Almost three months after the takeover on 23 March by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) of the last village held by ISIS in eastern Syria, Baghuz, it is becoming increasingly clear that the fight against the jihadist organisation is far from over. Its dormant cells carry out attack after attack in supposedly secure cities and areas, and at least some of the many successive fires of wheat crops in Syria and Iraq are attributable to them. On June 1st, two explosions in Raqqa, later claimed by ISIS, killed at least 10 people, with an SDF vehicle also being ambushed in the region. On 3 March, Manbij security announced the arrest of a group of six people, including two women, suspected of being responsible for at least ten attacks over the previous months, and who were preparing new ones. Weapons, ammunition, explosives, and even night vision equipment were seized (Kurdistan 24). But that did not prevent a new explosion in the city on the 6th, which wounded a civilian, and then on the 8th in Hassakeh, another attack using a motorcycle bomb and caused two injuries. On the 9th, the dismantling of another sleeper cell was announced in a village of Deir Ezzor. On the 17th, at least seven civilians, including three women and one child, were injured in Qamishli in a suicide attack near the Security Police Headquarters (AFP). On 26 September, the SDF press liaison officer, Mustafa Bali, announced the arrest in two different raids near Raqqa and Manbij of five jihadists, and four others on 21 January in Hassakeh, including the prominent commander “Abu Bashir” (Kurdistan 24).
However, the marking events of the month were the numerous cereal crop fires, particularly in Djezireh, in the Qamishli and Hassakeh areas, and near the Turkish border (WKI). On the 10th, in response to the extent of the damage and the threat of oil well fires, the Head of agricultural affairs of the Autonomous administration, Salman Barudo, called on the Coalition to help control the fires with special aircraft. ISIS claimed some of the fires, but farmers also mentioned local reprisals against anti- or pro-ISIS, sparks due to poor fuel quality, or simply negligence aggravated by heat. On the 15th, after the deaths of at least ten people who were trying to extinguish the flames, Barudo estimated the destroyed area at nearly 350,000 hectares, accusing the Damascus regime of deliberately using these fires to “cause unrest among the inhabitants [...] and weaken the Kurdish [Autonomous] administration”. Damascus might also have been seeking to divert attention from its imminent offensive on Idlib. In Qamishli, the Autonomous Authority accused the Regime, which controls the airport district, of refusing to send the fire engines kept there to help extinguish the flames.
For its part, the pro-Damas Sana agency accuses the Kurds of setting these fires to prevent farmers from selling their crops to the government... It is true that, for crops as for oil, the Kurdish Administration and the Regime find themselves in competition. They both want the wheat from the North-East, the country’s granary, whose harvest is excellent this year: on both sides, after eight years of war, affordable bread is the condition for political stability. Damascus has increased its purchase price per kilo from 175 to 185 Syrian pounds, the Autonomous administration from 150 to 160 pounds. As the government maintains an administrative presence in several Kurdish-controlled cities, including grain buying centres, farmers can sell their crops to the Regime there. After first banning these sales, the Kurdish authorities decided in May to authorize them on the condition that the wheat remains in the region, so that it benefits the local population (AFP). Wheat as oil are means of pressure in the negotiations that are continuing (with little progress) between Damascus and the Autonomous administration. In Deir Ezzor, the SDF are monitoring the Euphrates to prevent oil from leaving to the East bank, held by the Regime, and on the 4th, a journalist from a pro-Regime channel based in Qamishli was arrested by the Kurdish Asayish (Security) after filming the fires...
In Afrîn, human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, have denounced the increase in abuses suffered by civilians from jihadists in the service of Turkey. On June 1st, Voice of America reported that the previous week, a 10-year-old boy with Down syndrome was killed with his father and grandfather because the family failed to collect the $10,000 ransom requested by their kidnappers. In addition to these outright banditry activities, brutal repression has hit all those who dare to criticize the new masters of the region (VOA). On 2 June, the “Afrîn Liberation Forces” issued a statement reviewing several operations against the Turkish military and their jihadist allies, in which they claimed the deaths of two Turkish soldiers in Sherawa, including a sergeant, and of a jihadist in Mare (RojInfo). On the 8th, a new statement mentioned four operations (two of which are probably those mentioned above), on the 5th and 6th near Sherawa, Jindires, Shera, and Azaz; in particular a jihadist vehicle was destroyed on the 6th in Jindires; the total number claimed is nine jihadists killed and five injured (AMN, Al-Masdar News).
On 11 November, the Turkish Ministry of Defence announced that it had eliminated 10 Kurdish fighters near Tell Rifaat in retaliation for the death of a Turkish soldier on 9 November. Tension increased at the end of the month between the SDF and the Turkish army, as the latter increased its presence in Hatay province, west of Afrîn. On the 26th, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), one soldier was killed and five others wounded in northern Aleppo province by rockets fired by the Kurds (Le Figaro). On the 28th, at a Turkish observation post in the Idlib region, another soldier was killed and several wounded by gunfire from areas controlled by the Damascus army. The Turkish Ministry of Defence reported that it had retaliated.
However, after the initial shock caused by President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement of the withdrawal of the American military, the international situation of the autonomous administration seems to have improved somewhat. The US allies in the coalition against ISIS, while refusing to replace the US troops in Rojava at short notice, have, with the likely support of the Pentagon, exerted diplomatic pressure for the maintenance of an American presence there, thereby reducing the risk of a Turkish invasion – at least for the time being.
