Although only just formed, the new Turkish cabinet has had to face two international crises — with the “Islamic State” and with its Kurdish neighbours, one of which (Iraqi Kurdistan) being theoretically an ally and the other (they PYD) still an “enemy ” despite its uncertain and laboured peace process between Turkey and the PKK.
During the Jihadist offensive against the Iraqi Kurds Turkey succeeded in being remarkably quiet and inactive whereas the USA, France and the European Union fairly rapidly were mobilised to arm the Kurds and hit out at the “Islamic State” (IS). Turkey’s failure to act and its equally great blind eye at the constant flow of Jihadist candidates from all over the world going to join the IS in Syria or Iraq greatly displeased the Erbil authorities and strengthened the pro-Iran political circles against those favouring a Turco-Kurdish alliance.
However, when the IS, after the air strikes against its bases in Mosul and Raqqa, transferred a major part of its armed forces to capture the PYD “canton” of Kobanî causing thousands of Syrian Kurdish refugees to rush towards the Turkish borders, the Kurds’ war effort ended by concerning Ankara.
The Kurdish refugees flocking towards Turkey at first found the borders closed to them and a hundred or so Turkish Kurds who came to protest on the spot against this closing of the border was dispersed by the police with tear gas and water cannons. However, Turkey soon had to open its border and several tens of thousands of Kurdish refugees arrived to join the one and a half million Syrian exiles on its soil.
The demonstrations of Turkish Kurds increased as did their clashes with the police that prevented them going to fight in Syria. At the same time, some Kurds from Kobani, who had crossed the border to place their families in safety, then wanted to return and take their place at the front. This gave rise to taunts about the porous character of the Turkish borders regarding international Jihadists coming to swell the IS ranks as against the way it was sealed against Kurdish volunteers. These accusations of double standards were strengthened by the release, on 21 September, of 49 Turkish diplomats and their families the IS had take as hostages since their capture of Mosul last June. Whereas the Western, Arab and Kurdish hostages receive death threaten (and, in some cases, are executed) this unexpected liberation was seen as the outcome of under-cover negotiations and non-aggression agreements and even of secret cooperation in Kurdish eyes. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan refused to give any detailed explanation for this liberation while denying that any ransom or political promises had been given, while claiming the necessity for secrecy in this kind or operation.
“There are some things about which one cannot speak. Directing a State is not the same as directing a grocery store. We have to protect our sensitive activities — of you don’t do so there will be a price to pay”.
Despite his reticence about lifting the veil on Turkey’s “sensitive activities” the Turkish and foreign press commented extensively about the hidden dealing behind this release and the daily paper Taraf of 3 October raised the issue of an exchange of these 40 hostages against 180 Jihadists, which Erdogan did not even bother to deny. These 180 Jihadist fighters are said to have been wounded, evacuated and treated in Turkish hospitals, which is nothing new since even members of the YPG are treated in Turkish hospitals, as has been shown in a report by F. Geerdink published in The Independent (28 September). However, with regard to these fighters the US had, according to Taraf, asked Ankara not to release them, once they had recovered, While the IS was making pressing demands for them. Finally, these 180 convalescing Jihadists were brought together in Van whence they were handed over to the IS.
In the first days of October, the IS fighters seized all the villages of the Kobani canton except the town itself, that has been besieged for almost a month. When the IS succeeded in hoisting its flag in one of the town’s quarters, demonstrations rook place throughout Turkey, starting with the major Kurdish cities of Diyarbekir, Mardin, Siirt, batman, Mus. These were organised by the Kurdish HDP-BDP party to protest at the sealing of the border and the way volunteers were being prevented from going to help save Kobani. The usual violence of clashes with the police was increased by clashes with the Huda=Par, a small Kurdish pro-Hezbollah party. Curfew was declared and all domestic flights cancelled while at least twenty deaths were reported.
For his part, Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK leader, called for the mobilisation of “all the Kurds” against the IS (the PKK’s military command had, at first, only called on the Kurdish in Turkey to rally to help Kobani) though without specifying the content of this “resistance”. He also criticised Turkey for its negotiations with the IS while it had failed in its negotiations for resolving the Kurdish question. However, unlike his commander Murat Karavilian, he did not state that the peace process was “dead”. The PKK leader gave Turkey a deadline of 15 October to change its policy towards the IS and the PYD.
