On 26 April, the Turkish Association for Human Rights (İnsan Hakları Derneği, İHD) presented a report to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (HCHR) on the wholesale massacres to which the Kurdish population is being subjected in the Turkish town of Cizre. The Association’s President, Özturk Turkdoğan, accused the government of Crimes against Humanity, adding that, since the judicial system in Turkey lacks independent, it is incapable of truly evaluating the actions of its security forces.
This 84-page report, accessible in English on the IHD web site (http://en.ihd.org.tr/), reports breaches of Human Rights perpetrated during the 79 days curfew imposed of Cizre from 14 December 2015 and 2 March 2016 and provides serious grounds for suspecting mass murder of civilians
The authors of the report, who visited the town after the curfew had ended, report that several quarters had been completely destroyed, such as the streets of Yafes, where, according to eye witnesses interviewed, the troops had taken positions on the hill opposite and continually shelled it with mortars and grenades as well as firing live bullets from lighter weapons. At the time of their visit, water and electricity were still cut off since their distribution networks (and those of the sewage system) had been destroyed. Some witnesses stated that they had had to leave their homes as snipers and soldiers deployed round the public hospital and on the surrounding hills “opened for on anything that moved”. Others spoke of warnings made over loudspeakers saying “If you don’t leave your homes we will use chemical weapons”. Troops sometimes set fire to a whole block (as in Nusaybin street) simply because a slogan had been written on a wall.
On returning to their destroyed flats, the inhabitants frequently found that their goods had been stolen, domestic electrical appliances too heavy to be carried away were riddled with bullets of burnt. Racist slogans or implicitly sexual ones aimed at women were found on the walls. The report recalls that on 11 February last, ten photos of women’s bodies were shown on social networks gave grounds for suspecting some sexual abuse.
Those interviewed, wounded during operations in their homes of gardens (thus without having breached the curfew) testified that they had had to wait for hours for an ambulance. At the Cizre Hospital they were finally treated after being harried by the specialforces “as needed for their enquiry”
The authors of the report testified that, during their visit to the Cudî quarter, also shelled at a distance from the El Ceziri primary school, there was a strong smell of burnt corpses, especially near one of three blocks of flats (now completely collapsed) where civilian prisoners had died in a cellar. Witnesses reported that during the curfew there were rows of sacks containing bodies that were carried away by the police. At 23, Bostanci Street, there were 26 sacks and at 5 Narin Street there were over 60 sacks …
One municipal clerk testified that in Bostanci Street, only two bodies were complete though badly burned — the other sacks only contained remains weighing 5 to 10 Kg. The lawyers representing some families pointed out that some corpses were sent for identification in various other towns: 78 at Habut, 13 at Sirnak, 28 at Antep, 17 at Mardin, 6 at Mataya and 15 from Cirze …
The security forces seem to have systematically “cleaned up” signs of crimes committed in the cellars by setting fore and destroying that locations and throwing human remains into the Tigris. Despite this, burned remains (bits of bone, hands …) were found in some cellars. Part of a human arm was also found (and photographed) under a bridge on the banks of the Tigris. The attempts to conceal the abuses and violence continued after the remains had been returned to the families: to avoid an enquiry, the authorities ordered that burial take place within 24 hours, going so far, in the event of disobedience, as to take the remains back from the families and to bury them themselves!
The IDH asked UNO and the International Committee of the Red Cross to send a supervisory mission to Turkey. It’s President asked for some meeting to examine the means of doing this.
