On the 1st November the Iraqi Kurdish channel Kurdistan 24 echoed the Christian Peacemaker Teams’s (CPT) failure to understand the “White Helmets”, this Syrian civil defence organisation operating in rebel territory. Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize at the same time as the White Helmets, the CPT criticised them, in an open letter made public on 29th October, for their connivance with the Turkish invasion of Afrin. For their part, a White Helmets spokesman declared on Kurdistan 24 that their organisation was trying to work wherever it was possible in Syria and so had operated in Afrin for for a few months — but that now the YPG forbade them to enter the area. Stressing, in their letter, the peaceful co-habitation between the communities that had been the rule in Afrin before the Turkish invasion, the CPT asked the White Helmets to use their local and international influence “to call for the withdrawal of Turkish troops and their Syrian allies”. Besides, in an interview given on the 8th to the Russian news agency Sputnik, the Syrian General Ahmad Hassan described the Turkish intervention as “illegal” and a “violation of international law” and indicated that in the event of the failure of international diplomacy, the Syrian Army was ready to use force to retake Afrin…
In Afrin, the abuses of power and the fighting between factions are continuing. On the 12th the Turcoman jihadist “Sultan Murad” Brigade has released the activist Bilal Srewel after having savagely tortured him for taking photos without authorisation (Kurdistan 24). On the 18th, after months of fighting between factions quarrelling over Afrin’s riches, namely the olive trees confiscated from their Kurdish owners, the Turkish Army finally sided with the “Sultan Murad” faction and attacked Ahrar al-Sharqiya, imposing a curfew on the town. The fighting had already caused 25 deaths in both camps, and Ahrar al-Sharqiya was accused of much plundering and stealing. The Turkish Minster of Agriculture had, moreover, recognised on the 10th that olive trees stolen from Afrin had then been sold in Turkey… On the 19th, a booby-trapped motorbike exploded in the town, wounding 5 people, and fighting continued till the last week of the month, causing more destruction and new civilian deaths (WKI). The YPG also claimed, at the end of the month the death of two members of the “Sultan Murad” gang in an ambush (AMN).
The Turks are clearly not going to limit themselves to Afrin in Northern Syria. They are preparing an all-out attack on Rojava, under the indifferent eyes of the West, as the France-Kurdistan Association accused in a 1st November communiqué (Rojinfo). On the 3rd, the Turkish Army launched a series of heavy artillery barrages on the town and region of Kobanê, killing 4 fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (WKI). On the 5th, after a 3-day pause, the shelling was resumed, aimed this time, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), at Kobanê and Girê Spî (Tell Abyad), killing a 6-year-old girl in a village near the latter and obliging the school to be closed… The Syrian Democratic Council denounced these attacks and called on the international community to act, while demonstrations took place throughout Rojava. As for the regime, the Syrian Army has started to deploy troops in the provinces of Raqqa and Hassaké, as well as of North Aleppo at Tell Rifaat, and behind the SDF lines at Tabqa (AMN). On the 27th Erdogan even went to far as to assert to the Members of Parliament of his own Party “There is no ISIS in Syria”, talking about little gangs “disguised as jihadists” … (Newsweek)
The Americans, for their part, after the increase in Turk-SDF tensions, seem to be increasingly condemned to do the splits between their anti-ISIS alliance with the SDF forces in the field and their fear of offending Turkey… On 1st November, in a clear attempt to appease Turkey, after months of “separate but co-ordinated” patrols near Manbij, the US have started joint patrols with the Turks in accordance with a “road map” dated last June but since then kept pending. Another gesture to Ankara: the US offered, on the 6th, rewards of up to 5 million dollars for information as to the whereabouts of 3 major leaders of the PKK, Murat Karayilan, Cemil Bayik and Duran Kalkan (AFP).
However, in parallel to this, Moustafa Balî, the officer in charge of the SDF media Centre, indicated on the 2nd that American troops had started patrolling the borders near Kobanê to prevent new Turkish attacks. This was not immediately confirmed by the coalition (Kurdistan 24), but in the field the AFP reported that armoured vehicles flying the American flag were being escorted by the SDF… The Manbij Military Council also published on the 3rd the visit by the US Ambassador, William Roebuck, during which he visited the town’s hospital to meet Gulistan Mohammed, a young Kurdish journalist working for the ANHA news agency, who had been wounded in the face the day before by Turkish firing at the same time as another journalist. The ANHA Agency accused the Turks of having “deliberately” aimed at these 2 journalists. The US Air Force also begun to patrol the borders to prevent Turkish air strikes… (AMN).