Several foreign delegations made the Rojava’s trip this month. On May 31, a delegation from the French National Assembly arrived, led by Mz. Marielle de Sarnez, President of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly. Accompanied by the writer Patrick Franceschi and Khaled Issa, Representative in France of the Autonomous administration, after visiting the cemetery of the fallen female combatants in Kobanê, she said she had come “to express [her] gratitude to everyone in this region, in particular to the fighters who had fought against barbarism”. In a rare unanimity, the Chairman of the “La France insoumise” group (opposition), Jean-Luc Mélenchon, welcomed this mission on 26 June during a Foreign Affairs Committee meeting. While calling for the restoration of links with Damascus and respect for the country’s territorial integrity, he denounced Turkey’s regional role and called for the participation of the Kurds in reconstruction conferences. On the 18th, the US Special Envoy for the Anti-ISIS Coalition also led a delegation to Rojava. Then on the 22nd a representative of the Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and on the 23rd a Danish diplomat, came on the occasion of the repatriation of children of jihadists (WKI). On 24 January, the Dutch government announced that it was considering the United States’ request to contribute to the security of the Autonomous Region, including by resuming air protection missions, which were stopped in January. On 1st June, the German Foreign Minister had already expressed his satisfaction with the continued US presence on the ground and declared his readiness to participate in air protection (Kurdistan 24).
After ISIS territorial defeat, the Autonomous administration was confronted to numerous demonstrations by Arab inhabitants, the majority of whom live in the Eastern part of its territory. In an attempt to reduce tensions, it had already organized a forum on 3 May near Ain Issa to which it had invited Arab tribal leaders and others. On 1st June, Mazlum Kobane, the Commander-in-Chief of the SDF, announced a major military decentralization restructuring, with the establishment of local military councils for each city (Rûdaw). On the political level, following the success of the Ain Issa Forum, the Syrian Democratic Council (CDS) has relaunched dialogue with society, tribal leaders and representatives of the various communities, in an attempt to broaden its base by integrating new members, which could make it possible to jointly develop “compromise formulas for the future Syria”.
The issue of jihadists in prison and their families, women and children, is still a headache for the authorities of the Autonomous administration. While according to the UN, 74,000 prisoners, including 30,000 Syrians, are crammed into the al-Hol camp, repatriations to Western countries are still piecemeal. In contrast, on 27 May, Uzbekistan announced the repatriation of 156 of its nationals, mainly women and children, handed over the previous day to a consular delegation from that country. In total, more than 300 Uzbeks were repatriated, as well as 231 Kazakhs, mostly children, and 84 Tajiks, who were returned from Iraq in May. On 2 June, a Kurdish official announced that some 800 Syrian women and children would be released to join their families in Raqqa or Tabqa. The operation was organised at the request of tribal leaders or local elders, and involves both civilians who have fled the fighting and relatives of jihadists, whose behaviour will then be monitored. A first operation of this type led to the release of some 300 people last March. On the 3rd, while these releases were beginning, five orphans were handed over to a Norwegian delegation. On the 5th, two American women and six children left for the United States. On the 10th, twelve French children arrived in Paris in a specially chartered military aircraft, which also brought back two Dutch children (AFP). According to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there are 400 to 500 French nationals in the camps of North-Eastern Syria, with a vast majority of children. After a first repatriation of five children in March, Paris does not exclude a third operation of the same type, demanded by families who denounce the deplorable sanitary conditions of the camps. At the end of May, Médecins sans frontières described al-Hol’s situation as “critical”. Another concern of the families is the dictatorship exercised in the camps by the most radicalized women, who do not hesitate to attack or burn down the tents of the “infidels”.
On the 13th, Belgium announced the repatriation of 6 children and adolescents, all orphans, after signing an agreement with the Iraqi Kurdistan authorities allowing them to transit through Erbil with the mediation of the Belgian humanitarian association Child Focus and of the General Delegate for the Rights of the Child.
Finally, the controversy surrounding the death sentence in May of eleven French nationals transferred to Iraq continues.
The verdict is final: rejecting the arbitrary annulment of the result of the Istanbul municipal elections, the voters confirmed their choice of the CHP candidate, Ekrem Imamoğlu, this time no longer with 0.16% advance on Binali Yıldırım, his rival of the AKP, but with 9.22%... The economic situation has certainly weighed heavily, with official statistics themselves showing an increase in unemployment and a recession of 2.6% since January (10.9% in the construction sector). The authorities even started to charge journalists writing about the country’s economy! But it seems that the decision was made by the Kurdish vote. The “pro-Kurdish” HDP party had obtained 12.5% of the votes in Istanbul in the 2015 and 2018 elections. In addition, according to analysts, between March and June 2019, nearly half a million Kurdish conservative voters, usually voting for the AKP, reportedly decided to vote for the CHP candidate to sanction Erdoğan’s anti-Kurdish policy.
Anticipating an unfavourable outcome, the government had tried everything. After his “hyperpresence” in the previous round, the Turkish President had stood back in order to restore a more local aspect to the election. However, the old methods of intimidation and bias could not be abandoned so easily: on May 30, a CHP tent was attacked twice in a row, a young supporter of the party was beaten up and election banners ripped off, and then one hour later the tent was knocked down. On the 6th, when Imamoğlu was going to Ordu for a meeting, the governor had prevented him from accessing the airport’s VIP lounge, then threatened to intervene if his meeting lasted too long... Slander was also used: hailing from the Pontic province of Trabzon, Imamoğlu was accused of being secretly Greek. But this effort to discredit him turned against the AKP, provoking the anger of the province’s inhabitants (Al-Monitor). Moreover, as in the first vote, Imamoğlu received direct and indirect support: many opposition parties, including the “pro-Kurdish” HDP, did not once again put forward any candidates, and the new HDP mayor of Diyarbakir, Adnan Selcuk Mizrakli, explicitly called from the 4th on for a “Kurdish anti-AKP vote”. Binali Yıldırım’s efforts to reconcile the Kurds by holding a meeting on the 6th in Diyarbakir and using the word “Kurdistan” did not seem credible. HDP Co-Chair Sezai Temelli replied: “When our friends say one or two sentences in Kurdish in parliament, you insult [this language] as “unknown language”, but just for a few votes and your dirty business, you say the word “Kurdistan” and speak Kurdish as if nothing had happened, [while at the same time, you have the Kurdish postings removed] in Tatvan and Bitlis!” Temelli then called for mother-tongue education for all. For her part, Co-President Pervin Buldan, recalling the dismissal of several HDP elected officials, called for getting rid of “vote thieves”. On the 17th, after the televised debate between the two candidates, during which Yıldırım promised to “clean up” the eastern Euphrates in Syria, the vice-president of the HDP parliamentary group, Saruhan Oluç, reminded him that he was a candidate... for mayor of Istanbul, asked him ironically if he would do so with the municipal police... Finally, from his cell, the former HDP co-chairman, Selahattin Demirtaş, called on him to support Imamoğlu to block “enmity, growing polarization of society, revenge, hatred, resentment”... (Bianet).
