By the admission of the pro-government media themselves, the Turkish State is pursuing in Afrîn a real policy of colonisation. Assisted by Syrian jihadist mercenaries and the so-called “Free Syrian Army” (FSA), Ankara has started the islamisation and turkification of the territory, setting up institutions such as “Imam Hatip” high schools where the imams of mosques dependent on Diyanet, the Turkish Directorate of Islamic Affairs, are trained. The one created in Afrîn was visited at the end of January by the governor of Hatay. The teachers who are trained there will teach Turkish in one of the 243 schools or colleges run by Turkey in Afrîn, Azaz, Jerablous or al-Bab. According to Sabah, 5 muftis and 299 cadres trained by the Diyanet were also sent to mosques. Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reports further looting. On the 16th, Rûdaw broadcast the testimony of an elderly Kuran village couple: bursting into their homes, jihadists from Ahrar al-Sharqiya tied them up and beat them before looting their home. Activists from Jabhat al-Sham also vandalised the Yazidi shrine in the village of Qestela Cindi (Shera sub-district), as well as Kurdish graves, claiming that they do not respect Islamic norms...
In response, attacks on occupants intensify. The “Afrîn Liberation Forces” (ALF) announced on the 6th they had conducted a series of attacks near Shirawa and Jandaris against vehicles and bases of Ferqet al-Hamza (“Hamza Division”) and Jaysh al-Sharqiyah, in retaliation for the war crimes of both groups, kidnappings, torture and killings of several civilians. A local commander of Jaysh al-Sharqiyah and 6 other fighters were wounded (ANHA). On the 13th, the group “Wrath of the Olives” (Ghadib al-Zaytun) claimed responsibility for several attacks that left at least 12 dead among the FSA commandos and wounded 3 policemen and 4 civilians at a border control point near al-Ray (AMN). On the 20th, the ALF announced the death of at least one Turkish soldier and 3 FSA fighters in an ambush between Bastuta and Karzala, where 5 other soldiers were wounded (AMN). On 24 and 25, the ALF eliminated at least seven FSA fighters, the first three near Afrîn by a bomb detonated while their vehicle passed by, the others the next day in an attack on a checkpoint. On the 26th, reports were also received of the death of “Sultan Murad” brigade’s second-in-command, Anwar Al-Hussein, who was killed by a motorcycle bomb (AMN). The harassment of the occupiers will continue: on the 17th, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Military Council declared that once ISIS vanquished, its fighters will focus on the elimination of dormant jihadist cells, but also on the liberation of Afrîn (ANHA).
These abuses and violations of human rights provoke, at last, some international reactions. On the 20th, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament asked by 47 votes to 7 the suspension of the accession negotiations with Turkey, also expressing its “serious concerns” regarding the situation “with regard to respect for Human Rights, the rule of law and freedom of the media” in Turkey itself. On the 28th, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria concluded in a report to “reasonable grounds to believe that members of armed groups in Afrîn have committed war crimes as hostage-taking, cruel treatment, torture and looting” (Report No. A / HRC / 40/70 for the session of 25/02 to 22/03, Advance Edited Version of 31/01/2019: https://www.ohchr.org/Documents /HRBodies/HRCouncil/CoISyria/A_HRC_40_70.pdf.
In the East, the SDF suspended earlier this month their assault on the last ISIS stronghold on the Iraqi border, the village of Baghuz, because of the presence of many civilians used as human shields by the jihadists. After the surrender in 3 weeks of 3,100 fighters, the 500 or 600 who remain, mostly foreigners, seem determined to die in combat. According to the SOHR, since December, more than 36,000 people, mostly women and children, have left the place (AFP).
On the 1st, a bomb wounded a commander of the Manbij Military Council at his home, and later another targeted a SDF patrol near Abriha (Deir Ezzor), causing only material damage (OSDH). The next day, a third killed the driver of a bus carrying teachers to Manbij and injured at least 4 passengers (SOHR). On the 7th, the SDF announced they had arrested 63 dormant cell members in Raqqa.
On the 9th, a spokesman for the SDF, Mustefa Balî, announced the resumption of “fierce fighting” after the launch of the final assault on Baghuz, supported by artillery fire (including those of French batteries CAESAr from the Iraqi side) and Coalition airstrikes. The jihadists resisted fiercely, using hostages, mines and tunnels to slow the progress of the SDF. On the 11th, airstrikes killed 16 civilians attempting to flee to Iraq, and the SDF lost 12 fighters in a rocket counterattack (WKI). According to Coalition spokesman Colonel Sean Ryan, on the 12th, progress was “slow and methodical”; the SDF were clearing the area and trying to locate jihadist tunnels. Hundreds of civilians left the last stronghold shelter on the night of 12th-13th (AFP). After suicide counterattacks repelled on the 14th-15th, the SDF again stopped their offensive on the 16th to allow for new evacuations of civilians. Their spokesman, Adnan Afrîn, said: “We did not expect so many civilians, otherwise we would not have restarted the campaign four days ago.” On the 19th, the offensive was still suspended, but on the 20th, trucks evacuated several hundred men, women and children who would be searched and interrogated to identify the possibly infiltrated jihadists. There were still “a significant number” of civilians in Baghuz, and the SDF continued to seek capitulation of the remaining fighters, who were entrenched in tunnels in the middle of an “ocean of mines” (AFP). The next day, near the village of Shahil, further west, a new car bomb attack using a remotely triggered bomb, killed at least 20 people, including 6 SDF fighters and 14 oil field workers of the Al-Omar oilfield (Deir Ezzor). At the end of the month, fighting around Baghuz was still suspended.
The fate of jihadist prisoners, especially foreigners, continues to be an issue. The Kurdish authorities say they cannot guarantee their continued detention if they themselves are attacked by Turkey, while their countries of origin, facing a hostile public opinion, are reluctant to accept them back... On the 4th, Washington literally gave an earbashing to the Europeans, calling them to repatriate and judge these prisoners on their soil. On the 8th, Syrian Kurdish officials indicated that there was no progress for the repatriation of French prisoners... The Kurdish authorities also proposed the alternative of an international tribunal under the authority of the United Nations to judge the crimes of ISIS. On the 25th, an Iraqi government source announced that 14 French jihadists had been handed over to Iraq by the SDF. A total of 280 suspected jihadists were transferred to Baghdad in coordination with the International Coalition, the fate of some 50 adults and 80 children still held by the SDF remaining in balance (AFP). On the 28th, relatives of French jihadists, denouncing the inaction of Paris, lodged a complaint against France with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Turkey has tried to use this prisoner problem to support its demand for a “security zone” on the Turkish-Syrian border, which it threatens to create itself if it is not heard. The SDF obviously reject an option that would allow Turkey to oust them, defending instead a buffer zone straddling the border, with the presence of Coalition forces on the Turkish side – something that Ankara is unlikely to accept (AFP). Ankara also continued its strong pressure on Washington over Manbij, a city blocking it from carrying out its plans to occupy Northern Syria. The Turkish President keeps talking about “restoring Manbij to his true owners”, the “millions of Syrians who will return home when we secure the East of the Euphrates”. Turkey makes the United States responsible for the delay in the implementation of the roadmap negotiated last June... Around the city, Syrian troops started the installation of observation posts and, from Syrian military source, deployed radio-guided anti-tank missiles, D-30 howitzers and multiple missile launcher systems (Sputnik).