The Turkish President Erdogan has, for nearly a year, opted for a political line of civil war against the Kurdish population of his country with ab objective that appears to be extremely personal: to secure the support of the nationalists for his project to establishing ¨presidential power”. Even though he stated that the aim of his action was the eradication of the PKK, the systematic use of the complete curfews in Kurdish towns makes the military operations look more like a war being waged against the Kurdish people as a whole. As for his the coming elimination of the PKK … How many tines has this been announced since the 80s? History shows that acts of violence against Kurdish civikians never achieved anything other than increase the Kurdish people’s support of the guerrillas. Does the Turkish Army seem any closer to that goal this time? In the attacks carried out during this month of April, we are è allowed to doubt it
On 31 March on Diyarbekir, 7 policemen were killed and 13 wounded by a r3emote controlled bomb at the moment that a bus load of police passed the spot — it also injured 14 civilians. Arriving in the city the next day, on 1st April, the Turkish Prime Minister was unable to do anything but attend the funerals of the dead policemen … During the following night, another PKK attack on an Army electrical plant took place at Kiziltepe, in Mardin Province, causing 1 civilian death and 18 injured. On the 3rd another bomb killed 5 soldiers and an special forces officer at Nusaybin, had been under a curfew since the middle of March. On 5th, a rocket attack hit a police armoured car, killing an officer and wounding 4 policemen while carrying out curfew inspection. On the 8th, again at Nusaybin, 1 officer and 4 members of the security forces were killed in a clash with some Kurdish activists. On the 12th, another bomb attack completely destroyed a special forces barracks at Hari — officially 2 soldiers killed but the PKK announced 11 but the PKK announced 11 deaths among the special forces. The casualty list continues with 4 soldiers killed near Mardin on the 16th by bombs thrown at vehicles and the death of an officer on the 23rd near Sirnak and a soldier at Nusaybin in the course of street fighting. Finally on the 29th, a suicide attack wounded 13 people in from of a mosque at Bursa. It was carried out by a woman whom the authorities described as a former PKK activist who had also fought in Syria…
Analysts do not expect (nor does the Army) attacks to decrease, but rather to increase with the Spring and their extension to other areas. Moreover the PKK has announced an alliance with other extreme Left groups to increase its level of activity…
Mr Erdogan’s war is now aimed at the elected representatives of the Kurdish population as well as all those who dare to criticise, howsoever slightly, its policies. On the 13the the government submitted a Bill to Parliament to deprive members of parliament from legal proceedings. The Bill, evidently, is not aimed at those suspected of corruption but to the HDP members of Parliament. The 316 AKP members all endorsed it and Kemal Kilicdaroğlu, leader of the CHP (Kemalist, the former single party) announced on CNN Turk that his party would support it — while declaring that it was an Unconstitutional measure! On the 28th,
Discussion of this Bill provoked physical clashes between the AKP and HDP members of Parliament.
International reaction is increasingly worried about the perspectives of the direction to which Mr. Erdogan is taking the country. On the 3rd, after the first attack on Nusaybin, Ms Fédérica Mogherini, the EU diplomatic representative called on Turkey to resume the peace process, recalling that “it had produced some positive and promising results”. Two days later the Turkish President replied by totally excluding any resumption of discussions with the PKK. after the clashes in several towns on the 11, since the authorities In Germany, which harbours substantial numbers of the Turkish and Kurdish Diaspora, after some clashes in several towns, the authorities fear a resumption on their soil of the Kurdo-Turkish clashes of the 90s.
Since the loss of their Air Force plane on 24th November last, Russia is among the leaders of Mr Erdogan the critics. On the 15th, Alexandre Lukachevich, its permanent representative on the OESC, asked Ankara: “to abandon its military strategy that was leading to a deadlock over the Kurdish question” while expressing surprise that “the USA and the EU had failed to make any clear statements regarding the acts of violence against the Kurds”. The feebleness of Western reactions was also criticised by the Kurds themselves: on the 8th, an HDP member of Parliament, Dirayet Tasdemir, accused the Western powers of “showing hypocrisy about the Kurds by shutting their eyes on Turkey’s authoritarian policies towards them, instead of enquiring into the crimes being committed”.
Criticism is coming from civil society in many European countries. Thus in the United Kingdom, a campaign was launched on the 25th , for Abdullah Ocalan’s release. In one of th Committee Rooms of the House of Commons. A round table was organised by several M.P.s with the support of two major Trade Unions, Unite and GMB as well as the Scottish Unisson. Simon Dubbins, responsible for international relations of Unite stated there: “The violence carried out by the Turkish State is the worst I have ever seen — I have been to Palestine, to Columbia and seen several areas of conflict. However, what we saw at Sur (Diyarbekir’s old city) is absolutely despicable and vile. These attacks must be stopped”. He also added “Giving (Erdogan) millions of pounds while letting him do what he wants to the people, the freedom of the press, Trade Union rights and waging war on the Kurdish people so long as he keeps the refugees out (of Europe) is absolutely despicable. Other States, and not only Great Britain, must put pressure on Turkey to put an end to this situation”. Dubbins welcomed the fact that this meeting had “broken a taboo” by explicitly calling for Ocalan’s release from within the Houses of Parliament, commenting: “how can there be real and lasting negotiations with concrete results when the only leader (…) willing and able to negotiate is kept in isolation? Even in Columbia, the State and the FARC are meeting face to face”.