Following for a while Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s line of creating a “buffer zone” between the Turkish and Syrian borders, France, one of the principal actors in the struggle against the IS, at first approved Ankara’s wishes about this, as shown by an official declaration by François Hollande, made after a telephone conversation with his Turkish opposite number.
He expressed “complete convergence of view” with him: “on the necessity of helping the moderate Syrian opposition in struggle against both the Da’ech and Bachar al-Assad\s regime”. The president of the French Republic insisted on avoiding a massacre of the populations of the North of Syria and supported “the idea put forward by President Erdoğan of creating a buffer zone between Syria and Turkey to receive and protect the displaced people”.
However, the idea of a buffer zone immediately came up against two oppositions: that of the US and that of the Kurds. The latter evidently looked with disfavour on seeing Turkish troops being settled in their regions in Syria. As for the US, their “absence of any strategy” (as Obama himself admitted) against the IS took the form of a list of things they did not want rather than one of things to do. The idea of a buffer zone was this described as “not on the agenda for the moment”. In a Press Conference given in Cairo with the Egyptian Foreign Minister on 12 October, John Kerry, in reply to a question from Brad Klapper (Associated Press) on the danger of massacres hanging over the Iraqi Province of Anbar and the city of Kobani, said he was “very concerned” by the situation of the latter, which he was following “attentively” while the air strikes were being increased. John Kerry made the point that he had personally discussed this matter with Masud Barzani, the Kurdish President, and Ahmet Davutoğlu, the Turkish Preime Minister, as well as with other partners of the Coalition before bluntly describing the American priorities.
“… Kobani does not define the coalition’s strategy regarding the Da’esh. Kobani is a community and what it happening there is a tragedy and we do not minimise it but as we have said from the start it will take tie to get the coalition to get fully in harness to restore the morale and capacity of the Iraqi Army. It must first concentrate that which we regard as primary — i.e. Iraq while we damage and eliminate certain of the IS’s control and command centres, as well as its sources of supply and training areas in Syria. That’ s our strategy of the moment”.
John Kerry concluded that it was firstly up to the Iraqis to fight and regain Anbar, but failed to specify who was responsible for defending Kobani, which (from the American point of view) was a minor point of the offensive against the Da’esh, whose nerve centre was at Raqqa. Thus the purely aerial actions and the policy of “no men on the battle field” adopted by the USA, Britain and France as well as the rest of the Coalition, have conveniently enabled Turkey to maintain its non-intervention policy so long as no one else moved.
What, for their part are the PYD and the PKK calling for? Not military intervention but the opening of a “corridor” that would allow their fighters from Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan to pass through as well as transport arms to Kobani. Surrounded by the IS on three sides and forced back against the Turkish border on the fourth Kobani can, indeed, only receive help from the North. This demand for a corridor has been supported by UNO — firstly by Ban Ki-Moon and then by Staffan de Mistura and, finally by President François Hollande. However, Mevlut Çavusoglu, the new Turkish Foreign Minister, in the course of a visit to France stated on France 24 that this corridor was “unrealistic”. He also criticised the US strategy, saying that hoping to eliminate the IS solely through air strikes was like wanting to “kill mosquitoes one at a time” instead or eradicating the roots of the situation namely the Baath.
To sum up, not one of those fighting the IS and who have been doing so since the summer wants the same thing and all are, often mutually, preventing one another from acting because of their contradictory programmes. The US wants to continue its long-term bombing, hoping to weaken the Da’esh so that the Iraqi, Syrian (opposition) and Kurdish armies can overcome it. France and Turkey hope that this war against the IS would also be include the fall of Bachar al-Assad, a fall somewhat set aside by the US. Turkey hopes to clear its borders of both the Baath and the PYD, hoping that the IS will do the work for it but may be prepared to let the ASL forces operate (and train) from its soil (according to AFP), while the PKK-PYD want, at all cost, to avoid any Turkish intervention or any takeover by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) or Kurdish forces (other than the YPG) of whatever remains of its cantons.
By mid-October the US had nevertheless increased it air strikes around Kobani (over 30 in one week) in cooperation with the YPG — the latter locating the IS fighters’ positions for the pilots as confirmed by Reuters’s spokesman, Polat Can. The latter pointed out that the new effectiveness of these strikes resulting from information provided by the Kurds had resulted in the Jihadists’ withdrawal, but that this retreat was only temporary as they always renewed their attacks.