Faced with the Turkish threat, the authorities of the Northern Syrian Federation are trying by all means to delay the departure of American troops while seeking other means of protection. Throughout the month, the future of the Federation has been the subject of an intense diplomatic ballet involving Ankara, Washington, but also Damascus and Moscow. On January 31, the US Senate voted an amendment warning that a “precipitous departure” of troops from both Syria and Afghanistan “would allow terrorists to regroup [...] and create a vacuum that Iran or Russia could fill to the detriment of American interests” (Kurdistan 24). On 1st February, Ilham Ahmed, co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), a political emanation of the SDF, was in Washington, where she was able to meet the American President (Al-Monitor).
At the same time, the American withdrawal agenda remained unclear. On the 7th, the Wall Street Journal was talking about the end of April, but the State Department denied, and General Votel, head of CentCom (Central Command) said on the 8th he had no deadline and considered numerous parameters, including “the protection of our partners, the Kurds” (Washington Examiner). On the same day, Ilhan Ahmed told Breitbart News that the SDC would have preferred not to seek the help of Russia and dictator Bashar al-Assad: “We had to choose [between] Turkish tanks and bombings and to put the forces of the regime at the border between us and Turkey. [...] We would prefer to continue to develop our democratic project”.
On the 12th, Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan said that Washington planned to set up an “observation force” of non-US Coalition troops along the Turkish border: “Small contingents of British and French troops , already on the spot alongside the Americans, would stay in the region with the SDS and perhaps also with US private security forces and UN observers, [and] the United States would provide air cover” (Kurdistan 24). On the 15th at the Munich Security Conference, Senator Lindsey Graham confirmed that the United States had asked their European partners to deploy troops to Syria after their departure, but these, including France and Germany, rejected this proposal: “It is totally out of the question to have French on the ground without the Americans”, a French source told AFP.
The Americans also warned the SDF against any rapprochement with Damascus; General LaCamera, commander of the Coalition, warned: “We will continue to train and arm [the SDF] as long as they remain our partners, [but] once the relationship breaks down [with us], because they come over to the regime, with whom we have no relationship, or with Russia... we will no longer be their partners”. From the opposite side, Bashar al-Assad warned the SDF not to count on Washington: “Nobody will defend you, except the Syrian Arab Army”... “If you are not prepared to defend your country and resist, you will only be slaves of the Ottomans”. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Verchinin, for his part, called the SDF to dialogue: “If there are no more foreign troops in the North-East of Syria, [...] the best solution would be a dialogue between the Kurds and Damascus”, he said from Munich. However, the negotiations stumble on the decentralisation, demanded by the Kurds, refused by Damascus, only ready to apply the law 107 of 2012 which provides for more prerogatives to the municipalities... On the 19th, a counsellor of the Syrian President, Bouthaina Shaaban , questioned in Moscow, rejected any idea of autonomy for the Kurds: “Autonomy means the partition of Syria. We cannot accept it in any way” (Reuters).
On the 17th, a Kurdish representative from Syria, Aldar Khalil, also asked from Paris the Europeans not to abandon the Kurds, particularly appealing to France: “France can make a proposal to the Security Council for our protection: [ ...] an international force between us and the Turks, or protect our skies” (AFP). On the 21st, Ilhan Ahmed reiterated the request for logistical support and protection, saying that she had not received any response from Western countries (Asharq Al-Awsat).
Another concern of the Kurdish authorities in Northern Syria is the possibility of reactivation of the Turkish-Syrian Adana Agreement. Signed on October 20, 1998, it provided for the prohibition of all PKK activity in Syria and a right of pursuit of “terrorists” on the Syrian side for 10 km for Turkish troops, even if they could not remain in the country and had to coordinate with Damascus. In January, Lavrov had envisaged that Turkey and Syria rely on this agreement to jointly ensure the security of their border. On the 20th, Badran Jiakurd, an official of the Syrian Kurdish administration, rejected any reactivation of this agreement, considered as a “declaration of war against the Kurds and the other components of the Syrian North”...
Finally, on the evening of the 21st, in the face of the Europeans’ refusal to take over the relay alone, Washington said it would leave “a small peacekeeping group of about 200 soldiers”, plus a presence on the military base of al-Tanf, in the South of the country (AFP). On the 22nd, the planned number increased to 400. The SDF expressed their approval, hoping that this presence would encourage other members of the Coalition to maintain forces in the country.
The hunger strike initiated since her cell by Leyla Güven on November 8 to protest against the isolation of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, and more generally against the anti-Kurdish crackdown, continued in Turkey as abroad. Despite the sharp increase in repressive government measures, it has continued to expand. Güven herself, released on parole on January 25, continues her fast at home in Diyarbakir, as 250 inmates and more than 300 people in total. On Sunday 3, in front of thousands of demonstrators gathered in Istanbul to support the fasting people at the call of the HDP (Democratic Peoples’, “pro-Kurdish”, party), MP Garo Paylan called on the government to give up “before someone dies” (AFP). On the 5th, several HDP MPs announced they would spend a sleepless night in support of the imprisoned fasters and party members, and HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan said: “The survival of Leyla Güven and of our friends is the responsibility of the country”. Her colleague Sezai Temelli said that the goal of the movement was “to bring democracy, peace and freedom to the country”.
In Marseilles, Kurdish protesters gathered on the 6th in front of the World Trade Centre, where the European Commission offices are located, to demand freedom for Öcalan. In Strasbourg, the fasting journalist Gulistan Ike had to be hospitalized on the 8th (Rojinfo). On the 11th, the Istanbul police barred about 40 HDP MPs expressing their support to Leyla Güven by wearing a bib showing her face from marching from Taksim Square along Istiklal Avenue. After a brief sit-in and a statement by Sezai Temelli, the participants dispersed. On the 13th, Güven, whose health has been steadily deteriorating, had to be briefly placed in intensive care with chest pain and high blood pressure. She returned home by ambulance a few hours later after confirming in writing her refusal to take medication. On the 15th, thousands of demonstrators marched in Qamishli, Rojava, to mark the 20th anniversary of the arrest of Öcalan in Kenya by the Turkish secret service. That same day, a march organized by the HDP to support Güven, started from 15 different cities and converging on Diyarbakir, was prevented by the police from approaching her residence. Only a small group of MPs was allowed to pass through.
On the 20th, the HDP issued a letter in which its former co-president Selahattin Demirtaş, himself imprisoned since 4 November 2016, asks MEPs for their support to end the movement: “The hunger strike of my friends has reached the boundaries of death. Their only request to the Turkish Government is that it immediately put an end to the isolation imposed on Mr. Abdullah Öcalan in the prison of İmralı Island, with a view to the establishment of the rule of law and a political climate of dialogue and peace. This demand, legal and legitimate, is realistic and can make a concrete and direct contribution to security, peace and stability in Turkey, Syria and Europe” (Rûdaw).
