B u l l e t i n

c o m p l e t

Bulletin N° 393 | December 2017



Diplomatic attempts to establish peace in Syria continue to mark time. Opened on 28th November, the 8th session of talks in Geneva was interrupted on 1st December with the regime’s delegation’s departure, as they refused to continue so long as the opposition would maintain Bachar´s departure as a pre-condition for any discussions. Even though the UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura extended the session until the 15th, which enabled the government to return to Geneva on the 12th (but without meeting the opposition again) the session ended on the 15th without any results. Like Mistura, the Western diplomats doubted that the regime, close to military victory, would be interested in negotiations unless they simply resulted in simple surrender of it apponents. Moreover the Federation of North Syria, dominated by the PYD Kurds, which control 28% of the country, had not been invited because of Turkey’s fierce opposition...

If, with the soon to be announced defeat of ISIS, Turkey is still worried by the “Kurdish corridor” in North Syria, Israel is, for its part, worried by Iran’s setting up a “Shiite corridor” towards the Mediteranean near to its territory – to such an extent that it actually fired a missile onto a military facility South of Damascus, perhaps an arme depot. First steps towards the next conflict? In any case Putin announced on the 11th from the Khmeimim airbase a fresh Russian withdrawal, before declaring it was now time for more diplomacy. After his 7th meeting with Erdoğan the Russian President announced in his joint press conference with him that the decisions made on 22nd November at Sochi between the Russan, Turkish and Iranian Presidents would be soon put into effect, especially stressing the “Syrian National Congress for Dialogue” he wishes to organise at Sochi early in 2018. According to Putin “The Participants (…) will analyse the problems (…) such as the future structure of the State, the adoption of a constitution and the holding of elections on the basis of the Constitution and under supervision of the United Nations”. Things are probably more complex than Putin wants to believe: the Congress was delayed several times, as Turkey are opposing the presence of the PYD that the Russians hope to invite. Besides, the regime toughened its military operations so as to arrive at Sochi as as the victor. It has, in particular, bombed for 20 days running one of the last areas held by the Damascus rebels, the Damas Eastern Ghouta, even as it has been labelled a “de-escalation zone” after the Astana discussions, where 400,000 civilians could be trapped. According to the Syrian Centre for Human Rights (SCHR), nearly 192 people, including 43 children and 21 women were killed since 14th November. Amnesty International accused Damascus of having dropped there Soviet-time cluster bombes, forbidden in 100 countries.

Regarding the fight against ISIS, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) the Kurdish-Arab alliance, whose stromgest component is the Kurdish YPG, linked to the PYD (Democratic Unity Party) announced on the 3rd the end of their operations in Deir Ezzor Province. They affirmed having, with the help of local Arab tribes, driven out the jihadists of their operating area East of the Euphrates. As for the government’s army, it is continuing to fight ISIS on the West bank of the river. What has surprised observers, however, is that in their joint communiqué the SDF thanked not only the Weshingtom-led international coalition, which has long supported them, but also “the Russian forces” for their “air and logistical support” and their “co-ordination in the field”. According to the Kurdish ANHA news agency, a Russian military delegation led by a General was even there for the announcement, and the Russian Defence Ministry confirmed on the 4th that “the Russian air force (had) carried out 672 missions and bombed 1,450 targets in support of the offensive of the tribal militia to the East of the Euphrates and of Kurdish militia”. On the 4th, General Eugeny, representative of the Russian Army in Syria, announced, after having met the YPG, the setting up of a joint command office against ISIS. On the 5th the US who had about 2,000 troops on the spot, announced that they would maintain a military presence in Syria “for as long as necessary”.

It is probable that ISIS will maintain for a while a nuisance potential. Its press agency Amaq,claimed on the 10th that a counter-attack near the Omari Oil fields, in which 14 SDF fighters were killed… This persistence of a jihadist danger has paradoxically some positive aspects for the SDF, still facing the constant hostility of their Turkish neighbour. The maintenance of an American presence, minimal though it may be, and the military co-ordination with the Russians could help limit the Turkish danger as well as that of the regime, and even, perhaps, to secure acceptance by both those major actors of a de facto Kurdish autonomy in a Constitutional framework? Mr. Erdogan, who for several months now has centred his war-like speaches on the Afrin region, does not seem ready to accept such a perspective, having even declared on the 3rd against any evidence that there is “no difference netweem ISIS and the YPG”… And on the 17th the pro-AKP daily Yeni Şafak fulminated online that “Despite President Donald Trump’s commitment, the US has continued to send arms to the Syrian beanch of the the PKK at Afrin, including anti-tank TOW missiles”.

Even if it must not be forgotten that the whole of Rojava is under threat, it is clearly Afrin and the area round it that have been the main target by Turkish bombers and their Syrian auxiliaries — islamists considered by the YPG as Turkish mercenaries. Only last November the YPG noted 44 attacks, 13 violations by air (planes or military drones), 12 exchanges of fire that killed 3 civilians and wounded 2 others. The YPG-YPJ led 24 retaliatory attacks, wounding 7 mercenaries and at least one Turkish soldier. On the 4th, according to Kurdish ANHA news agency, the Turkish Army was repelled from the Bulbul district, near Afrin, where they claimed to be setting up observation points as at Idlib. On the 9th a large convoy of 20 armoured vehicles with some dozen or so troops entered Syria through the Kafr Losen border crossing and headed towards Mount Sheikh Al-Aqel, to the West of Aleppo governorate. On the 13th the YPG declared having killed West of Kobanê 2 Turkish soldiers and wounded several others who were trying to cross the border by blowing up one of their vehicles. On the 16th, again according to ANHA, the Turkish Army entered the town of Bailya, in Afrin Canton, seeking to open an invasion corridor for its troops.