These contacts between Washington and the PYD have been confirmed by the State Department that reported a meeting in Paris on 12 October between Salih Muslim, the PYD’s President and Daniel Rubenstein the State Department representative for Syria. A PYD spoles-man revealed that these secret meetings with the US had been taking place for the last 2 years, the only reason for their secrecy being the Americans’ need to “handle Turkey carefully”. The main part of these discussions were on arming the YPG and on coordinating their military operations with the FSA as has already taken place in the Aleppo-Afrin sector since August as well as in the Area South of Hassaké.
As for France, it says it is ready to supply arms to the Kurdish fighters in Syria, according to the government spokes-man, Stéphane le Foll, in the same way that it armed the FSA troops.
However, the announcement on 22 October, that had the greatest impact on Kurdish public opinion and certainly didn’t please Ankara, was of the arrival of reinforcements of 150 Peshmergas from Iraqi Kurdistan with heavy weapons, passing through Turkey. The Peshmergas landed at Urfa while a convoy of campaign equipment crossed the Ibrahim-Khalil border post between Zakho and Silopi travelling alongside the Syrian border. Masud Barzani had asked the Parliament at Erbil to agree to sending these reinforcements, which was given on 22 October. According to Fuad Hussein, his chief of staff, this was essentially to make up for the YPG’s lack of arms, the Peshmergas being there more to train the PYD fighters in handling these weapons than directly to fight the IS.
A few days earlier the Americans started parachuting ammunition and medical equipment to Kobani. John Kerry, who had answered, in Cairo, that Kobani was not one of their priority or strategic objectives, eventually stated (in Indonesia) that it would be “irresponsible” and “morally very difficult” not to come to the help of the YPG, which was “valiantly” fighting the IS even though he “understood” Turkey’s concern at arming the Syrian branch of the PKK. This US about turn probably came from the excessive media coverage of the battle of Kobani, which would have made the fall of the town a moral and political victory for the IS while also tainting US strategy with passiveness and ineffectiveness in the face of the Jihadist advances, in the eyes of the Coalition members.
Mevlut Çavusoğlu, affirmed that his country would help the Peshmergas cross the borders to reach Kobani, a town that Turkey certainly does not want to see fall. He also affirmed to the press that Turkey’s cooperation with the Coalition was “total”, as everyone wanted to clear the region of this “threat”. However, Ankara makes another suggestion — have Kobani defended by the FSA rather than the YPG, as was explained by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on the BBC. He called for the US to arm and train the Syrian Arab fighters instead of the Kurds to ensure that once the IS retired from the canton, the region would be controlled by the FSA and not by “PKK terrorists”. However, while the Americans have long been reticent about arming the Kurdish YPG because of its opposition to the Syrian National Coalition, they are even less warm about arming a military force that now seem a loose agglomeration with uncertain affiliations that is increasingly being infiltrated by Jihadist groups.
When the Peshmergas’ convoy crossed the border it was escorted by a jubilant crowd from Duhok to Zakho and then all along the road from Silopi to Suruç. The Turkish police several times fired into the air and tried to disperse the crowds with tear gas. This was because the passage of lorries carrying the Kurdistan flag gave rise to other Kurdish flags being waved all along the route — those of the PKK or of Rojava being hardly likely to please the Turks, whose Army evidently doesn’t arouse the same enthusiasm when it is deployed in Kurdistan… The other 85 Peshmergas landed at Urfa airport where they had to wait long hours in conditions or virtual detention, of which they complained describing a hostile attitude on the part of the Turkish authorities, who were clearly in a bad mood.
Did the arrival of these Peshmergas and their arms, on top of the air strikes, change the situation? The IS attacks slowed down, and some surrounding villages were retaken as well as most of the town of Kobani itself (according to the YPG) although Rami Abdulrahman, of the UK based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, considers that the situation has little changed and that there is still street fighting in the town. According to him, the IS has succeeded in establishing itself in certain quarters of Kobani and the Kurds are still insufficiently well armed. Moreover, the Afrin canton also seems in a a worrying situation, — surrounded, in its case by Jabhat al-Nusra forces. Although this group does not have the strength of the IS, the same situation exists — hemmed in by Turkey to the North and by hostile Arab forces, whatever their label, all round. This confirms the fragile character of “Rojava”, made up of Kurdish pockets, fated to suffer the attacks of either the IS or its rival Jihadists or even of the Syrian Regime itself should the PYD be led openly to choose the Coalition’s camp.
