After the June 24 presidential and parliamentary elections, in which Erdoğan was re-elected in the first round, the newly elected deputies were sworn in on the 7th. The Ankara parliament, “inflated” to 600 seats (from 550 previously), now includes 295 AKP M.P.s, 49 MHP (far-right party allied with AKP), 146 CHP (Kemalists), 43 İyi (“Good party”, split from the MHP, refusing the alliance with Erdoğan), and 67 HDP (left and “pro-Kurdish”). Thus Erdoğan will need the support of the MHP to govern, which worries the Kurds. On the 9th, Erdoğan was in turn sworn in his huge palace in a “cock a snook” to the West ceremony: among the 21 heads of State present were leaders as popular with Western capitals as the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev and the Hungarian Victor Orban... With this ceremony, Turkey enters into the system wanted by Erdoğan (and obtained by massive fraud during the constitutional referendum of April 2017): it is now a country without a Prime Minister, and with a President at the same time Head of State, Chief Executive, Chief of Armies and Leader of the ruling party, there to stay until at least 2023...
The previous day, Erdoğan had clearly indicated the continuity of his political line by a decree-law sacking 18,632 new officials: 9,000 policemen and 6,000 soldiers thus lost employment and rights to retirement and social security, and 12 associations, 3 newspapers and one TV channel were banned (RFI).
On the evening of the 18th, the state of emergency established after the coup attempt of July 14, 2016, already renewed seven times, was finally lifted. But the content of the bill prepared to replace it makes many wonder if this so-called end of the state of emergency is not rather... the end of the rule of law. Akif Hamzacebi, vice president of the CHP parliamentary group, declared: “With this bill, they are trying to make the state of emergency permanent”. Indeed, many provisions of the state of emergency are remaining in force: provincial governors still may restrict traffic in certain areas as they see fit, prohibit meetings and gatherings, the police can access the telephone and bank statements of suspects or dismissed persons and their spouses... Only progress: contrary to the state of emergency, it will be possible to legally challenge one’s dismissal (but there will be no compensation in case of reinstatement). “In the new system, President Erdoğan has all the power, so there is no need for emergency law...”, said Pelin Ünker, economic correspondent for Cumhuriyet, herself threatened with a lawsuit after she dared to describe the participation of former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım’s sons of in offshore shipping companies, revealed in the “Paradise Papers”. Berat Albayrak, Erdoğan's son-in-law (and new finance minister) has also launched a lawsuit against journalists who reported on his offshore investments...
Another measure of the bill seems to have been thought right to counter Selahattin Demirtaş: the former co-chair of the HDP, imprisoned since November 2016, has just obtained 10,000 Turkish pounds of damages because his release requests have not been reviewed within the legal 30-day period. It is probably by chance that this time would be brought up to 90 days...
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has expressed concern over the draft law, which will also allow the presidency to arbitrarily dismiss judges and other officials and the police to detain suspects during 12 days without charge...
Several reports published this month accuse Turkey of human rights violations. The Diyarbakir section of the Turkish Human Rights Association (İHD) detailed in its latest biannual report, published on the 27th, the abuses committed by the security forces in the country's Kurdish provinces, including illegal detention and torture perpetrated during military operations. According to this report, 1154 sick prisoners, 402 of them seriously, are “practically abandoned to death”, while 700 children under 7 years old are incarcerated with their mother, and another 44 in remand. The report also notes a massive use of violence against civilians, with an increase in violence against women. According to the IHOP collective human rights platform, between July 2016 and April 2018, 134.144 people were dismissed and at least 228.137 were arrested (including 845 who criticised the Olive Branch Operation against Afrîn).
Arrests and indictments went on throughout the month. On the 5th, Gulizar Tasdemir, expelled from Norway after the rejection of her application for asylum, was arrested on her arrival to Istanbul. On the 11th, Islamic leader Adnan Oktar, famous for his TV shows and creationist books, was arrested with 166 of his followers in 120 simultaneous raids. Fervent supporter of Erdoğan, Oktar expressed his “confusion and surprise”, adding that it would have been better to arrest supporters of the PKK... The group, whose assets were confiscated and entrusted to administrators, is the subject of 40 different charges: sexual violence, blackmail, kidnapping, constitution of a criminal organisation, military espionage, money laundering... On July 9, 30 people were arrested in Şırnak in several raids, and 4 sent to the city’s high security prison for “membership in a terrorist organization”. Among them, the HDP Manisa candidate to the elections, Veysi Durgut, and Ramazan Çağırga, father of a girl of 10 years, Cemile, killed on September 4, 2015 by the security forces during the siege of Cizre, and whose refusal by the Authorities to allow her burial under curfew had forced the family to keep the body in a refrigerator for days.
On the 16th, the head of the Cumhuriyet newspaper in Ankara, Erdem Gül, prosecuted for articles revealing the supply of weapons by the MIT (Turkish secret service) to Syrian jihadist groups, was finally acquitted. On the same day, in a raid on the HDP office in Istanbul, police arrested 16 people for “possession of illegal posters”. On the 17th, investigations for “terrorist propaganda” were opened against two HDP M.P.s from Diyarbakir, Musa Farisoğulları and Remziye Tosun (the M.P. for Sur) for attending the funeral of a PKK fighter killed in action. On the 20th, another inquiry against HDP M.P.s Feleknas Uca and Mehmet Rüştü Tiryaki was opened in Batman for their presence at the funeral of another fighter killed on the 8th, and finally on the 30th another against the HDP female co-president Pervin Buldan, for expressing support to them...
On 18 October, an Ankara court again refused Selahattin Demirtaş's release, while an investigation was announced against Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for “insulting the president” because of a caricature; the real reason is that the CHP leader had publicly called the Erdoğan regime a “dictatorship” and “one-man regime”.