If the danger seems less pressing from the Damascus side, relations remain tense. On the 12th the official responsible for the defence of Rojava, Rezan Gilo, reiterated on the Kurdistan-24 channel that the SDF were ready to join the Syrian Arny if “a new Constitution were drawn up on a federal basis and the rights of all Syrians preserved”. However on the 18th, before Russian and Syrian media, Bachar al-Assad described the SDF as “traitors” because “they are working on behalf of a foreign country”. The SDF retorted that they didn’t need to receive any lessons from Assad, who himself had opened the country’s borders to foreign jihadists and “freed terrorists from his prisons so that they could shed the blood of Syrians”. On the 29th the US Secretary of State for Defence, Jim Mattis, warned the Syrian President not to ttack the SDF. However the best insurance against any such attack is probably the development of relations with the Russians, already mentioned on the military level. On the political level, the 8th round of talks at Astana, between Russia, Turkey and Iran, ended on the 22nd with the calling of a Congress of the Syrian Peoples at Sochi on the 29th and 30th.  The PYD will not be officially invited, explained to Interfax on the 22nd Putin’s special envoy in Syria, Alexandre Lavrentiev: “We have tried to ensure the broadest possible presence of Kurds without incurring rejection by our Turkish colleagues”. For Turkey, the YPD does not represent the Kurds and a list of “authorised” Kurdish representatves was given to Russia…

On the 26th a group of parties, Kurdish, Arab and Assyrian of North Syria (including the PYD in power), asked in a common communiqué to take part, not as separate groups, but under the umbrella of the Federal Region, this entity self-proclamed in March 2016, which has allowed the integration of areas having an Arab majority in a project originated by Rojava. Their argument was that the Region “represents the will of the groups and social forces of North Syria”. This would avoid the official presence of the PYD-YPG, but it is too soon to see if this would overcome Mr. Erdogan’s attitude, largely motivated by his policy of alliance with the ultra-nationalists of the MHP for the coming Presidential elections. Nevertheless, the YPD general Command declared on the 27th that the Federal Region would indeed be invited, adding that “despite Turkey’s objections, more than 155 delegates from the Northeast Syria, largely inhabited by Kurds, will be present at this forum” (Tass). The opposition, for its part,  objected to Russia’s role as host, considering it as an agressor.

Despite the incertitudes about the future, on 1st December the elections for the Local Councils took place in the three Cantons (Afrîn, Euphrates, and Jezirah) of the “Democratic Federation of North Syria”. The 2nd phase of elections had begun on 12 September at the level of quarters, covering districts and towns. Although Damascus does not recognise the Federation and described the elections as “unilateral actions” they took place calmly, a real achievement in the present situation in Syria and the Middle East. The Electoral Commission announced the results as from the 5th with a turnout of 69%, the List for a Democratic Nation (Lîsta Netewa demokratîk, LND), which includes the PYD, won 4,621 local seats; the National Kurdish Alliance (Hevbendiya nîştimanî a Kurdî li Surîyê, HNKS) and the independent candidates won 339. According to the Commission’s figures the LND won 93% of the votes in Jezirah, with 2.718 concilors elected (out of 2.902 seats); in Euphrates it won 88.7% of the vote with 847 local seats out of 954; and in Afrin it won 89.9% of the vote and 1,056 seats out of 1,17 6. In Jezirah the HNK lists won 40 seats and the independents 144; in Euphrates the HNK won 40 seats and the independent 67 and finally in Afrin the figures were 8 seats for the HNK and 40 for the independents. The ENKS (Encûmena Niştimanî ya Kurdî li Sûriyê) had decided to boycott the election.



















The last phase of the elections will take place on January 19th when the Legislative Councils of each Canton and the Legislative Assembly of the Federation will be elected.

Alongsidde the gradual setting up of a regional governance, Rojaval is also working at the rehabilitation of services: thus after 8 months, despite shortage of electricity and water, its engineers have succeeded in making serviceable the train line Hassakeh–Qamishlo-Al-Ya’rubiyah (Tell Kocher in Kurdish), a town bordering on Iraq. This 80 km line that had not worked since 2005 has started running again with 2 trains, and soon with 3.


In New York the trial of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the former director of the Turkish public bank Halkbank, accused of having breached the US sanctions against Iran are tarnishing leading AKP leaders — and especially the Turkish President Erdoğan. The two principal witnesses, the Turco-Iranian businessan Reza Zarrab and his former adversary, Huseyin Korkmaz, an Istanbul policeman, in charge in 2014 of trailing him, give evidence that are paradoxically in agreement and explosive about the Turkish system for getting round American sanctions, of course used for generating high profit. Arrested in Miami in March 2016, Zarrab, under FBI protection, began speaking to avoid being sentenced; Korkmaz, fired then detained 2 years for having arrested Zarrab and above all the sons of 3 Ministers, came to the United States, bringing with him his family... and documents incriminating Erdoğan.

By firing policemen and prosecutors, the latter had managed to stop the enquiry and stifle the affair, but this trial made it public again and the political consequences could be devastating, since Erdogan’s son is involved as well as his son-in law and 4 ministries of his former government… Despite enormous pressure on the American legal system, Turkey has secured neither Zarrab’s release nor the postponement of the trial. On 2nd December, without fearing to appear ridiculous, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Çavuşoğlu, accused the American magistrature of “gulenism”, and the Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s office annouced the opening of an enquiry on the 2 US prosecutors in charge. A warrant was even issued on the 20th against Korkmaz’s relatives and lawyer, without being able to silence him — since the police could find no one…

The list of senior officials brought to question by Zarrab is a long one. Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the accused, was assistant general manager of Halkbank: using accounts documents, Zarrab was able to demonstrate Atilla’s complicity in hiding his transactions. To Zafer Çağlayan, Minister of Economy at the time, Zarrab told he paid 60 million US$ between March 2012 and March 2013 – and promised him “50-50” of the profits! Egemen Bağış, Minister for European Affairs, forced another Turkish bank in the United States to open an account for Zarrab. Berat Albayrak, Edoğan’s son-in-law (and present Minister for Energy!) acted as intermediary for him. According to Zarrab, the Turkish President, who at the time was Prime Minister, once Korkmaz fired, personnaly ordered the resumption of the illegal purchases of Iranian oil… Korkmaz, for his part, designated Erdoğan and his younger son Bilal as the main corruption beneficiaries in his 2014 enquiry.

