In Rojava, the main piece of news this month has been the announcement on the 23rd of the fall to the hands of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) of the last village held by ISIS in Syria, Baghuz. If it formally puts an end to the territorial existence of the “Caliphate”, the same cannot be said for ISIS itself, whose conversion into a non-territorialised clandestine organization has begun...
In Afrin, attacks against pro-Turkish jihadists and mercenaries continued. Al-Monitor reported on 4th July on the investigations conducted by the online media Bellingcat into the ongoing “low-intensity insurgency” in the canton (https://www.bellingcat.com/news/mena/2019/03/01/wrath-of-the-olives-tracking-the-afrin-insurgency-through-social-media/). In addition to the YPGs themselves, which are less active, and with many unclaimed attacks, 2 groups appear: “Wrath of the Olives” (Ghadab al-Zaytoun) and “Afrin Liberation Forces” (HRE, Hêzên Rizgariya Efrînê), who together have been responsible for more than 220 attacks since the invasion, whose death toll Bellingcat estimates at least to 10 Turkish soldiers and more than 100 jihadists killed... On the 1st of the month, an improvised explosive device, detonated as Syrian Free Army fighters passed by, killed 3 people near Al-Bab, an ambush claimed by the HRE (Hawar). Conversely, Turkish fire targeted without loss the positions of the Al-Bab military council, affiliated with the SDF. According to local sources, some 70 Turkish military vehicles have been deployed in this area in front of the SDF lines. On the 4th, the HRE claimed several actions, including the death of 8 jihadists in a shooting incident near Azaz on March 1st, and 4 others in a vehicle explosion that also injured 3 people. The same statement also claimed the death on March 2 north of Aleppo of 6 fighters of the “Syrian National Army” (despite its name a creation of Turkey). On the 9th, the explosion of a motorcycle, unclaimed, killed 3 people and injured 1 in Jerablous, controlled by pro-Turkish ASL factions.
On the 18th, “Wrath of the Olives” claimed the death of 3 Turkish soldiers in Ajil, a village near al-Bab, in the explosion of a bomb triggered as their convoy was passing by (ANF). On the 19th, the anniversary of the Turkish invasion, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Syria and abroad in protest. On the 19th, according to local sources, pro-Turkish authorities in Afrin distributed leaflets in Turkish and Arabic prohibiting the celebration of Newrouz. On the 20th, the HRE announced that they had carried out 3 attacks in Afrin, one of which, with half a dozen jihadists killed, could be the deadliest since the invasion (AMN). In another one, a sniper killed at least one FSA fighter on a checkpoint. On the 31st December, the Turkish Ministry of Defense confirmed the death of a soldier in the Shera district in fire exchange with “terrorists”. According to the SOHR, the attack, which also wounded another soldier, was carried out by the YPG. The Turkish army retaliated with more than 150 projectiles (Rûdaw). It should be noted that several unclaimed attacks resulting in the death of civilians and kidnappings followed by executions of civilians accused of being collaborators of the occupants have been condemned by the YPG, which have pointed the finger at the Turkish MIT (secret service).
After the publication at the end of February of a report by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria documenting the abuses of jihadists in Afrin (arbitrary detention, abductions, torture, etc), the US State Department in turn documented violations committed in Afrin by the Turkish army and its jihadist auxiliaries. The 2018 Human Rights Report, published on the 14th (https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/289474.pdf), documents extremely serious violations of international law, such as the murder of several civilians in the al-Mahmudiya neighbourhood at the time of the takeover of the city on the 16 March 2018, killed in a strike on a market, then during its occupation, the looting and confiscation of Kurdish families’ homes and the forced displacement of many civilians. According to several testimonies, the Turkish military, often present, did nothing to prevent looting or confiscation of Yezidi residences, churches and temples, and subsequent complaints to the pro-Turkish military police were unsuccessful (Kurdistan 24). According to a report published on 21 September by the Asia Times, Afrin, formerly entirely Kurdish, after the expulsions or flight of some of its inhabitants and their replacement by Arab rebels, is now only half Kurdish. Those who stayed are afraid and are not allowed to sell their olives in Syria (Ahval).
Turkey is also continuing to exert pressure on the United States over its relations with the PYD. On the 2nd, the Anatolia state agency accused the Americans of having organised an exchange agreement between PYD and ISIS in Baghuz allowing jihadists and their families to remain in camps controlled by the Kurds, from where, if they wish so, they could reach Syrian areas under Turkish control, such as Afrin, Azaz or Jerablous, or even enter Turkey with false passports (Ahval)! In Manbij, City Security announced that it had dismantled a Turkish-backed jihadist cell, uncovering explosives and other equipment (WKI). Despite this, a suicide attack on the 9th near the city targeted a joint patrol between GIs and fighters of the Manbij Military Council (MMC), resulting in 8 injuries, including 7 civilians (Sputnik).
The Turkish-American discussion about the possible “security zone” of the Syrian North still seems to make as few progress as ever. On the 6th, the Turkish President stated in an interview on Kanal-24 that he could not accept a security zone in the Syrian North if it were not entrusted to Turkey: Turkey wants to control it itself in order to expel the YPGs. On the 25th, according to the Turkish Anatolia Agency, US Special Envoy for Syria James Jeffrey indicated that YPG would not be allowed to maintain a presence there, while insisting that the US would protect its SDF partners...
However, the threat of a Turkish attack still hangs over Rojava. On the 12th, Mustafa Shawrash, an Iraqi PUK peshmergas official, said in an interview with the Defence Post that his party was ready to provide material and logistical assistance to YPG if this threat materialized. Shawrash said that, because these troops belong to the Iraqi state, it would not be possible to send fighters, but material and medical assistance was possible. Injured YPGs are already being treated in hospitals in Suleimaniyeh.
Following Donald Trump's announcement of his withdrawal last December, the Syrian Democratic Council reportedly refused the assistance offered by the “Roj Pechmergas”, who are Syrians themselves, but affiliated to the Democratic Party of Kurdistan in Syria, close to the Iraqi KDP. The complexity of the relations between Kurdish parties in Rojava makes this information plausible. Thus on the 12th, when 27 parties close to the Movement for a Democratic Society (TEV-DEM), leading the Federation of the Syrian North, met on the 12th, those belonging to the (opposition) Kurdish ENKS Committee, close to the Iraqi KDP, declared they had not been invited, while indicating that they would refuse to participate until their political prisoners were released. Jadan Ali, ENKS representative in Erbil, told Rûdaw that the lifting in January of the ban on some opposition parties was still not effective.