The Anatolian pro-power agency did its best by publishing two days before the vote (quite in a timely manner…) a letter from the imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan in which he advocated “neutrality”, but the Kurdish voters in Istanbul were not impressed: if Öcalan’s words are so important, noted the lawyer Kerem Altıparmak, then why did they keep him in isolation for eight years? Öçalan also indicated that the decision in this matter would be that of the HDP. Observers also remarked ironically that repeating Öçalan’s words was suddenly no longer punishable by imprisonment…
After the announcement of the result, celebrated by hundreds of Kurds on the city’s streets, Temelli and MP Garo Paylan both said it was a message of peace, democracy and pluralism (WKI). In the words of Öçalan’s letter, Temelli called for “[r]opening the closed roads, talking to each other”, also called for a new attempt at a negotiated solution to the Kurdish question, with a new Constitution based on equality among all citizens of the country: “Reducing Mr. Öçalan’s statements to an opinion on an election is not understanding [them]”, he concluded.
While the AKP lost some of its arrogance after its Istanbul failure, there was no pause in repression. The government tried to prevent several LGBTI marches traditionally organised at that time throughout the country. On the 18th, the Governor of Istanbul banned a rally in Taksim Square, then when the organizers replied that they agreed to hold the meeting elsewhere, he also refused... The parades scheduled in Izmir and Antalya between the 17th and the 23rd were also banned on the 14th for “the protection of public morals”, before a Court suspended the bans on the 19th. In a decision likely to provoke the wrath of the Authorities, the organizing committee of the Istanbul demonstration announced that this year’s theme would be... the economy ("Ekonomi Ne Ayol?”, “What’s economy?”). On the 26th, while the Governor of Mersin banned LGBT parades in his province, the CHP deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu put anti-LGBT discrimination on the parliamentary agenda. After Izmir, Antalya and Mersin, the event was banned on the 28th in Gaziantep, in a context of anti-LGBT violence encouraged by plainclothes police (Bianet).
At the same time, the judicial machine continued to operate at full capacity. Ironically, on 31 May, Eren Keskin, lawyer and co-president of İHD (Human Rights Association), said on the publication of Mr. Erdoğan’s “Strategy for Judicial Reform”: “They talk of “zero tolerance” for torture, but today we met a five-month pregnant female prisoner who was stripped of her clothes and tortured”. Keskin added that the period was the worst she had known in her thirty years of struggle for Human rights...
The month was dominated by the trials against the “Academics for Peace”, signatories of a petition against the violence of the security forces in Kurdish cities that had enraged Mr. Erdoğan in 2016. The arrests and convictions also concerned journalists and civil society leaders, particularly in the Kurdish cultural sector. In some rare good news, there are also some acquittals or conditional releases....
Mathematician Tuna Altınel, who signed the petition, was also charged with “propaganda for a terrorist organisation” at the request of the Turkish consulate in Lyon, for having acted as an interpreter for former MP HDP Faysal Yıldız during his speech on the “Deads of Cizre cellars”: at the time of the lifting of the curfew imposed on this Kurdish city between December 2015 and March 2016, the bodies of 177 civilians, including 25 children, who had taken refuge in the cellars following artillery fire by Turkish tanks, were found in the ruins of three buildings. The condition of the bodies was such that 74 people had to be buried without being identified... Füsun Üstel, professor of political science at the Franco-Turkish University of Galatasaray (Istanbul) was arrested for participating in the same meeting (Le Figaro). On the 20th, students from Galatasaray, from which Altınel also originated, launched a petition to support him (Bianet).
On the 12th, the trials of thirteen academics charged with terrorist propaganda for signing the same petition continued in four different courts in Istanbul. They were sentenced to sentences ranging from one year and three months to two years and six months. Some of the sentences of less than two years have been suspended: if the accused does not commit any other offence within five years, he or she will not be imprisoned. On the 17th, the researcher Ayşe Gül Altınay, co-author with Fetihe Çetin of The Grandchildren: The Hidden Legacy of ‘Lost’ Armenians in Turkey (original Turkish title Torunlar), had her 25-month prison sentence confirmed for “knowingly and voluntarily assisting a terrorist organization as a non-member”.
Regarding the prosecution of journalists, Nurcan Baysal, arrested on 3 March for “belonging to a terrorist organisation” because she had attended a meeting of the Congress for a Democratic Society (DTK) in Diyarbakir in 2012, was released. Already held in 2018 for her criticism of the “Olive Branch” operation against Afrîn, Baysal is also co-founder of DISA (Diyarbakır Institute for Political and Social Research). She was mainly targeted for spending months in 2016 in villages bombed by security forces to help families and gather testimonies of human rights violations. On 13 May, journalist Yavuz Selim Demirağ, attacked outside his home on 10 May, was after a fabricated trial jailed for 11 months for “insulting the Prime Minister” in 2010... Mr Erdoğan. On 28 September, five employees of the Istanbul newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, successor to Özgür Gündem, including its publisher and printer, were sentenced to a total of 15 years’ imprisonment. On the same day, the Constitutional Court, after two years of investigation, awarded the former reporter of the German newspaper Die Welt in Turkey, Deniz Yücel, compensation of 25,000 Turkish pounds for the violation of his rights during his arrest for “terrorist propaganda”. Released, Yücel is now in Germany....