The town of Makhmour is 80 km Southwest of Erbil and 80 km South of Mosul, the Iraqi “capital” of ISIS’s jihadist “state”. It is thus in a strategic position as a base for preparing the next attack onthat city. Briefly captured by ISIS in July 2014, Makhmour was rapidly won back by the Peshmergas, who now control it. Some units of the Iraqi Army are also there, precisely to prepare for the attack on Mosul, although the Peshmergas do not have much confidence in the Iraqi troops capacities.
A Kurdish major recently stated that the Iraqi Army was incapable of retaking Mosul and a Peshmergas from Makhmour affirmed to an interviewer that he had absolutely no confidence inn the Iraqis: “We are fighting to regain our land whereas for them it’s a religious war” he explained. Military operations to retake Mosul, started on 24 March last, have already provoked the displacement of 20,000 people and ISIS is launching incessant attacks on Makhmour. The Jihadist organisation has probably lost much land in Iraq as in Syria over the last few months but it clearly has preserved its murderous motives and abilities in the field.
On the 1st of this month, it sent four vehicles to Makhmour filled with explosives and this succeeded in killing eleven members of the Kurdish security forces and wounding a dozen others. On the same day, a rocket fit the town causing more victims. The next day the Jihadists also launched an attack to recapture some areas West of Sinjar that they had recently lost. The Yezidi units of the YBS (Sinjar Resistance Units) allied to Arab fighters from Nawader al-Shammar, repelled them, inflicting heavy losses on them — at least 32 jihadists killed and many wounded. Although les well equipped and protected than the Iraqis, the Peshmergas organise themselves to respond to these attacks. On the 4th, the Peshmerga 9th Brigade reported that they had deployed a dozen mini-helicopter type drones fitted with cameras to observe the jihadists’ movements. However, on the same day Masrour Barzani, a leader of the Kurdistan Security Council, expressed his concern in an interview with CBS News, as to how long the Peshmergas could continue fighting when they had not been paid for the last four months? The question is raised even more forcibly since the jihadists, faced with the stubborn resistance of the Kurdsm do not hesitate to use chemical weapons.
ISIS, who had already used chemical weapons the previous month (at first chlorine then military grade gases) have again used them several times in April. It is estimated that ISIS’s various chemical attacks to the East of Mosul have already caused about thirty killed and injured amongst the Peshmergas, and that nearly 200 people, including children, have had to receive treatment in the Kurdistan Region ’s Hospitals.
On the 12th, Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s Minister of Defence, who had visited the front line nor far from Erbil, confirmed that ISIS had indeed, used mustard gas against the Peshmergas, and on the 20th the jihadists launched a new chemical attack near Makhmou.
Unfortunately the Kurds are all too familiar with chemical weapons. They were used against them on a large scale in 1987-88 by the Saddam Hussein regime during his genocidal “Anfal” campaign. The town of Halabja suffered an attack by mustard gas on 16th March 1988 that caused 5,000 civilian casualties. The Western powers, who were supporting Saddam against Khomeiny’s Iran observed a deafening silence on the subject. These operations were recognised as genocide by Norway and Sweden in 2012, then by the United Kingdom and South Korea in 2013. In Iraq itself, nearly 30years after the events and 13 years after Saddam Hussein’s overthrow, recognition of this attempt at genocide is still not fully acknowledged. On the 13th of that month, when the Kurdish members asked the Speaker of the Baghdad Parliament Salim Al-Jabouri, to publish official apologies for these operations, there was a row between the Kurdish M.P.s and those of the “state of Law” coalition. A Kurdish M.P. stated that the victims of the Anfal and members of his parliamentary group had been insulted.