On the 6th the Turkish President described the joint US-SDF patrols as “unacceptable” — so much so that he would ask his American opposite number to have them stopped when he would meet him in Paris during the 11 November celebrations (Reuters). On the 10th the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that, despite a second joint Americano-Turkish patrol carried out on the 8th, some islamist armed groups supported by Turkey shelled with their artillery the positions of the Manbij Military Council, as well as aiming at peasants working in their olive groves (Kurdistan 24).
On the 21st the US Defence Secretaty, Jim Mattis, announced that, to ensure that “SDF do not withdraw again from the anti-ISIS fight”, the US Army would set up all along the border several observation towers “clearly marked, day and night so that the Turks should know exactly where they were”. According to Mattis, the decision had been made “in full cooperation with Turkey” (AFP). However, Turkey was fast to criticise these towers, described as “useless” by the Turkish Minister of Defence, Hulusi Akar (AFP), who also demanded, on the 23rd the carrying out “by the end of the year” of the Manbij “roadmap”, so meaning the withdrawal of the YPG from the town (Le Figaro). On the 28th Mattis oddly enough specified that the observation posts were aimed at “warning the Turks (…) of any threats”, while admitting they would also protect the SDF from any Turkish attacks… (RT). On the 29th the State Department’s special Representative for Syria, James Jeffrey, while assuring Turkey of US support against the PKK, warned Ankara against any unilateral action against the US’s Kurdish allies in Syria, all the more “unacceptable” as it would endanger American army personnel (Breitbart News). On the 30th Ahmad Osman, Commander of the “Sultan Murad” Brigade declared, in an interview with the Turkish State news agency Anatolia, that if the Americans withdrew the Free Syrian Army was ready to attack the PYD at Tell Abyad, Raqqa and Hassakeghg and other areas East of the Euphrates (Ahval).
Parallel to this, while the Iraqis were reinforcing their side of the Syrian border, the SDF, on the Syrian side, continued their fight against ISIS. Although on 20 October they had announced stopping their offensive after the Turkish attacks following serious losses, they had not, for all that, given up defending themselves against jihadists counter attacks. Reinforced by fighters from other parts of Rojava, they concentrated at the beginning of the month on the East of the Euphrates while the coalition carried out heavy shelling, killing 9 jihadists but also at least 14 civilians. However, on the 4th 12 SDF fighters and 1 civilian were killed in Raqqa by a booby-trapped car and in other clashes near Hajin which caused 20 more wounded (SOHR), as ISIS had taken advantage of bad weather to launch a murderous counter attack (AFP). This attack came soon after the assassination, on the 2nd, of a Raqqa Arab tribal leader, Sheikh Bashir Faysal al-Huwaidi, a member of the City’s Civil Council. On the 14th Moustafa Bali, manager of the SDF Press Centre, announced that the head of the jihadist cell responsible for the operation had been arrested. Earlier, on 15th March, another member of the Raqqa Civil Council, a Kurd this time, Omar Alloush, had been assassinated in his home at Girê Spî, — the Kurdish authorities at the time had accused Turkey (Kurdistan 24). On the evening of the 7th the SDF foiled another surprise attack on one of their bases, in which some US Army personnel were stationed. With the help of coalition air support, the SDF killed at least 20 jihadists near the al-Tanak oil field, one of the largest in Deir Ezzor SCHR). According to the AFP reports of the 5th to 7th, at least 45 jihadists were killed in this operation.