Throughout this, “negotiations have been taking place on Duhok between the PYD and the Kurdish National Council, sponsored by the Kurdistan Regional Government. This time, however, Salih Muslim recognised, on 15 October, that the new necessities in the field obliged “the Kurds to be united” and that he had discussed this in private with Masud Barzani. On October 18 Ibrahim Biri, in an interview given to Rudaw, spoke of a turning a “fresh page” to reach agreement on the joint administration of the “Kurdish cantons” in Syria. In fact, this means updating or really carrying out the Erbil agreements of 2012 for the joint management by the Kurdish parties and unified armed forces.
Hitherto the PYD demanded unification of these armed forces under its command, while the KNC a coalition of the IPG and the Syrian Peshmergas being trained in the KRG. The Erbil’s agreements had never been accepted in the field by the PYD, while it could still hold the cantons by itself. The KNC now hopes that the urgent need for outside help and its military weakness have made its rival change its mind and led it to accept power sharing. The new agreement was signed on 22 October at Duhok in Masud Barzani’s presence and a 30-member council must now administer the Rojava cantons, 12 of them being PYD members, 12 from the KNC and the rest being given to the minorities. However, apart from Cizir, which is the only canton to have a common border with the KRG, this agreement seems hard to apply in the field during war conditions.
What, in military terms, has the fervent defence of Kobani achieved? Not very much from that strategic point of view since all the villages around it fell into the hands of the IS and the town now only defends itself and the thousands of YPG fighters besieged there, with only one way out — the Turkish border which would be equivalent to an unthinkable surrender.
However, Kobani’s fierce resistance shot it onto the front line in the media, with many reports focusing on the YPG’s women members. The siege of Kobani has eclipsed the that of Sinjar where thousands of Yezidis were also threatened, surrounded being unable to flee to Duhok or Syria. The diplomatic gains of the PYD led to an open help from the USA and the Kurds of the KRG. Kurdish public opinion virtually unanimously rejoiced at this reconciliation between two influential Kurdish movements, many seeing it the beginning of a reunification of Kurdistan. Masud Barzani benefitting from the “American irritation” and Ankara’s shady game-playing succeeded in securing a right of passage for his troops from Turkey (under American pressure) as well as being able to do without his “great Northern neighbour’s” permission to intervene in Syrian Kurdistan. This has reduced the weight of the Erdoğan-Davutoğlu tandem in their role of “primus inter pares” in Kurdish affairs, which they have assumed over the last few years. The battle of Kobani was, first and foremost, a serious diplomatic set back for the Turks in the region.
The kidnapping and executions of Western, Arab and Kurdish journalists has imposed a blackout on any news about what it happening in the territories conquered by the IS while the latter maintains a very tight control about news that might filter through the local media.
This on 7 October an 11-point charter of “regulations” for use by some Syrian journalists remaining in Deir Ez-Zor Province was published that defines the “rights and duties” of a good reporter, as conceived by the IS. This was made public via the “Syria Deeply” site by a Deir Ez-Zor journalist following a meeting held by independent journalists and the IS staff responsible for the media. This meeting was, in fact, the announcing of “11 non-negotiable rules” which will be imposed on all journalists wishing to continue practicing their profession in Deir Ez-Zor:
1- The correspondents must swear an oath of allegiance to the Caliph al-Baghdadi… they are subjects of the “Islamic State” and, as subjects, are obliged to swear loyalty to their Imam.
2- Their work will be carried out exclusively under the exclusive of the IS Media Bureau.
3- The journalists can work directly with international agencies (such as Reuters, AFP, and AP) but they must avoid all the satellite television channels, international and local. The are forbidden to provide any exclusivity whatsoever or to have any contact (audio or visual) with them in any manner whatsoever.
4- Journalists are forbidden to work in any manner whatsoever with TV channels on the black list of channels working against the Islamic State (such as Al-Arabia, Al-Jazeera Orient). Offenders will be held responsible.
5- Journalists cannot cover events taking place in the Province, be it in writing or by pictures without first referring them to the IS Media Bureau. All publications and photos must bear the names of the journalists and photographers.
6- Journalists cannot publish reports (printed or broadcast) without first referring them to the IS Media Bureau.
7- Journalists can have their own accounts on social media or blogs and publish their own news and photos there. However the IS Media Bureau must be provided with the names and addresses of these accounts and pages.
