simalka and Girê Sor, in which the “Revolutionary Youth” (Ciwanên şoreşger) brought “hundreds of Kurds” mainly from Darik and Qamishlo, to Girê Sor, near the Sêmalka (Sihela) border to protest against the work under way and the treatment “inflicted on the Kurdish refugees at Erbil”, accusing the KRG for depriving the Syrian refugees of “bread and water”, beating them and “subjecting them sexual exploitation”.

According to the “Jezirah Canton” authorities, these 26 Km long trenches are being installed by the KDP solely in order to inflict “economic sanctions” on the PYD administration.

On 9 April, the Peshmergas opened fire apparently to prevent a raid by the PYD youth on the border bridge, and injured one of them, but only slightly. Apparently an 18 year old received two bullets in his foot. The next day “thousands of demonstrators” (PYD figures) returned to the border but when the Peshmergas again opened fire (without causing any casualties, probably warning shots)the order was given for the demonstrators to disperse.  The pontoon bridge was withdrawn and the pro-PKK and PYD media stated that the KRG flag was replaced by that of the KDP.

On 14 April, an official of the Iraqi Kurdistan Peshmerga Ministry, Hadji Osman, stated to Rudaw that the order to dig the trenches was aimed at preserving the Region’s security, threatened by the ISIL and some Jihadist movements, and that the work was continuing. Moreover Hadji Osman recalled that such arrangements had existed for several years to protect Duhok and Erbil from terrorist incursions.

A Peshmerga officer told the Iraqi daily Zaman that the decision to dig this trench was jointly taken by the Iraqi and Kurdish government to stop smugglers. However, questioned by Rudaw, Ali Mousavi, one of Prime Minister Nuri Maliki’s advisors, denied that his government had taken any such decision. The Kurdish Peshmergas, however, state that similar trenches are being dug along 605 Km of the Iraqi-Syrian border, that they are 2 m deep and 3 m wide and that only 15 km remain to do.

 Such security ditches have been in existence for the last ten years to protect the Kurdistan Region. After the terrible casualties of the February 2004 suicide bomb attack, a 35 km long security trench, w m deep and 3 m wide was built to prevent car bombs from coming over from Nineveh or Kirkuk province by avoiding the check points on the main roads. Following the suicide attack on the security forces at Erbil last September, the KRG decided to extend these trenches by another 200 Km. There are about 6,000 men manning the security barriers and check points will be set up every 250 m, each with an observation tower.

While this impressive arrangement can be explained by the activity of the ISIL, that is active in both Syria and Iraq, and the KRG’s determination to remain that “other Iraq”, safe, peaceful and attractive to both tourists and investors, this extension of the trenches, which was fully accepted in 2004 has, this time sparked off protests, perhaps inspired by those of the PYD. The protests, this time were from the Kurdish elected representatives of Kirkuk, mostly from the PUK, who saw them as an attempt to separate Kirkuk from the Kurdistan Region and thus abandoning its demands for integration.

On the same day, Masud Barzani, the Kurdistan President, retorted by accusing the PYD of collaboration with the Baath regime. Speaking on the Sky News Arabiya TV, the Kurdish President described the PYD as “the only Kurdish organisation conniving with the regime and using armed force to control the region”. He added that “the gains in Western Kurdistan” that the Syrian PKK had secured were “temporary” and would disappear as the situation developed. According to Masud Barzani, “the agreements between the PYD and the regime” did not cover Kurdish autonomy, which he would have considered “a positive step” had it been the case. “I do not believe, however, that such a political agreement exists. We have no evidence of any such agreement”.

For its part, the Kurdish National Council is trying to create the cohesion and unity that it has lacked since the start of the Syrian conflict. Thus 4 Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria (Al-Partî), the Kurdistan Union Party and two branches of the Kurdistan Freedom Party (Azadî), which are all close to the KDP and on bad term with the PYD have decided to fuse and officially form, as from 3 April, the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria.

Moreover, this month, the NGO “Reporters Without Borders* (RSF) published an online report entitled “Rojava, or how the PYD intends to control the media and bring to heel those active in news and information”. In this, the ONG says it is “particularly worried by the degradation of the freedom of information situation in the territories controlled by the Democratic Union Party (PYD). This organisation is aware of the security problems in this region, at a time when the conflict is deepening and where jihadists are threatening the civilian population. Nevertheless, as the authority controlling this part of Syrian territory, it is the PYD’s responsibility too observe the fundamental freedoms, amongst which is the freedom of information”.