On the 11th, after 10 days during which they limited themselves to defensive actions, the SDF announced the renewal of their offensive. On the 13th the SOHR reported that at least 28 civilians, mainly close relatives of ISIS fighters, including 9 children, had been killed by the coalition air strikes…
On the 22nd the SDF and US Special Forces announced having captured Oussama Awaid al-Ibrahim (Oussama Oueid al-Saleh as AFP wrote it), ISIS’s second in command after Aboubakir al-Bagdadi, the founder and “Caliph” of ISIS. He was found in a tunnel near the village of al-Tayyana (WKI). On the 23rd the SDF announced that at least 50 jihadists had been killed in the Hajin pocket in the course of 3 different counter attacks directed towards the al-Tanak oil field, repelled on the ground and with air strikes. According to the SOHR, at least 47 SDF fighters were killed on the 23rd and 24th November, 29 of wiich on the 24th alone. The coalition followed up its air strikes on this ISIS-held pocket on the East bank or the Euphrates, which includes among others Hajin, Soussa and Al-Chaafa… On the 26th, after 3 days fighting, the SDF losses were 92 dead — the heaviest losses recorded in a single offensive by ISIS, who again took advantage of mist to launch an offensive Westwards of Hajin, but without being able to retain territory it had won. On the 27th the SOHR reported over 200 dead among SDF fighters, but also many civilians massacred by ISIS, adding these figures were still provisional…
The “pro-Kurdish” HDP hopes that the local elections in March 2019 will enable it to regain the control of many municipalities in Turkish Kurdistan. There the AKP, President Erdogan’s party, has stripped of office hundreds of HDP’s elected officials and replaced them with unelected “trustees” (kayyim), appointed to its own liking. Erdogan is again allied to the extreme right semi-fascist MHP (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi, National Action Party), and hopes to bar the way for the HDP, now the only party opposing him in the country. He is continuing the repression to prevent it from campaigning and has announced that he would not hesitate about dismissing their newly elected members after the election… At the beginning of the month the police carried out a raid on the Mersin premises of the DTK (Congress for a Democratic Society) for having launched a hunger strike movement in protest at the solitary confinement in which is maintained the imprisoned leader of the PKK, Abdulah Öcalan (WKI). On the 3rd, Selahattin Demirtaş, former co-President and Turkish Presidential candidate of the HDP, imprisoned since November 2016, called for a Left Alliance for the local elections (Ahval). The HDP is trying to simultaneously maintain an identity that is both progressive and Kurdish, and the above mentioned Demirtaş recently expressed his support for the efforts for the preservation of the Kurdish language announced by the representatives of nine political parties which met in Diyarbekir on the 28th. They had published a communiqué demanding that the Kurds give a priority to using this language in their daily lives — and to the Turkish authorities to recognise Kurdish as the country’s second language. However, on the 13th several of those 8 other Kurdish political parties deplored that the HDP’s choice if a Left alliance rather than a “Kurdish alliance” … (Rûdaw)
On the 4th, for the 2nd anniversary of the arrest of its 11 MPs, the HDP launched a national action of protest against the incarceration of 6,000 of its members, generally for “links with the PKK”. One of its present co-Presidents, Sezai Temelli, held a press conference in Ankara recalling that amongst those people arrested were 9 MPs, 53 mayors, 43 co-presidents of provincial sections and 101 of district sections. In total, one in 3 HDP members is incarcerated and 2 of its former co-presidents, Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdag pace hundreds of years of prison. As have several other incarcerated M.P.s, they have sent messages from their cells, promising to “continue the struggle for democracy, freedom and peace”. The police prevented several HDP elected representatives from holding a press conference from the prison where other party members are incarcerated, and carried out new raids against Kurdish activists, as in Batman, whose co-mayor, Sabri Özdemir, was incarcerated.
On the 6th, the first sentence of an M.P. elected last June was for the HDP member for Gaziantep, Mahmut Toğrul, sentenced to 2 years and 3 months’ jail. The Court considered his speeches before a group of citizens of his town, in Parliament 2 years ago, as pro-PKK propaganda… (Kurdistan 24). On the 7th, Leyla Güven, co-president of the DTK, elected in June in Hakkari while she was in remand in Diyarbakir for having denounced the invasion of Afrin, announced in full court hearing that she was ceasing to defend herself and was going on hunger strike in protest at the solitary confinement imposed on Abdullah Öcalan and other political prisoners. After her election, the Court had ordered her release, as an M.P. cannot, Constitutionally, be tried in detention. However, the Public Prosecutor objected to her release, and the prison administration illegally maintained her in prison till a fresh decision annulling the previous one was transmitted orally… On the 16th the governor of the Diyarbekir Province forbade for 15 days any demonstration of support for Güven (Ahval). A gathering of HDP mayors, M.P.s and members who wanted to hold a press conference in front of her prison was dispersed by the police in front the HDP premises in Diyarbakir. However, some HDP members and elected representatives nevertheless managed to carry out hunger strikes in her support from the 16th to the 18th at Diyarbekir, Van, Hakkari, Urfa and Adana.
On the 9th the Kurdish singer, Ferhat Tunc was accused of “insult to the President” on the basis of a Twitter post in which he called Erdogan a “dictator” … (SCF). On the 15th the German-Kurdish woman singer Hozan Canê was sentenced to 6 years and 3 months’ prison for “membership of a terrorist organisation”. Canê was arrested on 24 June at Edirne, where she had come to take part in an HDP election campaign meeting. The grounds of the accusation: holding the lead role in “The 74th genocide of Shengal”, a film dealing with the genocide perpetrated by ISIS against the Yezidis in 2014 for which she had written the scenario, she appeared in it bearing a weapon (WKI).