On 1st of March, after a two-week suspension, the SDF resumed its offensive on the Baghuz last-stand site where the die-hard ISIS fighters, estimated a few thousand, were entrenched. This restart follows the evacuation of thousands of women and children at the end of February. The SDF, which already control part of the village, carried out very violent fighting for those few blocks adjacent to an informal camp that now constitute the “Caliphate”, totally surrounded since the Damascus army holds the other bank of the Euphrates... On 3rd March, the administration of the North Syrian Federation announced that it had released some 300 jihadists “with no blood on their hands” in several of the areas it controls. On the same day, after a short night break, fighting resumed in Baghuz and continued on the 4th. After further evacuations of jihadist families, about 150 fighters surrendered. On the 6th, the SDF captured 400 others trying to escape. On the 8th, according to another SDF spokesman, Adnan Afrin, the fighting had been reduced to intermittent clashes (AFP). The offensive restarted on the 10th, and on the 12th, 2,000, then 3,000 people surrendered. On the 15th, as the surrenders continued, ISIS fighters carried out suicide attacks against their own “deserters”, resulting in at least 6 victims (Kurdistan-24, AFP). The SDF continued their slow advance in Baghuz and the camp where, according to SDF estimates, there were still about 5,000 people left. On the 20th, the day they released 5 Yezidi women and 2 children (WKI), they paused to consolidate their control of the conquered ground, resuming the offensive on the 22nd.
It was finally on the 23rd that the SDF officially announced in a communiqué the end of the “caliphate” proclaimed in 2014. Celebrations were held in several cities of the Federation of Northern Syria, including Qamishli and Kobanê. During the victory ceremony held with Coalition representatives, Mazlum Kobanê, the Commander General of the SDF, said that since 2014 the SDF had liberated 55,000 km² and 5 million civilians. The SDF lost the terrible figure of 11,000 fighters and had more than 21,000 wounded in this struggle. During the victory ceremony, PYD Co-Chair Shaho Hussein said: “Without resolving the issue of Afrin and the return of its inhabitants to their homes, there will be no real solution on the ground in Syria” (WKI).
However, the fall of Baghuz did not put an end to ISIS activities. The next day, dozens of jihadists still hiding in Baghuz tunnels surrendered, and on the night of the 25th, armed men attacked a checkpoint in Manbij, killing 7 CMM fighters and wounding 3 others. The attack was claimed by ISIS the next day... (AFP) On 28, air strikes on Baghuz killed 50 jihadists hidden in tunnels, and on the 29th, a SDF fighter (2 according to SOHR) was killed in Deir Ezzor province by a car bomb probably prepared by a sleeping cell.
The issue of foreign jihadists being held prisoner by the SDF, particularly in Al-Hol camp, has still not been resolved. According to Fabrizio Carboni, Director of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for the Middle East, the SDF, which already handed over 150 Iraqi jihadists to the Iraqi authorities in February, is planning to transfer 20,000 prisoners there, including women and children. The Iraqi government has indicated its agreement (Rûdaw, Reuters). On the 18th August, the Federation of Northern Syria, which has been sounding the alarm for months about the overcrowding in Al-Hol camp, again asked the international community for help in managing the 5,000 jihadists recently captured in Baghuz. But Western countries are not very supportive of the repatriation of their nationals. In France, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe explained on the 6th June that such repatriation should be required by “a change in the balance of forces on the ground” that would increase the risk of flight (Reuters), and on the 13th of May, the French President reiterated that the decision would be taken “on a case-by-case basis”. As France is a signatory to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, family lawyers have begun to bring cases before administrative courts to force the State to accept repatriations of orphans at risk of death due to detention conditions. On the 15th, five of them, under the age of 5, landed at Villacoublay Air Force Base (L'Express). On the 21st, other lawyers brought an action before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for violation of international law. On the 25th of June, the Federation of Northern Syria called for the establishment of a special international tribunal based on its territory, which would allow jihadists to be tried “in the country where they had committed their crimes”. As the international community has not assumed its responsibilities, “we now ask it to cooperate by providing us with legal and logistical support to establish and protect such a court”, said one official. While criminals should theoretically be tried by the judicial authorities of the states where they have committed crimes, the situation is complicated in Syria by the fact that the Federation of the Syrian North has no international recognition. Moreover, for the majority of the States concerned, it is inconceivable to entrust these trials to the Damascus regime...
On the 28th, a Belgian NGO, Child Focus, announced the recent death in camps or following stray bullets of several children born to Belgian parents, calling for a “rapid repatriation” (AFP). At the end of the month, Denmark announced that it would refuse Danish citizenship to children born in Syria to Danish parents (WKI).
The foretold end of the anti-ISIS military campaign has revived negotiations around the Syrian conflict. On the 4th, the Russian and American Chiefs of Defence had met in Vienna to coordinate... On the 26th, the Turkish Ministry of Defence announced that Turkey and Russia had started coordinated (but not joint) patrols in the Tell Rifaat area, north of Aleppo. Turkish units are now replacing the fighters of the Free Syrian Army facing YPG lines. Ankara has repeatedly threatened to attack this YPG-held city, but Moscow opposes it. Turkey and Russia had already been coordinating their patrols since the beginning of the month on both sides of the Idleb province border. These movements are taking place as Turkish and Russian military staff prepare to reopen the Gaziantep-Alep highway and ensure its safety (AFP, AMN).
The changing context clearly raises the question of the future of the Federation of the Syrian North and its relations with Damascus, which continues to blow hot and cold. On the 18th of August, Syrian Defence Minister Ali Abdallah Ayub warned that in case of no deal, the army could “forcibly liberate” the areas held by the SDF, which denounced these “threatening statements” and defended the need for dialogue, and for a peaceful solution to the question of their autonomy (AFP). For the Federation, Damascus’ acceptance of autonomy remains the prerequisite for the possible integration of the SDF into the Syrian army, as expressed by their representative in Moscow, Reshad Bienav. The situation is complicated by the fact that some Arab tribal leaders who have so far been allied with the SDF, and who are now trying to mediate between them and the regime, such as the Shammar leader, may be tempted to negotiate separately with Damascus to secure their own future... (Al-Monitor)
At the same time, the “Syrian Constitutional Committee”, which emerged from the Sochi agreements in January 2018, is expected to work on a decentralised Constitution. But so far, it is impossible to assess the impact that its work will have on the ground...
