Abroad the “World Day for Kobani” was celebrated on 1st November largely as a symbol of this Syrian Kurdish town’s unremitting resistance to the attack launched by ISIS in 2014 with Turkish connivance. In London it was celebrated o the 10th, attended by thousands were also attending the funeral of the Kurdish film director Mehmet Aksoy, who was killed on 26th September in a jihadist attack on the SDF Press Centre near Raqqa, to which he had come to work from England.
In the field, the SDF continued to reduce the area controlled by ISIS as a few hundreds of inhabitants were beginning to return to Raqqa, liberated on 17th October. Regarding Deir Ezzor, the SDF fighters from the “Jezirah Storm” operation, launched on 9th September, liberated 7 villages near the town and about fifteen km from the Iraqi borders, even discovering there a landmine workshop. On the 9th, they took control of the Khabur river, liberating 25 villages, and on the 12th another 12 in the attack on the last ISIS enclave East of the Euphrates. On the 13th they began fighting the Jihadists near the Tanaq oil fields, repelling a counter-attack on the 14th before continuing their advance to the East of Mayadîn province, eliminating 34 jihadists. Unable to repel them, ISIS targeted civilians on the 17th with a suicide attack on a checkpoint that caused at least 35 victims in the Northeast of Deir Ezzor Province, between the hydrocarbon fields of Conoco and Jafra. It was, nevertheless, not able to prevent the SDF from reaching the Iraqi border on the 28th.
These remarkable advances were strained in mid-November by rising doubts about the agreement that had allowed the taking of Raqqa. While the coalition had received assurances from the SDF that the foreign jihadists would not be allowed to leave the city, the BBC broadcast on the 13th testimony from several of the drivers of the evacuation convoy that several hundreds of heavily armed fighters, including foreigners, could have been able to go to Turkey. The latter, who consider the SDF as “terrorists” claimed that this “very serious” news justified their warning to Washington. Questioned about this, the coalition’s spokesman, Colonel Ryan Dillon, stated that less than “300 of the 3,500 civilians having left Raqqa […] were identified as possibly ISIS fighters” thus admitting that several hundreds of fighters might have been able to escape.
These doubts have arisen at a particularly bad time for the SDF, when the probable elimination of ISIS could mean the end of the US presence and of the coalition’s military support. Indeed, on the 30th, the departure of 400 Marines was announced, and the passive American attitude to the re-occupation by Iraq of the disputed territories claimed by “its” Kurds was not a good omen for Rojava — especially as the Pentagon has always limited its support to the purely military level, refusing any political commitment. Moreover, if SDF and the Syrian government have been for the last few years very busy fighting other more powerful enemies, they find now themselves face to face. While a compromise is not impossible, a confrontation is to be feared — especially over oil. However, faced with the expansion of Iranian influence, the US might continue its support of the SDF to deny Teheran access to the Mediterranean corridor that it started to establish…
The international negotiations on the future of Syria are still stalemated. Damascus rejects any discussion involving the departure of al-Assad, which was still required by the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, at the end of October. The opposition, for its part makes this a precondition for discussion and its spokesman, Ahmed Ramadan, accused the Russians, on 1st November, of “seeking to impose [in the negotiations] opposition factions created by the regime”, with reference to parties claiming belonging to the opposition created in Damascus after 2011. Despite the creation of de-escalation zones, the regime is still besieging the East Damascus suburbs where some 400.000 civilians are trapped (on the 12th, the World Health Organisation demanded a humanitarian access). Several meetings between leaders have failed to make any progress: the Trump-Putin meeting in Vietnam on the 14th during the Asia-Pacific summit, the Assad-Putin meeting in Sochi on the 20th, then again at Sochi on the 22nd between the Russian, Iranian and Turkish Presidents. At least the last meeting resulted in an agreement for Russia to organise on its own soil a “Syrian National Dialogue Congress” (the date for which has yet to be decided) between the Syrian regime and the opposition, despite Ankara’s reservations about the presence of the Kurdish militia. As for the Geneva discussions organised under the aegis of UNO, its 8th session started on the 28th without, once again, the SDF being invited and so failed to produce any tangible results.
