B u l l e t i n

c o m p l e t

Bulletin N° 396 | March 2018



The principal event of this month in the entry of the Turkish Army and its Syrian auxiliaries into Afrin on Sunday the 18th, after nearly two months of heavy fighting and intensives shelling. The Syrian militia immediately started all out looting of the abandoned houses of the Kurdish inhabitants...

Launched on January 20th, the Turkish invasion had marked time for a long time, the YPG systematically regaining the lost ground until the advances were speeded up early in March. On the 6th the Turks and their allies controlled about 30% of the villages of the Afrin region — their capture of Jandairis on the 8th opened up for them the route to Afrin by the valley of the river of the same name. On the 10th the aggressors clashed violently with the YPG at a point 4 km from Afrin, setting 2,000 civilians to flee Southwards to the towns of Nobol and Zahraa, controlled by the Damascus regime. From the 14th to the 17th, this route was incessantly bombed but remained the only one open and was taken by 200,000 civilians, including 20,000 Yezidis from Sinjar, who had found shelter there after the 2014 genocide … When the YPG withdrew, the Turks and their jihadist auxiliaries entered a town that was completely empty except for a few thousands of its inhabitants.

Letting themselves be complacently photographed, with their fore-fingers raised in the ISIS Jihadist salute, these pro-Turkish fighters signalled their role by destroying the statue of Kawa the Blacksmith  (Kawa Asingêr) the heroic revolutionary of the Newroz legend, who overthrew the wicked tyrant Zohak. One couldn’t find a better better way of symbolically highlighting the equivalence between Erdoğan, their lord and master, and Zohak. The mythical Zohak had two serpents on his shoulders, who constantly demanded to be fed with the brains of fresh victims — the modern Zohak, for his part prefers to ensure his control of brains by displaying before his supporters the mingled symbols of fascism and Islamism. He calls upon his supporters to wage a jihad against the YPG “unbelievers”, boasting of the martyrdom of young girls — and making the sign of the Grey Wolves in his meetings. At his orders Turkey took advantage of the international inaction to snap its fingers at all legal obligations: invasion of a neighbouring and sovereign State without any proof of anti-Turkish danger, disrespect of the 24 February decision of UNO’s Security Council of a humanitarian cease-fire “without delay” in Syria, bombing and shelling civilian and military health and medical installations. The Turkish Army’s turned off the valves of Afrin region’s main dam, as its bombing deprived the city of electricity and communications. It aimed at hospitals and at petrol stations and even civilians trying to escape — while continuing to deny any civilian casualties! On the 5th 13 civilians, including two children, were killed and many others injured in the bombing of Jandairis. On the 16th sixteen civilians, including two pregnant women, were killed by a strike at the only working hospital in Afrin and the next day another strike killed 11 civilians who were fleeing Afrin with a tractor. This policy of terror was clearly aimed at pushing the inhabitants, mainly Kurds, to flee, to ease the project of ethnic cleaning so as to replace the present population by one more in conformity with Turkish interests.

The Damascus regime has limited itself to verbal condemnations of the “aggression” and of the Turkish “occupation”, sending in the besieged area a few hundreds of militia who were unable to stop the invasion. Only an intervention by the Syrian Air Force could have imposed a stop — and the regime had no interest in this…

Finally the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA), revived, financed and armed by Ankara for its own needs, has shown its real character, even indulging in the city in internal fighting on the 22nd Originally made up of civilians trained and officered by deserters it is now made up of Islamists and Jihadist, it is only there to provide a Syrian screen for Turkey’s invasion, guilty of abuses in the fighting, of looting and destruction and anti-Yezidi abuses. They are now also accused raping women and reducing them into sexual slavery. Some Kurdish public figures originally from Afrin and now living in Europe have founded an Afrin Support Committee and appealed in le Monde to avoid the setting up of a new Jihadist hearthstone, a “second Raqqa”.

The assessment diverges depending on the estimator. According to the UK-based Syrian Human Rights Centre, over 1,500 Kurdish fighters were killed in the Turkish offensive since its beginning two months ago, “the majority of them (…) by the air strikes and artillery barrages” as well as 400 rebels allied to Turkey and over 280 civilians. The Turkish Army reported 46 soldiers killed. On the 20th the Kurdish authorities estimated that about 800 YPG fighters and 500 civilians had been killed. On the 23rd the United Nations published that an estimated 167,000 people had been displaced.

The loss of Afrin is certainly a defeat for the Rojava Kurds but they were still able to resist the second largest army of the NATO, confronting the Air Force without having any anti-air defence, and then retreated in good order — contrary to the Turkish declarations that “the terrorists (were) fleeing with their tails between their legs” or “without looking back”.  After the violent clashes on the evening of the 17th North of the city, the administration decided on a tactical withdrawal, given the Turkish firepower, and the city fell the next day virtually without any fighting. As the YPG spokesman, Birusk Hasakeh: said: “We have seem what the weight of the intense bombing was to the civilians (…) We decised that it was urgent to evacuate the inhabitants and to redeploy our fighters”. Furthermore the Kurdish authorities refused to give way to the Russians’ blackmail. The latter offered their protection, against Assad’s return.  While the SDF and the regime remain the two principal forces face to face in the Post-ISIS Syria, this clear position could assume a great importance in what follows.

For ISIS the Turkish invasion arrives at a particularly suitable point by disturbing the operations of the international coalition, whose backbone on the ground remains the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), 1,700 of whose fighters have announced on the 6th their withdrawal from the Eastern Front and their redeployment to Afrin. A military leader of the SDF, Abou Omar al-Idlebi declared: “Our family and relations at Afrin are our priority, their protection is more important than the coalition’s decisions”. The Pentagon has admitted that the Turkish operation had caused “an operational pause” against ISIS, and the chief of Centcom (US Command for the Middle East) has declared to Congress that the US and Turkey had “diverging interests”...