The hunger strike movement continued throughout March, finally gathering more than 400 fasters, mainly political prisoners, but also members or leaders of the “pro-Kurdish” HDP party. It was also followed abroad. In Bristol (United Kingdom), a demonstration in support of a Kurdish refugee on hunger strike for two months, Ilhan Şiş, was held on 5 March outside the town hall, with protesters calling on the British Parliament. In Montpellier on the 8th – Women’s Day – Kurdish women from the diaspora gathered in music and songs, in solidarity with their sisters in Turkey (Le Midi libre). In Erbil, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Nasir Yagiz continued his fast, which began at the end of November, refusing any medical treatment despite his increasingly critical condition, since he has become almost blind... Since Gaza, the writer Nayrouz Qarmout, distancing himself from the “Palestinian solidarity” displayed by Mr. Erdoğan, expressed on the 23rd his own solidarity with Leyla Güven, the initiator of the movement, who, while now freed, continues her fasting at home.
In just one week, 4 Kurdish political prisoners committed suicide in their cells. On the 17th, Zülküf Gezen hanged herself at Tekirdağ; on the 23rd, Ayten Beçet committed suicide in Kocaeli women’s prison. On the 24th, Zehra Sağlam ended her life in Erzurum, and the next day, it was Medya Çınar who committed suicide in Mardin, where she had just been transferred from Van for her trial. Like Sağlam, she was detained for “links with the PKK”. Leyla Güven called for an end to political suicides, as did the co-chairs of 4 Kurdish parties meeting in Diyarbakir on the 26th. The Turkish authorities tried to prevent the funerals of the suicides from becoming political rallies: for Zülküf Gezen, while the HDP had called for massive participation, the body was transferred at night to Diyarbakir without the family’s consent, and the funeral was held before dawn under a massive blockade by the riot police with tanks and water cannons. The ban on participants entering the cemetery then led to violent clashes...
The authorities continued their repression against the HDP in order to prevent it from campaigning for the municipal elections of the 31st. On the 3rd, police raided its Diyarbakir office, arresting 5 people who had just started a hunger strike (Ahval) and damaging the building. Already, at the end of February, a similar raid had targeted the HDP office in Nazilli (Aydın), whose local leader, Sinan Bayrak, had been arrested. In Istanbul, the HDP electoral office in Esenler was attacked by unknown persons. On the 5th in Kiziltepe (Mardin province), after the HDP opened an electoral office there, Turkish police arrested 7 young people aged 12 to 16 for chanting banned Kurdish slogans. On the same day, Ağrı police arrested HDP member Zelal Yerlikaya for “terrorist propaganda” for his publications on social networks (WKI). On the 8th, Women's Day, police arrested 9 people in raids on Kurdish activists’ homes in Cizre (Şırnak), including two leaders of the HDP and DBP (Party of Democratic Regions, regional sister-party of the HDP), and 9 others in Varto (Muş). In the evening, Istanbul police used tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets against a march called by feminist organisations that brought together thousands of people in central Istanbul. Participants called for equal rights and an end to political repression. The HDP recalled that Turkey is ranked by the World Bank 85th among UN Member States in terms of equal opportunities for women (Kurdistan 24).
The intimidation of journalists and academics also continues: on the 6th, Semra Turan, Mezopotamya's correspondent in Tunceli (Dersim), was arrested in a raid on her home and her camera confiscated (Ahval). Released the next day, she was summoned again by the police on the 19th at dawn allegedly to “fetch her camera”. But upon her arrival at the police station, she was again arrested and transferred to Ankara following a new investigation launched against her... (Ahval) On 25 March, Füsun Üstel, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Galatasaray University (Istanbul) and signatory to the petition “We will not be accomplices in this crime”, was sentenced to 15 months prison after her appeal of March was rejected. Thirty other signatories are waiting for their verdict (L'Humanité).
The HDP campaigned under very difficult conditions, under constant attacks and relentless media censorship. More than 7,000 of its members, including several of its candidates, former leaders Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yuksekdağ, a dozen deputies and more than 60 mayors, are imprisoned. On the 13th, a motorcyclist fired 5 bullets at the HDP electoral office in Siirt (WKI), and the next day, Pervin Buldan, its co-president, indicated that no television channel wanted to broadcast an election ad highlighting the country's diversity, ironically adding that “the only television station willing to talk about the HDP is Tayyip-TV”: the Turkish President indeed loves to show in his own meetings the videos of the opposing parties, to attack them... Thus a videoclip where Sezai Temelli had used the word “Kurdistan” was shown by Mr. Erdoğan who then said: “If you love it so much, go to northern Iraq, Kurdistan is there”.
Some media belonging to the Demirören group, close to the AKP, systematically distort the words of the HDP candidates (Ahval), and in at least 2 provinces, the courts have ordered the removal by the police of election posters in Kurdish: at Şanlıurfa, HDP posters bearing the words “Li dijî şer aşitî” (Peace against war) were removed as “terrorist propaganda” after that, according to the HDP, the prosecutor had voluntarily mistranslated the slogan as “Peace is ours after the war”. In Edirne, a poster with the words “Azadî bi xwerêverbirinê destpê dike” (“Freedom begins with autonomy”) was also removed as “terrorist propaganda”. On the 16th, according to the Bianet website, an investigation was opened against HDP co-chair Sezai Temelli. He is accused of (pro-PKK) “terrorist propaganda” in one of his campaign speeches, an accusation already made against him for a speech on 19 December 2018 in Van, for which he risks the lifting of his parliamentary immunity. On the 17th, according to the Diken website, HDP MP Ayşe Sürücü was sentenced to one year and 8 months in prison for violating the law on demonstrations. First accused, like Temelli, of pro-PKK propaganda for a speech delivered in November 2016, she was finally convicted for having participated in a banned demonstration in Urfa in March 2016 (Ahval).
On the 21st, a week before the vote, the Newruz festivities became political meetings. Defying the restrictions imposed by the government, millions of participants and HDP leaders gathered in many cities across the country, Istanbul, Diyarbakir, but also Mardin, Van, Cizre... calling for a vote against the AKP. Rallies had been allowed in Kurdistan, but the police, massively present, arrested many participants, including 28 in Istanbul, and 110 in Diyarbakir, where 100,000 people gathered.