Reporters Without Borders considers, in particular, that the “Union of Free Media” that wants to control “those media that wish to work in Rojava (…) undoubtedly looks like the establishment of a kind of Ministry of Information. Moreover, this organisation has recorded a growing number of abuses of power against Syrian activists in the field of information, mainly by the Asayesh (security forces) and the YPG (People’s Defence Units)” (that is the armed branch of the Kurdish Supreme Committee, accused of being the armed wing of the PYD). Already, in September 2013, in its report “Journalism in Syria: and impossible mission” RSF had already recorded a number of abuses (pages 9 and 10 of the report).

Basing itself on the evidence of Kurdish journalists working for such press organisations as Rudaw or Zagros TV,  RSF denounces the fact that “the PYD and its henchmen, do not hesitate about arresting and even kidnapping, the overcritical information activists in order to silence them and intimidate the others”. Journalists are, moreover, not the only victims of the PYD’s coercive policy, since “a certain number of information activists have also taken the road into exile, fleeing the PYD’s threats”.

source : RSF =,46220.html


On 17 April, Samko Khorshidi, a Kurdish political prisoner, was executed in Kermanshah Prison. Arrested in 2010, he was one of several dozen Kurds who are waiting in death row. 

According to a Human Rights report, the Iranian regime has executed over 170 people in the first few months of 2014.

On 3 April, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the European Union’s strategy regarding Iran) (2014/2625(RSP), in which it recalls, in the preamble, “the recent declaration of 22 January 2014”, and also the special UN report on the Human Rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran, warning about the “considerable increase in the number of hanging in Iran”. Considers that “the Human Rights situation in Iran continues to be marked by permanent and systematic violation of fundamental human Rights” and “that Iran still refuses to cooperate with UN organs on human rights issues. For example it has refused to issue a visa to the special UN reporter on the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran and has prevented him from carrying out his mission freely and independently”.

Amongst the subjects covered by the resolution, the question of human rights is the most frequently mentioned:

(The European Parliament)

14.  Welcomes the release of several prisoners of opinion in Iran, in particular the Human Rights lawyer and Sakharov Prize-winner Nasrin Sotoudeh, and calls on the Iranian authorities to free all the imprisoned human rights activists, all political prisoners, all the Trade Unionists and labour rights activists and all people arrested after the 2009 Presidential elections. It notes with interest President Hassan Rouhani’s initiative in drafting a charter of the rights of citizens but nevertheless expresses its persistent concern regarding Human Rights in Iran, particularly in view of the widespread allegations of torture, of inequitable trials (particularly of lawyers and human rights activists) and impunity for those violating human rights. It says it is alarmed by the great number of executions in 2013 and 2014, including of minors, and observes that most of the executions in 2013 took place in the last five months of the year. It condemns the restrictions on freedom of information, freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, religious freedom, academic freedom to teach and freedom of movement as well as the repression and discrimination on the basis of religion, conviction or ethnic origin, of sex or sexual orientation which still exist, including against the Baha’I community, Christians, apostates and those who have converted.

15. Considers that the Charter of Citizens’ Rights should fully conform with Iran’s international obligations, in particular regarding non-discrimination and the right to life, strengthening the prohibition of torture and the guarantee of total freedom of religion and conviction as well as freedom of expression, which at present is restricted by a measure formulated in a vague manner regarding “offenses linked to national security”.

16. This being the case, invites the Union to integrate human rights into all aspects of its relations with Iran. Considers that a high level dialogue on all human rights should be part of the framework of bilateral political relations between the Union and Iran. Calls on the Union to start a dialogue on human rights with Iran that should cover justice and the security forces and set up clearly defined reference criteria whereby progress can be measured. Demands that the Union fully support the work of the UN Special reporter on the Human Rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran and calls on Iran to give him, immediately and unconditionally, a visa. Encourages Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner to accept the invitation of the Iranian authorities to visit Iran and calls on Iran to call a moratorium of capital punishment.

17. Stresses that any future delegation of the Parliament to Iran should strive to meet members of the political opposition and activists of civil society and to meet some political prisoners.

18.  Stresses that it is important to create an atmosphere favourable to the proper working of civil society’s organisations, in particular a reformed legal framework. It invites the Union to make better overall use of the European Union’s guide-lines regarding human rights as well as the new flexibility provided by the European instrument for democracy and human rights 2014-2020; as well as the European Fund for Democracy recently established by the EU and its member states so as to support the Iranian human rights defenders and the civil society organisations in Iran.

