The official campaign of the self-determination referendum, due to take place on the 25th, began on 5thSeptember. On the same day, 58 organisations of the Kurdish diaspora issued an appeal from Brussels calling on the international community to recognise the results reminding it that “the right of peoples’ to self-determination is written into the United Nations’ Charter”. On the 10th the referendum’s High Committee reaffirmed that it would be held on the due date and also announced the imminent reactivation of Erbil’s Parliament. This following a “seven point” agreement between the KDP and the PUK: the reactivation of Parliament, an end to the reduction of civil servants’ wages, an alteration of the law on the Presidency, the adoption of a new Constitution for Kurdistan, the passing of a law providing for the representation of the disputed territories in the Kurdish Parliament. On the 12th the Parliament announced that its reactivation would take place on the 15th at 7 pm. On the same day the Baghdad Parliament voted against the Kurdish referendum, in a session from which the Kurdish M.P.s immediately walked out in protest. The next day an appeal by the Iraqi Prime Minister, in a session again boycotted by the Kurdish M.P.s, stripped of office the Governor of Kirkuk, Najmaddin Karim, who had supported the organisation of the referendum in his Province. Karim denied that this decision was legitimate, stating that he held office by decision of the Provincial Council and its citizens who had elected him, not by appointment by the central government, which had hence no Constitutional power to sack him.
On the 15th the Erbil Parliament met in special session after 2 years suspension and voted for the organisation of the referendum by 65 votes of the 68 members present. The Gorran party (24 M.P.s) refused to take part, as did the members of the Jamaa islamya (6 MPs), which is close to Iran. Following this vote, the White House again asked that the referendum be cancelled and replaced by “serious dialogue” with Baghdad. On the 16th the United Nations emissary to Iraq, Jan Kubis, stated to AFP that he had proposed in writing to Masud Barzani that, in return for postponing the referendum, the opening of negotiations with Baghdad without any preconditions and over 3 years, with a mediation from the United Nations. He also committed himself to ensuring that the Security Council would be kept informed and would follow up the case. On the 17th the former Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, using word for word the terms used by members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, declared: “We will never allow a second Israel in the North of Iraq”… In contrast, the former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner supported the referendum on the TV5 Monde programme: “Everyone takes advantage of the Kurds but they don’t want them to be independent. All this is unbelievably cynical”. He further added “There is no good moment for choosing independence, there is never a good moment when everyone reject it in advance. (…) Let them decide for themselves!”.
On the 18th the Turkish Army announced manoeuvres on the Iraqi borders, and the Turkish President announced that he would discuss (the referendum) with the Iraqi Prime minister during the UN General Assembly at New York. The Iraqi Federal Supreme Court, invoked by Shiite and Turcoman M.P.s from Kirkuk and following a request by the Prime Minister’s for a ruling on its constitutionality, ordered that the referendum be suspended so that it could examine the issue. The French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, declared, from New York, that he was in favour of dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad, pointing out that “very important factors regarding autonomy that existed in the Iraqi Constitution should be observed, validated and made secure. He added: “Any other initiative” (including the referendum) seemed to him “untimely”. On the same day an incident occurred at Kirkuk, where some Turcoman militia affiliated to a party supported by Turkey opened fire on young Kurds supporting the referendum, killing 1 and wounding 5. On the 21st, on the fringe of the UN General Assembly, the Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish diplomats held a meeting where they reiterated their “unequivocal opposition to the referendum” and threatened Kurdistan with “co-ordinated retaliatory measures”. On the 22nd, President Masud Barzani, while busy with numerous meetings, confirmed that he would not give in to the pressures and declared he had rejected, on the 21st, the proposals of the Iraqi President, the Kurd Fuad Massum, who had been taking up the UN offer of “negotiations without any pre-conditions” through a “High Committee”, chaired by the Head of State and including the prime Ministers of Iraq and Kurdistan and the Speaker of the Iraqi parliament. On the 23rd Mollah Bakhtiar, a member of the PUK Political Committee, declared that his party had informed Masud Barzani and the KDP that they considered this proposal “acceptable”.