More recently in August 2012 Barack Obama had declared that the use of chemical weapons by the Damascus regime was a “red line” that would trigger military intervention — before retracting. However chemical weapons were used against the Kurds in Syria as well — not by ISIS but by other members of the so-called moderate members of the Syrian opposition. On the 11th of this month, the rebel group Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam) announced that it was going to put on trial one of its commanders for having used them in Aleppo against the Kurdish YPG. Thisis a most embarrassing piece of news for the anti-ISIS coalition, that considered Jaysh al-Islam one of its allies, although this group had indeed taken part, together with ISIS in the capture of Raqqa, before it was expelled by that jihadist organisation.
Regarding the equipment and pay for the Peshmergas, the Kurdistan Regional Government, after high level discussions with its US opposite numbers, has finally succeeded in securing some US financial support — the US Secretary of Defence, Ash Carter, announced, during a visit to Baghdad, that the US was going to increase the number of its trooops in Iraq and deploy Apache AH-64 helicopters but also finance the Peshmergas with up to 45 million dollars in the context of efforts to retake Mosul. By adding the funds needed to create two fresh Brigades, the US financial help for the Peshmergas will total 900 million dollars.
Preparations are thus being intensified against ISIS. On the 17th some leaders of the Sunni tribes to the South of Kirkuk announced that they would fight the Jihadists alongside the Kurdish Peshmergas. Masud Barzani approved this decision, declaring that it was a matter of taking part in regaining their own lands. On the 21st, the Peshmergas repulsed an ISIS suicide attack on Shingal (Sinjar), and on the 30th another attack Southeast of the city of Mosul. On the same day, they recaptured a village to the South of Kirkuk.
Are we going towards a growing divorce between Iraqi Kurdistan and the rest of the country? In any casr the Kurds are decreasing in number in Baghdad. Official figures show that nearly 40% of the 500,000 Baghdad Kurds, often targeted by blackmail or attacks have left the capital since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003. There are now only 300,000 Kurds laft. The exodus has been especiallu marked in the ;ast two years. At a time when these is the possibility of a referendum on auto-determination taking place before the end of the year, the central government and the KRG, while allied against ISIS are still tense.
The disagreements over management of hydrocarbons persist, Baghdad considering the direct sales carried out by the Kurdistan Region as illegal. As a reprisal, the former Prime Minister, Maliki stopped paying the Kurdistan Region its 17% share of the Federal budget. These payments have never been resumed since, even though Maliki’s successor, Haider Al-Abadi, proposed a few weeks ago to pay the Kurdistan Region’s Civil Servants in exchange for the KRG’s stopping its oil exports…
Another area of tension between Baghdad and Erbil is that,, following the ISIS attack in Jyly 2014, the Kurds took control of the areas in dispute between Baghdad and Erbil, in particular Kirkuk, that contain substantial oil resources. In the course of last March, the Noeth Oil Company, a central government subsidiary, stopped pumping Kirkuk’s oil into the pipeline that exports it to Turkey.
At the beginning of April there was a hope of compromise when the Iraqi Prime Minister proposed a Kurdish geologist as Oil Minister in his next government. This was Nizar Mohammed Salim Doskî, a consultant geologist and specialist in oil, Dean of the Planning Department of Dohuk University, after having lectured for 30myears at Mosul University, who, moreover, said he hoped that “differences between Baghdad and the KRG could be resolved”. However the hope for a new situation was short-lived as Doskî withdrew his candidacy “because of the absence of any political agreement about the form of the new government”, a roundabout way of saying that Baghdad had failed to discuss his nomination with the Kurdish political parties. Now the latter had laid down two demands: 1-they wanted the Iraqi central government to have a number of Kurdish representatives proportionate to the that of the Kurds in the country’s population and 2- they were not prepared to have Kurds directly chosen by the Baghdad government without consultation with them. On the 3rd, Fadel Miranî, Secretary of the Political Committee of the KDP stated that the different Kurdish groups in the Iraqi Parliament had agreed to refuse to take part in the government unless the number of Kurdish Minister were increased. The Kurds were demanding 20% of the Ministries whereas they had only received 2 of the 16 Ministries, i.e. 12%. On the 4th, Beriwan Khilani, an Iraqi M.P. and KDP member accused the Prime Minister of seeking to use the “reform” to still further marginalise the Kurds and exclude them from the country’s political process. On the 17th, two of the main Iraqi Kurdish parties, the KDP and the PUK published a common statement saying that they would not support the new government as it had not been the outcome of an agreement with the Kurdistan Region. The statement also reiterated the right of the Kurds to self-determination through a referendum “that will take place as planned”.