This scandal now has a political impact. At the end of November, during a meeting of the parliamentary group of the Kemalist opposition party, the CHP, its leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, waved bank documents detailing the financial transactions of Erdoğan’s brother-in-law, Ziya İlgen, his brother, Mustafa Erdoğan, his son, Burak Erdoğan, of the latter’s father-in-law, Osman Ketenci, and of a businessman, Mustafa Gündoğan, with the dates and amounts of millions of dollars of transfers carried out in 2011 and 2012 to the Bellway Ltd company, formed in 2011 on the Isle of Man. The Turkish President’s lawyer attacked them as false and Erdogan publically threatened Kiliçdaroğlu to make him “pay the price” for his accusations. The repression has already fallen on the CHP, secular party accused against any likelihood of “rolling along for  Gülen”: among the 60 MPs of whom the Prime Minister demanded, on the 29th, the deprivation of their parliamentary immunity, apart from the “usual suspects” of HDP, one now finds Kılıçdaroğlu and several CHP Members. On the 13th the police summoned the FBI representative in Ankara about Korkmaz’s audition.

Is this to help forget these accusations? The Turkish President while pursuing his headlong rush to greater powers through repression, is increasing yet more his international isolation. This month has begun the trial of academics accused of “terrorist propaganda” for their January 11th 2016 petition that denounced the massacre of civilians by the security forces and called for a return to peace. Signed by over 2,000 Turkish and foreign ntellectuals, it had aroused the fury of President Erdogan, who had described it as “treason”. The first hearing, aimed at 147 accademics, and first of all at lecturers at Galatasaray, Marmara and Istanbul, began on 5th December. To isolate the accused, the prosecutors pursuing each one of them individually, rushed through each hearing in only a few minutes, providing for 147 trials in 7 different courts. Several diplomats, including the French Ambassador, attended the first hearing, at which appeared 25 lecturers of the Franco-Turkish University of Galatasaray. The verdict has been postponed till 12th April, the accused face possible sentences of more than 7 years. A second hearing was held on the 7th for around 30 more signatories.

The attacks on the HDP have continued. On the 1st, 66 people were arrested for presumed links with the PKK or ISIS in police raids on 2 Provinces, including Istanbul. On the 4th the prosecutor of Ankara called on the Ministry of Justice to lift the immunity of 19 HDP Members of parliament accused of “propaganda for the PKK” because of slogans supporting its leader Abdullah Öcalan. On the 7th, after a year of “preventive detention”, the first hearing of the co-President of the HDP, Selahattin Demirtaş took place in a penitentiary complex of Ankara, in his absence “for security reasons”. Charged with “directing and organising the incitement of hatred and crime”, Demirtaş faces sentences of 142 years imprisonment. Although 1,250 lawyers wanted to attend, the courtroom’s capacity was limited to 20 people, and foreign observers were forbidden to enter. The court had prolonged his detention by postponing the hearing until 14 February… One little victory was achieved — the court accepted that the accused could appear in person at the Ankara regional court and not in the detention complex. His co-President, Figen Yüksekdağ, appeared on the 12th in similar conditions for a new hearing, after having been sentenced to one year's imprisonment two weeks earlier. Here too, the international observers were kept out. New humiliating measures were introduced, among which those accused of “infraction to the constitutional order” were obliged to appear in prison orange and grey overalls. Demirtaş declared on the 24th that he would “prefer to wear a shroud than [such] an uniform and bend before fascism”. Finally at the end of the month he announced that he would not stand as candidate for the 2019 elections, including presidential.

Now the linguistic prohibitions of the 80s have reappeared, from books for children to the Parliament:  for instance the Diyarbakir public audiovisual library for disabled children, opened in 2014, was closed on the 3rd of December for “terrorism” by the administrator appointed after the elected local representatives were arrested, and its staff was sacked: the recordings were in Kurdish. On the 13th Osman Baydemir, HDP Member of Parliament, was banned from the House for 2 sessions and fined 3,100 $ for having pronounced the word “Kurdistan” in a speech. M.P.s for the AKP and MHP supported the sanction, the other HDP M.P.s walked out in protest with him. On the same day the Diyarbakir Prosecutor demanded an enquiry for “PKK propaganda” into the information web site 1HaberVar created by former journalists of media closed down by the government: they had published reports on the prisoners on hunger strike and… commentators had used the word “Kurdistan” (Turkeypurge). On the 14th the police carried out fresh raids against members of the HDP and a lawyers organisation(ÖHP). On the 27th the Turkish sociologist Ismail Besikçi (79 years old) was briefly arrested and questioned in Ankara and his home searched following a “tweet” posted in his name. A warrant had been issued for his arrest for membership of an armed terrorist organisation but the twitter account that incriminated him was not his and Besikçi (who had already spent 17 years in jail for his researches and support of the Kurds) was released after a few hours. On the same day the Hurriyet Daily News reported that the security forces were now authorised to open letters addressed to suspects at the orders of a Prosecutor, without a judge’s authorisation. In the 29th the police arrested 18 people suspected of links with the PKK in the three provinces of Izmir, Mersin and Igdir (Yeni Safak).