On the 23rd the Turkish Parliament, in an extraordinary session broadcast on television, passed a resolution extending the mandate authorising the Turkish Army to intervene in Iraq and Syria, justifying its decision by the threats to Turkish “national security” made up of, inter alia, the “illegitimate separatist project in Iraq and the activities of the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria. The 3 principal Turkish political parties, the AKP (in office), the CHP (kemalist, in opposition) and the MHP (ultranationalist, de facto allied to the AKP), voted in favour of the resolution, which was rejected by the “pro-Kurdish” HDP. On the 24th the official Iranian news agency IRNA announced that, at Baghdad’s request, Iran had ended all air flights with Iraqi Kurdistan.
It is thus in a quite tense regional context that the referendum on independence was held in the Kurdistan Region’s three Provinces (Erbil, Suleimaniyeh et Duhok) and in the areas of Kurdistan administratively outside the Region in which the provincial or municipal councils had voted in favour of holding this consultation. Determined to make their voices heard and despite the legitimate concerns caused by the enormous international and regional pressure, the Kurds went massively to the polling stations of the three provincial capitals as well as in the Kurdish quarters of Kirkuk. Here, indeed, the voters went to the polls carrying flags to the sound of music and joyful shots in the air. In the “disputed territories” outside the Kurdistan Region, the mobilisation of the Kurds was also massive. About a third of the Arab and Turcoman electors took part in the voting, despite the calls to boycott it made by some parties of their communities. It must also be recalled that in certain Arab localities in Kirkuk Province, like Hawija with 70,000 inhabitants, polling stations were not set up, which had an influence on the rate of participation. The Iraqi Kurdish diaspora also took part by electronic voting. Of 98,000 of these, 12,000 were invalidated because their papers (identity cards or passports) were out of date or invalid. The “YES” score amongst the electors of the diaspora was 99.13%.
We cannot fail to notice the contrast between the quasi-hysterical tone of the reactions to this referendum and the calm and organisation in which it took place. After three months of technical preparations, the Kurdistan High Electoral Commission had recruited about 60,000 temporary agents to ensure its smooth running. The electoral lists were displayed outside of the polling stations and could be examined by everyone. The electors whose names were on display at the entrance went to the appropriate polling station, organised in alphabetic order of their names. They presented their identity card and signed the corresponding area of the electoral register and received a ballot paper and an envelope and went into the polling booth to make their choice, came to put their ballot paper in the ballot box before putting their fore-finger in the ink pad containing an indelible ink to avoid multiple voting. Scrutineers representing political parties were present in all the polling stations. Ballot papers, printed in the four languages used in Kurdistan (Kurdish, Aramaic, Arabic and Turkish) were marked: “Do you want the Kurdistan Region and the Kurdish areas outside the region to become an independent State?”
After the vote counting and the examination of possible disputes the Commission made public the official results at a Press Conference on Wednesday 27th September at 5 pm before all its members, very many journalists and international observers.
Here are the official results of the referendum:
Registered electors: 4,581,248
Votes cast: 3,305,925
Rate of participation: 72.16%
Blank Votes: 40,011
Invalid and nullified votes: 179,979
Valid votes: 3,085,935
“YES” to independence: 2,861,471 (92.73 %)
“NO” to independence: 224,464 (7.25 %)
The referendum campaign, in which the supporters of the YES and NO were able to express themselves in complete freedom, organise meetings and rallies, gave rise to no incidents, no acts of violence, in a country still at war with ISIS. The international observers, including the former Foreign Ministers of France and Croatia, the former Deputy Prime Minister of Georgia and the former Minister of Public Security of Quebec, members of Parliament, academics and former Ambassadors and UNO representatives gave a Press Conference at the offices of the High Electoral Commission to testify to the regularity and sincerity of the poll and of the referendum process. On this they clearly contradicted the later statement of the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who, without having been present at the polling, declared on the 29th that “the votes and the results lack legitimacy” …
On the other hand, following the publication of the results, the “pro-Kurdish” HDP party in Turkey declared, in a communiqué, that it considered the referendum and its result “legitimate”: “Although it has aroused many discussions and been criticised for its methods of taking decisions, preparation and execution, this referendum took place in a transparent manner and on the basis of participatory principles. We consider it legitimate and the officially declared results a demonstration of the people’s will and welcome them.