8- The journalists must observe the regulations when they take photos within the territorie (of the IS) and avoid filming places or events relating to security when such photos hare forbidden.
9- The IS Media Bureau will follow the work of local and international journalists within the territories (of the IS) and in State media. Any breach of the regulations will led to the suspension of the journalist from his duties and he will be held responsible.
10- The regulations are final and may be subject to changes in time, according to circumstances and to the extent of the cooperation between the journalists and their commitment to their brothers of the Media Bureau. Journalists will receive a licence to exercise their profession after they have submitted a n application to the IS Media Bureau.
11- According to this journalist, who calls himself “Ameer”, at the end of this meeting a number of journalists accepted the regulations and signed a circular specifying the terms of this agreement.
Those who did not do so had to flee the country, but another clandestine activist who expresses himself on Facebook, Maher, made the point that leaving the province was difficult as the IS continued to send “messages” alternating between intimidation and persuasion for him to return. Some have also received threats of crucifixion or of the arrest of members of their family.
“The harassing of activists aims at preventing them from informing about the regulations the IS is trying to impose on its territories” (…) Because the activists have resorted these practices they have become N°1 enemies of IS, which has tried to silence them at all costs in the same way that Assad had done at the beginning of the revolution. The aim of silencing them was, as with Assad, that they were exposing the crimes being committed against the Syrian people (…) The Syrian regime arrested, imprisoned and tortured people in its prisons and may died.
It was quite common for an activist to be imprisoned once or twice and then released for some months. However, in the case of IS, activists are considered unbelievers and are condemned to death, or crucifixion some other way simply because they oppose the IS. The charges (against me) were prepared together with the sentence. Still worse, the IS threatened to arrest members of my family to prevent me from exposing their practices on Internet”.
Since the traditional media are under the strict control of the IS and no independent journalist can go there, all that remains is the clandestine media, the chronicles of the social and anonymous networks expressing themselves on blogs, Facebook or Twitter account via mobile phones and tablets that the IS cannot yet strictly block or control.
From Mosul an anonymous Mosul Eye has, since June 2014, been regularly publishing what he can see in the city conquered by IS. He does this either on a blog, or on Facebook or Twitter and also sometimes in interviews by external media like CBS News. His activity recalls that of the famous blog “Where is Raed?” kept by a young Baghdadi, Salam Pax between 2002 and 2009 and who, shortly before the overthrow of Saddam and who had drawn no much attention from all over the world that BlogSpot had to open a blog mirror, the original one being unable to cope with the number of connections he received every day.
Mosul Eye does likewise, generally on Facebook, reporting whatever he personally has seen since June 2014, confirming or denying rumours about measures that the IS is imposing on Mosul.
On 210 October, the first day of the new scholastic year, saw university teaching purged completely with:
- the closing of the Faculties of Law, Political Sciences, Fine Arts, Archaeology, and Physical education in other Faculties the closing of departments of Philosophy, Tourism, Hotel management
- the cancelation in the university programmes of any teaching covering democracy, education, culture, human Rights and law generally, novels, the theatre, the Departments of English, French as well as courses of translating and interpreting those languages.
- all questions regarding education, patriotism ethics are to be avoided as well as the “falsification” of historic events or geographic divisions that do not conform with their Sharia male and female students are to be segregated all references to the (Iraqi) Republic are to be replaced by the “Islamic State”
- the Ministry of Technology and Higher Education became the “Chamber of Education”.
How is the IS financed?
In addition to the oil fields captures and the smuggled sale of the crude and its derived products, as well as of gas (they also control Mosul’s cement making plant) the IS hires out government buildings to private concerns and taxes vehicles entering and leaving the city.
The IS’s financial deductions began in Mosul and Nineveh some time before the city fell to them: ever since 2013 IS has been demanding every shopkeeper to pay 10% of his capital and 10% of his monthly profits. At the end of 2013, IS had even imposed on the Nineveh Tax Office that taxes be paid directly to it. The governor of Mosul, al-Nujayfi, had only ended this fraud by himself paying a substantial sum to the Da’esh.
Some arbitrary taxes are also imposed on citizens by the militia under threat of death ¿ i.e as a form of racket or ransom. These extortions help maintain the armed and police forces, without IS having to pay them. This recalls some of the Baathist practices in both Syria and, formerly, in Iraq. False charges of all kinds are also forged by the police to make citizens or their families pay extra — for example to secure the release of a relative.