On the 10th, the young female Franco-Turkish citizen from Toulouse Ebru Firat was released on parole for good conduct. Arrested in September 2016 for belonging to the PKK after having come to fight ISIS in Rojava, she had been sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. However, she still has to stay one year and three months in Diyarbakir and visit the police station (AFP) every week.
On the 19th, the Bianet website announced the launch by the Istanbul prosecutor of an investigation against the publishing house Avesta and its manager Abdullah Keskin for messages on social networks. Avesta has published more than 600 books, in Turkish and Kurdish, thirteen of which were banned in 2018. Its premises have already been the target of a fire in 2016... Among the evidence against him is a “post” containing the word “Kurdistan”, none other than the legal announcement published on the Avesta website of the ban on the book History of Kurdistan! On the same day, twelve HDP members were arrested in Izmir.
On 25 June, the hearing for “membership in a terrorist organisation” of 18 lawyers from two different law firms also took place. Arrested in September 2017, released in a first trial in September 2018, six of them were arrested again on the same day, after a timely change of judges. They are now all collectively facing 159 years, one month and 30 days in prison for “belonging to an armed terrorist organization”...
On the 28th, fifteen students from the University of Kocaeli charged with trying to celebrate Newrouz in their university in 2016 were finally acquitted of the charge of “participating in an illegal protest and refusing to disperse”. On the same day, Hasan Birlik appeared in court with nine other defendants for “terrorist propaganda”. Their crime: attending the funeral of Hasan’s son, Hacı Lokman Birlik, killed at Şırnak in 2015 in a fighting with the Turkish army. Having received 28 bullets according to the autopsy report, the young man’s body had then been dragged through the entire city by an armoured vehicle, and photos taken by Turkish officers posted on the Internet... None of the perpetrators of these outrageous acts were ever investigated. The next hearing has been scheduled for November (Ahval).
Another scandal is the torture of the 54 civilians held in Halfeti (Urfa) since 18 May. On 3 June, the Urfa Bar Association published a report confirming sexual abuse. 51 testimonies from people aged 13 to 75 report torture including the use of electric shocks, handcuffs on the back and, against several women, sexual abuse and threats of rape. These practices contravene all the articles of the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention, to which Turkey is a signatory...
The fight against the filling of the reservoir of the Ilisu dam, planned for June 10, continued. The operation, which would lead to the displacement of 78,000 people, would drown the ancient and medieval city of Hasankeyf, hundreds of Kurdish villages, and thousands of Neolithic caves. With this dam, the State is killing two birds with one stone: it is pursuing its century-old policy of destroying Kurdish heritage, and is giving itself the means to cut off the water from the Tigris to neighbouring Iraq, as it can already do to Syria with the Euphrates... For 20 years of project contestation, the protests have far exceeded Turkish borders: the British leftist newspaper The Canary announced on 6 June a demonstration outside the Turkish embassy in London. Opponents to the project, who are trying to obtain that the inhabitants of the region are consulted, regained hope when rumours spread that the filling was being delayed. But on the 12th, police intervened to prevent the Batman HDP youth assembly from holding a press conference concerning the dam. According to the Mezopotamya agency, the group found the Hasankeyf centre and bazaar blocked by the police and gendarmerie, which also, on the governor’s order, prevented the statement from being read outside the local HDP office. 32 young people and the journalist Sonya Bayık were violently arrested, then beaten in police vans, before being released the next day after an identity check (Bianet). Further protests are planned for July 14 (WKI).
Finally, with regard to the case of the Gezi Park demonstrations in Istanbul, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International Turkey requested on 19 and 21 January respectively that the charges against Osman Kavala and Yiğit Aksakoğlu be dropped and that they be released, arguing that the prosecution files are empty. Sixteen people are accused in this case of “attempting to overthrow the government” for “organizing and financing” the 2013 demonstrations at Gezi Park. Osman Kavala, who faces life imprisonment, has been in prison for 19 months, and his co-accused for seven months. At the hearing, on 24, Mücella Yapıcı, a member of the Istanbul Chamber of Architects, said in her defense: “We are accused of creating the impression that there had been violence in Gezi. Did those who lost their lives or their eyes in Gezi lose them because of an ‘impression’?”... The court decided to keep Kavala in detention and to release Aksakoğlu on parole. The next hearing is scheduled for July 18.
This case is beginning to have an international impact: seven German civil society organisations have also called in a joint statement for the closure of the case and the immediate release of the accused. Among them, Amnesty International Germany, the Union of German Journalists, the PEN Club, the Union of Publishers and Reporters Without Borders. The audience was also attended by the German, Swedish, Dutch and French consuls, representatives of the Norwegian and United States consulates, the Vice-President of the Bundestag, and members of the European Union delegation to Turkey... (Bianet)
The “Kavala Affair” is unlikely to have improved Turkey’s international reputation, which has already been badly damaged. Thus on 29 May the European Union published an extremely negative progress report for the period March 2018 - March 2019. The Commissioner for Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, pointed out that in addition to human rights violations, the country had experienced a severe decline in democratic, economic and free market terms. The report mentions in particular that some of the provisions of the state of emergency have simply been transferred to ordinary law... The report also notes that the space of civil society has further shrunk, and that “many human rights defenders, civil society activists, the media, academics, politicians, doctors, lawyers, judges and [...] LGBTI people are still detained, sometimes without charge, and are the subject of defamation campaigns by the media and politicians”... These terms have obviously been rejected by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to which “criticism of the functioning of the judicial system is unacceptable”, “unfair and disproportionate”, and the report “partial” and written from a “populist point of view”...