The difficult political and economic situation being experienced by both Baghdad and Erbil certainly does not make their relations any easier. It was under strong pressure from the supporters of Moqtada Sadr, who came out on the streets to protest against the general corruption that the Prime Minister is trying to set up a new “technocratic” government theoretically capable of putting an end to the corruption. However, his attempt to do this led him into a real trial of strength with the Iraqi Parliament, which has refused to accept the appointment of several Ministers. On the 27th, after all sorts of incidents, including the suspension of a parliamentary session and the replacement of the Speaker (opposed by some of the M.P.s) the Iraqi M.P.s finally approved five of the appointments put before them: the Ministers for Electricity, Health, Higher Education, Labour and Water Resources’.
The Kurdistan Region, for its part, also faces a political crisis and an economically difficult situation. Its Deputy Prime Minister, Qubad Talabani, stted on the 4th that it was running with a monthly deficit of 100 million dollars. During a Conference at MERI, a Research Institute at Erbil, the American economist Franck Gunter, estimated the number of unemployed at 620,000 … and warned that it would continue to increaseso long as the present situation persisted.
Politically, the Erbil Parliament is not working, which raises several concrete legal problems. For example, the anti-terrorism law, which largely covers the struggle against ISIS, is due to expire on 26 July coming. How can it be extended legally? Soran Omer, President of the Parliamentary Human Rights Commission decided that Parliament had accepted a first extension last year, on condition that it be amended in under six months. A fresh extension requires the re-activation of Parliament… The same is true of the referendum on self-determination, that President Massud Barzani announced would take place before the end of the year. On the 10th, the Secretary of Parliament, Fakhradin Qadir, pointed out that a draft resolution on this subject had been submitted to Parliament but that no decision could be taken as that institution was not working.
On the 12th, Hendren Mohammed Salih, President of the Independent High Eleectoral Commission of Kurdistan stated that while it did have the technical ability to organise a referendum at the time announced, it would need an official request following an Act of Parliament, which would also decide the budget allocated for this consultation and — a politically very sensitive point — would decide whether or not it should coner the “disputed” territories outside the official borders of the Kurdistan Region.
It is just in these territories that tensions between the armed forces of the two governments are permanent. On the 18th, after the central government announced that it would sent its Army back to Kirkuk, the Kurdish Peshmergas, who control the city, declared that they would not allow this return: “Kirkuk os protected by the Peshmergas and we do not now need another force” declared Brigadier General (Peshmerga) Mariwan Mohammed. He added “When the people of Kirkuk needed them they ran away… That is why we will not authorise their return”. The Iraqi soldiers did indeed run away in July 2014, as they had in Mosul — but the Peshmergas immediately replaced them to prevent the city being ca^tured by the jihadists. The Kirkuk Provincial Governor, Dr. Nejmeddin Karim, (a Kurd close to the PUK) has officially refused the to have the Iraqi Army enter the city, thus blocking Baghdad’s decision. Has an ethnically divided population of Kurds, Arabs and Turkomen. Some residents of the last community do not wish to see the Iraqi soldiers return and have supported the proposal to create local defence units that would reflect this diversity. Anyhow, on the 18th Masud Barzani stated “The fate of Kirkuk is in the hands of its residents, whowill decide the future of their city”.