Turkey also continues to sentence foreign people accused of cooperating with the YPG, the President’s pet hate. Amongst these are Marketa Vselichova and Miroslav Farkas, two Czeck humanitarian medical workers, sentenced last August to 6 years and 3 months in jail and imprisoned in Van, who had their sentences upheld on appeal in the 4th. Their defence is going to appeal to the Turkish Supreme Court, which could take 9 months (Prague Daily Monitor). Parallel to this, the threat of assassination always hangs over the Kurdish diaspora in Europe, particularly in Germany: the HDP member of arliament Garo Paylan declared he had information regarding this question (Turkish Minute), which obliged the Ankara Public Prosecutors Office to open an enquiry on the 22nd – though is is unlikely to give much result… The day before, in the United States, two accused of aggressing pro-Kurdish demonstrators last May in Washington, who had pleaded guilty on appeal, were sentenced to a year and a day in jail.

This all-out repression has started to provoke reactions even within the AKP, such as Abdullah Gül’s veiled criticisms of a decree by Erdoğan freeing from any criminal proceedings civilians who opposed rebel soldiers in the attempted cop of July 2016. Gul described as “worrying” for the primacy of Law the fact that this decree also protects those who take the law into their own hands against “puschist” and “terrorist” activities. Without naming Gül, Erdogan sharply cut him down.

Finally this month’s military clashes were numerous, in Turkey as in Iraqi Kurdistan. In Turkey there was a troubling discovery: a “village guard” from Şırnak, arrested at Mardin on the 8th, was found in possession of explosives identical with those used on 10th December 2016 for the attack on Beşiktaş, claimed by the TAK, which had killed 46 people (Hürriyet). On the 13th the Governor of Diyarbakir placed a curfew on several areas near Batman and Mardin and on villages near Hasankeyf because of military operations — and the next day in several other villages. On the 14th the Special Forces backed by helicopters began operations against Kurdish militants near Mount Ararat. On the 28th, according to the Governor of Hakkari’s office, 6 soldiers were wounded by rockets aimed at two Army bases at Çukurca, Zer Tepe and Kırmızıkaya, which initiated air operations. The troops even attacked the cemeteries: according to several HDP Members of Parliament from Bitlis, they demolished with bulldozers on the 22nd on orders from the provincial governor a cemetery in which were buried 267 PKK fighters, transferring the remains to the Istanbul Medico-legal Institute. On the 29th the HDP accused the troops or the police of having destroyed at least 13 cemeteries.

In Iraqi Kurdistan the air strikes came one after another: the Asos region (Suleimaniyah Province), already hit in late November, was taken as a target more than a dozen times. On the 6th a plane fired a missile at the Makhmour refugee camp in Mosul Province, killing 6 guards, without any reaction from the Iraqi government. On the 11th the Turkish Air Force announced it had eliminated 29 Kurdish militants, and on the evening of the 14th it was Soran district, near Sidakan, that was targeted by air raids and artillery fire. The next day the Turkish Army announced that a land operation against the PKK would be carried out by agreement with Baghdad, without giving details. On the 26, other air raids were aimed at the regions of Garê et Avashin, then the same evening, at some villages in the Xakurke region, controlled by the PKK.


The military Kurdo-Iraqi confrontations have calmed but the tension remains alive in places, as at Kalar, where the Shiite militia tried, on 2 December, to take 2 checkpoints held by the Peshmergas since 2003. Om the 26th when the Iraqis tried to take control of the route between Jalawla et Kalar, the clash was avoided only by the intervention of the Iraqi Minister of the Interior, Qasim al-Araji, who ordered them to stop – he was accused by Abadi the next day of “interfering in military affairs”. At Tuz Khurmatu the Iraqis riposted to mortar fire on the 12th by shelling Kurdish villages, and on the 19th, the Kurdistan Security Council announced its alarm at Iraqi movements near Makhmour (Southwest of Erbil).

Baghdad also continued its punitive measures. Some travellers obliged by the closing of the Kurdish airports to travel through Baghdad were obliged to pay up to 430 US$ for “administrative costs”. On the 13th, 77 NGOs called on Abadi to stop this blocking that prevents humanitarian aid to the displaced people. While the Iraqi Minister of the Interior had, on the 26th promised a Kurdish delegation (the first to Baghdad since the referendum) that he would ask for the re-opening the airports, the ban, which expired on the 29th was prolonged by 2 months the next day. Baghdad also has ceased for the last 3 months to send medical supplies on the excuse of “lack of security on the routes”. It also dug up a law of 1998 to demand that Kurdish companies wishing to invest or sell its products in the rest of Iraq first obtain authorisation...  Little puff of fresh air, Iran has announced the reopening of two border posts — Haji Omran and Parwezkhan.

On the 26th, the Iraqi Prime Minister has announced the opening of “technical discussions” with Erbil on airports and border posts, repeating his demand that they be under federal control. He also inflexibly rejected on the 30th an attempt at mediation by the Turkish President who proposed a joint Kurd-Iraqi management as well as calls for dialogue and respect for the Constitution made, a bit late, by various foreign leaders who had abandoned Kurdistan in October. This covers the French President, after his meeting with Nechirvan Barzani on the 2nd, the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson on the 13th, the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on the 15th, the German Foreign Minister on the 18th (who expressed his support for “KRG’s [Kurdistan Regional Government] constitutional rights and those of the Kurdish people in a united Iraq”) and the Assistant General Secretary of NATO (who called for a “special status” for the Kurds) and some Members of the European Parliament (MEP) in a letter dated the 20th. Abadi also ignored the calls for dialogue coming from inside Iraq, like of the 26th by Vice President Iyad Allawi, who called for an end to the punitive measures and expressed his concern regarding Kirkuk.