On the 10th, an 85-year-old woman, Sise Bingöl, was sent back to prison after 8 days in hospital in a serious condition, and despite her serious health problems and the repeated demands by her lawyer… Suffering from diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure and abdominal pains, Bingol had been imprisoned in 2017 just after a heart attack. She survived in prison only thanks to the help from the other detainees.
On the 13th the Turkish Trade Union leader Abdullah Karacan was assassinated by shooting at Adapazarı during a public meeting with workers from the Goodyear tyre plant. Two other TU representatives were also wounded. The attack was widely condemned by the TUs in Turkey and abroad. As the DISK TU federation leader responsible for organising the chemical and rubber industries, Karacan had already secured improved working conditions from firms and groups in this sector.
On the 14th the Ahval site denounced the sacking of 150 doctors and 350 health workers for “security reasons”. Following the attempted Coup d’état of July 2016, the State of Emergency enabled the Turkish President to issue decrees having the force of law, without Parliament’s approval, and the recent Constitutional modification confirmed this power through the creation of “Executive Orders”. Some of these were nothing more than a list of people to be sacked, without giving any legal justification. The sacked staff members cannot find any other job in their field nor can they leave the country. After civil servants, then teachers and legal professions, the staff of health organisations are now being targeted. The last Orders even prevent sacked doctors from finding a job in the private sector as they are barred from treating anyone covered by health insurance… Medical students must also endure a security interrogation, the Kurds being particularly targeted. Relatives of victims are also affected: according to Ahval, a doctor’s daughter who was a law student had to renounce her project of becoming a judge: since her father’s name was on the purge list, she was told she had no chance of succeeding…
On the 21st the trial of the TAK’s (Kurdistan Freedom Falcons) bomb attack, that had caused 36 deaths and 344 injured in March 2016 concluded in Ankara with the sentencing to life imprisonment of 3 people. They were found guilty of attempted assassination and of having damaged the integrity od the Sate. Of 55 people tried, 6 received sentences going from 3 to 12 years, and 7 were acquitted. One of the defendants received 10.260 years’ prison (AFP).
On the 21st the police placed 5 Kurdish activists in detention in the districts of Lice and Silvan (Diyarbakir), one of whom suffers from cancer. The next day, the homes of the members of the Mezopotamiya Cultural Centre at Adana, closed by the police for the past year, were targeted by raids in which several artists were arrested… On the 24th the Kurdish film director Kazım Öz was arrested at Tunceli on suspicion of membership in a terrorist organisation, before being released on bail the next day (Ahval). On the 26th the former HDP member of Parliament for Kars, Mulkiye Bîrtane, was placed in detention in Diyarbakir, along with 20 other people in the West of the country, Izmir and Menemen, including former leaders of the HDP. All were accused of having links with the KCK (Union of Kurdistan Communities), the common organisation of several Kurdish parties influenced by the PKK (PKK, PYD in Syria, PJAK in Iran and PCDK in Iraq). On the 27th, again members of the HDP, a total of 55 people, were arrested in Istanbul, Urfa and Malatya. On the 28th the Ankara police prevented a gathering in memory of Tahir Elçi, the President of the Diyarbakir Bar, organised for the third anniversary of his assassination. The police prevented the lawyers from unfurling in front of the Court buildings a banner in memory of the lawyer, Defender of Human Rights, assassinated in the middle the road in Diyarbekir while he was pleading in a press conference for an end to the acts of violence in Turkish Kurdistan.
On the 30th the demand for Selahattin Demirtaş’s release, refused now for 2 years, was rejected despite the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) made on the 20th, demanding his release within the shortest possible delay, following another identical demand by the Reporteur of the European Parliament, Kati Piri. In a communiqué signed by its co-presidents, Pervin Buldan and Sezai Temelli, the HDP denounced a “political decision” and “a violation of the Constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights” (AFP). In its ruling the ECHR had considered that maintaining Demirtaş in detention aimed at “stifling political pluralism”, but the Turkish President immediately rejected the demand, declaring: “The EHRC’s decisions are in no way binding on us”. On the 23rd, after the Commissioner responsible for European diplomacy, Federica Mogherini, had expressed from Ankara her hope for a rapid release in a joint press conference with the Turkish Foreign Minister, the latter considered that she had “somewhat exceeded her limits” … Sentenced in September to 4 years and 8 months’ prison for “terrorist propaganda”, Demirtaş risks 142 years prison in the context of his principal trial. In a letter published by the HDP, he accuses the Turkish government of having “accelerated in an extraordinary way” the appeal procedure concerning his sentencing, which should normally have gone on for several months: thus he may be kept him in prison to serve his sentence, his pre-trial detention, the target of the decision of the ECHR, being technically over (AFP).