The invasion and taking of Afrin have aroused many expressions of solidarity abroad. On the 3rd, several thousand demonstrators marched through Berlin; on the 6th one of the leaders of the Movement of Kurdish Women in Europe, Nursel Kilic, in a Press Conference held alongside the Communist members of Parliament including the former Minister and CP General Secretary, Marie-Georges Buffet, called for a French Parliamentary delegation to be sent to Afrin. On the 10th, a second delegation from Iraqi Kurdistan, containing Christians, Yezidis, Zoroastrians and Kakais and representatives of several parties including the PUK, the KDP and the Communist Party arrived at Qamishlo on their way to Afrin (a first delegation had visited Afrin in mid-Febuary to evaluate the sanitary situation). The weekend of the 10th-11th a number of pro-Kurdish demonstrations were held in Germany and England, where they led to the closing of the railway stations of Piccadilly in Manchester and King's Cross in London. The same weekend several hundreds of people gathered at Carhaix, in Brittany, to pay tribute to a Breton fighter, Kendal Breizh (the pseudonym of Olivier Le Clainche), killed on 10th Febuary in Afrin by a Turkish air strike. In the UK, the father of a 27-year-old woman fighter, Anna Campbell, fallen on 15th March, criticised the lack of any help by the government in having her body brought home. On the 12th the former French President, François Hollande, broke the silence he had observed since the election of his successor, to recall the “decisive role” played by the Kurds in the fight against ISIS. Besides, several anti-Turkish attacks aimed at mosques, association premises or shops have taken place in Germany leading the Turkish Foreign Ministry to issue a summons to the German Ambassador to Ankara, on the 12th. In Paris there were almost daily Kurdish demonstrations, leading sometimes to some outbursts, as on the evening of the 14th before the US Embassy. After the fall of the city, a collective of Kurds from Afrin settled in Europe published a column in Le Monde on the 20th attacking the formal condemnations that lead to no concrete action by the “international community”, writing that “The international community’s silence becomes part of Erdogan’s gruesome plans. As they wrote: “Silence means consent”. On the same day, the Rojava representative in Paris, Khaled Issa, accused: “The same fighters who fought so bravely against ISIS are, today, abandoned and left to the mercy of the Turkish Army” and denounced “the ethnic cleaning” of which “the Great Powers remain the spectators”. On the 24th thousands of demonstrators marched through Paris to denounce the ethnic cleaning in progress and other rallies have taken place in Germany (particularly in Hamburg), the UK and Sweden. Rezan Hedo, the YPG officer responsible for the media in Afrin, sums up the general feeling of the Kurds: “The international coalition has used us as tools to fight ISIS and then dropped us”.

A number of governments were criticised for their inaction by their opposition. In France the Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, declared on the 13th before the National Assembly that Turkey’s “legitimate” concerns about the security of its borders “absolutely did not justify the operation taking place in the Kurdish canton of Afrin” (AFP). The next day the Communist Party’s secretary, Senator  Pierre Laurent, asked the French President to meet a “transpartisan” Parliamentary delegation to discuss the situation in Afrin. On the 20th Mr. Le Drian criticised the (Turkish) “Army’s settling deeply into Syrian land”; on the 21st Bruno Retailleau, President of the “Republicans” (Les Républicains) group in the Senate accused Emmanuel Macron (the current President of France) of abandoning the Kurds to face Turkey alone, even adding that “François Hollande had had more courage”. On the same day, in Germany, Angela Merkel, speaking in the Bundestag described as “unacceptable” that thousands of civilians from Afrin are suffering from the fighting, also condemning the shelling of Ghouta by Damascus.

On the 29th , after having expressed his “preoccupation” to his Turkish opposite number by telephone on the 24th, Mr. Macron received at the Élysée Palace a delegation of the SDF to assure them of France’s support for the stabilisation of the Syrian Northeast and in preventing the resurgence of ISIS. Repeating France’s commitment against the PKK, the French President French proposed the mediation (…) between the SDF and Turkey. An offer rejected with anger by the Turkish President (“Who are you to talk of mediation between Turkey and a terrorist organisation? Do not meddle with matters that are beyond you) who also reminded France of its colonial past…

Erdogan’s anger can be explained by the problem posed to him by the presence in Rojava of several hundreds of American and French troops backing the SDF on the ground as partners of the anti-ISIS coalition. The Turkish President has unceasingly repeated that after Afrin he aimed at a vaster offensive — controlling Rojava “as far as the Iraqi borders”, including “Manbij, Aïn al-Arab [Kobanê], Tal Abyad, Ras al-Aïn et Qamichli”. So far, however, pression and even the threat of Turkish air strikes on American troops to make them drop their Kurdish allies at Manbij have had no effect: according to Syrian Human Rights Observatory the some 350 US and French troops (the latter stationed in a base not far from the city) have rather received reinforcements, the local Kurds receiving equipment and heavy artillery… Since ISIS is has retained its ability to harm in this area, France announced that it might even readjust the scale of its presence in the coalition framework. In this context the reception of an SDF delegation and the announcement of French support made on that occasion, even if they are only minimal gestures, hit a nerve for the Turkish President.


The level of repression in Turkey seems hard to increase, but Mr. Erdogan and his government are succeeding… To silence any criticisism of the invasion of Afrin the government has again increased the repression, targeting opponents, journalists and NGOs. Nevertheless, the most worrying remain probably the picture of the President making the salute of the “grey wolves” at a meeting on the 10th March. This publicly staged sign of adhesion to the fascist extreme right shows what type of future Mr. Erdogan’s is preparing for the country if he is re-elected… On the 12th, Raci Bilici, a leader of the Human Rights Association (IHD) of Diyarbakir described the situation as worse than during the “dirty war” in the 90s, with a “totally arbitrary” judicial system whereby someone can be kept in prison for more than a year without any charge (Ahval).