We congratulate, by this communiqué, the populations, the political parties and the administrative bodies of the Kurdistan Regional Government who have made great efforts to organise this referendum”.
Pressure continued to increase even as the voting was taking place: some hours after its start, the Arab members of the Baghdad Parliament, in the absence of their Kurdish colleagues, passed a resolution calling for the Army to be sent into the disputed areas; in Turkey the media control Authority RTÜK prevented the broadcasting of news about the vote by forbidding broadcasting of the 3 Iraqi Kurdish channels Rûdaw, Waar et Kurdistan-24. The HDP criticised this “political” decision, taken only by the AKP and MHP representatives on the RTÜK… The next day, on the 26th, while the US Secretary of State declared it was “deeply disappointed”, Iraqi soldiers took part in joint army exercises with the Turkish army near Silopi, on Kurdistan’s borders. Then the Iraqi government issued an ultimatum to Kurdistan requiring it, within 3 days, to give it control over the Erbil and Souleimaniyah Airports, threatening otherwise to forbid all international flights. On the 27th the Iraqi Prime Minister lay down, as a condition for any negotiations with Kurdistan, the cancellation of the results of the referendum, while the Baghdad Parliament voted for closing the border crossings non controlled by the central government and so considering any goods crossing there “to be smuggled goods”. The next day Iraq announced the suspension, as from Friday 29th at 6 pm, of all international flights either to or from Kurdistan. Many foreign travellers who had been arriving directly in Kurdistan did not have Iraqi visas and started to seek flights to return home before the stopping of all flights. On the 30th, Iran closed its borders to any oil products to and from Kurdistan and announced joint army manoeuvres with Iraq opposite border posts held by Peshmergas.
Still on the 30th, the Erbil Parliament, following a several-hour-long session, rejected all of Baghdad’s punitive measures, calling on the international community and its neighbouring countries to “respect the decision of the people of Iraqi Kurdistan”.
On 1st September Talal Sello, spokesman for the Arabic-Kurdish alliance, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which is supported by the US-led anti-ISIS coalition, announced that they were now near the centre of the city of Raqqa and the ISIS command centres. Having entered the city on 5th June, the SDF had announced on August 27th that they had liberated 15 of the old city’s quarters and controlled about 60% of it. About a thousand jihadists were still waging a relentless fight in the city’s centre and in the Northern quarters of the city, where, according to UNO, some 25,000 civilians were trapped. On 14th September the Syrian Centre for Human Rights (SCHR) announced that the SDF now controlled about two thirds of Raqqa and estimated the number of jihadists remaining at a few hundreds, which led one to think it would soon be over. On the 30th, while nearly the whole of the city had been won back, the last jihadists had dug themselves into an enclave in the city centre that contains the main hospital and the football stadium. However ISIS still has a considerable capacity to harm, no doubt thanks to its “sleeping cells” and to the tunnels it had dug in the town: about thirty jihadists, wearing YPG uniforms, succeeded in infiltrating Mechleb (a peripheral quarter that was one of the firsts taken by the SDF and believed to be secured) and launched a murderous attack against a media centre. The fighting lasted several hours and caused the death of two of the SDF...