Concerning Turkey’s international relations, following last month’s freeing of the American pastor Andrew Brunson on the 2nd, the United States and Turkey both dropped the sanctions aimed at the Ministers of the Interior and Justice in both countries. On the 11th, in a ruling different from the one concerning Demirtaş, the ECHR announced it would seek Turkey’s testimony regarding alleged breaches of Human Rights and murdering of civilians during the curfews imposed on Şırnak and Cizre after August 2015 and, for the second town, until March 2016. The military operations in Turkish Kurdistan had covered 30 towns and urban quarters and, according to a United Nations report, displaced 350,000 to 500,000 people. About 200 civilians blocked for weeks in cellars under blocks of flats, died burned alive in the strikes or were most probably summarily executed. The trials of the cases of Ömer Elçi and Ahmet Tunç, who both died during curfews while the security forces forbade ambulances to enter the town, begins on 13th November (Ahval).
Finally, on 9th November in Berlin, the Board of the International League for Human Rights awarded its “Carl von Ossietsky” medal to the dismissed Mayor of Cizre, Leyla Imret, now in exile, for “having courageously continued abroad her struggle for Human Rights in Turkey”. Born in Cizre in 1987, Imret grew up in Germany, after her father was killed fighting the Turkish security forces when she was only 4 years old. Returning to Turkey at 13 with her mother, brothers and sisters, she stood in 2014 for the municipal elections in the town where she was born on the BDP list, the pro-Kurdish party at the time. Stripped of office in 2015 by the Ministry of the Interior for “terrorist propaganda” and “incitement to armed rebellion” and her post given to a pro-AKP “trustee”, she had to flee to Germany. Sharing her medal with a German social worker, Ottmar Miles-Paul, she declared it was a “great honour” (Rûdaw).
Regarding the military operations, the Turkish Army continued to claim the neutralisation of many Kurdish rebels: 8 in Silopi on the 3rd November, then 15 on Iraqi side by air on the 9th in the regions of Gara, Zab and Avasin-Basyan… On the 13th the Ministry of Defence announced the neutralisation of 19 fighters near Qandîl (Reuters). On the 14th the Mayor of Sarsing, near Amêdî in Iraqi Kurdistan, confirmed that a Turkish strike had killed 3 inhabitants of the village of Aradnan who had gone outside to feed their herd, including 2 Peshmergas (Kurdistan 24). Following these deaths, the Peshmerga Ministry accused the Turks of having “illegally” crossed the border and the PKK, promising to retaliate, accused the Turkish Army of seeking to frighten the civilians. The local elected officials counted at least 12 civilian victims of the Turkish strikes in Iraqi Kurdistan in the first 11 months of 2018 – the air strikes having also caused forest fires and having obliged to close schools, and are considered by several NGOs a violation of humanitarian law (Rûdaw).
At the beginning of November, while the demonstrations in Basra were abating, in Baghdad, discussions to complete the government and at last succeed in adopting the 2019 budget continued, including the issue of salaries of “Popular mobilization Units” (Hashd al-Shaabi), these mostly Shiite militias formed to fight Daesh and recently integrated into the Iraqi army. While some MPs are demanding an increase in their salaries, many Sunni deputies would prefer to see increased funding for the reconstruction of their devastated provinces. Finally, the Kurds are demanding a return to an acceptable proportion of the federal budget: yet constitutionally set at 17% since 2005, it is now reduced to just over 12%, for a population of Kurdistan of just under 14% of that of Iraq ...
The government declared on the 6th to be willing to cooperate with Parliament to reach an agreement, while the new Finance minister, the Kurd Fouad Hussein, indicated his disagreement with the project drafted by the previous government and insisted on “the need to review it” and that of “an appropriate, balanced and transparent relationship with the Kurdistan Region” ... (Kurdistan 24). On the 7th, the Kurdish parties held a meeting with the second Deputy Speaker of the Parliament, Bashir Haddad, a Kurd from KDP, to decide how best to obtain their requests on the budget, and decided that a delegation of experts in budgetary policy from Kurdistan, including the Finance and Planning ministers, and a delegation from the Kurdish Parliament, would come to Baghdad shortly. In the parliamentary session of the 12th, Kurdish deputies and the Minister of Finance fought for a revision allocating 14% of the budget to the Kurdistan Region. The PUK recalled that it rejected the project also because it did not take into account the new province of Halabja. On the 13th, the Parliament had to postpone the budget discussion until the 20th for a lack of agreement, but on the 26th, there was still no agreement and the discussion was stopped because of the fall in oil prices (ISHM).