However, the centre of all the tensions of the last few weeks is the small town of Tuz Khurmatu, to the Southeast of Kirkuk. Located in Kurdistan but with a substantioal Turkoman and Shiite population, it also includes Kurdish and Arab Sunni quarters. In addition to the Kurdish Peshmergas, it has some Shiite Hashid al-Shaabi militia and tension has been increasing between then for some months. There had been some murders and kidnappings in the town then according to the municipal council tensions had esed after an agreement between Peshmergas and al-Shaabi. However, according to several witnesses, some administrative buildings controlled by one camp are inaccessible to members of other communities… On the 25th, there was an exchange of fire with automatic arms and mortars between Shiite militia and Peshmergas, causing 12 deaths. The Peshmergas attribute the fighting to a grenade being thrown at the HQ of a Kurdish party, tha caused several killed and wounded — the Shiite al-Shaabi say the very opposite. On the 24th, fresh fighting broke out between the same protagonsts, Kurdish sources reporting the presence of Lebanese Hezbollah militants and Iranian soldiers alongside the Shiite militia.
In order to lower the tension, Dr. Nejmeddin Karim, the Governor of Kirkuk Province, and an al-Shaabi commander gave a press conference in which they insisted on the necessity ofuniting against the common enemy. However, after the cancellation of an on the spot meeting following the accidental death of a PUK leaser, and despite the conclusion of a truce, clashes continued. On the 27th, three Tuz Khurmatu Sunni Arab police officers were killed and two others wounded by gun fire on their vehicle by Shiite militia. (Other, Iraqi sources attribute the death of the police to a Peshmerga sniper).
Finally, on the 28th, to avoid fresh fighting, both camps decided to withdraw their respective fighters and let the local police ensure control. These latest events in Tuz Khurmatu suggest a post-ISIS situation.
Erbil-Baghdad contact is not broken since Kurdish delegations (both from the KRG and the various political parties) continue regularly to visit the Iraqi capital. The deadlock over the management of hydrocarbons, however, remains.
On 1st April the YPG freed from ISIS 53 Yezidis —12 women and 41 children — who were able return to Sinjar (Shingal in Kurdish). According to the Iraqi Yezidi member of Parliament, Vian Dakhil, 3500 Yezidi women and children are still in ISIS hands. A certain umber of Yezidi captives, used as sex slaves have been transferred out of Iraq as far as Pakistan and Afghanistan.
On the 21st, the British Parliament unanimously agree by 278 votes that ISIS had committed genocide against the Yezidis. The government had refrained from describing ISIS’s acts of violence against the Yezidis, Christians, and Shiite Moslems in the Middle East as genocide, declaring that the issue was one for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to decide. However, the ICC cannot rule on the actions in question unless it is asked to do so. This is why parliament’s vote is so important. The parliamentary resolution also called on the British government to immediately ask the UN Security Council to give the ICC jurisdiction on the issue “so that the authors be brought to trial”. The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, the US House of Representatives, the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe have all declared that they consider the actions of the jihadist group to be genocide. On the 29th, the Iraqi Yezidi member of Parliament, Vian Dakhil, declared at a Press Conference that the Iraqi Parliament had just declared Sinjar to be a city in a catastrophic condition. He added that “ISIS has destroyed the Yezidi places of worship and those of our Shiite brothers as well. 95% of the houses in Sinjar have been destroyed and the Yezidis have suffered captivity and kidnapping . It is estimated that 28 mass graves have been found, mostly containing women and children who were killed by shooting in the back”
In the course of this Press conference the Yezidi M.P. estimated at 3,500 the number of Yezidis considered missing, the majority of whom are still jihadist captives.
At the beginning of the month, the KRG Ministry for Martyrs of the Anfal had estimated that 25 mass graves discovered in the Sinjar region since its liberation contained about a thousand Yezidis murdered by the jihadists.
While, so far, the Kurdish fighters if the PYD (Party of Democratic Unity) and the forces of the Bachar Al-Assad regime had generally avoided direct confrontation, this month some fairly violent clashes have taken place at Qamishlo (in Arabic Qamishli), a mainly Kurdish town in the Jezireh, to the East of the Country, where the regime controls the airport and some quarters. These clashes occurred in the context of the unilateral proclamation, on the 17th of last month, of a “Federal Region” in Northern Syria by the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) — the political wing of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). This is an military alliance essentially organised round the PYD and its fighting units the YPG (men) and the YPJ (women).