On 23 September, the imprisoned HDP leader, Selahattin Demirtaş, put the hunger strike movement in perspective, stating in particular: “Imralı [prison island]’s isolation system [is not simply that Mr. Öcalan is not allowed to meet his family and lawyers. “Isolation” is the name of the vicious authoritarian system imposed on the whole society. Unless this isolation is broken, it is impossible to move towards freedom, democracy or peace. Demirtaş then urged HDP voters to repel the temptation to boycott, and to place their “precious vote”, even if it means supporting candidates from the CHP or IYI to “send [AKP] to the dustbin of history”. Indeed, while the HDP has not concluded any formal alliance with the rest of the opposition against the tandem in power, AKP-MHP (extreme-right nationalists), it has decided not to present candidates in Istanbul and Ankara, which constitutes indirect support to the CHP. In addition, the latest polls before the election showed a decline in Erdoğan's popularity due to the economic situation (the Turkish lira lost 30% of its value) which could cause it to lose these two cities. The almost frenetic way in which the Turkish President campaigned, attributing the crisis in an increasingly unconvincing way to an anti-Turkish plot from the West, shows that he takes this risk very seriously...
As the election date approached, anti-Kurdish abuses were increasing. In the Karsiyaka district (Izmir), houses of Kurdish activists and HDP members were marked with a cross by ultra-nationalists. In Sapanca (Sakarya), the HDP office was attacked on the 24th. In Kadiköy (Istanbul), a police patrol attacked an HDP campaigning stand, arresting 5 people and confiscating electoral leaflets (WKI). On the eve of the elections, on Saturday 30th, police raided 127 houses in Istanbul and arrested at least 53 people, including HDP candidates to the City Council. At Şanlıurfa, according to the HDP, 11 people campaigning for the elections were arrested. In Adana, Van and İğdir, 31 people were imprisoned on terrorism charges. The party’s spokeswoman, Ayşe Acar Basaran, said in a statement that since the beginning of the campaign, the authorities had arrested 713 of its members, including polling station assessors, 107 of whom were still in detention. Violence also broke out on election day, when after a dispute in a polling station in Pütürge (Malatya), the nephew of the local AKP candidate killed two members of the (Islamist) Felicity Party (Saadet Partisi) at close range. According to the leadership of this party, the dispute began when the murderer (who was later arrested) refused to use the voting booth.
The authorities also sought to prevent the presence of foreigners coming to support the Kurds for Newruz or the elections. On the 20th, the Arti Gerçek website reported that a group from the Norwegian association Solidarity with Kurdistan had been expelled after attending the funeral of Zülküf Gezen (Ahval). On the 19th, a delegation from the French “Association France-Kurdistan”, including its president Sylvie Jan, and Michel Laurent, was detained at Istanbul airport and then expelled. Sylvie Jan was to present on behalf of the Éditions (publishing house) Emmanuelle Collas the Montluc Prize “Resistance and Freedom” to Selahattin Demirtas’ wife for his novel, Daybreak (Seher). On the 23rd, Maryvonne Mathéoud, president of the “Association iséroise of Kurds’ Friends” (Isère is a French mountainous county around Grenoble), who came to support the HDP candidates, was arrested upon her arrival in Istanbul. Held overnight, she was expelled in the morning (Le Dauphiné Libéré).
Turkey's relations with foreign countries are still tense. On 11 November, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Belgian ambassador to Ankara to protest against the decision of the Brussels indictments chamber on 8 December not to prosecute 36 individuals and groups accused of links with the PKK. This is the 3rd similar decision in Belgium (AFP). On 12 December, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered Turkey to pay financial compensation to the owner of the “pro-Kurdish” daily newspaper Ozgur Gundem, which was closed in 2016 on charges of terrorist propaganda after a campaign of judicial harassment begun in 2014. In its judgment, the ECHR accuses Turkey of having initiated “systematic” proceedings against the newspaper, unrelated to its content. If that is the case, why such a ridiculous compensation, €3,500? (Reuters). On 16 March, provocateurs supporting Erdoğan tried to prevent a public conference on Rojava in the small French town of Châtillon-sur-Chalaronne (North of Lyons), by threatening French journalist Raphael Lebrujah. The Turkish consulate called the gendarmes to warn of a “danger to public order”, which forced the conference to transform into a private meeting. This indeed succeeded in preventing the entry of disruptive people, but it is still an unacceptable violation of the right of expression and assembly... On 20 May, the Turkish ambassador in Prague described the statements of Czech President Milos Zeman as “unacceptable”. The day before, Zeman had stated in a public debate that Turkey was attacking the Kurds because it was a “de facto ally” of ISIS, which it helped in particular by accepting its oil exports (Le Figaro).
On the military side, the Turkish army has continued its anti-PKK operations, particularly in Iraqi Kurdistan, where it is still present up to 30 km inside Iraqi territory. On 6 March, while aerial bombardments were conducted there, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced the forthcoming launch of a cross-border anti-PKK operation in cooperation with Iran. At the same time, Turkey is continuing to build a wall on its border with Iran to close it to PKK fighters and its Iranian brother party, the PJAK (AFP). Soylu also announced that from mid-May, the Turkish army could use drones against the PKK, thanks to new software (Yeni Safak). On the morning of the 7th, further Turkish bombardments hit the Haftanin area, following which Turkey announced that it had destroyed PKK shelters and ammunition depots. On the 16th, according to the Anadolu State Agency, fighting broke out between Turkish soldiers and PKK fighters in the Bradost region, during which two Turkish soldiers were killed. On the other side, the engagement, following an attack by the PKK on a Turkish base very early in the morning, reportedly resulted in 6 deaths and 8 injuries. A local source told the Rûdaw channel that the Turkish army had lost a dozen soldiers. On the 18th, Anadolu announced the effective launch at 8 a.m. of a joint military operation with Iran against the PKK, an announcement quickly denied first by an Iranian official and then again in the evening by the official agency IRNA (AFP), and finally on the 20th, according to the Iranian Tasnim agency, by an Iranian army spokesman, Abolfazl Shekarchi... On the 19th, two Turkish artillery shells fell in Iraqi Kurdistan at noon right in Kani Masi city centre (Dohuk), near the Turkish border. According to the mayor, 3 houses of Christian families were damaged, but there were no victims (Rûdaw). On the 23rd at 5 a.m., further air strikes severely damaged several houses and vehicles in the village of Sharanshi (Zakho), again without casualties (Kurdistan 24). On the 30th, as Turkey announced it had still carried out strikes on PKK installations in Qandil, local leaders asked the Governor of Dohuk province and the Ministry of Interior of the Kurdish Government to officially call for an end to the “indiscriminate bombardments” (Rûdaw).