On the 1st of the month, Dilek Öcalan, a M.P. of the “pro-Kurdish” HDP party and the niece of Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK, was sentenced to two and a half years prison for “terrorist propaganda” (Anadolu). Another HDP Member, Selma Irmak, was sentenced to 10 years for “membership of a terrorist group”. On the same day, according to the Left wing site Gazete Duvar, the trial for the murder of 2 policemen, which the Turkish government had used in July 2015 to put an end to the peace process with the PKK, came to an end with a series of acquittals. The 2 policemen were killed just after a bomb attack against progressive activists and Kurds expressing solidarity with the anti-ISIS fight of Kobanê. Many leaders of Kurdish parties had accused the government of not having tried to prevent the bomb attack nor to punish the attackers, while the government used the incident to restart the war. During the last session of this trial, 9 of the suspects were found not guilty and 4 others sentenced to 18 months for “terrorist propaganda”. On the 2nd, the HDP, in a communiqué to the press, UNO, the European Parliament and Commission, warned the recipients of the common practice of torture in Turkish prisons. The communiqué mentioned the example of Ulas Yurdakul, a prisoner beaten to death and videos in which the murderers boasted about their crimes. Indeed, the figures of the Prison Directorate for February show the overpopulation of the prisons: 235.888 detainees (including 50.000 politicals) as against room for 208,330.

On the 5th, the HDP attacked the government for settling in Afrin several hundred-thousand Syrian refugees as a war crime contravening international law. On the 7th some HDP Members of Parliament who denounced this plan as committing ethnic cleaning were physically attacked in the middle of Parliament by about 40 AKP Menbers. The HDP Member for Gaziantep, Mahmut Toğrul, had an arm broken and his colleague from Izmir, Muslum Doğan and the Armenian Member Garo Paylan were struck before some CHP Members managed to stop the aggression. On the 12th Parliament rejected an HDP resolution asking for an enquiry on the civilian victims at Afrin, the Speaker of Parliament preventing the Member from Istanbul, Huda Kaya, from finishing her speech. The government has initiated criminal enquiries against the M.P.s, who criticised the Afrin invasion via social networks. On the 16th the former co-president of the HDP, Aysel Tuğluk, arrested on 28 December 2016, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, charged with “directing a terrorist organisation” — namely the Congress for a Democratic Society. In parallel, the arrests following the failed “coup d’état” are continuing: on the 9th, 154 additional people were arrested, including 16 naval officers, 66 teachers and 72 Trade Unionists.

On the 22nd a leading HDP official, Gülsüm Ağaoğlu, was placed in detention for “insulting” the President in her Newroz speech at Tekirdağ. On the 23rd the female HDP member of Parliament Lezgin Botan was sentenced to 18 years jail for “terrorist propaganda” or “damaging the security of the State” in speeches made in the course of her political activities… Adam Geveri, another M.P. was acquitted for the same charges.

As for journalists, they were “invited to take into account Turkey’s national interests”, concretely not to publish anything critical about Afrin (The Economist). So, with a thousand of their colleagues in prison the invitation was certainly insistent… They had to mention the care taken by the Army to avoid any civilian victims, its fight against ISIS as much as against the Kurds — although the only Jihadists in Afrin were those that Turkey itself had brought there! The alternative to self-censoring was to be accused of “terrorist propaganda”, like the leaders of the Left channel Hayatın Sesi, closed by decree after the “coup d’état”, who now risk up to 13 years imprisonment  (Evrensel) for simultaneous propaganda for the PKK, the TAK (Hawks of Kurdistan) and ISIS! Their crime: having published the testimony of inhabitants about the Army’s operations at Cizre. Next hearing is on 24th April.

Another example of repressive relentessness: the new trial, started on the 7th, of the journalist Hidayet Karaca. Formerly senior official of several media associations, formerly office head in Izmir and Ankara of the daily Zaman, executive director for 17 years of the audiovisual group Samanyolu (14 channels in Turkish, English, Arabic and Kurdish), Karaca was arrested in December 2014 then kept for 4 years in “temporary” detention because of the dialogue of a series broadcast 5 years previously. One of his lawyers, himself arrested, was made to give evidence against his client (which is illegal) in exchange for a reduction in sentence from 10 to 5 years, resulting in Karaca receiving a 31-year sentence — he had, inter alia, once met Fethullah Gülen! The Judge, Mustafa Baser, who had proposed his discharge, was himself fired, arrested then sentenced in April 2015 to 10 years for abuse of judicial power and “gulenism”; his wife was sentenced on 17 March to 7 years jail (Turkey Purge).

On the 8th a Istanbul Criminal Court sentenced 25 journalists for being gulenists, the sentences ranging between 25 months to 7 years 6 months (Stockholm Center for Freedom). On the 9th, 2 Kurdish journalists were sentenced at Adana to 3 years prison (ANF) for distributing the magazine Özgür Toplum (“Free Society”).  On the same day, 7 people were arrested in Izmir for “Pro-PKK propaganda” on social networks. According to the Minister of the Interior, between 26 February and 5 March 160 people were sued for publications on social media and 845 people criticising the Afrin operation were incarcerated.

On the 28th the police carried out a raid on the daily paper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, the last Kurdish daily in Istanbul (and one of the latest independent sources of Kurdish information in Turkey). The administrators appointed to control the paper and its printing press refused the next day to print the last daily in Kurdish in the country, Azadiya Welat, which had finally to interrupt definitively its publication on paper...