Deir Ezzor Province, to the East of the country, is the last still controlled by ISIS in Syria, and the situation here remains complex. Its capital, the city of the same name, is partly held by a Syrian garrison, which has been surrounded and besieged by jihadists since over two years… The city is now targeted by two separate offensives: the Damascus troops, supported by Russia, are advancing from the Southeast and trying to break the jihadist siege, while the SDF, supported by the international anti-ISIS coalition is advancing from the North. On the 5th the Syrian Army won an important victory and managed at last to break the siege of the city. ISIS, however, still controlled half of it, with, according to UNO 90,000 civilians trapped there. While the fighting was still going on, Ahmad Abou Khawla, head of the Deir Ezzor Military Council, affiliated to the SDF, announced on the 9th the launching of an offensive to regain from ISIS the South of Hassaké province and the East of Deir Ezzor province. He pointed out that the operation launched from the neighbouring province of Hassaké, mainly controlled by the SDF, was being carried out in the context of the international coalition and with US support, without any coordination with the Syrian Army or the Russians. This situation soon raised problems and tension rapidly rose between the two forces. On the 16th the SDF accused the Russian and Syrian air forces of having bombed their fighters in Deir Ezzor province — an accusation rejected by the spokesman of the Russian general staff, Igor Konashenkov, who answered that there was no reason for the Russian air force to act in this way. It seems however, that Russian fighters may have struck some SDF positions to stop their advance and thus provide the Damascus forces with an advance. Whoever holds Deir Ezzor will have a decisive advantage in the East of the country for later events… The SDF published a statement saying: “On Saturday 16 September at 3 am our forces on the Eastern bank of the Euphrates were exposed to an attack by the Syrian regime and Russian air force planes, which (…) wounded 6 of our fighters. We condemn these attacks and demand that they cease”. On the 21st Moscow in turn accused the SDF of having opened fire on the regime’s troops on two occasions the week before and threatened to retaliate should this happen again. On the 25th, after the SDF announced their taking over the Conoco gas plant and field, a major economic resource that, before the civil war produced 13 million m3 of gas per day, Lilwa Abdallah, spokesperson of the SDF offensive on Deir Ezzor, declared to AFP that the Russians had bombed the Conoco site, killing one SDF fighter and wounding at least 6 others.
Besides, tensions are still high with Turkey, to such an extent that the US Army announced at the beginning of the month they had been directly attacked by rebels backed by Turkey near Manbij! A senior official stated that the American troops had retaliated, but that there were no casualties on either side: “Recent incidents have occurred in areas mainly controlled by fighters supported by Turkey” the Pentagon spokesman, Eric Pahon, told CNN. “We are discussing with Ankara and other forces how to manage this danger”. Turkey has still aims on Afrin, considered a “terrorist nest”, but its plans to attack seem compromised since the Russians created, on the 6th, a “de-escalation zone” covering the region of Tell Rifaat, North of Aleppo. The Kurdish YPG fighters present in this zone have given way to units of the Russian military police, who set up on the 7th an observation point in Afrin. Turkey’s annoyance was made clear — the pro-government daily Yeni Safak having as its front page heading “The Russians protect the PKK terrorists”… Despite the obstacles that arise on his path, Erdogan has not abandoned the idea of an attack — or at least of encircling — Afrin. On the 19th, from New York where he was attending the UN General Assembly, the Turkish President reiterated before Reuters his wish to deploy troops in Idlib Province in the context of an agreement of “de-escalation” with Russia. This would be finalised with the Russian President during the latter’s visit to Ankara. “According to this agreement the Russians will ensure the security outside the Idlib region and the Turks inside this region” he specified.