Indeed, the situation in the disputed territories, now controled by Baghdad, appears tragic. At Tuz Khurmatu, 17 Kurdish policemen were arrested on the 4th and sent to à Tikrit for having taken part in the referendum, after 12 of their colleagues arrested in the 18th October then released. On the 12th, the Mayor of the town called the KRG, the Iraqi government and the International agencies to facilitate the retur of displaced inhabitants and called for the creation of a joint Kurdo-Iraqi force, accusing Baghdad of having prevented the deploying of the Presidential Guard. On the 16th the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) who had come to the town on the 7th and 13th, confirmed that hundreds of Kurds’ and Turcomans’ houses had been burnt down or bombed. However a local official of the PUK affirmed that the UNAMI, guided by the Shiite Hashd, had not even visited the most badly hit Kurdish quarters: on 26th November Rûdaw had shown several thoudands of houses plundered, burned, bombed or confiscated… Since then, only the pro-Baghdad media have been allowed in town. On the 17th the UNAMI called Iraq to judge the authors of the crimes at Khurmatu, but the interim governor appointed by Baghdad, the (Sunni Arab) Said al-Jabouri described the security situation as “normal” and engaged the displaced persons to return.

Al-Jabouri, indeed, was accused on the 11th by several Members of the Provincial Council of governing in an autocratic manner, while the local situation makes it difficult for the members of the Council to meet – only way to elect a new governor, as the PUK wishes. The President of the Council, Rebwar Talaban (Kurdistan Islamic Union, Yekgirtû) and the KDP elected representatives refuse any meeting in the town. Several premises of Kurdish parties have been pillaged or confiscated by the militia and Iraqi forces and the Kurdish employees sacked or put under pressure: on the 9th, 3 Kurdish officials of the Health Department have been replaced by Turcomen, on the 24th several municipal employees received questionnaires asking if they had participated in the organisation of the independence referendum.     Kirkuk’s Director of Agriculture has sought refuge in Erbil and on the 27th his colleague at Daquq was replaced by a Turcoman. There is a general repression against Kurds: the 17th in Kurdistan is “Flag Day”. Then on the on the 19th the Hashd  carried out a raid on the university to arrest several students wearing their traditional dress, who then suffered several hours of insults before being released. The next night armed groups driving military vehicles carrying the Iraqi flag tagged death threats on Kurdish houses. Finally, Kurdish villagers of the Dibis region declared having been subjected to raids directed by an Intelligence Officer accompanied by police forces and hundreds of members of Arab tribes equipped with expulsion orders signed by the Governor: they were given 72 hours to leave their homes. Informed of this the Iraqi Minister of the Interior had this officer transferred and replaced.

In the neighbouring province of Mosul, the Christian villagers of the plain on Nineveh continue to demand international protection and show increasing alarm at Iran’s actions…. The latter has even recently masterminded the creation of a Christian milita linked to the Badr organisation, the “Babylon Brigade”…

The Kurds’ anger has also been aroused by the official proclamation by Mr. Abadi on the 9th on the defeat of ISIS in Iraq, in a televised speech in which the Peshmergas, who suffered 2,000 deaths and 1000 wounded, were neither thanked nor even mentioned. The Prime Minister’s Office later corrected his written declaration to include the Peshmergas an on the 12th, the government’s spokesman attributed this omission to a “printing error”. Moreover ISIS has on the 19th launched a new attack at Makhmour, which the Peshmergas, on alert against the Iraqis (!), repelled. Finally at the month’s end other jihadist attacks in Al-Anbar Province even caused fear for Hawija…

The Baghdad-Erbil trial of strength also concerns the Kurdistan Region budget for 2018, that Abadadi aims at reducing from 17% to 12.6%. Moreover, the projected finance law refers to “Northern Provinces” and not to “Kurdistan Region”, the name under which it is constitutionally recognised... Abadi has repetedly promised to pay the salaries of the KRG’s civil servants, announcing on the 6th that he had started an audit of their lists but the KRG pokesman, Safîn Dizayî, stated that Baghdad had not yet even asked for the lists… On the 11th the discussions on the federal  budget in Baghdad had already twice been postponed because of the opposition of the Kurdish and Sunni Arab M.P.s. On the 21st, the IMF declared that the proposed budget was insufficient to “cover the needs of the KRG” and suggested an increase of 5.5 to 8.4 million dollars. On the 27th Baghdad sent 27th their November wages to 400 employees of the 17 Kurdistan dams that supply water to most of Iraq, and Abadi declared that the lists of the KRG Ministries of Education and Health were being audited. The two ministries confirmed this on the 29th, stating that before sending the lists to Baghdad they had checked them using the biometric system introduced in October.

During the second part of December there were large-scale anti-government and anti-austerity demonstrations, which degenerated into riots that eclipsed all other news – including that Nechirvan Barzani had asked Parliament on the 17th to start the preparations for the parliamentary and Ppresidential elections to be held within 3 months. The announcement by the KRG on the 11th that priority in 2018 would be given to basic salaries and services was not enough to calm down the population’s anger. Considering that KRG, unable both to pay the wages and to start negotiations with Baghdad, had lost any legitimacy, Goran decided on the 14th to withdraw from it. On the 16th, hundreds of people came out in Chamchamal to protest against the cuts in water and electricity. On the 18th thousands of demonstrators, demanding their salaries and the resignation of the KRG, reproaching it for its corruption and incapacity to defend the disputed territories, marched in Souleimaniyah and in its province, and in several cities of Erbil province and in Kalar, Ranya, Taqtaq, Chamchamal, Koya, Rawanduz, Halabja, Said Sadiq, and Qala Dize. At Piramagroun, 30 km Northwest from Souleimaniyeh they set fire to the offices of the 5 main  Kurdish parties. In Souleimaniyeh, the police used tear gas to protect the parties offices. The demonstrations resumed the next day at Souleimaniyeh, Ranya, Kifri and Halabja as well as at Koysinjaq where the town hall and the KDP offices were set ablaze. At Souleimaniyeh the police set up barriers on the main roads and fired into the air to disperse the demonstrators, while at Halabja, the demonstraters attacked the PUK office. The most serious incident occured at à Ranya (130 km North of Souleimaniyeh) where the offices of the KDP and the PUK were torched and the security forces opened fire, causing 5 deaths and 70 injured among the demonstrators. According to medical sources the overall toll of these events was 12 deaths and nearly 200 injured, including many police. On the same day, Shashwar Abdulwahid, the ex-owner of the NRT television Channel and founder of the New Generation movement, accused of incitement to demonstrate “to overthrow the governement”, was arrested with his wife at their arrival at Souleimaniyeh airport from London. He had published the day before a communiqué calling to demonstrate in a peaceful manner, adding that he would soon be back himself to participate. That evening the Security invaded the office of NRT, interrupting its broadcast. The next day Souleimaniyeh was placed under strict control by the Security, in an impressive deployment. At Ranya the demonstrators, defying the police, threw stones at Goran’s offices. On the 26th there had been over 600 arrests since the 18th, whereas Abdulwahid was released on bail.