The attack against the Kurdish language and culture seems global. One of the cases reported in the press is that of a prisoner forbidden to speak on the phone to his mother in Kurdish on the pretext that the police must be able to understand what is being said — whereas foreign prisoners can speak in their own language. On the 1st of the month, the CHP Member of Parliament Atilla Sertel revealed to the press that, of the 200 songs placed on the black list by Turkish Television (TRT) for “terrorist propaganda” or “breaches of public morality”, 66 were Kurdish, sung by the Syrian Ciwan Haco, Mihemed Shexo, the Armenian singer of dengbêj music Karapete Xaco, Hozan Dino, Rojda, Mem Ararat, Seyda Perincek, and the Agire Jiyan group... On the 6th the Diyarbekir Public Prosecutor asked for 7 years prison for 12 students arrested for whistling a Kurdish tune and charged with “terrorist propaganda” (Ahval). The previous weekend 2 wedding musicians were arrested in Istanbul for singing in Kurdish. On the 30th, finally, a scandal involved an Istanbul building company, Yapı & Yapı Construction, which is said to have forbidden anyone on his building sites to speak any other language but Turkish (Diken News)…

The festival that most symbolically illustrates Kurdish culture is the Newroz, on 21st March, has quite naturally been targeted. On the 20th the police arrested about a hundred Kurdish activists, accused of preparing illegal demonstrations or attacks. The security forces announced the arrest of 76 people at Şırnak, the BDP (the Kurdish branch of the HDP) announced the arrest of 27 people at Hatay (Reuters). However this repression could not prevent hundreds of thousands of participants from joining the celebrations all over the country, the expression of a shared identity and especially this year, when Afrin has just fallen, the expression of a collective spirit of resistance to oppression. The principal rallying point was at Diyarbakir, with representatives of the four parts of Kurdistan, with hundreds of thousands of participants who came despite the omnipresence of the police. Pervin Buldan, the HDP’s co-president, made a speech condemning the Turkish invasion of Afrin and demanding that the government resume the peace process interrupted in 2015. Rallies also took place at Van (over a hundred thousand participants), Nusaybin, Mardin, Cizre, Şirnak and Yuksekova… as well as in Istanbul.

Regarding foreign relations, these continue to deteriorate. Turkey’s partners in NATO are increasingly worried by its recent purchase of missiles from Russia, which risks endangering the secret operational arrangements of the Alliance (Kurdistan-24) and the criminal activities of Turkish Secret Services in Europe arouse reactions (Le Monde of 15/03). Moreover, the “hostage diplomacy” practiced by Turkey is alienating it still further from other countries. What does it involve? On the one hand the Turkish governments systematically demands the extradition of all its political opponents (principally Kurds and Gulenists) using Interpol’s “red bulletins” (international arrest warrants) regarding which the pro-government daily Sabah recently complained that over 50 had been suspended by Interpol. Regarding the former co-president of the PYD, Salih Muslim, since Ankara had failed to secure his extradition from the Czech Republic, it sent the same demand to Germany. The pro-AKP paper Yeni Safak “avenged” this failure by attacking the Czech supply of arms to the PKK. Besides, Turkey arrests on its soil some foreign nationals who could be used as means of exchange, like the American preacher Andrew Brunson, settled in Turkey for over 20 years and accused simultaneously of spying, being pro-Gulen and pro-PKK — or more recently, two Greek border guards... Is this the reason why the US has quietly dropped all proceedings against 11 of the Turkish President’s security staff members, although accused (with videos as evidence) of having attacked, in Washington, Kurdish demonstrators and having wounded 12 of them including an American policeman?

Another source of tension is the many speeches in which Mr. Erdogan calls into question the present borders of Turkey. Whereas maritime incidents with Crete and Cyprus are multiplying, causing on the 14th a Greek warning and, on the 22nd a formal blame by the European Union (which, unfortunately did not mention the invasion of Afrin). On the 17th the Turkish Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim, described the resolution of the European Parliament demanding the withdrawal from Afrin as a “moment of folly”.

Throughout the month of March the Turkish Army carried out a series of operations in Iraqi Kurdistan, making a number of announcements that are impossible to confirm independently. On the 2nd it imposed curfew on 114 villages in the districts of Lice, Hani, and Kocakoy (Diyarbakir). On the 11th it announced having destroyed the previous weekend 118 objectives in Iraqi Kurdistan. During the weekend of 13-15 March it bombed 4 villages in the region of Sidakan and Mount Khwakurk (in the Soran district, about 90 km Northeast of Erbil), where ground troops also entered, before announcing on the 16th having eliminated 13 PKK fighters. The Turkish deployment in Iraq continued on the 18th with the setting up of permanent camps. On the 20th the Army announced having eliminated in Turkey 23 Kurdish fighters who had attacked a “village guards” camp at Şanlıurfa. On the 21st the Army announced on Twitter having neutralised another 12 Kurdish fighters by air strikes at Khwakurk. On 22nd the government news agency Anatolia reported new air strikes on Khwakurk, Bradost and Choman, which had caused, in Choman, the death of 4 people, including 2 Peshmergas, which provoked a condemnation from Baghdad. On the 24th the Turkish army announced the elimination of 91 activists the previous week. On the 25th artillery fire again wounded a civilian in the Amedi district and on the 26th it was the mountainous areas of the same district that suffered series of strikes forcing some civilians to evacuate their homes, while air strikes on Amêdî destroyed a bridge connecting several villages. On the 27th on the Turkish side the Army announced having neutralised 11 Kurdish fighters the previous night at Hatay, while 2 Turkish soldiers were killed by an explosion in Afrin. On the 30th, 6 “village guards” protecting a building site at Siirt were killed in an attack and 3 others and 4 soldiers injured.

On the 23rd, the KCK (the political wing or the PKK) announced the withdrawal of its fighters from the Sinjar, that Turkey had recently threatened to attack, in a communiqué, that read: “Sinjar and the surrounding areas have become safe [with the retreat of ISIS] and the Iraqi government seems ready to respond to the Yezidis requests”.

The “War on the dead” of the Turkish security forces also went on, with the announcement on the 23rd of fresh destruction of tombs of Kurdish fighters in Diyadin district (Ağrı). Such profanations had already taken place in Bitlis, Mardin and  Diyarbakir.