Faced with this non-violent movement, the Turkish government continued its repression, targeting not only the members of the opposition, but also the Kurds as such, the journalists, and more broadly all the members of the civil society contesting its policy.
On the 1st of the month was held the 10th hearing of the trial for “propaganda for a terrorist organization” of former MP HDP Gülser Yıldırım. Charged for speeches pronounced between 2012 and 2016, the accused did not attend the hearing, refusing to appear from his cell using the SEGBIS video system, notorious for its poor quality. The prosecution required 18 years and 3 months and adjourned the trial to 4 March, this time asking for the physical presence of the accused (ANF). But the Gaziantep court sentenced Yıldırım to 7 years and 6 months... (WKI) On the 2nd, former HDP MP and Co-Mayor of Diyarbakir Gültan Kışanak, arrested in October 2016, was sentenced to 14 years and 3 months imprisonment for “belonging to a terrorist organization” and “disseminating terrorist propaganda”. Former HDP MP Sebahat Tuncel, who has been on a hunger strike for three weeks and was absent from the hearing, was sentenced to 15 years.
On the same day, Turkish authorities and media announced the arrest in Adana of Dawud Baghestani, a Jewish Kurdish who created in Kurdistan of Iraq the “Israel-Kurds” magazine and institute. Arrested with three other suspects, Baghestani is according to Sabah accused of having served as an intermediary between the PKK on the one hand and Israel and the United States on the other hand... (Ahval, Reuters)
On the 3rd, the Turkish President once again equated the HDP with the PKK in an interview on TRT (public television), declaring that the identity of the two formations was “crystal clear”. The leader of the HDP group in parliament, Ayhan Bilgen, responded the next day that the HDP was “equal to the people”, adding: “If you criminalize a party just for reasons of competition and political ambition, you have nothing to say to society” (Rûdaw).
The government indeed does not seem to have anything to say to society anymore, it looks more preoccupied with silencing it... Hundreds of Kurdish activists were arrested the first week of the month, and on the 5th and the 7th, the police and the army arrested dozens of others: 29 in Ercis (Van) and 13 in Kurtalan (Siirt), including elderly women. In Antalya, a HDP city councillor was jailed for his social media posts. On the 7th, the prosecutor of Mardin demanded the arrest of 16 members of the HDP for propaganda for the PKK, reproaching them for having respected in a rally of January 30 a minute of silence for fighters killed in fights with the Turkish army. After investigation, the police jailed several people, including Ali Sincar, HDP co-chair of Mardin.
On the 12th, ten members of the HDP were arrested in Kocaeli, then the 15th, ten others in Ankara (where the police had thirty mandates), 18 in Istanbul and 3 in Erzurum, in this case for messages on social networks dating from 2014 (Ahval). The raids continued until the 17th, date in which the AFP counted a total of 500 arrests, including the 15th for the anniversary of the capture of Öcalan... The Interior Ministry confirmed the arrest, in 156 different distinct operations, of 735 people accused of links or support to the PKK; 226 were released, 61 formally arrested, 448 were the subject of legal proceedings...
In many cases, arrests and raids have been accompanied by police violence and abuse. On the 5th, the police attacked with tear gas a rally in front of the HDP office in Ceylanpınar (Şanlıurfa) and detained the local candidate Narin Gezgor. On the 9th in Diyarbakir, according to Ahval, the police put their pistols on the temple of 13-year-old children before the eyes of their mother (Mezopotamya). According to the same sources, on the 17th in the Van police station, the police beat up three teenagers aged 14 to 17 they had arrested in the Ipekyolu neighbourhood before plunging their heads in the toilet. One of them, 14, who was arrested while shopping, testified that he partially lost his left eye as a result of the torture. On the 15th, when the support march to Leyla Güven was attacked by the police at its arrival in Diyarbakir, the MP Saliha Aydeniz was violently pushed to the ground and had to be briefly hospitalized for control.
Despite this context of state violence, the HDP has courageously pursued preparations for the March 31st local elections, announcing on the 2nd that in order to facilitate an united opposition vote to Erdoğan, it would not present candidates in Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Adana and Mersin. On the 11th, the justice reactivated the investigations against the different political parties whose name contains the word “Kurdistan”, first targeting 2 of them, the Socialist Party of Kurdistan (PSK) and the Kurdistan Freedom Party (Partiya azadīya Kurdistanê, PAK). Other parties such as the Democratic Party of Kurdistan-Turkey (KDP-T) or the Party “Freedom and Socialism” (Özgürlük ve Sosyalizm Partisi, ÖSP), which recently changed its name to Communist Party of Kurdistan (Partiya Komunista Kurdistanê, not to be confused with the PKK), were not initially formally concerned even though they had previously received warnings (Rûdaw). Then on the 22nd, the prosecutors demanded the closure of 4 parties for violation of the constitution, which protects the “integrity and indivisibility” of the country. A PAK official said his organization would not give in and would go to the European Court of Justice to defend its position: “It could be an opportunity” he said. The KURDSIAD Kurdish Industrialists and Businessmen Association, created in 2014 by businessmen from Diyarbakir, had already been closed in 2017 and its president Abdulbaki Karadeniz had been sentenced to 10 months in prison, but 2 years later, the 8 former members of his office find themselves again in the crosshairs of justice... (Al-Monitor).
These lawsuits happen, as if by chance, while 7 Kurdish organizations, following a process started in January, signed in Diyarbakir on the 21st (International day of the mother tongue) a agreement for a common list in the next local elections. HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan signed the agreement for her party in the PDK-T premises under the Kurdish flag and the portraits of Qazi Mohammed and Mullah Mustafa Barzani. In addition to HDP and PDK-T, the alliance also includes the BDP (Democratic Party of the Regions), the Communist Party of Kurdistan, the Freedom Movement (Hereketa Azadî), the DDKD (Cultural, Democratic and Revolutionary Associations, Devrimci Demokratik Kultur Dernekleri), the Kurdish Democratic Platform and the “Human and Freedom Party”. Two other Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Socialist Party and PAK announced that they would present their own candidates in some Kurdish areas (Rûdaw).
On the same day, Batman City Council, composed entirely of “trustees” appointed by Ankara since the dismissal in 2016 of HDP Mayor Sabri Özdemir and his entire City Council, rejected his candidacy for the next municipal elections, justifying its decision by the charges levelled against him. Özdemir had obtained 56% of the votes in 2014, 26 points before the AKP candidate. His lawyers announced that they would contest the decision (Kurdistan 24). On the 25th, the Turkish President reiterated his intention to replace by “trustees” after the municipal all elected officials who “send to Qandil the means granted by the State” (Ahval). Seizing the opportunity of a joint HDP-CHP meeting during which a member of the HDP had used the term “Kurdistan”, Mr. Erdoğan even accused the next day the CHP (opposition, Kemalist) to “act with Qandil”, asking: “Since when is there a region of this name in Turkey?” (Daily Sabah).