Probably in an attempt to pacify relations with the United States, NASA Turkish-American employee Serkan Gölge, sentenced to seven years and six months in prison for gulenism, was released on parole on May 31. He is still prohibited from leaving the country, but must report regularly to the police station. Donald Trump significantly thanked his Turkish counterpart for releasing this “hostage” (!). But the Pentagon has not wavered in its opposition to Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft system; on 4 June, Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan warned his Turkish counterpart by letter: if Turkey persists, it will be excluded from the manufacturing programme for the F-35 fighter aircraft, in which Turkey has already invested $1 billion. The ultimatum expires on July 31. In the United States, Turkish pilots in training have already been barred from accessing the aircraft... Just before the Osaka “G20”, where the two presidents are due to meet, the Turkish judiciary has decided to release Nazmi Mete Cantürk, a Turkish employee of the American consulate in Istanbul who is under house arrest (also for guelenism...). But the Pentagon is unlikely to change its stance: for the US military, the simultaneous use of the Russian system and the American aircraft would pose an “unacceptable risk” to American defence by allowing the Russians to obtain sensitive information on the F-35 through their radars...
The Turkish army continued the anti-PKK operation launched on 28 May in Iraqi Kurdistan, which led to an increasing number of civilian population displacement... and to an increasing number of protests. On 1st of June, the State media announced the launch of a Turkish-made tactical ballistic missile, the Bora-1, on a PKK target near Khwakurk (Rûdaw). The HDP condemned the incursion into Iraq, accusing the AKP of increasing divisions in the country through its militarist policy. On the 4th, a young Yezidi was killed by Turkish fire near Zakho (WKI). On the 5th, Rojnews reported that KDP pechmergas who had come to Bradost to extinguish a fire caused by Turkish air strikes had themselves been targeted and that three of them had been injured, one seriously. The Governor of Sidakan reported that Turkish strikes had forced the evacuation of more than 120 villages (RojInfo). On the 12th, air and artillery strikes hit Dohuk-Amêdî road (WKI). On the 23rd, local authorities reported further artillery strikes in the Zakho region (Rûdaw), and on the 26th Sidakan was again hit, one civilian being killed and another wounded (Kurdistan 24). On the 29th, two days after the death of four civilians in a Turkish strike near the village of Kurtak, at the foot of the Qandil Mountains, and the death of another civilian in Bradost the following day, a group of 52 Iraqi Kurdish MPs asked the Federal Parliament to discuss Turkish violations of the country’s sovereignty with the Prime Minister (Rûdaw). On the 30th, the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the Turkish strikes while the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) called in its own communiqué on Turkey and the PKK to stop clashes in areas where there are civilian populations (Kurdistan 24).
Clashes also occurred on the Turkish side of the border: on 1st June, two Turkish soldiers were killed and five injured at İğdir, on the Iranian border, without the Turkish media referring to the Kurdish group concerned (Rûdaw). On the evening of the 11th, two gendarmerie non-commissioned officers were killed in Dersim and two soldiers wounded (Bianet). In Nusaybin on the 14th, the army “for security reasons” denied firefighters access to a fire it had caused, forcing residents to fight the fire without outside assistance (RojInfo). On the night of the 28th, another Turkish soldier was killed in a PKK attack on the base of Altıntepe (Hakkari).
Kurdistan’s domestic policy this month was marked by the inauguration of the President-elect, despite the persistence of tensions between the two main parties in the region, the KDP and the PUK. On 2 June, the KDP made public the agreement reached in March with the PUK, implicitly challenging the party’s boycott of the 28 May parliamentary session, during which Nechirvan Barzani was elected President (ISHM). The two parties have constantly been exchanging accusations of blocking the formation of the new government, to the point that on the 3rd, the Head of the Islamic Union (Yekgirtû) offered his mediation! The disagreement still concerns the choice of the common candidate for the post of Governor of Kirkuk. The PUK announced that it would send a high-level delegation to the swearing-in ceremony of the new President, scheduled for the 9th, which would also be attended by 21 MPs from that party (Kurdistan 24). On Monday, June 10, the outgoing Prime Minister of the KRG was sworn in as President in the presence of many guests, including Iraqi President Barham Salih, himself from the PUK, the Speaker of the Baghdad Parliament Mohammed al-Halbousi and several Iraqi, Shiite and Sunni political party leaders. The current Head of the PUK, Kosrat Rassul, was also present, perhaps a sign of détente between the two parties, as well as the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. The next day, Masrour Barzani, hitherto Head (“Chancellor”) of the Kurdistan Security Council, was appointed Prime Minister by the Parliament with 87 votes out of 97 MPs present. On the 12th, the President formally entrusted him by letter with forming the new government. Masrour Barzani, who has 30 days to do so, quickly began consultations, travelling to Suleimaniyeh on the 17th to meet with leaders of the PUK, the PDSK (Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party) and Goran. He said he hoped to complete his government before the July parliamentary recess. In the event of a delay, he said, “either [MPs] will hold an extraordinary session or they will extend their mandate so that we can form the cabinet” (Kurdistan 24). The PUK and Goran must select the candidates for the positions assigned to them and send the list to Masrour Barzani (Rûdaw). On the 22nd, the Turkmen Front announced that it had obtained a ministry (NRT).
However, the question of the Governor of Kirkuk continued to create a rift between KDP and PUK, with the PUK refusing to participate in the next KRG if this issue was not resolved, the KDP threatening to form the government without waiting for the other parties to send their lists of names... (NRT) The PUK is seeking the position of Governor of Kirkuk on the basis of its larger number of Provincial Councillors. The KDP, which declares that it refuses to accept as governor anyone with responsibility for the loss of the province on 16 October 2017, supports a former PUK member, Faraydun Abdulqadir, hence now a non-member whom the PUK is reluctant to accept as governor (Rûdaw).