19. Associates itself with the urgent appeal of 772 Iranian journalists to the Iranian President for him to keep his promise and authorise the reopening of the Iranian Journalists  Association.

20. Encourages the Union to study the possibility of extending technical assistance to Iran in partnership with international organisations so as to help in them to reform the procedures of the Penal Code, at present being envisaged by the Iranian Parliament.

Expresses its concern, especially regarding the impossibility of detainees to have a lawyer present during their interrogation; the serious allegations of abuse during detention prior to being charged, of preventive detention and civilians being tried before revolutionary courts all stress that the absence of political interference and the guarantee of a fair trial are the basis of a modern penal code and essential for the question of human rights.

21. Demands that Iran cooperate with the international organisations for the defence of human rights and its NGOs by observing the recommendations of the United Nations, of periodical universal examination and by authorising the international organisations for the defence of human rights to carry out their missions.

22. Is of the opinion that women’s rights should necessarily remain a subject of special attention in all dialogues between the Union and Iran; consider that, despite some progress already achieved, the situation of women in Iran remains stained with unacceptable discriminations in legal matters and with regard to family rights and the participation of women in economic and political



The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPN) published this month a detailed report on the “vulnerability” of the press in Iraqi Kurdistan as soon as its journalists tackle “sensitive” subjects like religion, social inequalities and corruption, especially of they link these with political leaders.

It is in this context that it raises the case of the murder of Kawa Garmiyani, chief editor of the daily Rayel, whose articles on corruption were particularly aimed at PUK leaders. After receiving death threats in July 2012 from Mahmoud Shangawi, an Army General and member of that party, he was assassinated eighteen months later at Suleimaniyah on 5 December 2013. He was 32 years old and left a widow who gave birth to a posthumous son 17 days after his murder.

Arrested in January 2014, Mahmoud  Shangawi insisted on his innocence and was released for lack of evidence. Another PUK member was then arrested and pleaded guilty, but the victim’s family doubts that he was the “brains” behind the murder.

Some journalists and Human Rights activists organised demonstrations as from 20 December, openly accusing the PUK of covering the murderer.

The CPJ report is based on the testimony of the Metro Centre Group, a Suleimaniyah based journalist defence NGO, and recalls that in recent years some 700 acts of aggression against journalists there have been recorded, in various forms L threats, harassment, blows, detentions, intimidations and arson. Most of these remain unpunished.

The number of these aggressive acts reached a peak at the beginning of 2011, during bloody demonstrations in Suleimaniyah against corruption and abuses of power by local officials. In the course of 2011, Metro Centre noted 359 attacks on journalists and media, a hitherto unequalled number. This dropped in 2012 (132) and 2013 (193). The election campaigns and the tensions resulting from the competition between the parties have, however, increased these aggressions.

According to the Kurdish government, this drop in attacks is to be seen as paralleled by the increasingly deeper adoption of democratic values in society and an increasing tolerance. Thus the assistant Minister of the Interior explained to the CPJ that his Ministry had invited all the Western experts to come and train the police and security officers on the way to behave towards journalists and that the diversity of publications in the Kurdish Region bore witness to its determination to encourage press freedom.

The CPJ recognises that hundreds of publications appear both printed and Internet as well as other media, however the dailies are dominated by the parties in office and often publish interview with leaders printed in full with flattering photos. The independent publications are only weekly or fortnightly. The televised also journals were also very dependent on the major parties until the state monopoly ended in 2011 with the appearance of Nalia, the first private radio and television channel.

The Internet networks are very active, with a number of Websites and very lively social networks like Facebook and Twitter resulting from rapid and high quality Internet connections that are, nevertheless fairly cheap. News broadcasts is therefore widely followed by the public and the debates and confrontations that do not find enough space in the traditional media take place on the Web.

The newspapers could never play the role played by the social networks”, explained Hermin Lihony, chief editor of Rudaw (which is both an online paper and, recently also televised). He also pointed out that 85% of his paper’s audience comes from Facebook or Twitter. “This is beginning to change the attitude of the political parties in every way. Now politicians have to think about people’s reactions before making a statement and how the social media will reflect it”.

While it is not impossible to investigate corruption and other sensitive subject, many journalists say they do some form of self-censoring, especially if their enquiries are aimed at officials and only express themselves in general terms — for example describing a government organ as being riddled with corruption without directly accusing the official resonsible. This result is that the articles often are ineffective and remain vague.