Faced with this serious crisis, Goran withdrew its 10 ministers from the KRG (most of whom had not been attending for over a year), like the Islamic Group (Komal,, 2 ministrers), before calling on KNN for a general strike. On the 21st Barham Salih, a former KRG Prime Minister who had left the PUK in September and launched his “Coalition for Democracy and Justice”, warned against any Iraqi intervention in the internal affairs of Kurdistan; he called for peaceful demonstrations for an interim government of “National Salvation” — a demand rejected by the KRG. On the 24th following two days of meetings, the Islamic Union (Yekgirtû) decided to form a Parliamentary Enquiry Committee on the recent violences and to remain part of the KRG, but under conditions, such as the payment of wages. On the 26th the Speaker of Parliament, Youssef Mohamed (Goran), announced his resignation and in the same day the KRG Minister of Culture extended by another week the suspension of NRT to maintain calm in Suleimaniyeh. This decision was annulled the next day by decree by the Deputy Prime Minister, Qubad Talabani – under the condition that NRT would declare abiding by Kurdistan Region laws. On the 28th, New Generation recived the approval of the Kurdistan Electoral Commission for participating in elections.


On Saturday 2nd December the French President, Emmanuel Macron, received at the Elysée Palace a delegation of the Kurdistan Regional Government that had arrived in Paris the day before in response to an official invitation. This was, in fact, the KRG’s first official visit abroad since the referendum of 25 September last.

The KRG’s Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani, and the Deputy Prume Minister, Qubad Talabani, led the delegation. After the meeting, a common press conference took place in front the French, European, Iraqi and Kurdish flags. Mr. Macron paid tribute to the Peshmergas fight against ISIS and, characterising  the Kurdo-Iraqi cease fire decreed end October as very positive, reaffirmed “France’s attachment to the full carrying out of the Constitutional rights of the Iraqi Kurds”. He also recalled that if “France is committed to a strong Iraq”, to “a terrirtorial integtoty essential in the region”, it is also sttached to “a full respect of pluralism in the region as in Iraq”. He particularly demanded “the full respect of the processes provided for in the 2005 Constitution” and reiterated his appeal for launching “a constructive national dialogue (…) in Iraq”.

While the French President took a stand in favour of “the legitimacy of federal control of external borders”, whereas the KRG is more in favour of joint control, he also called for “(…) fair financial transfers,  in the spirit of the Constitution, to enable regions  to live”, pointing to attempts by the central government to diminish Kurdistan’s endowment. He also called for “a gradual demobilisation, especially of the popular mobilisation” – calling for the breaking up of the Hashd al-Shaabi militia, which aroused the anger of the Shi’a leaders. He also issued an appeal for “full observance of the territorial elements provided for in the constitution, in particular Article 140” (the article whereby the populations of the disputed areas should have decided for themselves of their fate by referendum before 2007) and called for the unity of the Kurds to better make their rights respected. The KRG Prime Minister replied that his government was ready for negotiations with Baghdad “to settle all the problems” adding that France could “play a very important part in this process”. The French President indicated that he would inform Haydar al-Abadi of his exchanges with the Kurdish delegation and would tell him of the concessions that the Kurdistan Region was ready to make to renew the dialogue.

We must recall that on 27th September Emmanuel Macron had telephoned Baghdad and Erbil to propose his services as mediator — a proposal sharply rejected by Abadi, whom the French President had invited on the 5th October, before phoning him again on the 28th October.

The Kurdish delegation then left for Berlin, where it had also been invited officially. It was received there by the German Chancelor, Angela Merkel, and her Foreign Minister, who promised that Germany would continue to train Peshmergas and to intervene with Baghdad  to urge the resumption of dialogue  with the KRG.


Kurdistan has again been hit by a series of seismic tremours this month:  the 7th and 8th December, two tremours of a magnitude of 4.2 and 4.1 hit the border regions between the town of Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the Iranian Kurdistan, Then, a few days later, on the 11th, another quake of 5.4 magnitude hit Halabja at about 5.00 pm followed half an hour later by another tremor of 4.9 magnitude. Eleven people were injured on the Iraqi side, where there there was some material damage. Nearly 50 people suffering from psychological trauma have been sent to hospital. The Iranian side  was again hit on the 12th.

However these earthquakes seem minor compared with the one in the morrning of 12 November, which had caused hundreds of deaths and injured in Iraq and Iran. The population of Iranian Kurdistan, particularly the region of Kermanshah, felt abandoned by the authorites and 15 days after the quake, on 30th November, some people interviewed openly asked why they could “send help to the Lebanon, Palestine and Syria but not to us?” Criticisms of the government intensified on the social networks   some accusing it of not bringing aid “because we’re Kurds”…  Individuals and charities mobilised to make up for the lack of public action. Thus a professor of Teheran University, when he learned of the catastrophe, started to collect funds through online participatory funding, and succeeded in raising over 300,000 US$ in under 2 days. In a significant manner, not trusting public organisations for distributing the aid, he decided to go on the spot himself to supervise the distribution. Just as significant is the fact that it was only on the 9th, nearly 3 weeks after the quake, that the many new victims could be identified and the assessment reviewed upwards to settle at 579 deaths. This says domething about the lack of reactivity of the authorities...