The next day, six people were detained in Van following the death of a policeman who had been wounded on 14th during a raid, and the same day, the businessman and HDP member Kamil Acar was kidnapped by masked armed men in Diyarbakır Province (SCF). His vehicle was found on the Şanlıurfa-Diyarbakır road, within two kilometres from a police station. Several drivers testified to illegal checkpoints held by masked men, but the police denied their existence... Previously detained in connection with the KCK (Union of Kurdistan Communities) investigation, Acar had been released on parole.
On the 20th, the police arrested in Ankara several participants in a demonstration commemorating the 2015 Suruç suicide attack against young people, volunteers to help rebuild Kobanê, including many students. Claimed by Daech, it had left 31 dead and 100 wounded.
In addition, several people have been denied their most basic rights. On the 9th, Kurdish politician Esma Yılmaz, mother of a one-year-old girl, who has been in pre-trial detention since December 2017, was denied medical release on bail, while her child, imprisoned with her, must follow 6 months of treatment in a hospital, but still needs breast milk (SCF). On the 30th, a 76-year-old Kurdish woman, Sisê Bingöl, had to remain in prison in Mersin despite the steady deterioration of her health, which was reported by the Muş hospital. Bingöl, who has diabetes, suffers from heart, liver and kidney disorders and high blood pressure, but Tarsus hospital published a scandalous report certifying that she can remain in detention ... (ANF)
Besides, the line of cultural repression against the Kurds is confirmed. On the 26th, the Turkish translation of the Soviet-era book History of Kurdistan (Kürdistan Tarihi), authored by Lazarev and Mihoyan, published in 2001 by Avesta, was subjected to a new ban accompanied by a fine to the publisher. A dozen books dealing with Kurds have been banned recently for “terrorist propaganda”, including a book of Yezidi prayers! On the 31st, the Kurdish TV children's channel Zarok TV was fined 5% of its annual income for “terrorist propaganda” after broadcasting two songs whose lyrics contained the word “Kurdistan” ... (WKI)
Many foreigners were also affected by the arrests. On the 5th, two brothers, British citizens of Iraqi origin, Ayman and Hariam Barzan, were arrested on their arrival at the Dalaman airport, in the South-West of the country, and detained on remand for “terrorist propaganda” in favour of the PKK, because of their publications on social networks. If Cristina Cattafesta, the 62-year-old Italian human rights activist arrested in June for the same reason, was finally able to return to Italy on the 6th July, thanks to the personal intervention of the Italian Foreign Minister (ANSA, Italy), on the 12th, three French men and one woman were arrested in Şırnak on charges of having served as couriers for the PKK. The French national Ebru Firat, from Toulouse, of Kurdish origin, had already been arrested in 2016 and is serving a five-year sentence. The three French, arrested with 13 other people, were finally released in the early evening. On the 25th, a German citizen was in turn placed in pre-trial detention in Hatay. Then, on the 27th, Turkey tried to kidnap a Gülenist educational executive in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, but the small plane of the Turkish army had to take off without the teacher after the mobilisation of his students and the Mongolian authorities, who summoned the Turkish ambassador... (AFP)
But the most serious case concerning the repression of foreigners in Turkey remains that of the American pastor Andrew Brunson, accused of terrorism for the benefit of both the PKK and Gülen! It could literally make Turkish-American relations implode. On the 18th, the Izmir court decided to place Brunson under house arrest, while the Trump administration hoped for his release. Based furthermore on an anonymous testimony, this decision made the US President mad. Tense telephone talks on 29 August between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu did not solve anything. According to the Washington Post, Trump had negotiated with Erdoğan at the last NATO summit for the release of Brunson in exchange for Israel's release of Ebru Ozkan, a Turkish national accused of serving as a Hamas courier. Israel did release Ozkan, but the Turkish counterpart did not come... On the 29th, Vice President Mike Pence sent “a message on behalf of the President of the United States of America” to “President Erdoğan and the Turkish government” that they should take “immediate measures to free this innocent man of faith and send him home to America, failing which the United States will impose significant sanctions on Turkey”. Donald Trump then tweeted in the same direction. The tone came up when Erdoğan spokesman Ibrahim Kalın described this “threatening language” as “unacceptable”, adding “We will never tolerate anyone's threats”.
Turkish military operations against the PKK also continued in both the Kurdish provinces of the country and Kurdistan of Iraq, where Turkish army installed 11 military bases. The Turkish military literally did not stop this month claiming the “neutralization” of PKK fighters, publishing independently unverifiable balance sheets likely to flatter the nationalist sentiments of the regime supporters...
On Sunday, July 1, the army claimed to have “neutralized” 8 Kurdish fighters over the weekend in strikes on the Avasin-Basyan region of Kurdistan and Van and Şırnak in Turkey. The police in Soran announced that the day before, a 19-year-old woman working in a field had been killed by a Turkish mortar shell near the border. On the morning of the 2nd, further strikes on the Amedi (Dohuk) area caused the civilians to panic, and on the 4th, the Turkish staff announced that they had struck again that day and the day before on the Iraqi side near Qandil, Avasin-Basyan and Gara, and on the Turkish side Şırnak province, killing 11 PKK members. On the 6th, the Turkish bombardment caused forest fires in the Bradost Mountains and on the 8th, of numerous crops in Dohuk, while the staff still claimed the elimination of 22 Kurdish fighters in Mardin and Hakkari. On 7, 10 and 11, Hürriyet announced from military sources the “neutralization” of at least 40 PKK militants. For its part, the PKK claimed on the 9th the death of 3 Turkish soldiers in Kurdistan of Iraq in an attack on their positions in the Barzan region, north of Erbil, while the Turkish Air Force announced the death of 25 Kurdish militants in one week, then the 11th, the destruction of 28 “PKK targets”... On the 12th, the Turkish Ministry of the Interior announced the “neutralization” of Welat Gever (war name of Sefer Acar), coordinator of a 1998 attack on a helicopter over Kurdistan that killed 15 soldiers. On the 13th, the army announced that it had neutralized 76 PKK members between the 6th and the 12th in Kurdistan and the provinces of Şırnak, Hakkari, Kars, Ağrı, Mardin and Bitlis, then 53 others on the Turkish side from 13 to 17. On the 14th, Kurdish witnesses from Iraq reported night strikes near Shiladze that frightened the local population, while the Turkish army claimed to have killed 6 Kurdish fighters, then on the 19th, in a new announcement on the 13th, the PKK “logistics manager” Delil Karakocan (Hasan Cakmak's war name) near Mount Bradost (Kurdistan 24).