The hunt for the use of the term "Kurdistan" was accompanied by the continuation of the repression of Kurdish cultural events: the “Kurdish Theatre Days” of Adana, organised by the HDP and planned from the 10th to the 13th at the Yachar Kemal Theater, were thus prohibited just before their opening. Among the pieces planned to be represented in Kurdish, besides Le Tartuffe by Molière, there was the stage adaptation of Chaplin’s film The Dictator (1940), Tenê Ez (“Only me”), dedicated to Leyla Güven by the Teatra Jiyana Nû... On the 13th, the director Veyşi Altay and the mayor of Batman Dicle Anter were each sentenced to 2 years and 6 months in prison and a ban on leaving the territory, for “propaganda for a terrorist organization”, to have respectively realised and organised the public projection of Nû Jîn (New Life). This documentary, screened at the Yilmaz Güney Cinema, tells the story of three women from Kobanê at the time of the attack and the resistance against ISIS (Ahval). In a rare good news, the news agency Jin News reported on the 24th that the Kurdish artist and journalist Zehra Doğan, imprisoned since late 2016 for “terrorist propaganda” after drawing in the form of a giant scorpion one Turkish tanks attacking the town of Nusaybin, had been released on parole. The latter, who worked for Jin News before her arrest, announced that she would “return to work” (AFP).
Repression and internal tensions have also “spilled over” abroad. On the 6th, the Turkish Consulate in Hamburg, Germany, confiscated the passport of the boxer Ismail Özen, who came for proceedings. The employees told him they acted on Ankara’s order following the issuing of an arrest warrant against him, without however telling him what he was accused of. Özen said he knew other people who had the same problem, and suggested that his pro-Kurdish activism might be involved. A close associate to Selahattin Demirtaş, he had several times offered his gloves to be sold for the benefit of Syrian refugees or those displaced by violence in Turkey’s Kurdistan (Ahval). On the 12th, the German police raided and closed two publishing houses, Mezopotamien Publishing (North Rhine-Westphalia) and MIR Multimedia (Lower Saxony). Interior Minister Horst Seehofer accused them of serving as a cover for funding the PKK...
In Strasbourg, several demonstrations were held to demand the release of Abdullah Öcalan and support Leyla Güven. On the 15th, three marches of 200 people who had left from the previous week from Luxembourg, Basel and Germany converged on the European Parliament. But the main event was held the next day with several thousand participants (7,000 according to the police, 17,000 according to the organisers), who also chanted slogans reproaching its silence to Europe (AFP).
While these parades had proceeded without major incident, the following week, on the 25th, a group of about 40 demonstrators, their faces masked, entered the forecourt of one of the Council of Europe buildings housing the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), before throwing firecrackers, rockets and stones at the windows and attacking the building’s window with mallets. This is the third similar incident since the summer of 2018 (Le Figaro). The CPT is accused by some activists of having betrayed its role by not adequately denouncing Öcalan’s conditions of detention, which clearly do not meet the so-called “Mandela” criteria adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2015. The amount of damage was estimated at € 120,000. 17 people were arrested and brought to justice on the 27th. The trial was sent back to April 4th (Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace). In contrast, the 14 Strasbourg fasting players, including HDP MP Dilek Öcalan, continued their peaceful movement, exceeding 70 days without food.
(Box) What are the “Mandela Rules”?
The “Mandela Rules”, named in tribute to Nelson Mandela, a political prisoner who has been in detention for 27 years, are indicative rules adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2015 as a revised form of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Protection of Human Rights. treatment of detainees "(English: https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N15/295/07/PDF/N1529507.pdf?OpenElement, English: https: // documents-dds -ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N15/295/06/PDF/N1529506.pdf?OpenElement).
Rules 58 to 63 relate to contact with the outside world. Rule 58 states that “detainees shall be allowed, under the necessary supervision, to communicate with their family and friends at regular intervals”, either “by correspondence”, written or digital, or “by receiving visits”. According to Rule 61, “detainees must be able to receive the visit of a legal counsel of their choice or a legal aid provider [...]”.
Rules 36 to 46 concern “Restrictions, Discipline and Sanctions”, of which Rules 43 and 44 deal with solitary confinement. Rule 44 defines solitary confinement as “the isolation of an inmate for 22 hours a day or more, without real human contact”, and prolonged solitary confinement as “solitary confinement for a period of more than 15 consecutive days”. Rule 43 states that “1- [...] The following practices, in particular, are prohibited: (a) Isolation for an indefinite period; (b) Extended cell isolation; [...] 3- Disciplinary sanctions or restrictive measures should not consist of a ban on contact with the family. Contacts with the family can only be restricted for a limited period of time, when strictly necessary to maintain order and security.”
Finally, Rule 45 states that “solitary confinement shall only be used as a last resort in exceptional cases, for as short a time as possible, under independent supervision and only with the authorization of a competent authority. It must not be imposed because of the nature of the prisoner’s sentence”.
We are far from the practices observed in Turkey...
Tahir Elçi, a lawyer who dedicated his life to defending human rights, especially those of the Kurds, was assassinated on November 28, 2015 in the middle of a press conference he was giving in the streets of the medieval district of Diyarbakir to demand the end of the violence. At that time, the peace process between the government and the PKK collapsed and the Turkish security forces destroyed Kurdish cities in the country. After his funeral, attended by thousands of people, the situation in Diyarbakir has reached such a level of violence that a large part of this district where he had just given his press conference was razed by the Turkish security forces...
After the assassination, the government immediately accused the PKK, a party of which several members were on the scene and had exchanged fire with the police. The investigation did not yield more results than all those launched in the 90s to supposedly elucidate the many murders of Kurdish personalities... Moreover, many witnesses were shocked to note that the police had taken almost no precaution to prevent access to the crime scene or to protect the exhibits. This lack of seriousness in the conduct of the investigation and its lack of results, which recalled the darkest years of Ankara’s “dirty war” against Kurdish rebels, fuelled suspicions against the State...
In 2016, the Diyarbakir Bar appealed to Forensic Architecture, a British agency specialising in crime scene investigations and analysis, which produced re-enactments that could be used by Human Rights groups or International prosecutors. The agency conducted its own investigations, which it reported last December to the Diyarbakir prosecutor, hoping to force the Turkish State to restart its own investigation. Last February, while Turkey did not give any sign of taking into account these materials, Forensic Architecture made public its report by diffusing it in English and Turkish on the site "Open democracy" (https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/cgi-crime-scene-reconstruction-opens-new-leads-in-tahir-elci-killing/). Then on the 8th of this month, in coordination with the Bar of Diyarbakir, of which Elçi had been the President, the agency presented its conclusions in the same city where he had been assassinated, showing in particular a video of about twenty minutes reconstituting in 3D the unfolding of the facts, realised using CCTV videos and footage taken by journalists and a policeman on the spot.