Concerning civil matters, the elections took place calmly on Friday 22nd in the “North Syrian Federal Region” self-proclaimed by the Syrian Democratic Council, the political expression of the SDF. It includes the Cantons of Kobanê, Jézireh et Afrin, but also that of Shehba. On the 12th the authorities had announced the distribution of elector’s cards in several zones by the High Electoral Commission. It pointed out that 12,000 people were standing as candidates in nearly 4,000 communes. An attack with a booby-trapped motorbike in the town of Qamichli (Qamichlo) failed to disturb the preparations for the poll although it occurred only 4 days before polling day. According to the Asaysh (Town Police), which accused a pro-regime militia, it killed a child and wounded seven passers-by. These elections called “communal” (or village) have enabled the elections of committees guided by co-Presidents (a man and a woman) represent the first stage of electoral operations, which should be three: on 3rd November a second election will set up “Municipal Councils”, the level of local administration. Then, on 18 January the inhabitant will elect a “Legislative Council” in each Canton as well as a Legislative Assembly for the whole Federal Region.
For Deir Ezzor, which the SDF hope to take and manage, the Constituent Council of the town Civil Council has elected (according to the ANHA agency) two co-Presidents, Ghassan al-Yousef and Laila al-Hassan, and decided to set up 15 thematic committees of 5 members, 2 co-Presidents and 3 deputies, to administer the liberated zones of the city. Among the themes, municipal services, women, education...
It should be noted that the Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid Mouallem, who had earlier the same day rejected the Iraqi Kurdistan referendum, indicated, in an evening interview with Rusia Today, taken up by the official news agency Sana, that the question of a “form of autonomy for the Syran Kurds in the framework of the Syrian Arab Republic” was “open to negotiation and could be the subject of dialogue”. This is a slightly new tone for the representative of a regime that had previously described the election as “a farce”.
On the 27th the PYD held its 7th Conference, in the course of which two new leaders were elected to replace the co-presidents Salih Moslim and Asya Abdullah, whose terms of officer had ended and who were not standing again. The two new “co-presidents”, Şahoz Hesen and Ayşe Hisso, will be on office till the next party conference.
German-Turkish relations, already quite icy in August, when the German Minister of the Interior stated “Our definition of terror differs from Turkey’s (…). We do not simply consider any member of the Kurdish opposition to be a terrorist”, seem doomed to get worst. On 1st September the magazine Spiegel poured more oil on the fire by revealing that a German citizen of Turkish origin, Mehmet Fatih Saylan, arrested last December, had recently during his interrogation before the Federal Court of Justice recognised that he worked for the MIT (Turkish intelligence Services). His task was allegedly to keep an eye on Kurdish activists and specifically to prepare an attack on Cem Özdemir, a leading member of the Green Party, who is also of Turkish origin and strongly opposed to President Erdoğan. At the same time, the German troops stationed on the Turkish base of Incirlik left it on the 28th to be stationed in Jordan, Turkey having repetedly refused to allow German Parliamentary delegations to visit their country’s troops.
However, Turkey has difficult relations with Europe as a whole: on the 15th the European Parliament announced having nominated as possible winners of the Sakharov Prize the two imprisoned co-presidents of the HDP, Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yuksekdağ. On the same day the Brussels Court of Appeal, in response to appeals by Turkey and the Belgian Federal Public Prosecutors Office, confirmed its ruling of November 2016 dismissing charges against Kurdish activists accused of recruiting for the PKK in Belgium. The Court justified its refusal to apply the anti-terrorist legislation in this case by the fact that the PKK “is engaged in an armed struggle with the Turkish State in the sense of international humanitarian law”. This decision aroused Turkey’s fury and its Foreign Minister declared that this was a fresh example of the support given to “terrorist groups that threaten Turkey’s security”.
Relations are hardly any better with the US judicial system... and will not improve: while 15 members of the Turkish President’s bodyguards are already subject of trans-Atlantic legal proceedings, they reiterated this type of attack against demonstrators during an event in New York on the 26th. After taking part in the UN General Assembly, Mr Erdoğan went to a meeting organised by the Turkish-American National Committee in New York. There, on the evidence of several videos displayed on the social networks, his security personnel attacked and hit American activists who had come to express their opposition.