On the Turkish side of the border, according to a security source, an officer was killed on the 20th near Silopi in a PKK attack using an improvised bomb against an operating military group. Another officer was wounded and hospitalised.
Relations between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Iraqi Federal Government continue to improve gradually. One of the reasons for this is, among other things, the persistence of ISIS attacks that shows the need for better security cooperation. On the 15th, under the aegis of KDP President Massud Barzani, Iraqi Security Advisor Falih al-Fayyadhet and the Head of the Kurdistan Security Council, Masrur Barzani, met in Erbil to discuss the country’s security, but also how to improve the situation in disputed territories (Kurdistan 24). The KRG, which considers, however, that Baghdad does not fully implement the 2005 Constitution, is reportedly considering the creation of a portfolio of “Minister of Federal Affairs” in order to enforce better compliance with it (Rûdaw).
Regarding the economic situation in Kurdistan, the announcement made on the 8th by the KRG Prime Minister is certainly what had the greatest impact locally this month: Nechirvan Barzani, standing next to Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, announced the end of the system of salary savings – in effect wage deductions – for civil servants. This very unpopular system, created at the beginning of 2016 because of the interruption of the federal budget in 2014, had caused many social unrest. “It had been the most unpleasant and difficult decision in our political life”, said Nechirvan Barzani. This decision follows the doubling of the monthly allowance paid by Baghdad (Iraq Oil report) and the sending of 512 billion dinars (about 383 million euros) for KRG civil servants’ salaries. Qubad Talabani then promised on social networks that the KRG would gradually repay the amounts withheld, considered as a “debt” (Rûdaw).
On the political level, in the absence of an agreement between PDK and PUK on the distribution of governmental posts, the Kurdistan Region still had no Government at the end of March. Six months is the longest time ever recorded for the formation of a KRG... If the 2 parties agree that the PUK should take up the positions of Regional Vice-President and Deputy Prime Minister, the KDP refuses to give its partner one of the portfolios of Minister of Natural Resources, Interior, or Finance that it is asking for, at most willing to concede the portfolio of the Deputy minister of the Interior (Rûdaw). Another point of tension is that the PUK wishes to include in the government agreement the issues of posts in Baghdad and the governance of Kirkuk, the KDP wanting to limit it to the KRG itself. But the 2 Kurdish parties seem doomed to agree: arrived first, but with only 45 deputies out of 111, the KDP cannot govern alone, and the PUK, although weakened by the Goran split, still dominates the province of Suleimaniyeh, making it an obliged partner if the KRG is to exercise its authority there. In addition, as the PUK had asked Baghdad for the post of Governor of Kirkuk and the Ministry of Justice, the Iraqi Prime Minister replied that if these 2 posts could indeed go to Kurds, they must first choose a common candidate....
PDK-PUK meetings have been going on throughout the month. On the 4th, a four-year agreement was announced to replace the 2005 “Strategic Agreement”. Without further clarification, it included a common position in the negotiations with Baghdad, including on political normalisation in Kirkuk, and was to be implemented by a Joint Commission. The PUK then stopped its boycott of parliamentary sessions. Rûdaw noted on 11 November that the PUK, before being able to communicate to the KDP the names of its candidates for the positions planned, had first to distribute them between its 2 main factions, the Talabani clan and that of Kosrat Rassoul, and indicated that within the PUK, some wanted to ask for the Vice-Presidency of the Region and the Ministry of Interior rather than the Presidency of Parliament... This is what the UPK actually asked the KDP on the 12th in the following meeting, plus the position of Deputy Prime Minister – currently held by Qubad Talabani (Kurdistan 24). Moreover, the PUK did not take part in the parliamentary session of the 12th, which it had requested to be postponed until an agreement had been reached on the distribution of posts within the KRG... On 13th, Hoshyar Zêbarî indicated on Rûdaw that the KDP had imposed a deadline on the PUK, wishing for the KRG to be formed before the end of the month. On 17 August, UPK relations officer Saadi Pira said that his party would not accept to be relegated to the position of “spectator” but wanted to be a full partner, especially in the domain of security. On the 21st, after a new meeting and a new joint communiqué reiterating the willingness to agree, another meeting was announced... In parallel, the KDP continued discussions with Goran, who arrived in third place, to draft an amendment temporarily replacing the election by universal suffrage of the Regional President with a vote in Parliament, which was to be put to the vote of the deputies once the KDP-UPK agreement was reached.
On 27 July, after the KDP refused the PUK the post of “Chancellor” (head of the Kurdistan Security Council), the PUK, reiterating its refusal of exclusive security control by the KDP, requested the Ministry of the Interior. One of the KDP leaders, Nouri Hama Ali, half-threatened the UPK to move forward without him, saying on Rûdaw: “[If we do not reach an agreement], I do not think we can wait any longer, then Parliament will amend the presidential law [...] and elect the Region President, [who] will entrust the formation of the new cabinet to the best placed list”. The last meeting was unable to reach any agreement, or even to set a date for the next meeting. An informed source told Rûdaw that the UPK had stated that if it had to renounce important ministries such as the Interior, Natural Resources or External Relations, it would ask in exchange for six ministries: Peshmerga, Higher Education, Planning, Agriculture, Education and Health. The KDP has accepted only five ministries...
After this failure, the KDP and Goran submitted to parliament on 28 November a bill signed by 28 deputies to reactivate the position of Regional President, vacant since November 2017, while changing its method of appointment. Until a new Regional Constitution decides on this point, the President would be temporarily elected by the deputies by an absolute majority. If no candidate emerged in the first round, a second round would oppose the 2 candidates who came first. The KDP has already chosen the outgoing Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani, as its candidate. Once elected, the President would appoint a Prime Minister to form the cabinet; the KDP candidate is the current Chancellor, Masrour Barzani. The bill proposes that the President's term of office should end at the same time as that of Parliament. The UPK, “New Generation”, the Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal) and the Islamic Union of Kurdistan (Yekgirtû) did not sign the proposal, and PUK MPs left the session...