On the 23rd, the 2-year circulation ban imposed on 30 different areas of Hakkari in the districts of Çukurca, Şemdinli, Yüksekova and the city center was again extended by the governor for at least 15 days. On the 24th, after PKK militants killed 15 Turkish soldiers north of Erbil, new strikes hit Kurdistan of Iraq. On the 26th, the army announced that it had neutralized 12 PKK members, and night fighting took place near Sidakan in Erbil province. On the 30th, the Turkish Ministry of Interior declared that 36 PKK terrorists had been “neutralized” between 23rd and 30th July in Turkey and Kurdistan of Iraq. Moreover, the Turkish staff tweeted that 10 members of the PKK had been neutralized on the 29th in the Metina region of Kurdistan... But these reports issued regularly by the Turkish authorities on the losses inflicted on PKK fighters are unverifiable, often fanciful and unreliable, pertaining to wartime propaganda... Finally, on the 31st, the army again imposed a curfew on the Diyarbakir region.
The June report of the United Nations’ High Commission on Human Rights (HCHR), published on 8th July, accuses Turkey of massive violations of Human Rights in Afrîn. (https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/ohchr_-_syria_monthly_human_rights_digest_-_june_2018.pdf).
Drawing a frightening picture of the situation in the region, it describes the security situation as “unstable” with fighting between groups, “a high level of violent crime” and “civilians subjected to rape, harassment, kidnaping and murder”. “Civilians informed the HCHR that certain members of armed opposition groups operating in the region are well-known former criminals, smugglers or drug dealers”. Overall, the report confirms the large scale plundering of the region is continuing, the plundered goods being sold at Azaz, a town controlled by Turkey. The HCHR also drew up a list of 11 kidnappings of civilians for ransom, the fate of some remaining unknown. Moreover, the report mentions the discrimination against people suspected of links with the Kurdish forces. It also confirms the settling of thousands of fighters and their relatives as well as displaced civilians from other parts of Syria in the houses of Kurds fleeing the Turks, who refuse to give them back to their legitimate owners. The latter are often turned back at checkpoints when trying to return, jailed on suspicion of being members of Kurdish forces or simply taken off to unknown destinations. The charge of membership in the Kurdish forces is also used as a pretext for confiscating property. Expressing concern at this policy of ethnic cleansing, the HCHR demands that Turkey “be watchful that all the groups that it commands or or controls in Afrin (…) strictly observe their obligations regarding International Humanitarian Rights”. A demand that has every likelihood of going unheeded…
On the 18th a communiqué from the German society for endangered peoples (Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker, GfbV) blackened still further the picture drawn up by the UNO report: 120 kidnapings, 7 murders, 10 cases of rape and 27 raids that destroyed civilian property, 4 camps burned between 1st and 15th July. A source also reports the disappearance of 3,000 to 7,000 Kurds whose families are keeping quiet out of fear. The Turkish troops and the jihadists collect mobile phones to discover who revealed their attacks. The eviction of Kurds is nox reacvhing the “legal” level, with the (pro-Turkish) Afrin “local Council” starting to check the title deeds (ANF) … Furthermore, there are testimonies of deliberate murders, such as that of 2 brothers of Jindiris, seriously wounded by pro-Turkish looters. Found the next day tied to a tree before his house, one of them, a father of 4, died in hospital through lack of medicines. Another groups admitted to the murder of the 2 young Kurds, whose family refused any financial compensation (SCF). Finally on the 14th the Rojava administration announced that the occupation forces had burnt 4,000 trees, including many olive trees — over 1,000 at Khuziana, in Mobate (Maabatli) district and earlier in the week at Rajo, 3,000 olive trees, oaks and pomegranate trees. On the 27th some militia ocupying Bulbul cut down 68 trees that they sold in Turkey (AFP). Destroying olive trees, which are the main source of wealth of the inhabitants is also a way of practicing ethnic cleansing…
Meanwhile resistance is continuing. While on 1st July the Turkish Army shelled the YPG positions round the towns of Malkiyah and Anab, near Manbij, killing 3 fighters, on the 10th the YPG announced they had carried out several attacks between the 5th and 8th. On the 5th July a pro-Tukish fighter guarding an army base was killed by a sniper, on the 6th, 3 others were killed in an ambush on the Rajo-Afrîn road and an important commander, Mohammed al-Sulayman, was killed at Bulbul, and an explosive device killed 2 pro-Turkish fighters at a check point at Chara. The SDF, who sent back from the East 2,000 troops towards Afrin on the 24th, on the 31st called on the citizens to be vigilant: Turkish soldiers wearing stolen YPG uniforms are attacking civilians to discredit the SDF.
At Manbij, a town with an Arab majority population, located 30 km from the Turkish border, the situation remains tense. After reaching an agreement in June on aTurkish-American “road map”, which defines a buffer zone round the town separating the Turkish forces from the SDF, Turkish troops started to patrol near the town while the YPG announced a “withdrawal” (largely cosmetic) of their “military advisers”. On the 2nd, two US Senators, one Republican, the other a Democrat, came to the town. During a meeting with the military Council one of them stressed the importance of maintaining the American presence (AFP). On the same day the Fars news agency reported the arrival of fresh American contingents. On the 3rd, the commander of the military Coucil, Xelîl Bozî, declared that if Turkish troops tried to enter the town they would be the fired upon (Sputnik). On the 5th a rally to protest against the invasion of Afrîn was targeted by a bomb that wounded 22 people and caused at least 1 death (ANF, Ahval). On the 15th the SDF indicated that the last YPG members had left the town — an announcement confirmed on the 17th by the Military Council. It was, however, denied by Turkey, which maintained that the withdrawal was not complete. On the 21st, the pro-Damascus daily El Watan announced that, according to a source in the local administration, the Military council, like the majority of the local inhabitants, learning from the example of Afrin, preferred that the town pass again under Syrian control rather than fall into the hands of the Turkish invaders (Spoutnik). No confirmation of this statement has come from Manbij.