Furthermore, in this very mountainous border zone, the winter temperatures can be very severe. On the 11th the weather suddenly worsened, bringing heavy snowfalls, while many inhabitants of the Kermanshah region, survivors of the tremours, were still reduced to living in the open, near the ruins of their homes. This made heir living conditions even more difficult. The high number of deaths is also largely due to the poor quality of the social housing attributed to the population of Kurdish areas, amongst the poorest in the country. Finally, eleven people, desperate at their own situation and at the lack of assistance by the authorities committed suicide in the month following the earthquake...

All in all, the earthquake of 12th November appears as the most lethal in the world in 2017.

On the Iraqi side, the Rûdaw Kurdish channel launched on 15 December a public subscription to help the inhabitants of Derbandikhan victims of the 12th Novembeer earthquake to return home and rebuild their houses. The Iraqi Minister of health, Adila Hamud, expressed on the 21st her support for this campaign, which by the 28 December had collected, in two weeks, the sum of US$ 270,000 plus tons of aid in goods from Kurdish private individuals. Note that the aid sent by the Shi’a militia Asa'ib Ahl al-Haqq to the Kurdish towns of Darbandikhan and Sartaki Bamo, consisting of tents and basic and other first necessity goods, had been refused the 17th November by Sartaki Bamo, accusing the group of being responsible for violatons of human rights at Tuz Khurmatu.


The news from Iranian Kurdistan, unfortunately, always cover the abuses by the security forces on the population and, in particular against the gods carriers or porters, called kolbars, that the pasdaran (Guards of the Revolution) and the border police consider to be smugglers and regularly use as targets. On 6th December three of them were shot in Urmia Province, according to the Kurdish news agency Hawar News, which also reported that in the village of Kaiman Bahurman, 1 kolbar was wounded, several arrested and the goods they were carrying confiscated. At Zanjan, another porter was seriously injured. Near Sardasht two other were stopped by the border guards on their way back then beaten, although they were not carrying any load. On the 17th, also near Sardasht, the border guards killed, by shooting, two other porters.

On the 10th Ali Shamkhani, Secretatyof the Iranian National Secrity Council, during a visit to Kurdistan Province, declared that the government intended to develop the Province’s economy to put an end to kolbars trading. It is indeed a fact that the state of the already devastated economy of Iranian Kurdistan  has been seriously aggravated by the closing of the border posts with Ieaqi Kurdistan following the independence referendum of 24 September.  This closure has obliged many traders of Iranian Kurdistan to turm to smuggling, mainly of alcohol and cigarettes. Moreover, despite the Minister of the Interior’s announcement on the 18th of the reopening “within 48 hours” of the Parvizkhan border post in Kermanshah Province, the border was stil closed on the 26th , according to the director of the town’s Chamber of Trade, resulting in the loss of 3,000 jobs. On the Iraqi side, the major of the Haji Omran district stated the same day that it was the same at the passage point of that town, and the Iranian Kurdish M.P. Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh evaluated the losses caused by the closureof the border posts at 2.5 billion dollars (Financial tribune on line of 30/12,

In this socially tense context, the security forces have still further tightened their control and their repression by abusive imprisoning and sentencing of any political, intellectual or even personal expressions that dare to support the referendum organised on the other side of the border.  According to the organisation Human Rights Monitor,on 2nd December, they arrested and took to an unknown destination two Kurdish citizens of Marivan, then severely beat up another who suffered fractures on his face, head and ribs. On the 9th the activist Mohammad Karimi was arrested at Bokan and 6 others were summoned and questioned by the Sanandaj Intelligence Office. The police also arrested two political activists, Tahsin Dadrasy and Aram Nickpayeein in the town of Mariwan (WKI).

These abuses also hit the Kurds of Khorasan. On the 5th the police arrested Eli Reza Spahi, a popular Kurdish writer of the town of Meshhed. The author of numerous books, Spahi is known as a critic of the regime.

On the 7th the brother of the political prisoner Afshin Hossein Panahi, named Amjad Hussein Panahi, declared that agents of the Intelligence Ministry had tortured his brother with electric shocks and pulling out his nails in Sanandaj prison to force him to confess being in comunication with Kurdish political groups. The electric shocks were so strong that the prisoner’s head was burned and he was wounded in the back and knee. Despite this he was refused any medical treatment. On the 13th a woman, Soheila Zobeiri, 46 years of age, and her daughter Safa Hassanpour, 18, were imprisoned at Sardasht for having taken part in May 2015 in protest meetings against the death, at Mahabad, of a young Kurdish woman, Farinaz Khosravani, 26. Working at the Tara  hotel in Mahabad, she had thrown herself out of a 4th floor window to escape being raped by a staff of the Minister of Intelligence Services. Her death had aroused mass demonstrations in Kurdistan. The two women were sentenced to 24 and 6 months jail respectively, for disturbing public order (NCRI Women Committee). On the 17th, 3 Kurdish political activists were condemned at respectively 7,7 and 4 years jail.

Besides, since the 25th September, the pasdarans have been orchestrating a campaign of mass arrests against people accused of having supported the independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan (WKI). This is the case of Zamana Zewiya, a student at Payam Noor University of Saqqez, who took part in a rally to support the referendum, was accused, on the 4th and 5th November of “actioms against national security” and “participating in illegal rallies” and “disturbing public order”, already sentenced at Saqqez on the 15th November to prison and then released on bail, was sentenced on 12 December to 50 blows of the whip. On the 27th 3 other Kurds received the same sentence for the same reason, to which was added a fine of 1,800,000 tomans.