Shopkeepers who had been in business partnership with Yezidis or Christians (whether dead or in flight) are made to pay the income from the shares held by their former partners on pain of death.
Furthermore, three months before the capture of Mosul, the Da’esh had already begun to take an inventory of lodgings rented by Christians to Moslems and the tenants now have to pay their rents to the IS, which has become their landlords since all the goods belonging to non-Moslems have been taken over by the Da’esh. The tenants who do not pay their rent are expelled (a fine example of Moslem charity!).
Lodgings that have long been empty are also seized by the IS and anyone still in the premises must provide documentary roof of ownership or tenancy. Should the contract or document mention a Christian the lodging immediately becomes the property of IS and this comment is marked on the entry door. Thus the decors of the entry doors and thresholds of living quarters have been completely altered…
- empty lodgings are marked with the Arabic letter (ت /Téh) (Tahqeeq) for further enquiry when the IS seeks to know why the former inhabitants have left.
- those belonging or occupied by Christians are marked with the letter (ن/Nun) (Nazareyn) — which is what has been most widely reported by the media.
- (ر/rhe) letter R designate Shiites (rafidtha)
- the letter (م/meem) (matloub or sought for) indicates civil servants, teachers or doctors
- the letter (ج/Jeem) (counted) indicates goods and possessions throughout Mosul indiscriminately.
In September, between 2 and 5 million dinars were collected from all the merchants and businessmen as “zakat” (the legal Islamic alms donation for the destitute) under threat of imprisonment or confiscation.
The local supporters.
Interviewed by Rima Marrouch (CBS News), Mosul Eye anonymously indicated that the feeling of liberation felt by the population on the fall of Mosul because of the lifting of the checkpoint and the end of the suicide bomb attacks has been replaced by anger set off by the wholesale destruction of mosques and the mausoleums of Imams and prophets. This sacking of the city turned the views of a number of people including local IS supporters — even the destruction of churches and the expulsion of the Christians shocked many, being seen as the destruction of all Mosul’s historic heritage. The compulsory imposition of the wearing of the niqab by women displeased many. Moreover the most active and influential collaborators recruited by the IS criminals, were well known to Mosul’s citizens. However, this anger was also accompanied by a fear of the IS, even though some members of the militia were assassinated by groups of young men disguised as women — which led the Da’esh to ease the rules about women wearing the niqab…
The economic situation in Mosul has worsened, with soaring prices, especially of vegetables and gas. A bottle of gas now costs 45,000 dinars ($ 42) and some families have had recourse to alternative methods of cooking. There are now frequent electricity cuts and many have to resort to private generator sets. Running water is now limited to 2 hours a day. Petroleum derived products that had, at first, dropped in price are now constantly rising. Unemployment has soared, the hospitals and clinics are seriously short of medicines and equipment which is generously provided to IS’s own clinics. Many refugees from Baiji, Zummar and Anbar are living in even more difficult conditions — many in tents although winter is approaching. As in Kurdistan, the inhabitants of Mosul are helping them, despite their own financial difficulties.
The recruitment to IS forces.
To recruit members of its militia, IS has called a great deal on local supporters, who it trains in its centres. It also brings in volunteers from Tijrit or Anbar. Most of them seem less than 19 years old. Hundreds of children also seem to have been recruited and trained — apparently destined for suicide missions and assassinations around Mosul or in to infiltrate Iraqi or Kurdish forces. The IS “adopts the same methods as Saddam” by involving civilians, like taxi drivers, local street sellers, shopkeepers and ordinary citizens to collect information about all kinds of protests.
In august the IS required that these volunteers be sponsored for admission by two people — one being an IS member and the other a well known public figure of the quarter where the candidate lived. Then recruitment was opened to all those who wished to join. In the recruitment centres the members receive a monthly wage, thus raising their standard of living and single men are given a wife.
Alongside the fighter there is also an “Islamic police” that has been set up to manage local conflicts and receive the inhabitants’ complaints. According to Mosul Eye this enables IS to establish itself in the city’s social strata and helps it control the town. IS members have the right to return home to see their families 3 days a week then return to the centre where they are stationed to carry out their duties. Strict rules are laid down to avoid any contact with the rest of the population, except in saxes of extreme necessity. They can only take their meals through the IS’s Food Department — meals prepared ny the wives or parents of the members. Some Jihadists are never allowed to be seen except with their faces masked. They are part of a special unit charged with protecting senior leaders. They are also forbidden to carry any electronic equipment, to wear a beard or the official IS uniform.