For having failed to take such prudent measures — and this in ounce of the most tribal rural regions of Kurdistan, the Germiyan area — Kawa Garmiyani had not hesitated, in his paper Rayel, to implicate by name some local officials, which is called crossing the “red line” by Dana Assas, the editor of the paper Awene, for which Kawa Garmiyani also worked.

There is an article in Law 35/2007 that forbids the detention or harassing of journalist or the closing gown of papers. This is, in fact an extremely progressive legal measure compared with the general standards of press freedom in the Middle East. However, the restrictions to this freedom in the Constitution are rather vague and there lack of precision gives a wide margin for attacking a publication: “inciting hatred”, “insulting or offending religious beliefs”, “disclosing matters of private life”. Many journalists have this been detained (in breach of the law)  for “espionage”, “deviating social standards” and so are often subjected to fines.

In 2013 the Kurdish Parliament passed a law to guarantee public access to information. However journalists consider that the major problem is not the content of the laws but their application, because, in their opinion, the courts are not independent of the authorities in office.

The CPJ recommends, among other measures, that the KRG investigate and resolve the murders, not only of Kawa Garmiyani but also of Serdesht Osman, another Erbil-based journalist, assassinated in 2010, to provide more training and education to the judicial staff, and the police forces so that no journalist be illegally detained for his professional activities; to amend the press laws so that their content be more precise  and less subject to abusive or arbitrary interpretation.

The CPJ also recommends that the political parties encourage open debate and criticism and not encourage violent acts against the press and that UNESCO work for carrying out a Plan of Action by the United Nations on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, in partnership with the KRG so as to develop and improve the legislation and the mechanisms for protecting journalists and guaranteeing freedom of expression and information.


Hiner Saleem’s latest film, “My Sweet Pepperland” that was part of the official selection of the 2013 Cannes Festival in the “Un Certain Regard” section, was generally released on 9 April: 

“At the meeting point of Iran, Iraq and Turkey, in a lost little village that is the hotbed of all kinds of trafficking, Baran, a police officer newly arrived is trying to ensure that the law is observed. This former fighter for Kurdish independence now has to fight against Aziz Aga, the local big shot. He also meets Govend, the village schoolteacher, a young woman as beautiful as she is rebellious . . .”

“My Sweet Pepperland” is a “direct tribute to the Western” according to its director. “I think that Kurdistan today is like America at the time of the Westerns: oil is being found, roads and schools and infrastructures are being built and they are trying to ensuring that the law is applied”.

While the four main characters are played by professional actors, including Golshifteh Farahani and Kokmaz Arslan, the rest are played by some inhabitants of Iraqi Kurdistan, where the film was shot.

It has been greatly praised by the critics. Hubert Lizé, in Le Parisien, says “this grim action film in which humour softens the most dramatic situations has the inspiration of the best spaghetti Westerns. And charismatic heroes to whom one is attracted from the opening shots, as to magnificent lonesome cowboys”. According to La Croix, “a real pleasure for the spectators highlights every fresh encounter with Hiner Saleem, who, from one film to the next transforms the pain of exile and human absurdity into serious adventures and burlesque escapades”.

In Nouvel Obs, Arnaud Schwartz considers that “Hiner Saleem rediscovers the lode he mined in “Vodka Lemon” and “Kilometre Zero”. He breaks with the severity that characterised his French films “On the Roofs of Paris” and “if you die, I’ll kill you”, both very successful films but commercial failures. So he lets himself go down another slope that is more natural for him and leads to a fantasy coloured by absurdity, like the scene of execution by hanging made impossible by inadequate materials. My Sweet Pepper Land is a Kurdish Western that against a magnificent countryside gives it more than its due (to Sergio Leone, in particular) and to the beauty of Golshifteh Farahani.

In the opinion of the daily paper LibérationMy Sweet Pepperland plays with all the conventions and clichés, circumventing and exploiting them, returning to the eternal myth of the birth of a nation in the heart of a secret land, virtually neglected by the cinema”.

Finally, according to Téléramathis film-maker’s tragic-comic signature has the gift of opening up hidden sores: behind the stylisation we perceive a youth stifled by the family and society. And the there is the Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani, exiled by the mullahs and resonating in this rebellious role. Her scorching eyes and jet-black hair give her the beauty of a fairy tale. When her silhouette stands out against the mountains at dusk and the soft sound rises of the hang (a bewitching instrument that, oddly enough, was invented by Swiss hippies!) — then we really feel grace has descended. At least in Hiner Saleem’s Kurdistan dreamland”.