Alongside these events, the SDF continued their offensive against ISIS on the Eastern bank of the Euphrates, advancing slowly because of the many explosive devices the Jihadists had installed. On the 6th, according to the Syrian Centre for Human Rights (SCHR) a bomb attack against the SDF at Bsayra (Deir Ezzor Province) killed 11 fighters and 7 civilians, including 3 children. Seeing its usual way of operating, this attack, which was not claimed, could well have been by ISIS. This did not stop the SDF from taking over the towns of Madina and Qabrata, Southeast of the former stronghold of the group, Dashishah (Hassaka). On the 10th the Turkish TRT television channel reported that the coalition had provided the SDF with 200 lorries of weapons and ammunition. A similar delivery (250 lorries) the month before had already provoked Turkey’s fury…
On the 13th the SDF announced the beginning of operations against Hajin, one of the last ISIS strongholds. The evening before an air strike close to the village of al-Sussa, about 25 km Southeast of Hajin, had killed 26 jihadists but also 28 civilians, used as human shields (SCHR).The coalition announced the opening of an enquiry into this probable “blunder”, which could also have been carried out by Iraqi planes… On the 14th the coalition’s artillery shelled several ISIS positions round Hajin. On the 24th the SDF announced they had taken other villages in the Rodah region, while the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, boasted in a communiqué of their “bravery” and their “sacrifices”.
Another change in the situation, a political one this time, concerns the contacts between the autonomous administration of North Syria and the Damascus regime. On the 2nd , after the government had met the Kurdish delegates in Damascus and Qamishli, Al-Masdar News announced an agreement between the Syrian Army and the YPG. The latter was said to have accepted to remove from the streets and areas under their control in Hasaka, the posters depicting Abdullah Ocalan, and to allow the Army to open recruiting offices. In return, the YPG is said to have asked Damascus to to introduce the teaching of the Kurdish language into the education system, to count the time spent in the YPG as periods of military service, and to appoint a Kurd at a position of responsibility in the Oil Ministry. On the 10th, a few days after a fresh meeting held in Qamishli, the Damascus army did indeed host the Syrian flag over the Nishwah quarter in Hassaka, while the pictures of Ocalan were removed from the walls. The Kurdish authorities nevertheless denied any agreement with Damascus.
On the 13th, the municipality of Tabqa, affiliated to the North Syrian Federation, accepted to give the staff of the State company managing the great dam located 50 Km from the town, access to it to carry our maintenance — which amounts to shared management between the Federation and Damascus. Taken by ISIS early in 2014, regained by the SDF in 2017, the dam, considerably damaged by the Coalition’s air strikes, needs repair. “Cooperation exists in this case because the dam belongs to all Syrians” declared Hamid al-Faraj, a member of Tabaqa’s administration. Another agreement reached a few months ago covers the oil from the Rmeilan and Jabsah sites (Hassaka Province), controlled by the Kurds. The latter transfer a third of the production to the Homs refinery, refining the rest themselves (Spoutnik). However the Russian news agency notes that the calculation is based on an official rate of production of 38,000 barrels per day, whereas before the war it was 160,000…
On the 16th the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), the political expression of the SDF, began its 3rd Congress at Tabqa, bringing together for 2 days 240 public figures, elected local councillors but also representatives of the “official” (tolerated) Damascus opposition. These participants have to decide on a platform for negotiations with the regime (AFP). On the 19th, Ilham Ehmed announced that the SDC would open offices in the provinces of Lattaquia, Damascus, Hama and Homs, before confirming on the 20th that negotiations were indeed held in Tabqa.
The pro-regime daily al-Watan announced on the 20th that as well as the items already published by Al-Masdar the Kurdish forces would surrender the government the town or Raqqa, several oil and gas fields and that the SDF would be incorporated into Damascus’s Army… These assertions were refuted by par Salih Muslim, former co-president of the PYD, now responsible for the SDF’s external relations. He pointed out that he was ready to negotiate with Damascus, but in the presence of international mediators and with certain guarantees. Taking care to distinguish between State organisations (like the company that manages the dam) and institutions affiliated to the regime, he pointed out that the Tabqa agreement was dictated by public interest and had no political significance. He further considered that the spreading of deceptive information by al-Watan proved that Damascus was not sincere in its negotiations. The contents of this publication had indeed not been confirmed by the Kurds. The SDF made the point in the 24th that they would keep control of the dam.
On the 26th, according to AFP a delegation of the SDC consisting of civilian and military leaders came to Damascus at the government’s invitation. Omar Oussi, a Kurdish member of the Damascus Parliament, confirmed its arrival, declaring that negotiations would cover how “easing the army’s entry into the territories with a Kurdish majority population East of the Euphrates and the restoration of State institutions. In exchange the Kurds would obtain recognition in the Constitution of their “cultural rights”. On the 28th the SDC declared, in a communiqué, that it had been decided to form joint committees to pursue the negotiations “aiming at decentralising Syria”, according to Sihanouk Dibo, a member of the SDC (PYD). The Damascus regime did not comment on these declarations. The discussions could last a year, so wide is the gap between the SDC’s demands and the centralising practices of the regime.
At the end of the month eyes were turned to Idlib, controlled by the Al-Nosra Front — a formerly Al-Qaida affiliate — and Turkish troops. This last rebel region is the likely target of the next offensive by Damascus and its allies. On the 26th Ilham Ehmed let it be heard that the SDF might help Damascus. For his part, Aldar Khalil, co-president of the TEV-DEM (Movement for a Democratic Society) declared that one of the stages for regaining Afrin was to put pressure on Turkey to have it leave Syrian soil. (Rûdaw).