In other political events of the month, on the 3rd, the “New Generation” leader, Shaswar Abdulwahid, appeared before a Court in Suleimaniyeh for “defamation and insulting officials”. He accused PDK and PUK of being behind a “politically motivated arrest”.
The month was also marked by the commemoration on the 16th of the chemical bombardment of the city of Halabja, which killed 5,000 people in 1988, mostly women and children. 31 years later, many survivors still suffer from respiratory problems... The memory of another genocide, the genocide of the Yezidis by ISIS in 2014, was also reactivated, since on 15 December, the United Nations, the KRG and the federal government officially participated in the ceremony marking the beginning of the search inside the first mass grave of Yezidis, among the dozens uncovered as the territories once controlled by the jihadist organisation were reclaimed... Eleven of these mass graves are found in the small village of Kojo, where the Yezidi survivor and Nobel Prize winner Nadia Mourad, who was present for the occasion, was born (Kurdistan 24).
The security situation in the country remains tense. Not only in disputed territories, but even near Baghdad: thus, on 19 March, in Tarmiyah (Salahaddin), just 35 km north of the capital, 3 soldiers, including a senior officer, were killed in an ambush... At the end of February, when a bomb killed 2 people and wounded 24 in Mosul, Al-Monitor announced an agreement between the Iraqi and Kurdish Prime Ministers according to which the pechmergas could return to Kirkuk, but would remain outside the cities, where security would go to the local police forces. According to local reports, they have already returned to Touz Khurmatou, which has raised concerns among Arab and Turkmen parties. On the 3rd, the Iraqi Army-Pechmergas Joint Committee met to continue discussions...
On the 6th, an improvised bomb, detonated while a police patrol was passing through Diyala, killed a Security Officer and wounded 3 people. On the evening of the same day, the attack on a bus carrying Hashd al-Shaabi militiamen from Mosul to Kirkuk killed 6 people and injured 31 near Makhmur, southwest of Erbil. On the 8th, a car bomb exploded in Mosul's Al-Muthanna district, killing 2 people. On the 13th, a mortar shell killed 1 person and wounded 5 others in their homes in the Qara Tabbah district of Diyala (ISHM). On the 20th, Security Police announced that they had arrested 5 ISIS members in the eastern districts of Mosul (Kurdistan 24). On 24 September in Sindjar, clashes happened between Security Police and a group of 6 jihadists, three of whom blew themselves up. On the 25th, the jihadists attacked the Alas oil field (Salahaddin). On the 26th, an Iraqi officer was killed again in Diyala.
In Kirkuk, the KDP and the PUK announced on the 5th an agreement to negotiate together with Baghdad the return of the peshmergas and then nominate a common candidate for governor. This worried the Arab factions of the Provincial Council, which accused the two Kurdish parties of trying to impose their will on other communities and called on Baghdad to suspend the Council. On the 10th, proclaimed “Kurdish Costume Day” in 2010 by the KRG Ministry of Education, thousands of Kurds from Kirkuk donned their traditional clothes, including students from the University, which had banned activities (Rûdaw). For Newruz, which coincides in Iraq with the anniversary of the 1991 uprising (Raparîn) against the Ba'athist regime, the Kurdish parties in Kirkuk jointly organised a ceremony including the raising of the Kurdish flag. To avoid tensions, it had been prepared in consultation with the Security forces. However, the celebration was only allowed for two hours, at the end of which checkpoints in the city removed the Kurdish flags from the vehicles.
In Khanaqin, Kurdish farmers gathered outside the town hall to protest against the latest decrees pronouncing their expulsion for the benefit of Arabs, reactivating a policy of despoilment inaugurated 44 years ago and cancelled when the Ba'athist regime fell. The mayor, Mohammed Mala Hasan, promised to support them before the Provincial Directorate of Agriculture, stating that he would not implement these decisions and would ensure that the situation was resolved “in accordance with Article 140 of the Constitution” (Rûdaw).
In addition, the Newruz festival was plunged into mourning by a terrible accident that killed more than 100 people in Mosul, including at least 19 children: a ferry taking families to an island on the Tigris with attractions capsized with 250 passengers, nearly 5 times its official capacity. 55 people were rescued, but 3 days later there were still 60 to 85 missing; bodies were found up to 20 km downstream. The Iraqi Prime Minister, who arrived on the scene, ordered an investigation. Nine people working on the ferry were arrested. The next day, Erbil joined Baghdad to declare 3 days of mourning, calling for an end to the festivities. At the scene of the accident, the crowd rocked Governor Nawfal Hamadi’s car, which hit two people when fleeing, one of whom had to be hospitalized. On the 24th, 16 people were arrested, and after receiving a letter from the Prime Minister, the Iraqi Parliament dismissed Hamadi and his two deputies. Then a Mosul court filed charges against him for corruption, a procedure not directly related to the accident, but certainly accelerated after it... On the 30th, as the search for the bodies continued, the island’s owners, who also managed the ferry, were arrested in Erbil, where they had fled, and sent back to Mosul.
In Sindjar, tensions persisted throughout the month. After the recent clashes opposing Iraqi soldiers and Hashd al-Shaabi militiamen to Yezidi militias from YBŞ (Sinjar Resistance Units), close to the PKK, a delegation led by National Security Advisor Falih al-Fayyadh arrived from Baghdad on 2 February to try to set up a single Yezidi force and thus reduce tensions. But on the evening of the 17th, clashes again opposed the YBŞ to Iraqi soldiers. The clashes, which killed 2 people on each side and injured 6 (WKI), reportedly broke out when a soldier from a checkpoint requested an Iraqi Security pass from a YBŞ convoy (AFP). Following these incidents, as new clashes occurred on the 19th, Baghdad deployed 3 brigades to Sinjar, asking the YBŞ to surrender their weapons, evacuate the region and hand over their bases to the Iraqi army. Following the YBŞ refusal, the Iraqi military attacked their bases, causing further fighting that provoked wounded on both sides and killed one Iraqi. Clashes also occurred near the Syrian border, apparently for the control of the crossing point to Syria. On the evening of the 20th, the Iraqi Prime Minister stated, taking a soothing tone, that the situation in Sindjar was now “under control”. To assess the situation and reduce tension, the Iraqi Chief of Staff, Othman al-Ghanimi, led a military delegation to Sinjar to meet with local leaders, including those of YBŞ, as well as government representatives in the region (Kurdistan 24). On 24 July, the Iraqi Parliament passed a resolution calling for the redeployment of the security forces under unified command to Nineveh province, to which Sinjar belongs.