In this turning point phase Damascus and its Russian and Iranian allies switched between conciliatory and threatening words towards the SDF and the “Federal Region”. On the 7th Ali Akbar Velayati, Iran Supreme Guide’s adviser, declared that Damascus would take control of Raqqa from the SDF, adding that the Syrian Army also wanted to control the area East of the Euphrates … For their part, the SDF leaders were clearly seeking a political compromise: on the 17th a PYD cadre declared: “In Syria only two forces in the field remain that count — ourselves and the Syrian regime. Either there will be a clash between them and the result will be chaos or we start a dialogue aiming at a political solution. We prefer the dialogue”. On the 26th Riad Darar, a member of the Syrian Democratic Council, declared that the SDF were ready to join a future Syrian Federal Army (Rûdaw). It is true that the Russians had already proposed a future Federal Syria and that on the 17th Ziyad Sabsabi, representing the Foreign Relations Commission of the Russian Senate, declared that, in the event of conflict between the Damascus regime and the SDF, Russia would remain neutral. However Vassili Nebenzia, the Russian Ambassador to the United Nations, still accused on the 29th the coalition of following a policy of partitioning Syria because the SDF had set up a local government in Raqqa without consulting Damascus…
However the Russians have maintained continuous political contacts with the SDF and their self-declared Federal Region, inviting the PYD to the Sochi Congress. Yet, partly because of Turkish opposition (the Turkish President’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalın, described this invitation as “unacceptable”), the Congress was continuously postponed: it was first announced for the 18th, then “another date” remained to be chosen, after an initial list of participants including the PYD was removed on the 5th November from the Russian Foreign affairs ministry website... For its part the rival Kurdish grouping, the Kurdish National Council (Encumena Niştimaniya Kurd li Sûriyê, ENKS) announced, on the 27th, it was taking part in the Geneva talks in an official communiqué from its president Ibrahim Biro. According to Arab diplomatic sources (Al-Sharq Al-Awsat of the 29th), the United States unsuccessfully tried to secure the participation of the SDF.
Another source of concern for the SDF is the growing tension between it and the Turkish Army and the jihadist militia it supports round Afrin, where the Turkish Army is gradually sending considerable quantities of heavy weaponry. After several weeks of clashes, these “islamist” shelled the district of Sherava, then on the 7th Shera with heavy artillery. The YPD retaliated with light weapons. On the same day other Turkish troops fired from the South of Jerablous late in the evening Sheyokh Tahtani, West of Kobané (Hawar), some villages in the Manbij region being also targeted. Other fighting between the SDF and Turkish troops broke out on the 12th, when the latter entered Syria near the village of Meydan Ikbis. After the Turkish President threatened Afrin several times, the official Turkish news Agency Anatolia announced on the 20th that the Turkish Army had retaliated to some mortar fire from Idlib, aimed at its observation posts, which proved to be areas held by the YPG. The next day a quantity of SDF fighters left Raqqa to reinforce Afrin. According to figures published by the YPG, Turkish troops and their auxiliaries have launched not less than 576 attacks against Afrin, mainly with both light and heavy weapons (machine guns and mortars), causing the death of 12 civilians, including a boy of 14 and a pregnant woman. The Turks also led an “information-seeking war” according to the daily paper Hürriyet of 17th. Talal Sello, an SDF spokesman of Turkmen origin is said to have “surrendered” to pro-Ankara Syrian rebels and to have been transferred to Turkey for interrogation by the MIT regarding the arms and defence positions of the YPG in Afrin. The SDF indicated that this was a “Turkish special intelligence operation”, since Mr. Sello had been subjected to blackmail regarding his children who live in Turkey.