All through the month of July, while Province by Province the recounting of the ballot papers of May’s election continued — with results always being challenged — the demonstrations against corruption and the absence of basic services in the South of the country grew ever greater — as did the repression! Despite all this, negotiations between the parties have been pursued under cover to try for a government agreement — without any success, so far. In Kurdistan preparations for the Parliamentary and Presidential elections, due on 30th September, continued. Evaluating the situation in Kurdistan with measured optimism, the political veteran Hoshyar Zebari stated that Iraq had changed: the elections not giving any list a sufficient majority, the different lists would have to dialogue more than before, while all the Iraqi communities, Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish are themselves divided. Zebari deems the situation in Kurdistan has improved with the ending of the economic and air embargoes, the improvement of relations with Baghdad, especially the regular sending of its share of the budget. If the Kurds want to succeed in the post-election negotiations, he said, they must unite.
The operation of manual recounting of the ballot papers, limited to polling stations for which complaints for fraud were raised, have been initiated all through the month, in one province after another. They began with Anbar, Dohuk, Kirkuk, Erbil, Nineveh (Ninawa, or Mosul Province), Salahaddin and Sulaimaniyeh. “The recounting process first began with Kirkuk, since that was where there were the biggest number of protests” Imad Jamil, of the Electoral Commission, pointed out to AFP. Furthermore it was at Kirkuk that a car bomb attack occurred on the 1st, aimed at a warehouse containing ballot papers. It caused 1 death and at least 19 injured — but failed to destroy any ballot papers, since the police opened fire in time… In Kirkuk the PUK had won 6 seats, 3 others going to the Turcoman Front, 3 others to the Arab Alliance and 1 to the Christians. On the 9th several political parties, who had not obtained being present during the recount, rejected its results, alleging a manipulation of the ballot papers… In Sulaimaniyeh the recount was begun on the 10th, boycotted by the 4 Kurdish Parties that had challenged the initial results: Goran, the Islamic Union (Yekgirtû), the Islamic Komal and the Coalition for Democracy and Justice (CDJ), who demanded an overall recount and not a limited one. Despite the corrections affecting its score, the PUK remained in the lead at Kirkuk and at Sulaimaniyeh. On the 12th the recount began in Erbil, boycotted by the same parties as for Sulaimaniyeh. On the 14th it began in Dohuk, where it lasted till the 17th. The one at Nineveh began on the 17th and included the displaced peoples’ camps, never taken into account till then following a decision by the Parliament.
Finally the manual recount, described by UNO observers as “transparent”, ended for the country as a whole on the 26th. The committee responsible for it announced on the 24th that it expected the biggest differences with the initial results to appear in Kirkuk Province...
Made necessary by the atomisation of the results, the post-election negotiations were at first handicapped by the re-counting process, likely to alter the initial results, and then by the demonstrations in the South of the country. In Kurdistan, the KDP and the PUK, regional winners of the elections, finally set aside their post-referendum quarrels to present a common front in the discussions. Each of those 2 parties committed itself not to undertake any alliance without the other, then in the middle of the month they announced a programme likely to provide a common basis for discussions was near. According to Rûdaw, this programme includes “the carrying out of Article 140, a referendum to decide the fate of the disputed territories, the formation of a balanced government of Shiites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds, the passing of all Parliament’s laws and decisions on the basis of an agreement and not on that of the majority opposed to minority positions, and a balanced sharing of government positions”. The two parties called on the other Kurdish organisations to back this programme.
In general all the lists said they wanted to avoid the repetition of the post-2010 situation of a Shi’ite monopoly of power, inter-community opposition and marginalisation of the Sunni Arabs. The Kurds have sought to revive the “historic alliance” of Kurds and Shiites that followed the fall of Saddam Hussein (Asharq Al-Awsat). At one point, it was talked of a Kurdish alliance with Hadi al-Ameri’s Fatah list, which would have had 60 M.P.s – thus passing before Moqtada Sadr’s Sayrûn coalition (45 seats). On the 24th, for the first time since the elections, delegations from Fatah and Nuri al-Maliki’s “State of Law” party came to Erbil, however by the end of the month no alliance had emerged…
On the other hand, inter-party discussions, without really stopping, had to become more discrete in the face of the violence developing in the South: on 8th July, in Basrah, the police fired real bullets on demonstrators protesting about the lack of jobs, electricity and water as well as other basic services and the corruption of the police. According to the police, 8 demonstrators were wounded, but an elected local Councillor counted 1 killed and 3 wounded. On the 13th demonstrations led by local tribal chiefs took place at Najaf and Babel. At least 3 people were killed and dozens wounded. When the demonstrators took Najaf airport by storm, the Shi’ite religious leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, expressing his solidarity with the movement, demanded a peaceful resolution. The demonstrations then extended to the provinces of Kerbela, Maysan and Dhi Qar as well as to the Shoula quarter in Baghdad, entering the sixth day of their movement on the 14th. To try and curb the movement, the government interrupted the social media and most of the internet services throughout the country, while the movement took an anti-Iranian tome (a photo of Khomeiny was burnt), Baghdad engaged in alternating concessions and repression: firing on the crowds, causing 2 deaths (12 killed and over 250 wounded according to local media) and many arrested. On the 22, Muqtada al-Sadr decided the suspension of post-election discussions until the “legitimate demands” of the Iraqis were met. On the 24th, as the demonstrations entered their third week, the Council of Ministers met to discuss how to calm the movement down and some arrested people were released. However, at the end of the month the demonstrations were still going on...
The internal politics of Kurdistan were dominated by the preparations for the parliamentary elections, due on 30th September. This reactivated the debate on the Region’s Presidency, which has been vacant since Masud Barzani’s resignation on 1st November last. He had then refused any further extensions of his term of office, as Parliament had done. His powers had then been shared out between the Prime Minister, Parliament and the judicial power. However, contrary to the demands of some of the parties, the Provincial and Presidential elections will not take place together with the Parliamentary ones… Some KDP and PUK Members of Parliament demanded that the first task of the next Parliament should be the drawing up of a Constitution that could clarify the President’s role (Kurdistan 24).