Finally, while the Syrian Democratic Forces recently transferred 407 ISIS fighters, including 14 French, to Iraq, the Human Rights organization Human Rights Watch accused both Baghdad and Erbil of practicing expeditious justice against suspects accused of belonging to the organisation: in a report published on 6 December, the NGO estimated the number of children detained at the end of 2018 at 1,500, often on questionable charges or confessions extracted by torture. On the 13th, a second report reported improvements made by the Nineveh Provincial Anti-Terrorist Court to remedy unjustified prosecutions... Note that it is expected that perhaps 20,000 Iraqis will soon be transferred from Syria following the fall of ISIS last stronghold in that country, the village of Baghuz... On the 15th, the trial of the 14 French Jihadists (ISHM) began.
Repression has intensified further in Iran's Kurdistan this month, targeting both environmental activists and all those who dare to protest against the poor economic situation, cross-border porters (kolbars) and activists defending the rights of Kurds... According to the Kurdish Association for the Defence of Human Rights KMMK, at the end of March, 96 Kurds had been arrested since the beginning of the year.
In a statement dated 2 March, the Iranian High Council for Human Rights violently attacked the United Nations Special Rapporteur who wrote the report on the state of Human Rights in the country, submitted to the Human Rights Council on 27 February. The document drafted by Javaid Rehman expresses concerns about violations committed by Iran, including the death sentences of children. It calls on the authorities to urgently prohibit the execution of persons sentenced for crimes committed during their minority, to commute death sentences already passed, and to send the Secretariat of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur the list of minors currently awaiting execution (Radio Farda). Tehran “replied” as usual by attacking the author personally, denouncing in particular his interviews with various media (including the British BBC) “well known for their presentation of events hostile to Iran”, denounced as “flagrant violations of the United Nations framework”...
On March 5, the sister of Afshin Sheikholeslami Vatani, a 40-year-old civil engineer and environmental activist residing in the United States, who had come to visit his family in Sanandadj, informed the Centre for Human Rights in Iran (CDHI) that her brother had been arrested at her father's home in Sanandadj on February 17. Vatani had for several years stopped all political activism, focusing on defending the environment. Arrested in 2003, he had been given a one-year suspended prison sentence for “propaganda against the State”. Arrested again two years later, he had served his sentence. In 2011, he was arrested again after participating in a protest rally outside Sanandaj Central Prison against the death sentence of Kurdish activist Habibollah Latifi. Accused of "disturbing public order", he was held for 3 weeks in a cell of the Ministry of Intelligence before being released on parole. The CDHI statement also states that dozens of environmental activists have been arrested in Iran since the beginning of the year, some even threatened with execution...
Also on the 5th, while the intelligence service (Etelaat) arrested two other environmental activists, Jamal Assadi and Armin Esparlos, Amnesty International called for the release of seven scientists who are members of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation (PWHF), imprisoned for spying since 24 January (https://www.amnesty.org/fr/latest/news/2019/03/iran-release-eight-wildlife-conservationists-following-unfair-trial-on-trumped-up-spying-charges/). The situation is all the more worrying for those incarcerated as the family of the founder and director of the Foundation, Kavous Seyed Emami, 63, a Canadian-Iranian sociology teacher, arrested at the same time, was informed on February 9 that he had committed suicide. Following the deaths of several other prisoners, this announcement was all the more suspicious as the authorities agreed to return his body to the family only if he was buried immediately, without requesting any autopsy. UN experts, like Amnesty, have called for an independent investigation to determine the circumstances of his death. In addition, the two organisations called for the immediate release and dismissal of the “outrageous” spying charges against the 7 environmentalists still in prison and denounced the use of torture and other ill-treatment, including prolonged solitary confinement, in order to extract “confessions” from them. Taher Ghadirian, Amir Hossein Khaleghi, Human Jowkar, Sepideh Kashani, Abdolreza Kuhpayeh, Sam Rajabi, Morad Tahbaz and Nilufar Bayani remain in prison from Emami’s group. She is a former student at the prestigious McGill University in Montreal and is responsible for the Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah Project (CACP) and a former advisor to the United Nations Environment Programme. Mr. Emami’s widow, also a dual national, was prevented from leaving the country. On 17 March, another defender of the Kurdish environment, Celal Rostamî, was arrested in Kamyaran by Etelaat officers and transferred two days later to Sanandaj (WKI).
How can be understood this targeted repression that puts environmental issues at the forefront of the political scene? First, conservationists operate in sensitive border areas over which the repressive forces exercise almost exclusive extra-judicial control: in particular the pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards), who repress the population, test missiles or even enrich themselves with questionable projects, and do not want embarrassing witnesses. Researchers, who used cameras to monitor the movements of endangered species (including Asian cheetahs and Persian leopards), were charged with espionage.
More broadly, the country's environmental problems are becoming sensitive to the regime because the increasing number of protests they provoke highlight its indifference and irresponsibility, both at home and abroad. On 25 February, for example, Ardeshir Nurial, a deputy of the Majlis (Iranian Parliament), revealed fortuitously by complaining that the authorities in Esfahan were not complying with the instructions, that the Supreme National Security Council had introduced censorship on the publication of reports on water shortages or waste of resources (Radio Farda, IRNA).
Finally, as had already happened in the case of the degradation of Lake Urumiah, regional environmental claims are becoming an additional source of mobilisation for minorities: Kurds voice their opposition to the regime's degradation of their environment.
On the 23rd, IRNA announced that the trial of the 7 environmentalists had been postponed to an unspecified date. The report added that the Tehran prosecutor had charged 3 with “espionage”, another with “complicity with a hostile government”, and 4 of them with “spreading corruption on earth” (mofsed-e-filarz), a charge punishable by death, similar to that of “enmity with God” (moharebeh) and willingly used by the judicial system of the Islamic Republic to substitute to an empty case file and terrify dissidents... On the 26th, KMMK reported that, 4 months after his arrest, the fate of environmental defender Homayun Bahmani was still unknown, as security forces had still not acknowledged his arrest.