Within the country, the judicial repression continues. On the one hand the M.P. and former HDP spokesman, Ayhan Bilgen, charged with “membership of a terrorist organisation” for having called, in October 2014, for support of the Syrian Kurdish fighters against ISIS, was released on bail on the 8th. A few days later, however, on the 11th, another Court decided to keep in detention five members of the editorial board of the daily paper Cumhuriyet, accused of having aimed at the life of President Erdoğan “by asymmetrical war methods”. They face 43 years in prison.
On the 12th the Speaker of the Turkish Parliament, Ismail Kahraman (AKP), demanded that 5 opposition Members of Parliament, 3 HDP and 1 CHP be deprived of their Parliamentary immunity. On the same day, following their earlier vigils in Diyarbekir, Istanbul and Izmir, the HDP held a “Vigil for Conscience and Justice” in Ankara, near the Constitutional Court. Speaking before representatives of NGOs, HDP members and M.P.s, the party’s spokesman, Osman Baydemir, criticised as a “pack of lies” the proceedings being undertaken against 11 Members of Parliament, asking why, while their co-president Selahattin Demirtaş has been incarcerated for over 300 days, there has been no hearing yet...
On the 18th the trial began in Ankara of Figen Yuksekdağ, charged with “directing a terrorist organisation”, incitement to violence” and breach of the law on demonstrations and gathering”. The accused, who faces 83 years in prison, had decided not to appear at the hearing to expose the iniquitous organisation of the trial: the hearing court being 20 km away from the town centre, only able to seat 20 people and closed to the public. Her preceding hearing last July was marked by the imposing presence of armed police, the international observers had been forbidden entry or been harassed by the police. This time again journalists, political public figures and consular representatives from England, France, Italy, Norway, Denmark, or Canada were obliged to stand for hours in a scorching heart before finally being refused entry…
Clashes between Turkish troops and PKK fighters continued throughout the month. On 1st September a Turkish Army Bayraktar drone killed a civilian and injured 3 others near Oglu (Tale) village, in Hakkari Province. The injured villagers, two of them seriously, were taken to Hakkari Hospital but, according to several witnesses the State representatives behaved in an unacceptable manner towards the family of the dead villager, Mehmet Temel, aged 35 and father of 4. They at first refused to let the body be transported, then once the body transferred in Hakkari, the governor, accusing the villagers of supporting the PKK, prevented the holding of any religious ceremony, ordering the closure of the mosques and forbidding any members of staff to take part. On the 7th, far from apologising, the Minister of the Interior, Suleyman Soylu, threatened on the contrary the CHP Member of Parliament and lawyer Sezgin Tanrikulu, who had sent numerous tweets criticising this “blunder” and accused him of “speaking in the name of the PKK”… In an article on the 18th the online daily al-Monitor remarked that the conflict between the PKK and the Turkish Army was entering into a new phase with the increasingly frequent use of drones. The PKK itself has been showing a growing interest in this technology, using it at the end of August to attack an army base. In Rojava the PYD has been enjoying American help in this matter; the Turkish army reported 3 attacks by drones on their positions along the Iraqi border between June and August. On the other hand, according to some security sources, out of 2000 PKK activists “neutralised” since September 2016, 600 had been by drones. The security forces, including the MIT, now have at least 28 such units, a number that should increase to 120 over the next 4 years. As no specific operational or legal mechanism for controlling their use seems to be planned, Al-Monitor warns that if the scene of fighting becomes urban again these new arms could make many civilian victims.