On 1st July, the Parliament, despite the opposition of the Kurdish Islamist parties, but with the support of the KDP, the PUK and Goran, extended the anti-terrorist law, passed in 2006 following the two 2004 bomb attacks in Erbil, which had caused 101 deaths. Already extended 4 times it was due to expire (Kurdistan 24). Human Rights Watch voiced concern about the fate of 1,200 people, mostly Arabs, incarcerated in the Region, the Islamist parties have expressed doubt about both the effectiveness of the law and the guilt of some of the young people jailed (Al Monitor).
On the 5th, Kurdistan’s Electoral Commission announced that it would accept declarations of candidature for Parliament from the 7th to 25th July. The candidates of 37 parties and lists began officially to register as from the 7th. On the 11th Parliament voted the suspension of the Region’s Presidency until sitting of the next legislature, which should make a decision about it during its first two years of office. This vote follows the filing by Goran and the KDP of 2 draft Bills to this effect. The PUK also supported this decision, which was opposed by the Islamic Group (Komal) and the Islamic Union (Yekgirtû). The latter called for either the suppression of the post or that the Presidential elections occur at the same time as the Parliamentary ones (Kurdistan 24). The electors have started to check their presence on the new electoral register, based on the ration cards (Rûdaw).
In the morning of the 23rd Kurdistan was shaken by new terrorist attack: three armed men took hostages in the Erbil governor’s offices. One civil servant was killed and four police wounded before the intruders were shot down after four hours shooting. The attack was not immediately claimed. The three assailants were Erbil teenagers, two were 16 and the third was 18 (AFP). The next day the Erbil Security (Asayish) issued a warrant for membership of ISIS against an Iraqi M.P., Mullah Salim Shushkayi (Komal). He was said to be linked to another mullah, arrested three weeks earlier, Ismail Susai, himself linked to the three attackers of the governors office. Shushkayi, who is said to have sought refuge in Sulaimaniyeh, rejected these accusations and the “New Generation” movement attacked the warrant as a “settling of political scores” after Komal had voted against the extension of the anti-terrorist Law. On the 26th Goran, Komal, the Islamic Union of Kurdistan and the Islamic League (Yekgirtû), also expressed their support for Shushkayi in a common communiqué.
In the disputed territories, anti-Kurdish actions are continuing. On the 4th, the mayor of Daquq (Kirkuk), Amir Khudakaram Mohammed (UPK), stripped of office by the (Arab) interim governor, Rakan Said Jabouri, indicated he would appeal this decision, made, according to him on the excuse that he “hoisted the Kurdistan flag, supported the independence referendum and that the PKK was present in the district”… On 10th July, 600 Kurdish families from three Kirkuk villages complained they had been driven from their lands by the North Oil Company from whom they had received expulsion notices, while other villages, populated by Arabs, had not been bothered. Their present location had already been imposed on them in 2005 by the company (Rûdaw). On the 17th the mayor of the Sargaran (Kirkouk) sub-district, Luqman Husein, accused the governor of carrying out a policy of arabisation against the Kurdish villages of his sub-district, denouncing the settling, in Kurdish villages, of thousands of armed Arabs who received identity cards (WKI). On the 18th Kurdistan 24 announced it had secured copies of an official order of the 11th July in which the Minister of Health dismissed Kirkuk’s Director General of Health, Sabah Zangana (a Kurd), to replace him by a Turcman. Finally, Rûdaw revealed that since federal forces had taken over the disputed territories on 16th October, 30 Kurdish villages near the town of Dibis, round Daquq and Tuz Khurmatu (Kirkuk) had had to be evacuated because of threats by non-Kurdish groups, especially armed Shi’ite Arabs brought there during Saddam Hissein’s dictatorship. In some cases even the Kurdish names of the villages were changed. On the 26th 6 Kurdish police officers were sacked in Kirkuk (the local PUK was only able to secure the suspension of this decision). Amongst the Kurdish leaders in Kirkuk who have been stripped of office since October 2017, are the Governor, the Director of Security, the Director General of Health, the Director General of Agriculture, the Mayors of the towns of Kirkuk, Dibis, Daquq and Tuz Khurmatu, as well as the Police Chiefs of the district and suburban area… In the city of Kirkuk itself, by the end of the month, after a Kurd had been shot by an officer of the Iraqi Army, the Iraqi anti-terrorist forces surrounded the Azadi hospital to which his body had been taken and deployed in several Kurdish quarters in fear of an uprising.
In certain cases the abuses of power by members of the Shi’ite militia trying to drive Kurdish villagers out of their homes combined with attacks that more probably came from ISIS militia, because the threat from Jihadists is unceasingly growing again. At the beginning of the month Baghdad deployed new forces in the province and began the construction of a security barrier along the Syrian border. Actions against ISIS are incessant. On the 30th June, ISIS’s expert in finance and logistics, Abu Obaida, was killed near Mount Qarachogh, not far from Makhmour, in a joint operation by the Coalition and the Peshmergas. On the 2nd the Iraqis launched an operation in the orchards of Baquba (Diyala), destroying and defusing the mines laid there by the Jihadists.
It was at Diyala that the number of ISIS victims in June was the highest: 16 killed and 36 wounded, before Kirkuk (10 killed 36 wounded) and Baghdad (19 killed and 18 wounded). On the 3rd a raid South of Kirkuk was able to kill 14 Jihadists. On the 4th, while the Kurdish Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani, declared he was ready to cooperate with Baghdad to ensure the security of the disputed areas, a vast joint operation of the Iraqi Army and the Peshmergas (the first since October 2017) launched near the Iranian borders, resulted in the death of 1 Jihadist, the capture of 9 others and the destruction of 8 vehicles (AFP). On the same day, also for the first time since the referendum, a meeting took place between the Kurdish and Iraqi troops, in the course of which the latter asked for authorisation to launch raids against ISIS in areas held by the Pehmergas —an authorisation refused by the former.