In the last week of the month, flooding following continuous rains affected two Kurdish provinces of the country, Kermanshah and Ilam, killing at least 3 people and leaving hundreds homeless. In Mahabad, the Kurdish organisation “Restoring Nature in Mahabad” undertook to collect donations to assist the victims, but had to stop all activities after being threatened by the Iranian Red Crescent who did not accept any other collection. During the recent earthquakes in Kurdistan, the regime was accused of discrimination due to the lack of assistance received by the victims....
Repression also continues to affect Kurdish activists. On March 3, a revolutionary court in Sanandadj sentenced Mokhtar Zarey, 46, to 3 years in prison for having broadcast last year a video following the execution of three Kurdish activists, Ramin Panahi and his two cousins. Zarey, who has already been imprisoned several times, has been convicted of “gathering and conspiracy against national security”. He had recently been sentenced to another 3 years in prison for “propaganda against institutions and insulting the Supreme Leader” (Rûdaw). Another Sanandadj activist, Khaled Husseini, was also sentenced to three years in prison for “inciting a strike”. He had also participated in the protests that had followed the execution of the 3 activists. On 9th of September, Zanyar Badaghi was sentenced to one year in prison for “propaganda against the Islamic Republic”, and Madjîd Awar, also from Sanandadj, was arrested on unspecified charges. In Urumieh, the Revolutionary Court sentenced Farshad Abbasi to 5 years in prison for “belonging to an opposition Kurdish party”, after a trial held in May during which he was denied a lawyer. In Kermanshah, Etelaat arrested a Kurdish singer, Saman Jarjis, for his songs about Kurdistan and the Kurdish regions.
On the 12th, the Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN) announced that Etelaat had organised a major “search and sweep” operation in several villages in Urumieh in the days before, arresting at least 15 people accused of intelligence with banned Kurdish parties (KurdPa). On the same day, the Urumieh Court of Appeal approved the verdict handed down 2 weeks earlier against Farshad Abbasi by the Revolutionary Court. Despite his many requests, Abbasi, who denies any membership in a political party, is still not recognized as a political prisoner and remains incarcerated in the “common law” prison district. In Kermanshah, the Court of Appeal upheld Massoud Kiyani's 10-year prison sentence for “spying for Israel”. Kiyani, who was studying in Ukraine, was arrested in April 2018 at Tehran airport on his way home to visit his family. On the 15th, a Kurdish man named Zanko Amerî was arrested near Saqqez by the pasdaran for “assistance to Kurdish opposition parties” (WKI).
On 17 July, the KurdPa agency reported that two Kurdish political prisoners from Sarvabad (Kurdish name Sawlawa, Sanandadj province), Barzan Mohammadi and Alireza Shiremohammadi, went on hunger strike on 14 July to protest against their conditions of detention. Arrested in August for his social network messages, Mohammadi was sentenced to 6 years’ imprisonment for “actions endangering national security” and “propaganda against the regime”.
This year's Newrouz celebration was an opportunity for the regime to deploy large contingents of security forces to Kurdistan, particularly in Marivan. These, Etelaat or pasdaran, have launched raids on groups trying to celebrate the festival, such as in Nûrewe (Lorestan), Malekshani (Ilam), Hassan Noran (Oshnavieh, Shino), and several participants have been arrested. In other cases, security forces threatened the organisers with arrest in the event of rallies. On 23rd, the Islamic Court of Marivan sentenced a 22-year-old Kurdish man, Salman Afra, to 5 years’ imprisonment for assistance to a banned party (WKI). Further arrests followed during the last week of the month, such as in Sanandadj, Wali Naser, held incommunicado, and a trade union activist, and in Marivan, 6 people arrested without warrants during Etelaat raids in the city and nearby villages (KMMK).
The deteriorating economic situation in the Kurdish provinces of Iran has also led to social movements, which were quickly repressed by the regime. On the 3rd, teachers from the cities of Marivan, Sanandadj and Saqqez demonstrated to demand the payment of their salaries, which they had not received for months. Moreover, teachers’ salaries are two-thirds below the poverty line in the country... (Radio Farda) In Lorestan, it was workers from a cement plant who protested after 3 months of non-payment (WKI). From the 3rd to the 5th, teachers went on strike across the country to demand better salaries, respect for Trade Union rights and the release of imprisoned teachers. According to the Coordinating Council of Teacher Unions, teachers from more than 1,000 primary and secondary schools in 100 cities participated in the movement, including in Kurdistan, particularly in Kermanshah, Marivan, Sanandaj and Saqqez, and in the rest of the country Tehran, Hamadan, Isfahan, Karaj, Khomeinishahr, Qazvin, Shiraz, Takestan and Yazd. The official media did not report on the movement, but the Council noted the change in attitude of the security forces, which avoided clashes as had happened for previous movements, the last one in October-November (Radio Farda). On the 5th, a Kurdish teacher, Peyman Naqshabandi, was arrested in Urumieh for “propaganda against the Islamic Republic”. In Sarableh (Ilam), a group of employees and workers demonstrated outside the municipality to demand payment of wages. The authorities seem unable to solve the problem of late payment of wages, which last year caused more than 50 protests...
The Kolbars, these cross-border Kurdish carriers, continue to pay a heavy price to the regime’s repressive machine and their disastrous working conditions. On the 1st of the month, one died frozen after spending several days stuck in the mountains near Chaldiran, and 2 others were seriously affected. On the same day, two others were wounded by border guard fire in front of Haji Omran (Iraqi Kurdistan). On the 3rd, another was killed near Piranshahr, and on the 8th, still in Piranshahr, another was wounded, and 2 arrested in Pawa (Paveh). According to the Human Rights organization Hengaw, they were then beaten. On the 17th, another kolbar died of cold in Sardasht, while another was seriously wounded by bullets in Nowsud. Another died of a heart attack in the same area, and 3 others were shot dead in 3 different incidents, near Urumieh, Kermanshah and Kurdistan province. At the end of the month, yet another was wounded in an ambush by border guards near Nowsud. Hengaw has estimated that since the beginning of the year, about 60 kolbars have been wounded and 18 killed, mostly by security forces fire.
Finally, on the 15th, clashes took place near Marivan between Kurdish fighters and border guards, at the end of which several ambulances were called, without a loss figure having been announced. A new incident occurred on the 17th in Baneh, in which a border guard was killed. As of 18 January, no Kurdish group had claimed responsibility for these two incidents, for which it is not known if they are related (Kurdistan 24).