Finally, in the absence of agreement, the Parliament postponed its recess by scheduling an additional session on Sunday 30 June… during which it voted for a further 15 days’ postponement, in order to give the Prime Minister an additional opportunity to form his government (Kurdistan 24).
Several months after Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s appointment, the Iraqi government was still incomplete in mid-June, with four key ministries still vacant: Defence, Interior, Justice and Education. The reason is the rivalry between the main coalitions in the Baghdad Parliament, each insisting on its candidates. On 16 June, the Iraqi press announced that several blocks were considering opposing Abdul-Mahdi’s government for its inaction, and on the evening of 17 June, Sayrûn alliance leader Muqtada al-Sadr issued an ultimatum: if Parliament did not appoint the missing ministers within ten days, he would “take action”. This threat apparently had an effect, since on the 24th, MPs elected three candidates: Najah Hassan al-Shamari for the Defence, Yassin al-Yasiri for the Interior, and Faruq Amin Shwani for Justice. However, for Education, Safana al-Hamdani could not obtain enough votes to be elected. Shamari, a Sunni Arab officer, was supported by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, Yassiri by Shia leader Ammar al-Hakim, and Shwani, a Kurdish judge from Kirkuk, was the candidate of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), to which the other major Kurdish party, the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (PDK), eventually joined.
The failure to appoint these ministers had been all the more shocking as the government is confronted with many challenges, both international (US-Iran tension) and domestic (exasperation of citizens). On the 14th, two bombs exploded in Baghdad and three mortar shells struck the Balad airbase, 64 km North of Baghdad, where American advisors are stationed; on the 17th, three rockets struck Camp Taji, 30 km North of Baghdad. On the 15th, at least four people were killed and 17 injured in a violent anti-corruption demonstration in Najaf, followed by another on the 23rd. On the 20th, 22nd and again on the 25th, hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Basra to demand the dissolution of the Provincial Council, the dismissal of the Governor, and above all better services. On 26 May, the Dhi-Qar Provincial Council voted to dismiss the Governor, followed the next day by the Diwaniyah Provincial Council; on the same day, the Administrative Court ratified a decision voted in May by the Kerbela Provincial Council, also dismissing its Governor... (ISHM) On 29 May, several people were injured in Basra when police dispersed a new demonstration with tear gas (Kurdistan 24).
On 17 April, the Electoral Commission announced that it was postponing the provincial elections for the second time, this time to 20 April 2020. Scheduled for 22 December 2018, they had already been postponed in January to November 2019. The Kurdistan Region, which has its own electoral commission, is not concerned by this announcement, unlike Kirkuk province, which has not held any provincial elections since 2005... It is not certain that the announced date can be respected everywhere, particularly in the provinces affected by the war with ISIS and where a large number of inhabitants are still displaced elsewhere.
Regarding relations between the Federal Government and the Kurdistan Region, one of the points of friction remains oil, although tensions have eased with the appointment of the new Prime Minister and the vote of the 2019 budget. The law allocates 12.67% of Iraq’s total budget to Kurdistan (compared to 17% before the crisis with former Prime Minister Maliki, who had stopped all payments in 2014). The budget also provides for Kurdistan to supply Baghdad with 250,000 barrels of oil per day through the state-owned company SOMO, but the issue of this delivery remains isolated from that of payment for KRG officials and peshmergas: in the event of non-delivery, Baghdad can reduce funds paid to Kurdistan for projects and investments, but not for operation. However, at the beginning of June, i.e. midway through 2019, the KRG had not yet made any deliveries, as Abdul-Mahdi pointed out in a speech on 2 June. In mid-June, whereas the Baghdad parliament was due to start discussing the 2020 budget, several Kurdish deputies expressed concern about Abdul-Mahdi’s possible retaliation measures for the following year...
On the 20th, however, the new President of the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani, travelled to Baghdad where he met with the Iraqi President, the Prime Minister and the Speaker of Parliament, stating that his aim was to “resolve outstanding problems in accordance with the Constitution”. On the 22nd, Barzani indicated that in principle, the delivery of oil was not a problem, but that it was necessary to “conclude agreements in advance”, as the KRG had to repay first many loans it had had to contract after the interruption of the federal budget payment by Maliki in 2014 (Rûdaw).
On 25 July, the Nasr (Victory) Alliance of former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi accused the KRG of violating the 2019 Budget Law by not delivering the promised oil and called for the dissolution of the government, accused of being “weak”. The next day, however, Iraqi Oil Minister Thamir Ghadhan expressed from London his optimism about the chances of reaching an agreement.
Discussions also continued between Baghdad and Erbil on the pensions of the victims of the Anfal, the genocidal campaign of the former Ba’athist regime. The GRK Ministry of Anfal affairs indicated on 24 November that the agreement was close, that it would also include the pensions of former political prisoners and an equalization of pensions, which are currently twice as high in Baghdad. The funds would be sent by Baghdad, either directly to the beneficiaries or added to the KRG budget. These pensions concern 70,000 people in Kurdistan (Kurdistan 24).
Regarding the jihadist danger, after the six explosions of the 30th of May that killed three people and wounded 37 in Kirkuk, ISIS continued his harassment, setting fire to many Kurdish fields in the poorly controlled areas between Erbil and Baghdad, as well as in Daquq, South of Kirkuk, where five farmers busy with harvesting were also injured by shooting. On the 4th, the situation in Nineveh province (Mosul) became so critical that the Iraqi Human Rights Commission called on Baghdad to act in Sindjar to “contain fires that have already consumed thousands of acres” while the province lacks fire trucks. According to several local officials, who accuse ISIS, in 48 hours 20 fires devoured 5,000 acres (2,000 ha). On the 9th, the Iraqi Civil Defence Directorate reported that 236 fires had destroyed 12,800 acres (5,000 ha) of agricultural land in one month, mainly in Kirkuk, Nineveh, Salahaddin and Diyala provinces – precisely those disputed (Kurdistan 24 for its part, gives an affected area of 37,000 acres, 15,000 ha to date). By the 15th, the total had risen to 303 fires over 11,465 acres (4,600 ha). Despite this, 2.5 million tonnes of wheat were harvested (ISHM). However, the Civil Defence attributed the fires to various causes: electrical shorts or sparks from agricultural equipment, negligence (cigarettes...), or even arson by the farmers themselves, who, after the torrential rains of March and April damaged their crops, are seeking compensation from the government... However, part of the fires were indeed caused by jihadists demanding ransom from the farmers.