On the 10th a bomb detonated at the passing of an Iraqi police patrol caused 1 death and 3 wounded Southwest of Kirkuk. As a reprisal, the Iraqi Air Force destroyed several Jihadist vehicles and a camp, killing 7 others in another operation on the 12th, before launching ground operations on the 14th towards Tuz Khurmatu (Rûdaw). On the 17th, Iraqi fighter aircrafts carried out several strikes to the Northwest of Kirkuk, reporting having killed 14 Jihadists. However, on the 18th at least 11 people were wounded in the city of Kirkuk by 3 explosions — unclaimed but evocative of ISIS methods. On the same day the police in Nineveh announced the capture of 23 Jihadists West of Mosul, and a joint operation of the Iraqi Army and Peshmergas with Coalition air support, again aimed at Mount Qarachogh. However, on the same day as the attack on the Erbil governor’s offices, some armed men, presumably Jihadists, attacked in the evening a police station at Makhmour and killed 4 people there (Kurdistan 24).
In Mosul, another 50 Shabak families left for Dohuk due to the lack of security and of basic services. In view of the degradation of security conditions in the disputed territories, even some Iraqi commanders, according to Rûdaw, are demanding that the Peshmergas be enabled to return, especially to Kirkuk, Diyala, Salahaddin and the areas round the Hamrin Mountains...
Tension has increased, this month, in Iranian Kurdistan, also affecting the neighboughing areas of Iraqi Kurdistan. On 2nd July the Iranian border guards defined in Iraqi Kurdistan near Haji Omaran a band of “no man’s land” of 10 km by 2 km, threatening of shooting the villagers if they failed to evacuate the zone within 72 hours. 50 families are said to be concerned (Kurdistan 24). The Iranians have been regularly shelling the area for several years now, claiming to aim at opposition fighters. The Regional Government of Kurdistan (KRG) appealed to the Iranian Government to put an end to these blind bombardments while asking the Kurdish fighters not to launch operations towards Iran from its territory.
In the evening of the 7th, fighting took place between KDPI Peshmergas and Guardians of the Revolution (pasdaran) near the mountain village of Koke, near Bokan (Western Azerbaïjan), causing 4 killed or wounded amongst the pasdaran. Claiming the operation on the 9th, the KDPI pointed out that the Iranian security forces had avenged their losses by attacking and arresting local civilians. After the confrontations, several military helicopters flew over the mountains. Some fighting had already taken place on 23rd June near Piranshahr.
In the morning of the 9th, the Iranian border guards crossed the Iraqi Kurdistan borders in the Kela Shin district, near Sidakan, and confiscated a thousand sheep that, they said, were grazing too close to their outposts. They then arrested 2 shepherds, who had come to fetch their sheep and then some of their relatives who had come for news of the shepherds… The mayor of Sidakan, Ihsan Chalabi, stressed that neither sheep nor civilians had ever crossed the border. All were released on the 10th after the intervention of the Kurdistan border guards. According to Chalabi, the same thing had happened in 2017 over 43 cows – but these, however, were never given back…
In the evening of the 11th a Kurdish member of the pasdaran was killed near Piranshahr by 2 KDPI Peshmergas who, according to that organisation, had been captured and injured by him in the past. Another Kurdish pasdar is said to have been killed in the same week. In the afternoon of the 13th, the Iranian artillery shelled again the Choman region of Iraqi Kurdistan for 20 minutes, forcing the shepherds to flee. According to the mayor of Haji Omaran, Farzang Ahmad, there were no casualties. The next day there were several fights between the pasdaran and KDPI Peshmergas at Nowdeshah and Paveh (Kermanshah). According to the pasdaran, 1 of their men and 3 Peshmergas were killed. The KDPI announced having killed 2 pasdaran (Rûdaw). On the 17th, intense artillery shooting caused fires and the flight of civilians from the Sidakan region of Kurdistan, but without making civilian casualties. The next day, the KDPI announced that 2 of its Peshmergas had been killed. During the night of 20/21, 11 pasdaran were killed and 8 others wounded when fighters of the PJAK (a party linked with the Turkish PKK) attacked one of their bases near the village of Dari in the Marivan region, provoking the explosion of its stock of ammunition (RFI). The PJAK claimed the attack the next day. On the 23rd Iran indirectly warned the KRG in a communiqué, threatening “certain neighbouring countries” that if they if they failed to better control the border insecurity, it would act by itself to “target terrorist bases in these countries” (Kurdistan 24).
In this context of increasing military tension, arrests and executions have followed one another all through the month. According to Hengaw, during the first 15 days of July at least 43 Kurds, including 12 shepherds, were arrested and incarcerated in Iran, 18 accused of “political activities”, 2 of “religious activities”, another of “media activity”. Among the detainees, 8 are originally from Iraqi Kurdistan and four others from Turkish Kurdistan. Among the executions, still according to Hengaw, only in the week of the 16th, the Iranian Government hanged 10 Kurdish prisoners accused of murder, the last 3 at Urumiah. Amongst these, a man of 65, who had been in prison for 10 years (Kurdistan 24). The denial of political prisoners’ rights is also an everyday practice, as with Ghader Mohammad Zadeh, sentenced to 18 years for moharebeh (hostility to God, an iniquitous punishment for dissidents). Although Zadeh has already served 12 years of his sentence, he was refused conditional release and the prison authorities have removed his bed and forcibly transferred him to the labourers section. As a punishment for protesting he was moved to isolation on 9th June and has began a hunger strike on the 15th, which he was continuing at the end of the month.