There is one interesting detail: according to Mosul Eye the changes in the social fabric of the town, at first the work of Saddam and worsened since 2003 explain why the city did not resist IS last June, to a greater extent than the Shiite-Sunni antagonisms or ethnic conflicts, although the hatred of the Iraqi Army didn’t improve things. Here is his analysis:
“Mosul’s social fabric consists, mainly of tribal agglomerations that acquired considerably more power after the “Iraqi Freedom” operation in 2003. Tribal influence in the city was already there under the Baath regime, even before the war, when Saddam’s strategy was to “ruralise” the urban areas and to “militarise” the tribal communities. The US forces tried to restore the balance by choosing Ghanim al-Basso as mayor of the town. He was the Brother of Salim al-Basso, an Iraqi pilot executed by Saddam for treason. Al-Basso represented the urban and civic community of Mosul that has no links with the tribes. He was, however, unable to carry out any drastic changes and some more or less important armed groups resurfaced. The tribal agglomerations became centres of incubation of these movements, acting under the cover of Jihadist –Salafist trends that had been prepared for going into action even before the 9thApril (the date of Saddam’s overthrow). The majority of the fighters and commanders of these armed movements were country folk from the neighbouring villages, who dominated Mosul’s urban class — a scenario that was repeated when the city fell into the hands of the IS.
The “rural elements” were able to maintain control of all the city’s nerve centres — the armed forces, the social services and the administrative and political system, while the educated urban circles proved themselves incapable of facing up to such violent adversaries, who readily killed any opponents.
Indeed, in ten years a new urban generation emerged, derisively called “chickens” — young men who avoided any conflict or political commitment.
Tribal leadership thus became the norm in the city — a set-up installed and carried through by the tribes themselves. Mosul became almost completely “ruralised””.
According to Mosul Eye, the principal tribal actors are the Tell Afari, residents of the region of Tell Afar, who migrated to Mosul and have become the pillars of the IS operations.
Tell Afar is a rural district in the Nineveh plain about 70 Km from Mosul, mainly inhabited by Turkmen, Sunnis and Shiites, as well as Arabs and Kurds. It is mad up of 3 sub-districts: Rabi’a, Zummar and al-Iyadthiya, and is controlled by a Turkman tribe whose organisation is similar to that of the Arab tribes of the region. Conflicts have already broken out between the Sunnis and Shiites, and are mingled with ethnic clashes: the Afaris and the Kurds were long in conflict and this sometimes led to a coalition of the former with Arabs against the latter. In Rabi’a the fight against the Kurds were over possession of agricultural land — and it is one of the most important front line areas of the struggle between IS and the Peshmergas.
The Afaris have long been despised by the authentic Mosul citizens, who sneered at their stupidity and regarded them as a lower class, only good for manual trades at the bottom of the social scale. Under the Baath regime, the Afaris were not represented in the government and Saddam openly despised them. They were mainly peasants or building workers (which made them robust fighters). These antagonisms, based of class and ethnic stereotypes bred a deep hatred between Tell Afar and Mosul. The collapse of Baathist Iraq in 2003 and then the conquest of Mosul by the IS enabled the newly immigrated Afaris to take their revenge. Even before the fall of the town, the terrorism in Mosul was attributed by public opinion to the Afaris, as well as the kidnappings and assassinations. Under the IS the murders could be carried out openly.
On 8 October the Iraqi Parliament approved the final composition of the new government. Some changes, indeed, did take place in the provisional cabinet formed in September, and the Ministries of Defence and of the Interior, vacant since 2010, have finally been filled.
President Fuad Massum still has the three vice Presidents, approved in September: the two former Prime Ministers, Nuri Maliki and Iyad Allawi, and the former speaker of Parliament Osama Al-Nudjayfi.
However, in Primer Haydar Al-Abadi’s new cabinet, Roj Shaways, a Kurd, who had at first been appointed Finance Minister resumes the role of Deputy Prime Minister he Sunni had fulfilled under Nuri Maliki. The other two Deputy PMs, Saleh Al-Mutlaq, the leader of the Iraqi National front and Baha Aradji, a Sadrist (Shiite) who had been nominated in September remain unchanged.