Finally, the Turkish President continued his warlike rhetoric by threatening again on the 26th to attack Sinjar if “Baghdad did not [clean] the area of the PKK”, and on the 28th to attack the Syrian city of Manbij and the East bank of the Euphrates if the Kurdish fighters did not evacuate, and finally to attack the French Special Forces if this country pursued its cooperation with the SDF...


The month of March opened with the Iraqi Parliament voting the 2018 Budget in a version that was violently opposed by the Kurdish Members, who preferred to boycott the session. Indeed, it drastically reduces the part allocated to the Kurdistan Region: set in 2005 at 17% of the Iraqi State’s total budget on the basis of estimations of population at the time, it has now fallen to 12.6%. Theoretically based, in accordance with article 9 of the Constitution, “on the population of each province”, this new percentage is not justified by any recent Iraqi census (the last one goes back to 1987). Furthermore the fiscal law makes its payment conditional to an export by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of “250,000 barrels per day from the oil fields in its territory through “SOMO”, [the Iraqi State Oil Company] and payment of the proceeds of this sale into the federal budget”, any shortfall will be deducted from Kurdistan´s share of the budget...

On the other hand, Baghdad has agreed that the peshmergas pay would come from the Army’s budget, accepting them as being part of the Iraqi security system. However the income from the sale of oil by the KRG independently between 2014 and 2017, particularly that coming from Kirkuk, considered as a loan made by Baghdad to the KRG, must be repaid, the amount being deducted from the budget and paid to the Kirkuk Province. The KRG must also return to the federal budget Kirkuk’s “petrodollars” (the percentage it perceived on the oil exports from the province) at present deposited in its banks. There is no provision for Baghdad compensating the years never paid to KRG during the same period...

The Budget vote was difficult. A first Parliamanary session on 1st March approved 12 of the 48 articles, the rest was voted on the 3rd, still in the absence of the Kurds. The receipts anounted to 77.5 billion dollars, calculated on the exportation of 3.9 million barrels/day (250,000 from Kurdistan) at $46 per barrel (the Brent at the moment of writing is over $70) with a deficit of 10.6 billion and investments of 20.8 billion dollars. The amount allocated to the KRG is only 5.6 billion dollars, further diminished by various “sovereign” withdrawals like Defence, border guards, expenses Parliament, Presidency and Ministries running. Hence the percentage really received could in fact fall below 10%… The Leader of the Kurdistan Islamic Union group (Yekgirtû) in Parliament, Muthana Amin, expressed, as from the 3rd , the fears of some Kurdish M.P.s at these proposals, declaring they would demand to meet President Fuad Massoum, who has to approve the budget. Another point of discord still concerns the Peshmergas: only their pay is mentioned — there is no mention of arms or training expenses...

Faced with this criticism (and the danger of the educational system in Kurdistan losing one full year) M. Abadi spoke of using the emergency funds to increase the KRG’s budget to 14%. The Parliament voted in this way on the 5th, and on the 6th, Mr. Abadi confirmed this commitment when announcing the payment “before Newroz” of the salaries of the 1st term of 2018 to the KRG’s civil servants, with a priority for the education and health sectors, pointing out an increase of Kurdistan’s budget of 844 million dollars.

Another unexpected opposition the Iraqi budget was the International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s. It announced on the 9th that as it considered the Kurdistan budget to be “irrealistic and weak”, it froze its programmes of loans to Iraq, thus preventing the country from borrowing billions on the international market. According to Christian Josz, one of the leaders in IMF’s Miffle East Department: “This budget is not enough to maintain macroeconomic stability in Kurdistan, a most important region of Iraq”. For the KRG, Kurdistan needs at least 8.1 billion dollars to finance an austerity budget reducing wages. Another IMF criticism is the reduction of taxes and non-oil receipts. Baghdad considers these IMF statements to be interference. For the IMF, since it is improbable that the problem will be corrected before the elections in 12 May next, the logical conclusion is that any loan must wait until a new government is elected...

On the 13th the Iraqi President refused to approve the Budget, sending it back to Parliament for revision. His entourage spoke of “legal, financial and constitutional breaches”. It was only on 29th that Fuad Massum finally ordered its official publication, emphasising he would take legal action against several State bodies including the Ministry of Justice, that had published the document in breach of Presidential authority.

On the 18th the Iraqi government announced that salaries of KRG civil servants in education and health would be paid “within the next two days”. The KRG has indicated, however, that the funds received, 317 biilllion dinars (about 262 million dollars) would be shared, by agreement with Baghdad, among all ministeries, a part going to the Peshmergas and the security services, and that paying the full amount to the civil servants would need 590 billion, taking in account the system of holding back part of the wage (the deducted part going into an account for being paid later …), strongly opposed by civil servants. On the 19th the Iraqi Prime Minister announced the effective transfer of the funds, while the auditing of the lists of KRG civil servants was going on. The Iraqi Government spokesman, Saad al-Hadithi, pointed out that this sum would henceforth be transferred every month to Kurdistan — “if all the conditions set by Baghdad are respected” (AFP). The KRG published a statement stressing that this amount did not cover pensions owing to retired civil servants…