From their work, the investigators conclude that the PKK militants, exclusively implicated by the authorities, “cannot have fired the shots that killed Elçi”. They also reject the argument that the lawyer was killed by a long-range weapon. According to the report, “this elimination process suggests that one of the officers who fired during the incident may have caused the fatal blow.” These are three police officers visible in the images, and a video that had circulated widely on the internet after the assassination had already given rise to suspicions for at least one of them. The chairman of Diyarbakir Bar, Cihan Aydın, told AFP: “According to this report, three police officers are strongly suspected”...
Unfortunately, it is only too likely that these new elements will be ignored by Turkish justice, more motivated to fabricate evidence against dissidents...
At the end of February, the Iraqi government was still incomplete, with four ministers still to be named. The two largest Shia blocks of parliament, Moqtada Sadr and Haider al-Abadi’s Sayrûn, and Hadi al-Amiri and Nouri al-Maliki’s Fatih, close to the Hashd al-Shaabi militias, each with their own candidates, particularly for the Ministry of the Interior, could not find a compromise. They announced on the 10th that they would meet quickly to end the blockade (Rûdaw), but afterwards nothing came forward, even after the UN called on the 17th the country to complete its government as soon as possible. The Sunni parties, meanwhile, are fighting over the Ministry of Defence...
Once the federal budget officially approved on the 4th by President Barham Salih, the Ministry of Commerce announced on the 9th that it would no longer be able to provide the monthly food allowance distributed to citizens holding a ration card: rice, sugar, flour, oil and heating fuel. The system dates back to 1996 and the “Oil-for-Food” plan, itself a heir to a program of the 1980s... The ration cards, the only reliable demographic data, while the last census covering the whole country dates back to 1987 (the one of 1997 had not covered Kurdistan), had even recently served to establish the electoral list in Kurdistan. With the end of this state economic support to the Iraqis, the country truly enters a new era...
Although the federal government is incomplete and the formation of a new Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is still waiting a pending KDP-PUK agreement, the normalisation of Baghdad-Erbil relations still seems to be progressing. On the 3rd, KRG Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani met with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, followed on the 7th by KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani. On the 8th, the General Customs Office announced that the decision to abolish internal customs posts taken last month would apply from the 17th on. Several Baghdad-Erbil meetings had unified the procedures for all Iraqi customs posts (including for customs documents, which will become bilingual Kurdish-Arabic) and remove the internal checkpoints of Fayda (between Dohuk and Mosul), Shirawa (North of Kirkuk) and Laylan (East of Kirkuk), which had been set up after the recovery by the Iraqi army of territories disputed in October 2017 (Rûdaw). On the 16th, Kurdistan 24 confirmed on location the evacuation of the Erbil-Kirkuk post and the unchecked passage of the goods. However, on the 18th, Rûdaw reported that the provincial authorities of Mosul did not allow the goods to pass from Dohuk. According to a Dohuk customs official, Izzat Fatah, more than 3,000 trucks were blocked due to the corruption of “some security officials”, unhappy with having to give up their illegal withdrawals from the drivers...
In Kurdistan, discussions between PUK and KDP to find a government agreement replacing their 2006 “Strategic Agreement” stumbled on Kirkuk, under martial law by Baghdad since mid-October 2017. The KDP, which left the province, that it considers as occupied, wants first to reach a government agreement and to address the question of Kirkuk afterwards. The PUK, still present in Kirkuk, wants to include in the agreement on the KRG a procedure for the appointment of a new governor who would allow to return the province to a civil governance...
On the 5th February, a KDP-PUK meeting was mainly used to set up the organisation of future meetings and to appoint a “Joint Committee” tasked to elaborate the programme of government. The date of the 18th was chosen for the second session of Parliament as well as for that of the Kirkuk Provincial Council. Parliament will have to elect its President and Vice-Presidents on this day.
For Kirkuk, KDP spokesman Mahmoud Mohammed has left choice of the new governor to an upcoming KDP-PUK agreement, saying there should also be an agreement with Baghdad that satisfies all local communities. Particularly delicate point, the meeting place of the Council. It has not met since the resumption of control by Baghdad, as some of its members, including its president Rebwar Talabani, have fled the city and make precisely their return conditional to the re-establishment of civil governance... The two Kurdish parties proposed that the meeting be held in Erbil, but on the 7th, the Arab and Turkmen factions of the Council declared “illegal” any meeting held outside Kirkuk. Some PUK officials also rejected the idea.
On the 9th, the interim President as elder member of Parliament, Reving Hruri, indicated that the two parties had agreed on the distribution of posts: the PUK will have the Presidency of the Parliament, the KDP the first Vice-Presidency, the second Vice-President being a member of a minority, Christian or Turkmen. On the 14th, the Turkmen Development Party announced that it had received the second Vice-Presidency, the incumbent of which would be decided in agreement with the other three parties. On the 18th, the Turkmens agreed that two of their deputies would succeed each other to the position, each for two years. On the 15th, after a new KDP-PUK meeting held in Suleimaniyeh, the two spokesmen Mahmoud Mohammed (KDP) and Saadi Pira (PUK) announced a final agreement, based on mutual compromises, on the formation of the KRG, the governor of Kirkuk, and the Presidency of the Region. Regarding the meeting of the Kirkuk Provincial Council, the Council itself would determine its meeting place for the 18th...
However, the next day, the same disagreements resurfaced. On the 18th, Mahmoud Mohammed wrote on the official website of the KDP: “We believe that the situation in Kirkuk and the other disputed areas covered by Article 140 should be normalized and that an agreement with the Iraqi government should be reached, then a governor for the city would be appointed. But the PUK thinks that a governor should be appointed first and that the situation of Kirkuk normalized after.” In Kirkuk, PUK deputy head Rawand Mahmoud said, “We believe that if we reactivate the Provincial Council and choose a governor, 70 percent of the problems in Kirkuk will be resolved. [...] We can then ask Iraq to withdraw its military presence. " Hardening the tone, Ala Talabani, MP and member of the PUK Board of Directors, said: "The three issues - the session of Parliament, Kirkuk and [relations with] Baghdad - must be addressed together. [...] We will not sign an agreement until the Kirkuk issue is settled "...
At the same time, Goran and the PDK came to a separate agreement. According to Kwestan Mohammed, one of Goran’s leaders, the movement had agreed to participate in the government, subject to significant reforms in the functioning of Parliament, including that the program of government be submitted and voted in Parliament, thus rendering the KRG responsible of its implementation before it (Rûdaw).