Turkey has not given up either its attempts to obtain the end of US support to the SDF. On the 24th the Turkish Foreign Ministry announced that Mr. Erdoğan had received assurances of the US President that the supply of weapons to the SDF would cease. A Kurdish leader confirmed that an “adjustment” would take place once ISIS eliminated, but that the partnership with the international coalition would continue. The “adjustment” was confirmed by the Pentagon on the 27th, but on the same day as the SDF received over 100 Humvee vehicles…
On the 28th, following a meeting of the Turkish National Security Council (MGK), led by President Erdogan, the Turkish Presidency announced that it wished to extend the observation mission set up at Idlib up to Afrin and to the West of Aleppo. On the same day CNN Turk announced that firing by the PYD from Afrin had wounded a Turkish soldier in a customs post while the TEV-DEM (Movement for a Democratic Society) an organisation from the PKK network, announced further Turkish attacks on villages in the Sherawa area, accusing Russia and Iran of letting them take place. On the 20th the SDF announced a recent intensification of attacks, which was confirmed by the journalist Chris Thomson, who described incessant shelling (Al-Masdar News): “With Turkish reconnaissance aircrafts observing the region 24 hours a day the Turkish Army and its allied rebel groups bombed the villages held by the Kurds in the Bilbile district. […] Some of the shells came from inside Turkey itself. The SDF came under fire in the villages of Dikmedash, Maranaz, Aïn Daqna, Yazibax, Basufane, Bedirxan, Barin, Bashur and Iki Dame. For a while in the afternoon artillery could be heard for 40 minutes. The SDF retaliated by shelling some groups supported by Turkey in the countryside North of Aleppo, but refrained from riposting towards […]Turkey”.
In anticipation of the second phase of elections for the Federal Region of North Syria, the selection for the municipal Councils due on Monday 1st December, a delegation of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region arrived in Rojava on the 29th, invited by the authorities. It included, inter alia, a KDP Member of Parliament, Amina Zikri, Zana Abdulrahman (PUK) and Sherko Hama Amin (Gorran). At the end of the month there were contradictory rumours about the participation in these elections of the Kurdish National Council (KNC), who had boycotted their first phase.
The month of November began with the remand of Osman Kavala, on the 1st… He is the co-founder of the Iletişim Publishing house, president of the NGO Anadolu Kültür, sponsor and a public figure enjoying respect in cultural circles. He was arrested on 17 October and charged with “trying to overthrow the Turkish State”, links with Gülen and the PKK. By arresting this man Mr. Erdoğan widens still further the extent of his judicial proceedings, truly opening a fresh “judicial front”.
In parallel to this the cases under way are continuing. Thus also on the 1st the press published the first accounts of the hearings (held the day before) of the trial of 17 staff members of the daily paper Cumhuriyet — managers, journalists and other employees. Accused of “terrorist activity” and simultaneous support to 3 different “armed terrorist organisations” (the PKK, the extreme left DHKP-C and the movement led by the preacher Fethullah Gülen), they face the risk of 43 years in prison. Some have been in custody for a year already and a book-keeper for 7 months! The Court has ordered that the 4 of them already in custody remain in jail, and decided the next hearing would be held on December 25th.
Also on the 1st the trial of the Kurdish paper Özgür Gündem resumed. Among the accused are Inan Kizilkaya, the chief editor and Kemal Sancili, the publication manager, but also the novelist Aslı Erdoğan, who has preferred, for the time being, to remain abroad. All are accused of “terrorist propaganda” for the PKK. The Court ordered that Kizilkaya and Sancili remain on bail but they are forbidden to leave Turkish territory. The novelist denounced the implausibility of the charges in an interview with L’Humanité on the 22nd: “I have several times lived under regimes of military dictatorship. It was simple, everything was either all black or all white. The junta eliminated all opponents. The present regime is completely outside any law — we cannot predict who will be arrested next not for what reason […]. A journalist was arrested for complicity with DHKP-C, Fetö, and the PKK. How can anyone be member of three such different organisations unless they are completely schizophrenic?”.
On the 2nd, according to Hürriyet, 10 people were incarcerated on suspicion of membership in an “armed terrorist organisation” during a raid on their home ordered by the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Ardahan Province, including Özcan Yılmazine of the two HDP provincial co-presidents. Two suspects were finally released under judicial control. In Osmaniye, 3 HDP officials were arrested and at Hakkari 40 people (Washington Kurdish Institute). On the 3rd, the HDP Member of Parliament Selma Irmak was sentenced to 10 years jail by a Diyarbekir Court for “membership in a terrorist group” because of speeches made during election meetings. Irmak is the 9th HDP Member of Parliament to be sentenced. On the 4th, on the anniversary of the jailing of its two co-presidents and 10 of its M.P.s, the HDP published a declaration denouncing as illegal a confidential circular issued by the Minister of Justice ordering all the courts to prevent Selahattin Demirtaş from testifying during his hearings.