In Kurdistan the arrears in paying wages and austerity measures imposed by the KRG over the last 2 years continued to elicit demonstrations. On the 7th teachers, accompanied by students, demonstrated before the Directorate of Education in Sulaimaniyeh, accusing the KRG of stealing the oil income. On the 19th staff of the health sector, including the doctors, went on strike at Halabja, Sulaimaniyeh, Ranya and Koya. On the same day, the opposition parties Gorran and Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal) denounced, in a joint press Conference the Baghdad-Erbil agreement, based on the withholding of wages while the Iraqi government pointed out that funds sent to the KRG should be rounded up with the product from oil sales and that the total should be enough to pay all the wages in full... On the 20th fresh demonstrations of teachers, Health workers and other civil servants took place at Sulaimaniyeh, Halabja, Koya, Ranya and Kalar (NRT). The strikes of civil servants in education (particularly the primary school teachers) and health continued all through the week and on the 25th, whereas in Sulaimaniyeh, doctors, nurses and administrative staff gathered in front of the Emergency Hospital and demonstrations took place all over Kurdistan, teachers went on strike in Erbil for the first time, demanding their wages to be paid in full.  A group of Erbil civil servants formed a Committee calling for a general strike and a rally before Parliament. At Dohuk, teachers gathered in front of the Directorate of Education (NRT), and demonstrations also took place in Kirkuk, Garmyan and Raparin. On the same day, after a meeting at which the Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani and the Deputy Prime Minister, Qubad Talabani, took part, the KRG announced it would drop its system of retaining part of the salary if Baghdad continued to send 317 billion dinars monthly, and that to complete it, it would use tax receipts, oil sales and even the American financial aid to the Peshmergas... This announcement did not stop the demonstrations, which continued on a smaller scale to the end of the month. The 28th,  workers of the Dokan and Derbandikhan dams went in turn on strike in protest at the non-payment of their wages. At Erbil some clashes with the police were followed by arrests.  

Together with the vote of the budget, the other important event of the month was Baghdad’s decision to reopen for International traffic the two KRG airports. First sign of detente, on the 2nd, the KRG had reopened the Erbil-Kirkuk route, closed since 16 October, despite the “hard conditions imposed by Baghdad” (whose details were not specified). After the announcement on the 6th by Mr. Abadi of an upcoming reopening, then those on 7th and 8th respectively by the two airports of a first flight taking pilgrims towards Saudi Arabia, Abadi announced on the 13th the lifting of the ban, the KRG having accepted “the re-establishment of Federal authority” over the airports, probably meaning the management of the passports and visa control of entry. Nevertheless, these points seemed still in discussion when the flights begin again, as the Kurds were then continuing their autonomous control of entries as before the referendum. The re-opening was effective on the 18th with the first international flights to Erbil and then the 20th for Sulaimaniyeh. Turkey maintained its banning of flights to Kurdistan until the 23rd for Erbil, making Sulaimaniyeh wait because of its bad relations with the PUK, accused of “supporting terrorists” of the PKK.

In the areas disputed between the KRG and Baghdad, the tension remained sharp because of discriminations aimed at Kurdish culture and the ambiguous attitude of the authorities to the disputed lands. Thus on the 8th, the Day for Kurdish costumes (a celebration introduced by the KRG in 2010), some students of Kirkuk University wearing Kurdish dress were forbidden entry by the Federal police on the written instructions of the University President saying that “no student shall be admitted into the campuss unless he is wearing the university uniform”. In parallel, the Kurdish flag continues to be forbidden in Kirkuk even by the school or the offices of the political parties. Many Kurds in Kirkuk, however, chose to defy the bans and wear their clothes or hoist the flag, and arrests have been reported in the Rezgarî and 16 August quarters. On the 14th several Kurdish parties, after a meeting in the PUK premises, announced at a press conference that they would hoist the Kurdish flag for Newroz. The KDP did not attend the meeting, judging that the security situation of the town did not allow them to come. After the Hashd al-Shaabi had repeated the ban (the families of Peshmergas fallen fighting ISIS have even been asked to remove the Kurdish flags from over their tombs), the Kurdish leaders tried to meet the authorities to discuss the situation. They particularly hoped to hold a public meeting with the interim governor, Rakan Al-Jabouri, a Sunni Arab (Rûdaw). The latter has just ordered the expulsion of 200 Kurdish families from the Arafa quarter and the destruction of their homes, built without authorisation. These are essentially families expelled by Saddam Hussein who returned after 2003 and who, according to article 140 of the Constitution, are entitled to some land and compensation — which they have never received. The Arabs from Bassra and Nasiriya, settled in the same quarter equally illegally, have not been bothered.

At the occasion of Newroz, hundreds of people defied again the ban on Kurdish flags and clothes and gathered in the streets of the Kurdish quarters of the city where the anti-terrorist Iraqi units were also deployed…

After Baghdad had regained control of the Province of Kirkuk on 16 October 2017, the Kurds were worried of a resumption of the Arabisation of the province. A Kurdish M.P. from Baghdad, Shakawan Abdulla, demanded that the Ministry of Agriculture suspend any transaction or administrative decision regarding the disputed lands, to protect their legitimate owners. The Minister did this by decree on the 5th Febuary 2018. But on 1st March a letter received by the Kirkuk Department of Agriculture revived the concerns: it cancelled not only the decree of 5 Feb. 2018 for the sectors of Shwan, Dubiz, Qara Hanjir and others in the province, but also all the decisions taken by the post-Saddam government including the decree of 8 February 2012, which had revoked all the decrees of Arabisation of the Ba’athist regime! Abdulla is worried that this decision could allow the colonists of the Ba’athist period to return and take over land that they had been obliged to leave after 2003. In this context the statements on the 15th of an M.P. of the Shiite coalition “State of Law”, Kahalf Abdulsamad, proposing the repeal of article 140, acquire a special emphasis. Abdulsamad declared on the Kurdish channel Rûdaw that there could be no “disputed territories” since all the territories belonged to Iraq… The Iraqi Federal Court nevertheless gave on the 11th a ruling that takes into account their existence by deciding for the formation of a committee to resolve this issue, in conformity with... Article 140. “The KRG is recognised as the official government of areas that it governed before the 19th March 2003, covering parts of the provinces of Dohuk, Erbil, Sulaimaniyeh, Kirkuk, Nineveh et Diyala. The Province of Kirkuk and the regions of Diyala et de Nineveh remain disputed”.

A last point, on the 1st of the month it was announced that the Iraqi Council of Ministers had decided on the 27th Febuary that the date of the next provincial elections will be on the 22nd December 2018. For Kirkuk they will be the first in 13 years...


The situation in Iranian Kurdistan combines endemic poverty, repression of trans-border porters and wide repression of Kurdish  culture, as in an unprecedented campaign, the authorities have tried to prevent the Kurdish festival of Newrouz, although it is celebrated, beyond the Kurds, by all the country´s communities...