The new Minister of the Interior is a Shiite, Mohammed al-Ghabban, of the State of Law Coalition. As he is leader of an influential Shiite Party, Al-Badr, which has its own militia under the command of Haj Al-Ameri, this leaves the Iraqi security forces under Shiite control — as had been the case under Maliki. The al-Badr militia had been one of the most active in the civil war between the two religious factions in 2006-7, which probably confirms the control of Baghdad’s defence forces by the Shiite militia — an initiative taken by Maliki last June following the fall of Mosul and the danger of an IS offensive against Baghdad.
To ensure or guarantee the balance between Iraqi Sunni and Shiites, the Minister of Defence is now a Sunni Arab, who is, moreover, originally from Mosul — Khaled Al Obeïdi, a member of the Alliance of Iraqi Forces and close to the former governor of Mosul, Athil al Nudjayfi. The choice of a Mosuli as Defence Minister is sign to the city and its province whose Sunni Arabs, very hostile to Nuri Maliki’s pro-Shiite Army, had welcomed the IS last June. Indeed, re-conquering Mosul cannot be achieved without a substantial Sunni participation in the army.
Finally the Finance Minister is a Kurd, Hoshyar Zebarî, who was Foreign Minister for many years. As the question of the Kurdish region’s share of the budget has been a key issue in the Baghdad-Erbil differences for several years, the fact that this Ministry is given to a Kurd could also be seen as a gesture to encourage the latter to take part in the Al Abadi Cabinet and as a pledge of good will by Baghdad to reach an agreement between Kurds and Arabs.
Another Kurdish appointment to the government is Bayan Nouri, of the Kurdistan Islamic Union, who becomes Minister for Women´s Affairs.
Ala Talabani, a Kurdish Member of Parliament in Baghdad (for the Kurdistan Alliance) stated in the daily As-Sharq al-Awsat that “the participation of Kurds in the government sends a reassuring message to our partners that we want to work together so long as those things that unite us carry more weight those which divide us. The IS terrorists are a danger to everyone and we need to work to confront them”.
In the same paper, another Kurdish Minister, Faryad Rawandozi, who has the Ministry of culture, considered that “the presence of Kurdish Ministers in the Iraqi Cabinet will help to enrich discussions and lead to cooperation so as to resolve a certain number of Kurdish problems, such as that of the budget, oil the maintenance of the Peshmergas as well as some security questions”.
Volume 2 of the Collection Cahiers d’études syriaques: “Chroniques de massacres annoncés: Les Assyro-Chaldéens d’Iran et du Hakkari face aux ambitions des empires (1896-1920) (Syriac Studies review: Chronicles of forecast massacres: The Assyro-Chaldeans of Iran and Hakkari faced with the ambitions of empires (1896-1920)) by Florence Hellot-Bellier has just been published. The publishers, Geuthner, present it on these terms:
“The years 1915 and 1918 marked the history of the Christian Assyro-Chaldeans and Armenians in the East of Turkey and in Iran as tragic years.
This book outlines the events but also the conditions that led to the massacres. It explores the gradual rise of violence from the Caucasus to Eastern Anatolia and the attempts of Christians to avert them. It dwells on the weakness of the Iranian governments, on the Young Turks coming to power, on the nationalist demands that fractured the co-existence of populations that make up the region’s ethnic mosaic. It attacks the aggressions of the Ottoman, British and Russian Empires and the inequitable treaties that generated frustrations.
In 1914 the Assyro-Chaldeans were a functioning community. However, the entry of the Ottoman Empire into the war on the side of the Triple Alliance put the Patriarchy of the Eastern Church in a terrible dilemma. The Patriarchal decision to commit the tribes to the Russian side at the very time that the Ottoman “Special organisations” were putting into action a plan to eliminate Christians in the region plunged the tribes into an exodus that became an exile.
The barbarity of the 1915 massacres (seyfo/saypa) on both sides of the Irano-Turkish border ended the longstanding tribal solidarities between the Assyrians and the Ottoman Kurds; the massacres again perpetrated in 1918-19 in the Urmia region still haunt the memories of the Assyro-Chaldeans — they made the complicity of the Azerbaijan populations vacillate without completely ending it.
Whereas the Assyrian completely disappeared from Hakkari, the Iranians of Urmia and Salmas, both Moslem and Christian found the key to a common life in the course of the 20s. The beauty of the chants and liturgy in the Syriac language again filled the region’s churches´.