On the 13th the HDP spokesman, Osman Baydemir, was briefly detained at Istanbul Airport. Several warrants had been issued for his arrest, including one for “terrorist propaganda” in a speech made during the Newroz celebrations of 2016. On the 14th, the Public Prosecutor of the city of Diyarbekir (Amed) demanded an 18-year prison sentence for the HDP M.P. Imam Tascier for “terrorist propaganda”. On the same day the police, in a series of raids in Ankara and Izmir, arrested several people for publications critical of the government on social media. These included Evren Celik, of the HDP’s external relations office and Öztürk Türkdoğan, co-president of the Association for Human Rights (IHD). On the same day the M.P. for Kars and former HDP spokesman Ayhan Bilgen announced that the HDP offices in the Esenler quarter of Istanbul had been targeted by shots in the early hours of the morning without causing any casualties. Bilgen also recalled that the HDP parliamentary group, in addition to losing its two co-presidents, has 11,000 of its members arrested, including 750 officials of several towns, and 10 M.P.s. On the 15th, Abdullah Öcalan’s lawyers announced that their demand to see their client had been rejected for the 704th time. The last authorised visit was on 27th July 2016.
On the 21st, while new arrests targeting the HDP and the Congress for a Democratic Society (DTK) took place at Ankara, Antalya and Diyarbekir, the chief editor of the online edition of Cumhuriyet, Oğuz Güven, was sentenced to 3 years and one month’s imprisonment for a Tweet he had shared on the paper’s account about the death in a car accident of the Denizli Prosecutor Mustafa Alper. At first threatened of 12 years jail, he was sentenced for links with both the Gulénist organisation and the PKK… In his defence he recalled that journalists’ work was after all still to spread news... On the same day a parliamentary commission agreed to deprive Leyla Zana, a HDP Member of Parliament elected in 2015, of her Parliamentary immunity. This decision was justified by Zana’s absences and the fact that she had altered the text of her oath when taking office. The final decision against Zana has to be voted in Parliament. On the 27th, according to the Anatolia press agency, the police in a raid and anti-PKK searches early in the morning incarcerated 10 people including a 77-year old academic and member of the HDP, Fikret Baskaya, charged with “pro-PKK propaganda” on the social networks. Several students were also arrested in Ankara and Adana.
Abroad Turkey described as “ridiculous and unfounded” a Wall Street Journal report dated 10 November that Turkish representatives had tried to obtain the kidnapping in the United States of the preacher Fethullah Gülen, who had sought asylum in Pennsylvania, by proposing 15 million dollars to the former security adviser of the US President, Michael Flynn, and to his son. The journal had mentioned that the special prosecutor, Robert Mueller, had used this lead in his enquiry. In parallel, the trial in the case of the Turco-iranian businessman Reza Zarrab and the Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla, former assistant general manager of the public bank Halkbank, which is continuing in the United States, is embarrassing the Turkish President. Zarrab, a gold magnate, had already been at the heart of a sensational corruption case in 2013 that involved some ministers close to the power and had provoked the breach between Gülen and Erdoğan. The political leaders of the country continue to follow the same line of defence as in 2013: they repeat to whoever wants to listen, that the scandal is a plot by the preacher. This might not be enough to prevent American sanctions against the Turkish banking sector…
The month of November has seen a particularly high number of violent events. Guerrilla operations against the security forces, arrests giving rise to armed confrontations and air strikes have followed one another throughout the month. Thus on the 3rd at Diyarbekir, right in the town centre a police action aiming to arrest a presumed member of the PKK degenerated into an armed clash. Result: one policeman and a suspect killed, nine other police wounded. According to an AFP correspondent the police began shooting on the top floor of a block of flats, then the Kurdish insurgents triggered off a home-made bomb. However most of the clashes took place in the mountains and near Şemdinli (Hakkari Province) in the extreme South of Turkey, near the most mountainous regions of Iraq and Iran, where on the 2nd fighting broke out between PKK members coming from Iraq and Turkish troops. Result: 5 Kurdish fighters and 6 Turkish soldiers as well as 2 “village protectors” killed. The Army then announced it had eliminated in the same area 12 other fighters in an operation supported by helicopters. The total of kill of both camps would be about 25, including 19 Kurdish fighters, according to the Ministry of the Interior, which also then claimed 9 other Kurdish fighters had been eliminated in Tunceli (Dersim) Province and 3 others at Şırnak. On the 4th the PKK launched another attack at Şemdinli, near the village of Adilbeg, killing 3 Turkish soldiers by hitting their armoured vehicle with an anti-tank missile (the PKK broadcast on the 30th on its Gerîla TV channel a video purporting to show the moment of the strike). On the same day another attack aimed at a hill near Çukurca, further to the West, killed at least one other soldier. On the 16th another skirmish occurred at Tunceli in which 4 Kurdish fighters were killed and on the 19th the Anatolia agency announced the previous day’s “neutralisation” of 14 Kurdish fighters and the capture of 2 others near Kulp (Diyarbakir).