On the 10th March a kolbar, a porter transporting goods over the Iran-Iraq border, was killed by a mine in the region of Piranchar, after being fired on by the border guards. He was one of a group of porters who had entered the minefield to escape the border guards. Three members of this group were wounded by the explosion, including the one who died, another lost a leg and the third was more lightly wounded (another source talks of one killed and four injured in what seems the same incident). According to the Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN),another group of 3 children had already been wounded a few days earlier in a field close to the village of Kanî Zerd (Sardacht) and on 13th Febuary another had been found dead with his hands and legs tied near a border village mot far from Baneh. Because of the economic difficulties, unemployment and the great poverty of Iranian Kurdistan, many young men have to work as porters. Considered as smugglers by the security forces, they are frequently shot down by them. Since the beginning of the year over 15 kolbars have been murdered by the regime in this way. On 27th Febuary a woman from Mahabad, a mother of 4 children commited suicide when her husband was arrested for “smuggling”. The number of suicides in Iranian Kurdistan increased considerably in 2017. The economic situation is so tense that the closing of the passage point with Iraq after the independence referendum organised by the KRG provoked strikes at the end of February on the Iranian side.

The news coming from Iranian Kurdistan show month after month of continuous repression characterised by arrests, iniquitous trials and executions. On the morning of the 4th three Kurdish prisoners were hanged in Dizelabad (Kermanshah) Prison. Two of them were accused of murder, including a 27 years old Kurdish musician, Keyvan Rashkhar, sentenced to death 5 years ago for murdering his cousin. The third prisoner, whose name has not been reported, was hanged several for offenses linked to drugs. Even though these executions and charges appear linked to common criminal law offenses, the arbitrary manner in which arrests and trials are carried out in Iran leaves room for a great deal of doubt about the facts over which they have been executed… After the great demonstrations of the previous month against the economic difficulties which so rapidly mutated into protests against the regime, hundreds of activists or simply participants at the rallies, including Kurdish students, remain in jail. On 20th Febuary two activists of Sanandaj had been sentenced to 2 and 4 years imprisonment for “propaganda” against the regime. One young lad of 15 years was also sentenced to 5 years for having lowered the Iranian flag during a demonstration. Several prisoners died in detention in a very suspicious manner, their death being presented to their families as “suicide”…  At the beginning of March a student, Qubad A'dami, died under torture and his fanily was threatened, when his corpse was handed to them, not to hold a public funeral (WKI). The officers of the Iranian Intelligence Services who had arrested him attributed his death to “suicide by drugs”. At Urumieh, another Kurdish student, Ibrahim Khalidi, who had taken part in the demonstrations at the beginning of the year was sentenced to 5 years jail for “endangering national security” » (Kurdistan Human Rights Network).

On the 12th, thousands of Kurds came out onto the streets to protest against the Turkish invasion of Afrin in Rojava. They demonstrated particularly in front of the Turkish Embassy in Teheran but also in the Kurdish towns of Bokan, Saqqez, Kamyaran, where substantial security forces were deployed. The same night eleven Kurdish activists, including two women and the journalist Adnan Hassanpour were arrested at Marivan by plain clothed agents of the Security for having taken part in the demonstrations of solidarity with Afrin. Already sentenced to death in 2007 for “spying” and “collaboration with illegal political parties”, Hassanpour had seen his sentence reduced to 10 years jail and had been released on 10 September 2016, after serving his sentence. In numerous towns the demonstrators for Afrin had asked for permission to demonstrate, which was refused. At Kamyaran, at least one man and a woman were arrested by the police after a rally in Imam Shafi Square. On the 20th another man was arrested in Sanandaj, as well as 8 participants in demonstrations for Afrin in Kamirwan district, also near Sanandaj. In parallel, the Iranian Intelligence and cyberpolice (FATA) summoned Human Rights activists in all the country’s Kurdish provinces: Western Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, Kermanshah and Ilam, accusing them of having protested against the State on the social networks during the protests at the beginning of 2018, using the crypted messaging system Telegram ( Among the accused were several heads of associations. Thus on the 25th, following a complaint filed by the Basij-e Rasaneh (the media branch of basij, the volunteer pasdaran or Revolutionnary Guards), Ejlal Ghavami, spokesman of the Organisation for Human Rghts in Kurdistan was accused of having links and cooperating with channel hostile to the State and publishing false news and illegal documents, although he never uses Telegram andalways publishes his criticisms under his own name… The people summoned to the premises of the Intelligence services were often intimidated in order to prevent them from having public political activities during the Newroz festival. According to an “off the record” source: “Every year the defenders of civic rights organise ceremonies for Newrouz in several towns – but none of them has been authorised this year…  The authorities have decided on specific places to organise ceremonies approved by the State… We have never had this problem before. This is the first time”. Another activist summoned to the Security Office at Ilam, was told Newrouz was a “non-Islamic” festival. Since Newroz is widely celebrated in Iran, this new attitude is quite surprising. From the beginning of the month some people likely to organise events linked to Newroz, musicians, local leaders, have been the subject of threatening telephone calls from security forces. From their side, the Kurdish political parties have incited the Kurds to wear their traditional clothes to celebrate the festival, seen as a moment of unity and resistance in the face of repression, and thus renew the collective identity — especially after the anti-regime demonstrations of the beginning of the year.

On the 17th the government convened the village chiefs of the Marivan region to announce that they should not organise events for Newrouz, and that they would be considered responsible if things got out of hand (Iran Human Rights Monitor). The same attempts at intimidation took place, it appears, between the 17th and 21st in the villages of Kermanshah, Ilam, Urumieh and  Salmas. The pasdaran even attempted raids on some villages where preparations for celebrations were already under way and sometimes confiscated musical instruments. On the eve of the festival the Security was reinforced in the main Kurdish villages of the country. During the Festival, many Kurds shouted slogans calling for a change of regime or sang the Kurdish anthem. Dozens of them were arrested in the following days.