According to the Geneva-based Association for Human Rights in Iran (KMMK-G), Iran has executed at least 64 Kurds, killed 57 kolbars and wounded 120 in the first 10 months of 2017 (however Rûdaw talks of 165 kolbars killed and 150 wounded in 2017). Furthermore, 23 journalists and activists have been arrested in Kurdistan and 5 Kurdish journalists sentenced to 12 years and 6 months prison. Besides, actions have been undertaken abroad targeting members of the Iranian Kurdish party Komala, refugees in a camp near Sulaimaniyeh, in Iraqi Kurdistan, where 3 bombs were discovered on 30 December and defused. It should be recalled that a year later no conclusion had been reached regarding another murderous attack on the offices of the KDPI near Koysandjak on 20 December 2016, which had killed 5 members of the party and 2 members of the KRG security forces. Iran, suspected of being behind this attack, never confirmed nor denied its participation.

On 28 December, in Mashhad, the second largest town in Iran, in the Northeast of the country, began demonstrations against the soaring prices of basic foods, which quickly took on a political character. These demonstrations then rapidly spread to other towns, including the capital, Teheran, but also Kermanshah in Kurdistan. Faced with this popular anger, the regime resorted to conspiracy theory, accusing “foreign agitators”. Videos showed demonstrators shouting “Leave Syria in Peace, look after us”, criticising the military support being given to the Syrian regime while Iranians are victims of considerable economic difficulties. Despite many arrests and threats by the authorities, the call to demonstrate continued to circulate on the social media, the demonstrators taking up slogans against corruption, calls for President Rohani to resign, for the release of political prisoners and for an end to police brutality.

On the 29th, the demonstrations were massive at Kermanshah, where the calls were for the liberation of political prisoners. Videos broadcast in the social media showed the security forces attacking the demonstraters with truncheons and water cannon to disperse the crowds, as well as of injured demonstrators.

On the 30th security forces were deployed to prevent the demonstrations. A demonstrator from Kermanshah testified that the police had carried out violent attacks “with truncheons, fists, and stones” The KDPI reported that several demonstrators had been killed and wounded in Kermanshah Province after the pasdaran had opened fire on the crowd, and that at least 6 more people had been killed in Lorestan. The Kurdish political parties KDPI and Komala expressed in a joint statement their support for the demonstrations, calling on the authorities to release the people arrested in the last few days and describing the demonstrations as “the sign of collective anger at bad governance, corruption, injustice and the dictatorship that leave no room for expressing peaceful demands by peaceful means”.

Despite the violence of the repression, the demonstrations continued on the 31st for a fourth day. This is the largest and most important popular movement in the country since the “Green Movement” of 2009.


The Kurdish novelist, Bakhtyar, received on 10 December at Dortmund, in Germany, the prestigious Nelly-Sachs literature Prize, given by that town every two years. Two of Ali’s novels, The City of White musicians and The last pomegranate in the world, were translated from Sorani Kurdish into German, enabling the author to become the the first winner of the prize for works written in another language. The communiqué presenting the attribution of the prize notes that “The fact that a Kurdish author be able to receive this prize although only two of his novels have been translated should mark the history of the prize with a white stone — but also shows the extent of the author’s talent”.


The Kurdish Institute recently received two works about Kurdish music accompanied with two DVDs. Their title is Şakarên Muzîka Kurdî, i.e. “The Master pieces of Kurdish Music”, a real heavyweight volume of 900 pages, the product of several years work by the researcher Zeynep Yaş, who traces the history of Kurdish singers and songs through 142 different songs and 142 artists covering the period from 1800 to 2015 (the first volume covers 52 artists from the period 1803-1930, the second 58 artists from the period 1931-2015). The songs presented cover the dialects kurmancî, soranî and zazakî. These two volumes that we can only recommend have been published thanks to the support of the municipality of Diyarbakir.

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The Institute has also received two recent works (2017) covering the political events in Rojava; for each of them the author or authors came to make a presentation in the Institute’s premises. They are, on the one hand, The Rojava Commune: the alternative to the Nation-State — a co-edition Syllepse (Paris) and Critica (Brussels) a collective work organised by Stephen Bouquin, Mireille Court, and Chris den Hond, and The Kurdish Revolution. The PKK and the making of a Utopia at La Découverte by Olivier Grojean.


    La révolution kurde - Le PKK et la fabrique d'une utopie


The Rojava Commune, resolutely committed to the side of Rojava, brings together contributions by over twenty authors (including Immanuel Wallerstein, Michael Lowy or David Graeber) goes from rather theoretical exposures to interviews with Kurdish activists. It tries to place the recent developments in Rojava into a wider political context by showing that these are of interest beyond those interested interested in Kurds, as an “important political issue” well beyond the Middle East. The different chapters address among others topics Murray Bookchin’s democratic confederalism, one of the bases of this anti-state attempt, and the position of the Rojava women constitute the central theme of four of the contributions. The work which does not shy away from the contradictions of the experiment underway concludes with the transcription of a round table devoted to understanding this “struggle of the Kurds for a free society” and to the way to support it.


The Kurdish Revolution is, by contrast, the product of the research of a single person, an academic who teaches political science. The author first notes that if the Rojava utopia arouses wide interests all over the world, the political organisation that gives it its structure, the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), through its Syrian sister-organisation, the PYD (Party of democratic Unity) remains quite understudied. Thus the book chooses to concentrate on tracing this party’s evolution (and that of its sphere of influence) since its foundation in Turkey in the 70s with its originally Marxist-Leninist ideology but also drawing on elements of the earlier Kurdish revolts, its passing to armed struggle which resulted in a pitiless “dirty war” led against it by the Turkish State, up to its changed paradigm, resulting from the incarceration of its leader Abdullah Öcalan, towards a democratic confederalism inspired by the the “municipal libertarianism” close to that of the American thinker Murray Bookchin (whose widow Janet Biehl signs a contribution in the work described before this one). While raising the question of the ambiguity of the experiment taking place between democratic confederalism and the Leninism retained by the organisation, the author concludes that it is just this ambiguity that allows the ongoing experiment to mobilise so widely, and that makes it the bearer of an emancipation from which it will be difficult to come back – if the regional geopolitical circumstances permit.