The Turkish Army was also involved in fighting in Iraqi Kurdistan as shown by its announcing on the 16th that 2 soldiers had died near Avashin-Basyan in Dohuk Province. The Turkish Air Force also carried our many air strikes in Iraqi Kurdistan: on the 3rd against the village of Gelî Sargale (Amêdî district) and slightly to the East in the Rekan region (directly opposite Şemdinli) then on the 4th, according to Daily Sabah, against other PKK targets, especially at Qandîl and Avashin-Basyan. On the 12th according to Rûdaw, the Piramagrun mountains North of Suleimaniyah were bombed for the second time in a week, especially Mount Asos, near the town of Mawat, facing the Iranian border, then on the 13th, further North, the Bradost region near Soran — a raid that killed a civilian. On the 29th the Army announced that fresh strikes on Mount Asos, on the previous Monday (27th), carried out in cooperation with the Iraqi and Iranian Intelligence services, had killed over 80 “terrorists” and destroyed an ammunition dump, two military vehicles and several shelters. These last raids have not been conformed from independent sources.
Following the postponement of the parliamentary and Presidential elections, originally planned for 1st November, the Kurdish Parliament on the 24th extended it term of office for a further eight month. The 1st also took effect Masud Barzani’s resignation from the presidency, his powers being from this time on shared between the Kurdish Parliament and the Regional Government (KRG) led by the Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani. Meeting on the 6th the KRG decided on consultations with the political parties on the means of renewing the dialogue with Baghdad. Nechirvan Barzani invited the Ministers of the Movement for Change (Gorran) whom he had suspended in 2015 to return to their posts, but Gorran refused, repeating its demand that the KRG dissolve to create an “interim Government of national salvation” that would have to negotiate with Baghdad and prepare the elections (Rûdaw). On the 18th the Islamic Union (Yekgirtû) adopted a very similar position demanding a transition government. On the 7th, the High Electoral Commission called on the KRG and Parliament to set a date for Parliamentary and Presidential elections. For its part the PUK, faced with the death of its founder Jalal Talabani, and the loss of Kirkuk, its stronghold, held a meeting of its leaders in the 4th and envisaged dissolving its Political Committee without making any decision. Kosrat Rassoul, its interim leader, had to be brought to hospital in emergency on the 11th. Transferred to Berlin for intensive care on the 16th he came out on the 20th and is due to return to Kurdistan after his convalescence.
On the evening of the 12th a 7.3 magnitude earthquake centred at Derbandîkhan hit Iraqi and Iranian Kurdistan, causing 300 deaths and 2,500 injured in the Iranian side and 8 deaths and 300 injured on the Iraqi side. Followed by about a hundred “repeats”, some as high as 4.7 degrees Richter, it provoked fissures in the Derbandîkhan dam. On the 18th a second quake of 4.4 degree hit Garmiyan.