After the suspension of the agreement, the PUK requested a 24-hour postponement of the parliamentary session of the 18th. The refusal of the KDP resulted in the boycott of the session by the PUK, whose deputies left the room. KDP MP Vala Farid was “temporarily” elected Speaker of the Parliament (AFP), with the first Vice-Presidency going to Heman Hewrami (KDP). However, all contacts were not cut between the two formations: the head of the PDK block in the Parliament, Umed Khoshnaw, indicated that once an agreement was reached, the KDP would withdraw its President and that the post would return as planned to the PUK (Kurdistan 24). PUK spokesman Latif Sheikh Omar said in a press conference that the party would respect the agreement of 5th February with the KDP. Then, on the 23rd, Massud Barzani, President of the KDP, wrote a conciliatory letter to Kosrat Rasul, the PUK Acting Secretary General, proposing a new meeting between the two Political Bureaus to “solve the disagreements”. Rassoul replied that he was ready to resume the dialogue... PUK MPs, however, continued their boycott on the 26th for the election of the Law Commission, the head of the PUK bloc, Begard Talabani, declaring: “To resume our participation [...], we are waiting for the agreement between the two Political Bureaus”. 2 seats of the 9 out of 9 Law Commission were left vacant for the PUK...
The parliament of Erbil will have to become quickly fully functional again to address two extremely important issues: the reactivation of the position of President of the Region, suspended since 2017, with its prerogatives divided between Prime Minister and President of Parliament, and the drafting of a Constitution for the Kurdistan Region…
In Kirkuk, the meeting of the Provincial Council of the 18th was delayed, also because of disagreements between KDP and PUK. The PUK wanted it to be held in Kirkuk, but the KDP insisted on Erbil and, moreover, rejected the PUK candidate for the post of governor... (Kurdistan 24)
Another problem requiring the attention of both Baghdad and Erbil, security in the disputed territories, where ISIS jihadists, particularly in the mountains of Hamrîn, Makhoul and Qarachogh, have been becoming active again. On the 3rd, the International Coalition bombed their positions in the Hamrîn and Makhoul mountains (ISHM). On the 4th, Garmiyan Security announced that it had arrested four jihadist leaders suspected of recent attacks in Hawija, Hamrîn and Mosul. On the 11th, Hashd al-Shaabi militiamen in Khanaqin killed a man who, according to them, was planning a suicide attack on their cantonments (Kurdistan 24). On the 19th, two officers were killed in an attack on a checkpoint in Qayyarah (Nineveh), while four of the attackers were also killed. The next day, an Hashd officer was killed in an attack on the South al-Wasti neighbourhood of Kirkuk and another militiaman wounded. Also on the 20th, Kurdistan 24 reported several kidnappings during the previous week in Anbar Province (ISHM). On the 24th, the jihadists attacked Sayf Saad village in Qara Tapa district, south of Kirkuk. According to a local PUK official, they exchanged rocket fire with the residents, eventually withdrawing, leaving one villager wounded and another missing, probably kidnapped (Kurdistan 24).
On the 15th, in the session of the United Nations Security Council devoted to the security and humanitarian situation in Iraq, the head of the Iraq Assistance Mission (UNAMI), Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, put the focus on the growth of jihadist networks and their lingering threat to Iraq and its neighbours (ISHM).
Confronted to a deteriorating security, Baghdad and Erbil have resumed talks to improve military coordination in disputed territories. On the 4th, an Iraqi military delegation led by the Deputy Chief of Staff was received at Erbil Ministry of Pechmerga Affairs. A “Supreme Committee” and five other Joint Committees were established with authority to decide on joint operations. Their first job will be to take stock of the situation on the ground, in order to decide where joint forces are needed (Rûdaw). On the 12th, small Pechmerga units were temporarily deployed between Kifri and Tuz Khurmatu to respond to the increase of ISIS activity in this area. Regarding Kirkuk, no deployment of pechmerga has taken place, as a Baghdad-Erbil agreement remains to be found in this regard (WKI). On the 9th, Kirkuk interim governor Rakan Said al-Jaburi said he had not been informed of such an agreement, adding that the security situation was “stable”. However, on the 10th, a Kurdish policeman was killed by a Hashd al-Shaabi official who then fled the city to escape arrest, and on the evening of 11th, strangers aboard a vehicle threw a grenade at the home of the Kurdish police chief of the Azadi district, which did only material damage (Rûdaw). On the 22nd, Rûdaw announced the creation in Kirkuk of a Joint Command between various security forces, excluding the Pechmergas, and whose headquarters were to be in the former KDP office in the city! The Ministry of Defence denied the news the next day, assuring that meetings continued with the Pechmerga.
At the same time, the Kurds have continued to denounce the Arabization of disputed territories. The former head of Commission for the Article 140 in Khanaqin, Adnan Mansour, said on the 1st that since the takeover of the area by the Iraqi army, he had not been able to return to his home. Khanaqin City Council chief Samir Nur complained that 57 Arab families had been allowed to move to the city and that demographic changes had caused the closure of several Kurdish schools (Rûdaw).
Lastly, it is to be noted that former French President François Hollande visited Erbil as the main guest of the Shifa Girdî Award ceremony. This award, named in honour of the Kurdish journalist from Rûdaw killed in Mosul on February 25, 2017 while covering the battle to reclaim this city from ISIS, is awarded each year to a journalist by a committee of members of this profession. This year it was awarded to Lebanese journalist Jenan Moussa. François Hollande in his speech recalled his presence in Erbil in 2014, paid tribute to the pechmerga who fought ISIS, and warned of the risk of resurgence of the jihadist group. He was received the next day by the KRG Prime Minister.
The murders of Kurdish cross-border porters, the kolbars, are continuing in Kurdistan of Iran. The regime’s repressive forces consider them to be smugglers and shoot at them without warning, while, as they are unarmed, they pose no danger... On 1st February, Iranian border guards ambushed a group of kolbars near Baneh, seriously wounding one of them. Then on February 5th, they wounded two others, one near Armardeh border post, between Baneh and Iraqi Kurdistan, the other near Sardasht, a city near which they also shot dead several horses used by porters. Finally, on the 4th, between Piranshahr and Hadji Omaran (on the Iraqi Kurdistan side), a kolbar lost a leg on a mine dating from the Iran-Iraq war (WKI).
This ongoing violence eventually elicited a reaction from a Kurdish deputy in the Iranian parliament, Rassoul Khizir, who said on the 16th that, since Iran’s economic situation was deteriorating due to US sanctions, and inflation created hardship for the inhabitants of the border provinces, it was necessary to open the borders to relieve them: “While we are under blockade, do not impose to ourselves another blockade. Now is the best time to reopen borders”, he said. But the next day, the Human Rights organization Hangaw reported that another kolbar had been murdered near Baneh, and another injured in Piranshahr (Rûdaw)... Another had to be hospitalised, frozen in the mountain near Kermanshah. On the 19th, since the beginning of the year, there had been 12 kolbars dead and 28 wounded (WKI). On the 24th, the American newspaper Foreign Policy published a report detailing the conditions of these porters (https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/02/24/for-kurdish-smugglers-iran-sanctions-are-starting-to-bite/) whereas, according to the official Iranian figures themselves, the Kurdish province of Kermanshah is with 21.6% suffering of the country’s highest unemployment rate...