In any case, after a bomb wounded four security personnel in Mosul, Nineveh province officially requested on 9 September that Baghdad allow the return of peshmergas to ensure security in coordination with Iraqi forces. Kurdish fighters would remain outside the cities, where security would be provided by local police forces. Deputy Governor Sîrwan Rojbeyani said that until security improves, no reconstruction project can move forward (Kurdistan 24). In Sindjar, the situation was again dramatic on the 12th, with at least two Yezidis were burned to death near Kocho, while the fires also threatened several mass graves. Several encircled villages had to be evacuated (Rûdaw). On the same day, Kurdish farmers denounced during a meeting with several Kurdish parliamentary committees a campaign of fires aimed at driving them off their lands in the disputed territories. The Commission for Agriculture and Irrigation went to Baghdad to request the Iraqi Parliament take action against these actions (Kurdistan Parliament Newsletter). Indeed, some fires attributed to ISIS target areas such as Sargaran, already subjected to eviction attempts by Arab settlers...
In addition to the fires, many attacks were also carried out, almost one per day. On the 6th, ISIS killed two civilians and wounded two others in southern Salahaddin province, then on the 8th, three explosions killed or wounded eight people in Kirkuk, and another wounded one civilian in Diyala, followed by another on the 11th which killed a farmer; yet another the next day wounded one in Khanaqin. On the 14th, when a mortar attack was reported, 25 families from Diyala reportedly preferred to leave their village (ISHM). On the 12th, ISIS claimed an attack against the Sinjar Protection Units (YBŞ), affiliated to the PKK, and on the 20th, four people were wounded in a coffee shop in Khanaqin where a suicide bomber tried to blow himself up (Kurdistan 24). On the 23rd, another attack killed one person in a village west of Mosul, and another on the 27th killed three women and wounded several others. In Kirkuk, three civilians were killed on the 24th, one policeman killed and four wounded on the 25th, another on the 26th, and on the 27th, a woman was killed and 17 other passengers injured when two unclaimed explosions struck two city buses. On the 30th, an IED killed one person and wounded two others in Islahi (Jalawla, Diyala province).
Faced with what is increasingly clearly an ISIS resurgence, the various security forces are struggling to coordinate. Earlier this month, however, the Iraqi Prime Minister had called for cooperation between the federal government, local authorities and KRG, the only way to ensure Kirkuk’s long-term security. On the 23rd, the Iraqis announced the destruction with the air support of the Coalition of ten tunnels and caves southwest of Mosul. Further destruction of caches and elimination of jihadists followed on the 24th and 25th in Mosul and Kirkuk (ISHM).
However, in Kirkuk, the Kurds continue to complain they are discriminated. According to several PUK MPs, they have lost 70 administrative posts since 16 October 2017, when Baghdad took over the province... The recent appointment of Sabah Ahmed as the Head of Kirkuk University looks like the exception that confirms the rule, and even in this case, there has been rumour that after the announcement of his appointment, he was threatened with death by Hashd al-Shaabi Shiite militias...
On the 13th, two Kurdish farmers from Daquq finally won the lawsuits brought against them by Arab settlers in October 2018, which could set a precedent for at least four other similar cases. But at the same time, the military command of the operations in Kirkuk has put pressure on other Kurdish farmers to sign documents that would force them to stop farming their land until its ownership is confirmed in court... To date, none of them have given in (Rûdaw). In addition, the conflict continues with Rakan al-Jabouri, the interim governor appointed in October 2017 by former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. The administration led by Jabouri has just decided not to allocate any reconstruction budget to thirteen “illegal” city neighbourhoods, as if by chance all with a Kurdish majority. These districts are considered illegal because they were built without authorization, but other districts in the same case, not Kurdish, are said not to be facing the same decision... According to Rûdaw, out of 106 billion dinars planned for reconstruction projects, only 11 billion have been allocated to Kurdish districts... However, Ahmed Askari, one of the PUK Provincial Councillors, said the Governor had pledged to start work in Kurdish districts, adding that if this promise was not kept, the Council would take legal action against the administration. In addition, Baghdad established an Inter-Ministerial Committee on 26 September to review the budget prepared by the Jabouri administration.
Besides, Jabouri was also the subject of an arrest warrant for eight different corruption charges before being released on parole. In particular, the Integrity Commission accuses him, with supporting documents, of using public money for personal works. The Kurds, for their part, have accused him since his appointment of relaunching Saddam Hussein’s regime’s Arabisation policy. The Kurdish channel Rûdaw published a report according to which, since October 2017, a total of 7,166 Arab families have come to occupy land belonging to Kurds, while according to a member of the KRG’s Bureau of Disputed Territories Affairs, Adalat Omer, more than 100,000 Kurds displaced in October 2017 have still not returned home, particularly those from Kirkuk, Khanaqin, Khurmatou and Sindjar (Shingal). “The Kurds [who remained] are now under pressure from Arabs to leave their homes and land” Omer added. The tactics used range from death threats to kidnappings, murders, or burning of land... Many Arab settlers are trying to resettle using the property titles they were given under Saddam Hussein’s regime (Kurdistan 24).