Another bone of contention between the Federal and Regional governments is the management of oil resources. On the 4th, the Ministry of Oil announced the temporary cessation of exports from Kirkuk to Iran by tank truck (30,000 barrels/day), the oil thus saved being kept for domestic consumption. On the 5th, the KRG Ministry of Natural Resources announced the increase of the capacity of its pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan from 400,000 to 1 million barrels/day, indicating that this would allow in case of agreement with Baghdad the export of oil sent by the central government. An agreement finally being reached on the 16th, Baghdad restarted exports from Kirkuk to Ceyhan, a decision qualified on the 19th as a “positive gesture” by KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani. Finally, on the 22nd, KDP Chairman Massoud Barzani met with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi in Baghdad for the first time in more than two years, thus signalling a relative rapprochement (AFP). The appointment by Abdel Mahdi as Finance Minister of the former Chief of Staff of Barzani, Fouad Hussein, had already appeared as a sign of warming relations ... A Kurdish official in Baghdad also assured AFP that MM. Abdel Mahdi and Barzani had reached a “preliminary budget agreement”. While in Baghdad, Barzani also met with other Iraqi political leaders, including Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, whose list came first in the legislative elections.
On the 27th, the Iraqi cabinet was still not complete, 8 ministerial positions still remaining to be filled, and the Prime Minister announced he was working on their appointment (ISHM).
In Kurdistan, the work has begun for the newly elected legislature. Civil society organisations vigorously protested against the bonus of 48 million dinars each (35,000 €) outgoing parliamentarians allocated themselves in their last session on 31 October. Many considered it scandalously generous for a parliament that remained closed for two years following disagreements between the KDP and Goran, and which voted only 31 laws out of 206 submitted projects (Rûdaw).
On the 4th, the Judicial Council of Kurdistan fixed at noon on the 6th the inaugural session of Parliament during which the new deputies were to take the oath. As formal discussions for the formation of the regional government had not yet started, this session, chaired by the oldest MP, did not allow for the election of Parliament President and Vice-Presidents. Regarding the future government, there were rumors of a PDK-PUK alliance, and “New Generation”, as the Islamic Group (Komal) and the Islamic League (Yekgirtû) announced that, in this case, they would remain in opposition. Several KDP members said that their party would not form the Cabinet without the PUK, but encouraged opposition parties like Goran and Komal to join the coalition... On the 9th, Goran, whose number of elected officials dropped from 24 to 12 in the last elections, indicated it was conducting an internal consultation and was waiting to know the conditions proposed by the KDP to decide whether or not to participate in the new government. Komal said the same day it would decide after meeting the other parties. The “Coalition for Democracy and Justice” (CDJ), the party founded and then left by Barham Salih, the current Iraqi President, began a difficult reorganisation, even questioning the continuation of its existence, before deciding to continue under the name of “National Coalition” ... (Kurdistan 24)
On the 17th, a PDK delegation went to Suleimaniyeh to meet the PUK. The latter said it had applied for the posts of Deputy Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament. According to rumours, the KDP would have asked the PUK to choose between the two (WKI). The PDK delegation then met Goran, which had expressed interest...
The end of the month was marked by several operations of the Security (Asayish) of PUK-controlled Suleimaniyeh province against the “Movement for a Free Society” (Tavgari Azadi), a party founded in 2014 by former members of the Party for a Democratic Solution (PCDK), close to the PYD and the PKK, which had just been dissolved. On the 26th, the Asayish encircled the party's office in Suleimaniyeh and gave its members 24 hours to leave the place; the next day they closed its offices in Koya and Kalar (Kurdistan 24), and on the 28th, banned the screening of the film Temmuz 14 (“July 14”), scheduled for December 1st at Salim Cinema in Suleimaniyeh. This film chronicles the hunger strike of Kurdish political prisoners in Diyarbakir after the 1980 military coup in Turkey... (Rûdaw) Since October 2017, Turkey has banned all flights to and from Suleimaniyeh airport, accusing the authorities to support the PKK.
Another point of tension between Kurdistan and central government is the governance of disputed territories. These continue to experience the most worrying insecurity since the departure of the pechmerga in October 2017, and are again subject to a policy of Arabisation worthy of Saddam Hussein.