On the 21st Nechirvan Barzani and Qubad Talabani, Deputy Prime Minister, met several political parties to discuss the elections and the eventuality of an interim government, then on the 25th a second round of discussions with the PUK, Gorran and the Islamic League covered the possibility of a joint delegation in the event of negotiations with Baghdad. The tense relations with Baghdad indeed require unity: still refusing any dialogue, Mr. Abadi has launched a number of measures against the Region while approving, in the disputed regions taken back by Bagdad in October, an Arabisation policy worthy of the former Ba’athist regime. The calls by the KRG for negotiations have remained without any effect till the end of the month, a time at which the Kurdish Airports remained blocked…
On the 1st Abadi accused the KRG of “going back on the agreements” of the 29th October between the Kurdish troops and the Iraqis, which provided for the withdrawal of the Peshmergas from the Pêsh Khabur and Ibrahim Khalil border crossings. Refusing any joint administration he threatened: “If they do not observe (the agreement …), if they fire on our forces we will show them the strength of the law”. The KRG denied any agreement, stating that the Iraqi commanders had proposed two successive and different texts, to which Kurdish negotiators had responded, and the Peshmergas Ministry describing these demands as “unconstitutional”, replied that his troops were on defensive positions, which they were ready to hold. Nothing has changed since then, as Mr. Abadi repeated on the 14th that he “would shortly go into action” about the border posts “but without using force”…
He has, indeed, launched many measures against the Kurdistan Region, some to strangle it economically. About forty Kurdish Ambassadors could lose their jobs under the pretext of “restructuring” (Bas News). The Iraqi Central Bank has ordered, on the 9th, the closing, before the 14th, of all Kurdistan branch banks, local or foreign — an order cancelled on the 15th. Concerning the budget, Abadi had declared on the 31 October that he was ready to pay the salaries of civil servants and Peshmergas, then challenged their number, telling he approved only 680,000 of the 1,480,000 counted by the KRG. While the KRG reduced the number to 1.249.481 thanks to its “biometric” system of paying, Abadi demanded a preliminary audit. For the Peshmergas, Ahmed Hamah, a member of the Iraqi Parliament’s Finance Commission, indicated on the 10th that Baghdad would agree to pay 50,000 of them whereas their official number is 266,000 (Spoutnik). Moreover, supplementary conditions for payment kept appearing: Kurdistan must confine all its oil exports to the State company SOMO (SOMO Director); payment will only be made once Baghdad has regained control of the oil wells (Abadi on the 4th). In Parallel, Baghdad starting discussing with Ankara SOMO’s direct sales of Kurdish oil arriving at Ceyhan, thus “short-circuiting” the KRG and announced (on the 10th) an agreement with Iran on refining about 30-60,000 barrels per day of oil from Kirkuk at Kermanshah, sent there at first by tankers, then by a pipeline once it is ready.For having accused Abadi on FaceBook of having “used the country’s armed forces to take back Kirkuk so that the foreign oil companies, which helped him become Prime Minister, could take control of the oil fields” the Iraqi journalist Samir Obeid was arrested for “spreading rumours and false news to mislead public opinion”…
The Iraqi Prime Minister has also tried to “short-circuit” the KRG “from below” by proposing to the Kurdish provinces to pay their civil servants directly. The Provincial Councils refused, calling on Baghdad the 5th to use the KRG-created “biometric system”. Perhaps thanks to this refusal, the 2018 budget draft still mentioned the “Kurdistan Region”, although Iraqi leaders had started systematically to talk about “North Iraq”. Internationally the German paper Spiegel revealed on the 23rd that Abadi had forbidden the German Foreign Minister, who was planning to visit Baghdad at the beginning of November, to visit Erbil, and that even an appeal by Angela Merkel was unable to unblock the situation. Faced with this refusal the German Foreign Minister cancelled his visit to Iraq.
On the 6th the Kurdistan Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani, declared that Kurdistan was “ready to hand over the oil, the airports and all customs duties to Baghdad if the Central Government paid [KRG civil servants] salaries and the Constitutional 17% of the Federal Budget […]” However, after several shuttles between the Council of Ministers and the Iraqi Parliament and some promises to restore the 17%, Kurdistan’s share remained, on the 30th, at 12.67%. The population of Kurdistan is however estimated at 7-8 million, that is about 17-20% of that of Iraq...
The Shi’ite coalition “The State of Law” has also demanded the Supreme Federal Court criminal sanctions against 14 Kurdish members of the Iraqi Parliament who had voted “YES” in the referendum: Article 156 of the Criminal Code, inherited from the Saddam Hussein period, provides the Death sentence for any person having “intentionally threatened the sovereignty of the State”. Having returned to sit in Parliament the Kurdish 'M.P.s left the session on the 16th when the question was put to the vote. The Court however, refused to give a ruling, considering the question outside its terms of reference.