Poor economic conditions and non-payment of wages by the state continue to provoke social movements. After several strikes since the beginning of the year, the taxi drivers of Bokan joined the movement on the 5th, and the municipal employees of Kermanshah gathered on the 9th in front of the City Hall to ask for their salaries, not received since 3 months, as for 8 months of overtime (WKI). According to the Kurdistan Human Rights Organization (KMMK), municipal employees of Sawlawa, who have not been paid for two months, also protested, and on the 14th, the teachers of six cities in Kurdistan, including Sanandadj, Urumieh and Kermanshah, gathered in front of their respective Education Directorates to demand their salaries, the release of political prisoners and the end of discriminatory educational policies. According to KMMK, several participants in these protests were arrested and held incommunicado by the Security in Urumieh, as well as a well-known teacher trade unionist, Mokhtar Assadi, in Sanandadj (WKI). Already arrested several times for defending the rights of teachers, Assadi had remained detained for one year in Teheran Evin prison on charges of anti-government propaganda, before being released in July (VOA).
Among the discriminations suffered by the Kurds is the one to which their language is submitted. A few days before the International Mother Language Day, scheduled for 21st February, several political parties representing linguistic minorities in Iran, including the Democratic Party of Kurdistan of Iran (PDKI), sent an open letter to the Director-General of UNESCO to denounce linguistic discrimination and call for better monitoring and further pressure on Tehran.
In addition to the arrests that respond to social movements, the regime’s security also represses members of banned political parties and has been particularly targeting for some time the environmental activists. The fact is that since the destructions carried out by the authorities, which according to KMMK have made agreements with unscrupulous companies to carry out massive tree cutting in the forests of the Saqqez region, environmental issues are generating growing tensions in Kurdistan. Many conservationists who oppose these quasi-mafia trafficking likely to spread in other parts of Kurdistan are harassed and arrested under the charge of “espionage”.
The KMMK has recorded 42 arrests of Kurds since the beginning of the year. On February 2nd, a Sunni Kurdish inmate sentenced to death went on a hunger strike at Zahedan Prison after being held in solitary confinement. On the 6th, the imam of a village near Urumieh was arrested after criticising the regime in his preaching. On the 9th, Amnesty International condemned the “unnecessary and excessive” use of violence in Iranian prisons. In the Shahr-e-Rey women’s prison near Tehran, several detainees who had protested on the 7th the conditions of detention and the lack of care provided to one of them had to be hospitalised after being exposed to tear gas. Some had also knocked on the cell door with their fists after learning that they were not among the amnestied prisoners on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Republic (Rûdaw). On the 12th, three young Kurds from Piranshahr were sentenced to several months to one year in prison for “attempting to disrupt national security” and links to Kurdish parties. In Ilam, a Kurdish poet was prosecuted for “insults to sacred people” (WKI).
On the 14th February, 10 Kurdish activists, all arrested within a few days in early January, were still detained in the Intelligence Ministry detention centre in Sanandaj and denied contact with their families and lawyers. They are 8 members of the “Iranian National Unity Party”, whose program includes the environment, and 2 environmentalists, including Sirwan Ghorbani, arrested at home and taken by the police a bag on the head. Among those arrested is also lawyer Farhad Mohammadi. By February 5th, all had been allowed to make only a single phone call to their families. In a January 8 interview with the official IRNA agency, a provincial security official accused them of taking part, under the guise of environmental protection activities, in criminal activities “in connection with counter-revolutionary groups”, and particularly to the July 2018 murder of an Iranian Red Crescent ambulance driver... On January 25th, a group of 59 lawyers called for the release of these prisoners, especially their colleague Mohammadi. At least 8 Human Rights lawyers in Iran are jailed, including Nasrin Sotudeh, a defender of many women who refused to wear the veil in public. Arrested environmental activists also include Sepideh Kashani, a former adviser on the activities of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
On the 16th , Civil Rights activist and conservationist Sahar Kazemi was sentenced to 5 years in prison by the Revolutionary Court of Sanandadj the same day her husband, Madeh Fat’hi, was released on bail of 3 months incarceration in isolation. She immediately appealed. Since two years, Sahar Kazemi had been frequently summoned for interrogation to the Sanandadj Security Bureau. Arrested at her home by security agents last August, she was released on parole on 24th November, before being arrested again on 2nd of December.
On the 22nd, Amnesty International called on Iran to suspend the execution of 3 teenagers convicted of crimes committed while still underage. One of them is sentenced for “enmity against God”, a charge used to justify an execution on dubious grounds, while the other two are charged with murder. The first, then 17, was further tortured by means of electric shocks to extort “confession”. Another young man was arrested in 2014 when he was only 15; he had reportedly stabbed one of his teachers. Recognised psychologically unstable, he was sentenced to 3 years in prison before the Supreme Court replaced this verdict with a death sentence in January 2017. The latter had also stabbed another person while he was drunk... (Rûdaw)
Finally, a 20-year-old Iranian Kurdish sportswoman, Arezu Miraki, from Sanandaj, was released on the 24th after 2 weeks in prison in that city. Belonging to Soran’s kick-boxing team in Iraqi Kurdistan, she had been arrested on her return to Iran after a competition held in that city in late 2018. According to her family, she was arrested for brandishing Kurdistan flag after defeating an Iranian opponent, and posting photos of the moment on social media. She were reportedly freed after the leaders of the Iranian and Kurdistan Region Kick-Boxing Federations intervened. Miraki, however, remains banned from visiting Iraqi Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24).
Abroad, the European Union has put in place a mechanism that could bypass US sanctions, but also criticized Tehran on February 1st for its ballistic missile program and called for the end of its “hostile activities” on the territory of several of its Member States and for the respect for the rights of women and minorities. This critical statement follows last month’s sanctions against intelligence services and several Iranian nationals accused of attacking or attempting to attack opponents in the Union’s territory...
The Kurdistan Regional Government sounded the alarm on 14th February in a statement posted on its website (http://cabinet.gov.krd/a/d.aspx?s=040000&l=12&a=57579): in 2018 , only 32,000 displaced people (IDP) or refugees have been able to return home on about 1.5 million who had taken refuge in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq since the bursting in of ISIS in the summer of 2014: according to the Head of the KRG crisis coordination centre, Hosheng Muhammad, only 27,671 displaced and 4,380 Syrian refugees left the Region during 2018. This low number of returns is partly explained by the persistence of security problems in the places of origin, the absence of services, and, for Syria, the continuation of the war...
In addition, IDPs and refugees continued to flee their homes in 2018, as 28,487 Iraqis – mostly from Mosul (Nineveh) and 3,795 Syrian nationals sought refuge in Kurdistan, almost completely offsetting departures... The Kurdistan Region, with a population of about 4.5 million, now hosts 1,411,532 displaced persons and refugees, including 1,127,400 Iraqi IDPs and 249,639 Syrian refugees. In January, 38 camps were established in the Region. Meeting the basic needs of such a large number of people poses considerable logistical and financial problems, all the more so since the choice of the KRG has been, and remains, to make no discrimination, neither in comparison to the citizens of Kurdistan, nor among the persons accommodated themselves, according to their origins, religion or political affiliation. Hosheng Muhammad said that despite the serious financial crisis the KRG has been experiencing since a number of years, it has been able to provide a large part of all the types of needs including security, shelter, water, electricity, health, education, camp management, which cost $ 162 million a month, or $ 1.9 billion a year. Muhammad added that 65% of the camp residents had no income and depended entirely on the help of the KRG, UN agencies and NGOs, and that, despite the very important efforts they made to assist the GRK, UN agencies and local and international NGOs, and the international community in general, have been able to provide only 25% of the needs, 75% of which remain the responsibility of the KRG. In addition, once the victory against ISIS announced by the Iraqi government on December 9, 2017, the number of international organisations present in the camps decreased significantly...