On 2nd November, 2 Kurds, including a pechmerga, were abducted by men in uniform in Taqtaq, a village in Dubiz / Dibis district, Kirkuk, and the body of the civilian was found the following day. On the same day, an explosion of unspecified cause hit an arms depot in the Hezbollah office in Tuz Khurmatu, injuring 15 people. In Khanaqin, 3 explosions in one day killed 2 women and destroyed a local mausoleum. On the 4th, the Kurdistan Security Council (KRSC) warned of a resurgence since one month of attacks by ISIS militants, using homemade and car bombs in Kirkuk and Mosul (Rûdaw); Mukhtars (municipal officials) were murdered in Hawija and Khanaqin. On the 5th, the anti-terrorist units in Kirkuk reported having arrested a dormant cell of 26 terrorists, including several women, responsible for many recent attacks in the city. Silent pistols, homemade bombs, explosive belts and 2 vehicles packed with explosives were found. On the 8th, a car bomb exploded in Mosul near the Abu Layla restaurant, frequented by security forces, killing 3 people and injuring 3 others. It was the 2nd attack of this type in a week (Kurdistan 24).
On the morning of the 10th, anti-ISIS coalition planes carried out several strikes on Mount Qaraqosh near Makhmur, killing at least 14 jihadists. From an Iraqi military source, Daesh infiltrated back into northern Iraq from eastern Syria where it is threatened... The same day, an improvised bomb made 1 wounded in Kifri. On the 15th, another, targeting a police car north-west of Mosul, wounded one police officer and killed two civilians. On the 22nd, another bomb killed 4 schoolchildren and wounded 7 others in a pickup truck near the village of Zulahfa (Ninawa). Finally, on the evening of the 29th, the jihadists launched two separate attacks in Diyala and Kirkuk: in Daquq (Kirkuk), the attack targeted the barracks of the Federal Police, seriously wounding an officer, and in Diyala, a sabotage of power lines drew a repair convoy into an ambush; a bomb killed an officer and wounded 2 Hashd al-Shaabi fighters (Kurdistan 24).
In this context of increasing insecurity, the Kirkuk interim governor, Rakan Said al-Jaburi, continued his policy of Arabisation. On 1st November, the Kurdish Rûdaw TV channel revealed the existence of an “Executive order” sent to the Federal police on 23rd October allowing 81 Shia Arab families to settle in the Kurdish village of Shanagha (Dibis district) under the protection of Hashd al-Shaabi militia and security forces. On the same day, a group of Shammar Arabs who attempted to settle in a Kurdish house in the village of Yangijay Talabani (Daquq) had to flee when the residents came to help the owner. Shots were fired, without any injuries. One of the governor's decrees allocated about 1,600 agricultural plots on the Kirkuk-Baghdad road to the Hashd al-Ahsairi, a Sunni militia associated with Hashd al-Shaabi (Rûdaw). The Kurds of Kirkuk keep denouncing the policy of the governor, who signed in 2 months 4 orders attributing 38 villages to Arab settlers. On the 29th, more than 50 Arab families arrived to settle in and around the village of Haftaghar, escorted by the Iraqi Federal Police and again backed by an order from the interim governor (Rûdaw). Kurdish owners are being pushed out by power cuts (thus making irrigation impossible) and bans on cultivation. They are sometimes even threatened with death or their house burnt, as in the village of Qutan, where just 2 Kurdish families were remaining from the original 40: they were allowed to stay until the land ownership is established, under the condition not to cultivate! It should be noted that the Arab settlers do not support their claims on title deeds, but on the Arabization decrees from the Ba'thist regime’s time...
Finally, the question of the customs posts established by Hayder al-Abadi on the main roads between the city of Kirkuk and the Kurdistan Region remains pending, despite the announcement on the 11th of an agreement between Baghdad and Erbil to eliminate them, coupled with the one on the export of oil. When the Kurds controlled Kirkuk, there were customs posts between the city and Baghdad... The agreement was officially signed in Baghdad on the 19th by a Kurdish delegation, and on the 21st, the Iraqi Prime Minister announced his intention of unifying customs procedures with the Kurdistan Region, but on the 29th, the customs posts were still there.
If the number of military clashes in Iranian Kurdistan between the regime’s repressive forces and Kurdish fighters were less frequent this month (one ambush claimed by the KDPI for the 17th in the town of Baneh, with an unspecified number of losses by the Iranians) the month of November was marked by increasing activity by the regime’s Intelligence against civilians.