Moreover, while the regime decided on 22 February to organise Parliamentary election in April in the areas they controlled, the Kurds round thePYD announced on 3rd April that they would oppose their being held in their regions. Their Argument was that the inhabitants there had already voted to set up the existing administration and that new federal system was intended to spread over the whole of Syria. On the 13th, the administration of three Cantons, Kobanê, Afrîn and Jézireh announced that they would boycott thise elections that they described as “ply acting”. “We’ll have nothing to do with these Assad elections and are seeking a new kind of administration for the whole of Syria” declared a former Kurdish official of Kibanê”.
The Syrian opposition, like the regime, has rejected the setting upmof thisFederal administration. On the 1st of the month Samir Alta, member of the Syrian Democratic Forum declared that establishing a federal system in the country should be the subject of a national referendum, On the 16th, Haytham Manna a long-standing public figure of the Syrian opposition and one of the CDS’s co-Presidents, announced that he was withdrawn from it on the 19th because of his disagreement with the 17 March proclamation.
The authorities of the new Federal Region have set up a system of compulsory conscription for all to begin immediately so as to recruit and train its own army the “Autonomous Protection Forces. The recruits, who would include Kurds, Arabs and Christians would have to follow a n course organised by the YPG. The PYD had set up a period of six months military service (a proposals that was already often protested against by the youth whom the Syrian Army also tries to conscript) — which has thus been increased by three months.
The new APF units have started to be deployed behind the front line against ISIS to ensure the security and control of areas reclaimed from the Jihadists by the YPG and the SDF, who remain in the first ranks.
The Kurds not only face the attacks from ISIS. On the 12th, a Major of the Afrin YPJ (women’s’ unit), whichis the most westerly Canton of Rojava, explained that the Kurds there were attacked by four different forces: the Al-Nosra, Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham groups, other armed groups — not to mention Turkey´s incessant hostility.
The SDF continue to be at the heart of the local international alliance against ISIS. On 1st April, Salih Muslim, PYD co-president announced that the SDF were now preparing to retake Raqqa, adding that the YPG would need up to 50,000 Arab residents of the Raqqa region to retake the city. The SDF fighters are trying, in parallel to control the 79 km wide corridor linking Raqqa to Turkey in order to cut the jihadists from the border. On the 15th, President Obama confirmed that 250 additional US soldiers, including members of the Special Forces, would be sent to Rojava. There are already 50 US soldiers deployed there since November 2015. On the 25th, 150 US troops arrived in Rumeilan, which brings the number of Americans in Rojava to 300. This US choice of alliance causes tension between that country and Turkey, in a context where the State Department is expressing, with increasing clarity, its concern at the Human Rights situation in Turkey and the authoritarian drift of President Erdogan.
On the 20th, the Syrian opposition announced that it was leaving Geneva after air strikes on some markets killed 47 people in Idlib province, in the Northeast of the country. The opposition representatives had already suspended their participation in the discussions, but had not yet decided to leave the city.
Also on the 20th, serious clashes occurred in the town of Qamishlo, in the most Easterly Canton of Rojava, the Jezireh, where the regime controls the airport and certain quarters as well as part of the town of Hassaké, further South. The fighting has been between the Syrian Army and some pro-regime militia on the one side and the Kurdish police (Asayish) soon joined by the YPG on the other. It seems as if the clashes arouse over differences on the 19th at a check point where the pro-regime milita arrested two members of the YPG before transferring them to Damascus The clashes continues on the 21st resulting in 30 death s in the regime forces, 50 of whom surrendered to the Kurds.
Firing continued on the 22nd, the pro-regime forces having shelled the rest of the toen from the quarters they controlled using their artillery. The result was 5 killed and 22 wounded.
On the 23rd, a meeting took place at the airport between Kurds and officials who came from Damascus by plane. This enabled a long-term truce to be concluded. According ti the Kurdish Asaysh, the three days fighting resulted in 17 civilians, 10 Kurdish fighters and 31 members of the regime’s forces were killed.
It seems, however, that ISIS took advantage of the events to remind the forces holding the town of its existence — on the 30th a suicide bomb attack at Qamishlo killed of the Kurdish police.