Besides, worrying news are coming from the territories taken back by Baghdad. Following the sacking of the Governor of Kirkuk, Najmaddine Karim (who had unsuccessfully appealed against it to the Supreme Court) and the taking back of the Province, Baghdad appointed as interim governor a Sunni Arab, Rakan al-Jabouri. However, on the 20th,6 Members of the Iraqi Parliament from Kirkuk demanded he be sacked for “abuse of authority” and “racist policy”. On the 12th Baghdad sacked 47 police officers, from the quota allocated to the KDP, giving their posts to Arabs and Turcmen. Then, in mid-November a Chief of Security for Kirkuk was appointed, Major-General Maan al-Saadi, whose Ba’athist past was recently revealed by a video: he had received 4 medals from Saddam following several operations against the Kurds. On the 29th the city’s Chief of Police and 12 officers were brought to trial, charged under Article 4 of the ant-terrorist law.
Constitutionally, Baghdad’s taking over of the disputed territories does not change their status, as was recalled on 20th October by the US State Department and on 27th November by the President of Iraq, Fuad Massoum, during his visit to the town: they remain subjected to Article 140 of the Constitution, which provides for the restoration of their original population then a referendum to decide their future. On the 7th the Iraqi Vice-President, Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni Arab, declared, from Washington that these territories could, on the basis of the Constitution, pass under “Confederal” control. In the field, however, these declarations sound more like pious hopes: according to Mahdi Mubarak, Diector of Kirkuk’s Department of Agriculture, who has sought refuge in Erbil, many Arab families settled by Saddam Hussein on land confiscated from Kurds and who left after his fall in 2003 with compensation, are now returning under the protection of the Iraqi Army and Hashd al-Shaabi. According to Majid Mahmoud, member of the Provincial Council, at least 120,000 hectares (300,000 acres) of land belonging to Kurds have been taken back, particularly in the rich regions of Dubiz, Daquq et Yaichi… Furthermore the security conditions are not such as to encourage Kurds to return. On the 10th the Kurdish Parliament closed its offices in Kirkuk to protect the security of its employees.
Moreover it is to the South of Kirkuk Province, at Tuz Khurmatu, that anti-Kurdish abuses have been the greatest. According to the United Nations 35,000 people have been displaced. On the 3rd UNESCO’s General Manageress demanded an enquiry into the assassination of the Kurdish journalist Arkan Sharifi, killed by stabbing in his home at Daquq (between Kirkuk and Touz Khourmatou) by 8 masked men wearing battle-dress, speaking Turcoman and introducing themselves as Hashd al-Shaabi members. On the 8th Abadi did indeed mention an enquiry… into dozens of complaints from Arab families regarding relatives from whom they say they are without news since their arrest by the Kurdish Security. On the 14th the head of Tuz Khurmatu’s Security estimated at 1,500 the number of Kurdish homes pillaged and destroyed. On the 28th a video broadcast by Rûdaw revealed that 2,000 houses had been pillaged and 3,000 confiscated and tagged with Turcoman slogans.
All this is far from the Constitution with which Abadi has been cloaking himself. The ex-President of Kurdistan, Massud Barzani, has, moreover, accused the “Supreme Court” of having “shut its eyes to the breaches of 55 Articles of the Constitution committed by the Iraqi Government” and has questioned its legitimacy: “Everyone must know that the (Supreme) Court was established before the approval of the Constitution and that it should have been annulled after (the latter) and another Court established on the basis and provisions of Article 92”.
At the beginning of the month, the Court declared that because of its absence of contact with one of the two parties, the KRG, it could not rule on the Constitutionality of the 25 September referendum. However on the 6th at the government’s request it issued a ruling based on Article 1 of the Constitution mentioning “the unity of Iraq”, whereby no Iraqi region or province could secede — then on the 20th, still on the basis of Article 1, it declared, in contradiction with its previous ruling, that it declared the referendum unconstitutional. The decision provides, moreover, for “the annulment of all the consequences and results” of the referendum.
On the 27th the Kurdsh Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani, denounced an “unilateral” decision taken without input from the KRG, but declared that the latter would observe it and said he was “ready for a dialogue”. He also demanded, on the basis of the annulment mentioned in the ruling the annulment of all punitive measures taken since the referendum and called for “the full application of the Constitution” (by implication not only those articles selected by Mr. Abadi to justify the anti-Kurdish sanctions…). He finally stated: “They are asking us to transfer control of the border crossing post and the Airports. […] We have no problem with a supervision [by Baghdad]. However does this mean that Kurds working at border posts and airports are not Iraqis or else that Baghdad only want to employ Arabic-speaking people?”