Their agents launched raids, threatened and arrested numerous people. At Paveh, a 25,000 inhabitants’ town in Kermanshah Province, according to the organisation for the defence of Human Rights Hengaw, the Intelligence officers of the Pasdarans waged at the beginning of November a campaign of night time raids on hundreds of people’ houses, according to the testimony of one of those targeted. Raids were made without any official warrant; officers started by saying they were looking for alcohol but once inside they announced they were searching for arms, flags of Kurdistan and photos of Kurdish leaders (Kurdistan 24). According to the Association for Human Rights of Kurdistan (KMMK) the Etelaat (the Intelligence Service) arrested and placed in solitary confinement 3 people at Shno (Oshnavieh) in two distinctly different raids. According to Hengaw, at Sanandaj the wife of an imprisoned Kurdish activist, Zaniar Dabaghian, was arrested. The Etelaat also threatened the family of Kawa Saqqazy, a Kurdish activist who has fled to Iraqi Kurdistan, saying they would have him assassinated there (WKI, 06/11). The history of the Kurdish movement in Iran shows that this kind of threat should be taken seriously, so more so that, on the 29th the British daily paper Daily Telegraph, published a report on the way Iran sends killers to reduce dissidents to silence, even when in Iraq (WKI).
After a series of strikes that hit the schools of Marivan because bad studying conditions there, the Etelaat launched, in the middle of the month, several enquiries on teachers having initiated the protests and threatened the activists if the latter continued. On the 19th, according to KMMK 2 young Kurds were arrested separately at Marivan and at Sanandaj, without any charges being specified. On the 27th the Etelaat arrested 2 other young Kurds at Baneh during raids on their homes, still without specifying any precise charges nor arrest warrant. Several teachers were also arrested for having participated in the strikes at the beginning of the month…
The bloody repression to which the Kurdish porters, or kolbars, are subjected is equally pursued. The commander of the border guards, Brigadier General Ghassem Rezaei, visited Iraqi Kurdidtan on the 5th to meet his Suleimaniyeh opposite number and push for a better co-ordination with his forces. He repeated his objective was to fight the terrorists, the jihadists (takfiri) — and also the “smugglers”… (Mehr). At the same time the regime’s border guards were setting an ambush for several kolbars near Kermanshah, killing 1 and wounding 2 others. According to Hengaw, in October alone 8 kolbars were killed outright by shooting, 17 were wounded and 1 died of cold (WKI). On the 11th another kolbar was killed near Marivan and his family advised to pick up his body (VOA). Near Baneh another was seriously wounded on the 16th and the next day a young Kurd of 15 years was in turn killed. On the 19th two others were wounded on the border near Penjwîn in Iraqi Kurdistan. Near Baneh, the border guards killed about 20 horses used by the kolbars (WKI). On the 24th, near Sardasht two other new porters were wounded by gun-fire. The KNNK reported that a 18-year-old young Kurd was detained and kept in a secret location. Finally, on the the 28th, the border guards set up an ambush near Piranshahr, killing one and wounding another, while 2 went reported missing. According to Hengaw, the month of November is one of the bloodiest with its 8 killed and 17 wounded. Yet the economic situation obliges more and more young Kurds to undertake this dangerous activity. According to the country’s statistic Centre, the rate of inflation between 23rd October and 22nd November reached almost 35% (Radio Farda)…
Many women have also been victims of repression. Hengaw reported, on the 5th, the conviction to death by stoning of a woman from Mako, a mother of 2 children, for zina, that is to say adulterous sexual relations, forbidden by Islamic law. The condemned woman had been arrested on her husband’s denunciation in 2017, then released on parole. The fate of a man, arrested in the same year and accused if being her lover, is unknown. Another woman was also sentenced to death at Khoy, incarcerated for the last 2 years pending her trial for the same charges, and also denounced by her husband. In Iran, extramarital sexual relations are considered a crime against God and punished with 100 whip strokes for singles and death by stoning for married people (Rûdaw). Besides, Hengaw has reported the hanging on the 13th of a woman, Sharareh Eliassi, accused of murder, whereas her father had testified the murderer was her husband… Eliassi is the 85th woman executed during the term of office of President Rouhani (Kurdistan 24).
Finally, in the evening of the 25th an earthquake of magnitude 6.3 struck Kermanshah in Iranian Kurdistan Region and the Eastern part of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Over 700 people were injured. A little more than a year ago, on 12 November 2017, an earthquake had struck the same region and caused 600 deaths and over 8,100 injured, followed in April by another, then by yet another in July with 150 victims. This new quake whose epicentre is located close to Sarpol-ê Zahab, 114 km Northwest of the city of Ilam, was felt as far away as Kuwait but is reported to have made “only” 2 victims in Iraq…
The people left without shelter by the previous quakes amount to tens of thousands in Iranian Kurdistan. The figures is around 70,000 without shelter who are preparing to spend a second winter in these tragic conditions. The Iranian government has failed to provide the help it had promised them. Many people feel abandoned, without even any financial support to help them rebuild themselves their homes…