Another Kurdish political prisoner, Ramin Hossein Panahi, 24 year of age, is in Death Row since January, accused of “having taken up arms against the State” without any proof of his having taken part in armed operations of the Kurdish party Komala. In April the Iranian Supreme Court approved his sentence, but his execution, planned for 3rd May was postponed after an international uproar at the United Nations and several NGOs. Mid-June some activists demonstrated to stop his execution before UNO at Erbil. A group of lawyers including his own sent to the Supreme Guide, the President and the Supreme Court, letters requesting a stop to his execution, letters which remained without answer. On the 3rd the “pro-Kurdish” party of Turkey HDP also called for the immediate stopping of his execution in a letter to the Iranian Ambassador in Turkey. On the 4th Panahi’s family expressed anxiety following his transfer to a cell for detainees accused of drug dealing, while the authorities cancelled all leave for the staff of the prison in which he is kept (Hengaw)… It seems the authorities sought to make believe an execution was imminent, to torture him and his relations psychologically. On the 5th Panahi was sent to a public cell but everyone is still worried about the danger of his execution, especially as his brother, Amjad Hossein Panahi, tweeted that the guards had told the prisoner “You will not leave this block, you will either be executed or die in this prison” (Iranfocus). On the 20th Amjad again expressed his anxiety: “The authorities of Sanandaj prison told Ramin that he did not need medical treatment as he would soon be executed”. Hengaw, that reports this declaration, also indicated that it was considered to transfer the prisoner to Rajai Shahr prison, near Teheran, which has a sorry reputation for using torture, rape and murder, and is considered one of the worst prisons in Iran...
On the 7th, exactly one year to the day of the attack (on 7th June 2017) against the Parliament and Khomeiny´s mausoleum, which had caused 12 deaths and 42 wounded, 8 Kurds found guilty were executed. The operation had been claimed by ISIS.
The Iranian Intelligence Services (Ettela'at) are also continuing to kidnap Kurdish activists. Thus for the activist Peyman Abdi in Marivan, taken to an unknown location, or Abdulwahid Pûr, kidnapped in Mahabad. Furthermore the Kurdish student at Teheran, Meryem Faraji, 33 years old, who had taken part in the organisation of the demonstrations against the regime in January 2018, and had disappeared since 5th July, was found dead. Her body was so charred that it could only be identified on the 15th by ADN analysis. It also bore traces of torture (WKI)… She had been sentenced to 3 years jail, then reduced to supervised freedom and forbidden to leave the country for 2 years.
Dozens of Iranian Kurds, who had supported the Iraqi independence referendum held last September were also jailed, fined or beaten up (Hengaw). Thus the family of Ramin Kardani, a Kurdish activist from Saqqez, indicated that he had been sentenced to 4 years jail. The journalist, Bextyar Xoşnaw, who had, moreover, sent reports to foreign media, was sentenced to 74 whip lashes and a fine of 1.800.000 tomans…
Finally many Christians, including Kurds, were arrested by agents of the Intelligence Services for “preaching Christianity on Internet”, like Massoumeh Taqinejad, 30 years old, arrested on the 19th at her home in Kermanshah with her son and kept incommunicado since then. Her computer and her personal effects were confiscated when she was arrested. The Special United Nations Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, Ahmad Shahid, declared during the 28th session of the United Nations Council for the defence of Human Rights that Iran continued to violate the rights of religious minorities like the Yarsans, Bahaiis, Christians, Sufis, and Sunni Moslems: between March 2017 and March 2018 47 Kurdish women and 3 Christian women were arrested for their faith by the Security Services.
Abroad an affair involving several people of Iranian origin, including the Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi, on duty in Vienna since 2014 and three other people originally from that country living in Belgium, has just re-activated the memory of the sinister murders of opponents committed by the regime’s Secret Services long years ago. The people arrested all appear to be involved in a plot to attack the National Council of the Iranian Resistance (NCIR) during its annual meeting near Paris. Firstly the Belgian Police arrested a Belgian-Iranian couple from Antwerp transporting 500 gr. of explosives and detonators hidden in a vanity case. Then Assadi was arrested the next day in Germany and accused of acting like a foreign Intelligence agent and of plotting to commit a murder. A fourth suspect, also an Iranian living in Belgium, then detained in France, is due to be rapidly extradited to Belgium. According to the German authorities, Assadi, a member of the Iranian Intelligence Service operating under diplomatic cover, met the couple in Luxemburg to give them the explosives. The NCIR identified the couple as infiltrators sent from Teheran. On the 5th the Iranian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abbas Araghchi, summoned the French, German and Austrian Ambassadors in Teheran to protest and denounce “a plot aimed at damaging relations between the European Union and Iran”… These denuals are not very convincing in the face of the assassinations of the historic leaders of the KDPI: Abdulrahman Ghassemlou in Austria in 1989 and Sadegh Sharafkandi in Germany in 1991. The Iranians have also attacked the KDPI at Koy Sandjak in 1996, assassinated hundreds of members of the party in Iraqi Kurdistan, including 3 in 2018. The latest Kurdish activist assassinated is Iqbal Muradi, a longstanding member of the Kurdistan Human Rights Association, found on 17th July in a river near Penjwîn with 7 bullets in his body... At the end of the month the KDPI reported holding “detailed information” according to which Iran planned “major military and terrorist operations” against this party to divert attention from the declining economic and political situation in Iran.
Regarding general news, in the night of the 11th a collision occurred between a tanker lorry coming from Iraqi Kurdistan and a passenger bus, followed by an enormous explosion that caused at least 27 deaths near Sanandaj. According to a local journalist, there were clashes between demonstrators and the police after the disaster. The local authorities decreed 3 days mourning in Kurdistan. On the 22nd a 5.9 magnitude earthquake caused 128 injured in the Kurdish regions of Iran. The tremor was felt in Iraqi Kurdistan, especially in Halabja, Sulaimaniyeh, Erbil, Soran and Raparin. Last year already a powerful quake had caused 5,000 deaths and thousands of injured and 70,000 homeless. Residents complained at the lack of support by the government.
On the economic level, although the KRG discusses putting several border passage points up to international standards and even creating a “free zone” at Parviz-Khan (Sulaimaniyeh), a 650 million dollar project, the situation of the Kurds of Iran remains difficult, especially with the drop of Iranian currency. In Sanandaj the cleaning agents of the Salawat district have been on strike since the 20th and were continuing their movement by the end of the month. They haven’t been paid for the last 7 months.