Muhammad’s figures roughly correspond to those published by the KRG Ministry of the Interior Crisis Coordination Centre in its “dashboard” summarizing the situation in mid-January 2019 (http://jcc.gov.krd/contents/files/21-02-2019/1550733105.Humanitarian%20Situational%20Report%20(1)%20for%20Janaury%202019%20%20Kurdistan%20Region%20of%20Iraq.pdf), which counts 1,509,373 displaced and registered refugees. This document specifies that, contrary to popular belief, the majority of the displaced and refugees are hosted by their communities already present in Kurdistan of Iraq, while only 37% live in the camps ...
For its part, the US International Aid Agency USAID (US Agency for International Development) estimated on February 9th, in its first Complex Emergency Fact Sheet on Iraq for the year, that 6.7 million people in Iraq would require humanitarian assistance during 2019 (https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/02.08.19%20-%20USG%20Iraq%20Complex%20Emergency%20Fact%20Sheet%20%231.pdf). It should be noted that this report puts the number of displaced throughout Iraq at 1.8 million, according to the figures presented on its website by the International Organization for Migration of the United Nations (IOM), also mentioned on the 6th by Pete Mauer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross. This confirms that the Kurdistan Region hosts the largest number of IDPs and refugees in the country... Finally, UNICEF has counted 825,000 children among the IDPs, one third of whom are in camps (Kurdistan 24).
The IOM, for its part, reports in its January 2nd report (Integrated Location Assessment III, English or Arabic, https://iraq.iom.int/publications/integrated-location-assessment-ila-iii) that return rates were already significantly lower last summer in the North of the country: 83% for the displaced people from Anbar, against only 68% and 55% respectively for those from Salah al-Din and Ninewa (Mosul)... Kurdistan 24 reported on the 4th February the persistence of ISIS attacks in the latter province, which deterred the IDPs from returning, as well as the attitude of some members of the Shi’a Hashd al-Shaabi militias against the displaced Sunnis. According to Rûdaw, another reason for this low rate of return is the drop in funding received by NGOs likely to help the displaced to return, and the decrease in the number of NGOs present in the camps, which corroborates the statements of Hosheng Muhammad.
We have learned this month with deep sadness the death, on the evening of the 20th of February, of Ambassador Bernard Dorin, a long-time friend of the Kurdish cause and people, at the age of 89 following a long illness.
Born on 25 August 1929 into a military family of Gaullist tradition, Bernard Dorin made brilliant studies at the French National Political Science Institute “Sciences Po” and National Administration Institute “ENA”, from which he graduated with the best grades in 1956. He then opted for the diplomatic career, which almost came to a premature end... because of the Kurds. In fact, a young diplomat at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (“Quai d’Orsay”), he read a decision to sell the British Hawker-Siddeley AV-8 Harrier bombers to the Baghdad regime, then at war with the Kurdish resistance. London informs Paris and seeks its approval (a diplomatic formality). In charge of the case, Bernard Dorin tried to convince the Secretary General of the Quai d’Orsay to reject it because these planes were likely to be used in the bombing of Kurdistan populations. He does not succeed and his insistence leads to his dismissal from his position. He then went to Kurdistan and joined the “maquis” of General Barzani where he served for some time as a military instructor. Upon his return, he ended up being reinstated at the Quai d’Orsay after a passage noticed by the Cabinet of Alain Peyrefitte, Minister of Information of General de Gaulle.
A passionate activist of the Francophonie, Bernard Dorin was also one of the artisans of the privileged relationship between France and Quebec. Closely associated with the preparation and progress of the famous journey of General De Gaulle in the “Beautiful Province” in July 1967, he ensures that the French President is not confined to official activities, and after this trip, he plays a decisive role in the preparation of the text of the Franco-Quebec agreements known as “Peyrefitte-Johnson”. In 1969, he will be one of the founding members of the Association France-Québec.
Besides, his diplomatic career was brilliant. He was appointed Ambassador of France to Haiti at the age of 42, then to South Africa, Brazil, Japan and finally to London. Kurdish officials recall that at a reception in honour of visiting Massoud Barzani in Britain in 1993, he had the Kurdistan flag hoisted on his embassy, which earned him again some problems with the Quai d’Orsay...
At the end of the 1960s, Bernard Dorin, together with his friend Emir Kamuran Bédir Khan, and the support of French intellectuals such as Vladimir Jankélevich and Emmanuel de la Vigerie, had created a relief association for Kurdish populations. Upon his return to Paris in 1976 he participated discreetly in the activities of the Association France-Kurdistan created in 1974, with the support of illustrious intellectuals like Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Lawrence Schwartz, Pierre Vidal-Naquet, Maxime Rodinson... Now Director of the Francophonie at the Quai d’Orsay, he initiated a discreet scholarship program for Kurdish students, a program that was resumed and expanded after the creation of the Kurdish Institute, under the presidency of François Mitterrand.
Wherever Bernard Dorin was stationed, he also considered himself the ambassador of the Kurdish cause, lecturing in universities, giving interviews in the press to publicize the Kurdish cause. After his retirement, he continued to campaign for the Kurds by supporting the actions of the Kurdish Institute and the Danielle Mitterrand Foundation. He travelled twice to Iraqi Kurdistan where he received a very cordial welcome. He wanted to create a diplomatic academy to train young Kurdish cadres. He has, until his last days, closely followed the situation of Kurdistan. In an interview with Kendal Nezan on February 14th, he was indignant at the abandonment by the Western allies of Syrian Kurdish fighters and took the latest news from Kurdistan and... Quebec. Kurdistan and Quebec two causes, two battles for independence dear to his heart that he has supported throughout his life.
Passionate about history, geography, literature, polyglot but in love with the French language and ardent defender of “francophonie”, Bernard Dorin chaired the association “Avenir de la langue française”. He had published several books, including in 2005 a book called Les Kurdes – Destin héroïque, destin tragique (“The Kurds –Heroic and Tragic destiny”), and in 2001, a book of memories, Appelez-moi Excellence (“Call Me Excellence”), where he told the highlights of his diplomatic career – not without jeering at his fellow followers of “His Majesty the Status Quo”. Decorated in 2009 with the distinction of Commander of the “Legion of Honour” (Légion d’Honneur) by the French Prime Minister, he was also a recipient of the Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order and the Order of Francophones of America.
With his disappearance, the Kurdish people lost a great friend of the difficult days, and France a diplomat of high level, courageous, unconventional, lettered and visionary.