On the 30th, the Court of Appeals confirmed the sentences of 8 years imprisonment passed against the civic rights activist Afshin Hossein Panahi, arrested in June 2017 for “propaganda against the State” and “collaboration with a Kurdish opposition group” (the Komala). In fact he was reproached his civic activities, and especially organising the 2017 celebrations of Newrouz...

Besides, a Peshmerga of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), Sabah Rahmani, died on 1st March at Binaslawa, near Erbil, in the explosion of a bomb placed in the car he was in, together with his father, Salah Rahmani, who was also a KDPI Peshmerga. On the 6th Qadir Qadri, a commander of the other wing of the KDPI, which, after a split in the party in 2006 had become a separate party called KDPI (HDK), was also assassinated in the region of Balisan, Northwest of Erbil (Ranya district). These two events show that the Islamic Republic has not given up its habit of assassinating its opponents abroad… Especially as these events occur after a KDPI Congress where it has decided to extend its struggle against the regime and, generally at a moment when the different Kurdish opposition parties are trying to co-ordinate their struggle.


On 15-16 March the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) held a session in Paris regarding the attacks on Human Rights by the Turkish State against its Kurdish citizens. Before 400 people coming from all over the world and especially all over Europe, were discussed the war crimes that accompanied the military attacks of 2015 and 2016 against civilians in Turkey’s Kurdish provinces, especially at Cizre, Şırnak and the mediaeval city of Diyarbakir (the Sur quarter). Were also discussed the operations of the Turkish secret services on its own soil (kidnappings and assassinations) and abroad, especially the assassination in January 2003 in Paris of the three Kurdish activists Sakine Cansız, Fidan Doğan and Leyla Saylemez. There were, moreover, several attempted assassinations in Germany and Belgium. Also discussed were the Roboskî massacre, an air strike in the Uludere district on December 28th in the course of which 34 young Kurdish smugglers, including 11 children, were killed as they were crossing the border. And there were other, older crimes, like the murder of the writer and journalist Musa Anter in Diyarbakir on 20th September 1992.

At the time the session was unfolding, the invasion of Afrin by Turkey was at its height; in the inability to gather evidence of these new exactions, the TPP was not able to integrate them with the facts it was examining. Nevertheless it opened a file and declared itself ready to hold a session on the Kurds of Syria over the same charges regarding the Kurds in Turkey.

As reminded by the League of Human Rights on its website, the TPP is a “Court of Opinion that acts independently of States but on requests from communities and peoples whose rights have been violated”, especially “when the States and international bodies have failed to protect them”. The sentences passed by the TPP cannot be executed but they are systematically submitted to official bodies like the European Parliament, the European Court of Human Rights and various commissions of the United Nations, to encourage them to act against the abuses described.  For this session, the verdict will be made public on 24 May at the European Parliament whose members “are asked to discuss the political initiatives should follow from the Tribunal’s decision, in particular the measures to fight against impunity” (

For not having an official status, the TPP does, nevertheless, work like an ordinary Court: its magistrates are mostly jurists, as its Chairman for this session, who is a former juge of the Court of Appeals, or another of its members, who was formerly an UNO humanitarian co-ordinator in Iraq. After an indictment expounded by a prosecutor, the Court hears witnesses before pronouncing its judgment. the defence side, the indictment had been filed at the Turkish consulate in Paris, which was invited, but it chose not to follow up...

The witnesses followed one another to the witness box to describe the situation in Turkish Kurdistan. The historian and sociologist Hamit Bozarslan gave a lecture summarising the background to the Kurdish struggles for their rights between the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic of today. Avnet Ahmet Yıldırım, a former HDP Member of Parliament from Muş (stripped of his elected mandate on 27th Febuary last) stressed the absence of any recognition of the Turkish Kurds all  through the 20th century and the number of his HDP colleagues recently arrested – as well as all the political opponents  to Mr. Erdoğan´s policies, hoping for change in the next century. Regarding the abuses of power and destruction committed by the “security forces” in the Kurdish towns of Turkey in 2015 and 2016, Faysal Sarıyıldız, former HDP Member of Parliament for Şırnak (stripped of his elected mandate in July 2017), described the action of these forces in Cizre as a “massacre” and a “forced displacement of the population, an act of terror and of genocide in postmodern terms”, the whole having been “planned in advance”. The economist Ahmed Pelda pointed out the economic discrimination of which the regions of the country with a Kurdish majority have been the victims since the 20s. Other witnesses were heard about the cultural repression, like Rojan Hazim, Kurdish writer, journalist and translator or on the specific repression of women under Erdoğan, like Nazan Üstündağ, researcher of sociology at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul.

Regarding the assassinations in Paris in 2013, the families of the three assassinated activists have asked through their lawyers that an investigating judge be appointed to identify the possible complicities linking the Turkish secret services to this case or with the only suspect who is now dead. Indeed, the presumed murderer, Omer Güney, died in prison in December 2016, which stopped any legal proceedings about him. However, if he was, most probably the underling, it remains still necessary to identify his possible accomplices or partners and to examine the question of who was behind him. This is what the families have been demanding since the beginning of 2017. They have just filed a new complaint making themselves “partie civile” (a French legal formula that gives full rights to associates) in order to provoke the appointment of an investigating judge. Me Antoine Comte, their lawyer, told AFP “French justice must continue the enquiry to identify the accomplices and avoid impunity for these crimes”.

The charge sheet of this session of the TPP is a 122-page document in English and we can only recommend reading it. It can be downloaded complete from, from the TPP site. This very complete document is not published in judicial language, quite the opposite. It includes transcriptions of government mail, testimonies and photos and even links to videos, documenting in an exhaustive manner the war crimes of the Turkish State, particularly during the period of curfews of 2015-2016 imposed on the main Kurdish tows in Turkey.