On the 3rd, according to the Governor’s office, a Turkish soldier was killed in a PKK rocket attack in Hakkari Province. On the same day the PKK claimed the death of 28 Turkish soldiers in the preceding week, 15 of whom during a single night raid against an army convoy between Cukurca and Hakkari, during which an armoured vehicle was destroyed. On the 8th, according to the offices of the Governors of the provinces concerned, another soldier was killed in fighting at Bingöl, as well as a PKK activist at Bitlis, in a gendarmerie operation. On the 10th, according to the Doğan agency, a soldier was wounded in a bomb attack at Lice (Diyarbakir), and the same day according to the Hakkari Governor’s office, the PKK attacked with mortars an army zone from the Iraqi side of the border. The Turkish Ministry of the Interior, for its part, claimed on the 11 September that some 57 PKK activists had been neutralised during the preceding week. Fighting between Kurdish activists and Turkish troops continued in the Hakkari border region during the second half of September, particularly with a new PKK night raid on the 25th against an Army convoy, which led to the death of 12 soldiers. The Turkish Air Force also carried out operations in Northern Iraq, making 23 strikes on PKK ammunition stores and could even have on the 26th transported elite Turkish troops towards Barzan area in Sikorski helicopters (al-Masdar News). This led to clashes causing deaths on both sides. Turkish Army sources announced they had neutralised 63 Kurdish activists between 21st and 27th in “anti-terrorist operations carried out in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey then, on the 29th, announced the death of one Turkish soldier and three others injured in Northern Iraq, without specifying the locality.
The Turkish State seems, unfortunately, to have also declared war on the Kurdish towns, carrying out a deliberate policy of destruction. Thus with Sur, the medieval quarter of Diyarbakir, registered by UNESCO in 2015 as being a World Heritage site. Although the scene of armed clashes between December 2015 and March 2016, this quarter suffered most of its destruction after the end of the fighting. Since December 2016 the government has forbidden its access to municipal officials in charge of Heritage protection. In March 2016 an emergency decree confiscated 82% of the Old Town’s buildings. 2,000 buildings were destroyed and 20,000 inhabitants forcibly displaced. New blocks of flats have been built and sold at high prices, with the evident aim of altering the composition of the population.
The platform against the destruction of Sur is demanding:
According to the Kurdistan Human Rights Network, in the morning of 4th September in Kordestan Province, some of the Iranian Police Force (NAJA) responsible for controlling the Siranband borders, killed, by shooting in the head, two Kolbars (porters) who were going to the border to look for goods to carry. One of the assassinated porters was the father of 4 children. After the bodies were transferred to the Baneh hospital some demonstrators gathered in front of the Governors office and broke the building’s door, demanding that those who had committed this crime be identified and punished. On the 5th the town’s shops remained closed as a sign of solidarity with the Kurdish demonstrators. The demonstrations, that lasted two days mobilised thousands of participants, led to about a hundred arrests.
On the 19th September the Iranian authorities forbade Zeynab Jalalian’s weekly family visits. Ms Jalalian is 35 and has been in prison since 2008, sentenced for life at Khoy Prison in Western Azerbaijan. This political activist was determined to strengthen the capacity for action of the Kurdish minority in Iran, especially that of women. She was sentenced for life for her alleged links with an armed Kurdish opposition organisation without concrete evidence. During her trial, that only lasted a few minutes during which she was not allowed to communicate with her lawyer, she was sentenced on the basis of “confessions” extorted by several months of torture, such as whipping the soles of her feet and blows to the head so violent as to fracture her skull and cause cerebral haemorrhage.
Since march 2017 she has refused to take any medicines in protest at the refusal of adequate medical treatment from which she is a victim. She suffers from a serious eye ailment that threatens to blind her (pterygion) as well as heart trouble and complicated renal and intestinal problems. Zeynab Jalalian has been refused transfer, even temporarily, to a hospital for proper examination — unless she makes confessions before a film camera — the authorities using her state of health to blackmail her. Amnesty International has repeatedly called on its members ro call the Iranian authorities to accept her demands.
(AU 151/14, MDE 13/7005/2017, Iran – https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde13/7005/2017/en/ or https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde13/7005/2017/fr/).
On the evening of 25th thousands of Kurds assembled in the streets of Sanandaj to support the referendum held in neighbouring Iraqi Kurdistan. The authorities arrested several activists who had hoisted the Kurdistan flag during the assemblies.