Iran-US tensions continue to escalate. On June 13, unclaimed attacks targeted ships in the Gulf, including two tankers. On the 17th, accused by Washington, Iran pointed back to an American provocation. Then on the 20th, the Revolutionary Guards (pasdaran) announced that the Iranian Air Force had shot down an American drone over the Hormozgan coast. At the same time, the Iranian economy continues to deteriorate following the sanctions imposed by Washington after its withdrawal from the nuclear agreement in May 2018. In this difficult context, the regime is stepping up its repression, striking any attempt at dissent, protest or even non-compliant expression. His strategy is clearly aimed at silencing through terror.
Among human rights defenders, lawyers have recently been particularly targeted. On 5 June, the Centre for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) announced the conviction of Amir Salar Davoudi, arrested by the Etelaat (Intelligence) in November 2018 and since then kept in solitary confinement at Evin prison, near Tehran. His wife, Tannaz Kolahchian, confirmed a 30-year sentence for several charges, the most serious of which, “establishing a channel on the Telegram application”, earned him 15 years: this is the network of human rights lawyers he led. Other charges: “insults to officials”, “propaganda against the State”, “cooperation with enemy States through interviews with Voice of America”, and “creation of a group to overthrow the State”... The arrest of Mr. Davoudi is not an isolated case. At least eight Iranian lawyers have been arrested since September 2018, simply for defending political prisoners in a professional capacity or for daring to express a critical opinion on the situation in the country (HRANA). In November-December 2018, in particular, the three lawyers Qasem Sholehsadi, Arash Keykhosravi and Mohammad Najafi received heavy sentences. The latter, who is currently serving a three-year sentence, is at additional risk of receiving 19 more years. Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh is also imprisoned. On June 11, HRANA published its annual report on the prosecution of lawyers in Iran: https://www.en-hrana.org/annual-report-of-prosecuted-lawyers-in-iran. According to CHRI, the authorities published a list of 20 “approved" lawyers to whom persons accused of “crimes against national security” should turn exclusively.
The regime also continues to repress Kurdish culture. At the end of May, according to the Kurdistan Human Rights Association KMMK, several Sanandadj students protested against insulting statements on Kurdish culture uttered by the local leader of the Bassij paramilitary militia. At about the same time, three members of the Nojin Socio-cultural NGO, Idris and Rebwar Menbari, and Zahra Mohammadi, were arrested by the pasdaran. On June 2, members of the NGO demonstrated in court to demand their release. The first two were released, but Zahra Mohammadi was kept in detention without her family even being informed of her whereabouts. According to a member of the association, she is accused of teaching Kurdish to a group of children in her neighbourhood (KurdPA). On 4 June, the authorities closed a Mahabad high school and dismissed its principal after the video of an evening of traditional Kurdish dance was broadcast on the Internet. The footage of boys and girls dancing holding hands provoked the anger of the Conservatives, and a prosecutor opened an investigation... (WKI). On June 8, however, the local KurdPress agency reported that the director of the facility had not received any formal order to close.
On June 11, the Kurdish Institute of Washington (WKI) announced that the Kurdish singer of Urumieh Peyman Mirzadeh, who is already serving a 20-month prison sentence after being arrested in February, had received a new two-year sentence for “propaganda against the government”, with a life ban on singing. His trial took place in the absence of a lawyer. Mirzadeh had already been sentenced in 2017 to six months in prison for the same charge.
Other minorities are also targeted. In Tehran, Sofia Mobini, a Baha’i woman, arrested on 26 October 2017 by the Etelaat during the 200th anniversary ceremony of the founder of her religion, Baha’u’llah, was sentenced to ten years in prison (HRANA).
Faced with the worsening economic situation, the Kurds feel particularly discriminated against by the authorities. In early June, KMMK published a report on the aftermath of the various earthquakes that have struck Iran’s Kurdistan since 2017. It appears that, as a result of the discrimination, not only have the victims never received adequate compensation, but Kurdish cities have still not been rebuilt, resulting in thousands of displaced people being unable to return to their homes. Falling into poverty, some had to sell their organs to survive! In addition to earthquakes, many fires have recently struck Iranian Kurdistan, particularly in the Marivan, Hawraman and Javanrud regions. KMMK accuses the regime and in particular the pasdaran of having deliberately started some of them. The Marivan forest park was totally destroyed; the Kermanshah region was also affected. In Ilam, thousands of hectares of agricultural land were burned, while other fires broke out in Sarpol Zahab and Qasr-e Shirin (Kermanshah) and Sarvabad (Kurdistan). These fires threaten many animal species. Environmentalists, who suspect the arson of Kurdish-owned agricultural land, also blame the government for not taking any preventive measures, such as preparing fire-fighting equipment (WKI).
On June 1st, a group of teachers demonstrated in Marivan against the imprisonment of colleagues who had protested against the conditions of their schools and the non-payment of salaries. In Divandareh, teacher Omed Shamhedi, accused of “attempting to disrupt national security”, was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment for his participation in the January 2018 demonstrations. In Bokan, a bookseller was arrested by Etelaat, while in Mahabad, another, Ismail Bokani, was shot dead on the 18th by a gunman who has not been arrested. Bokani had already been imprisoned a year for his activism. In Oshnavieh, municipal employees went on strike for three days to demand their last four months’ pay. On June 20, HRANA published on its website a report documenting the violations of workers’ rights in Iran over (precisely) those past four months (https://www.en-hrana.org/four-months-report-of-workers-conditions-in-iran).
The repression of cross-border Kurdish porters, the kolbars, also continues. Three of them had already been wounded in the mountains near Oshnavieh on 23 and 24 May. At the beginning of June, since the beginning of 2019, forty kolbars had been killed and eighty injured (WKI). On the 2nd, border guards shot a truck carrying goods near the Ganawa border crossing, close to Marivan. The driver was wounded and the porters fled, which allowed the guards to confiscate the goods. On the same day, two porters were killed and four seriously wounded near Piranshahr in an ambush which Hengaw said was jointly carried out by Iraqi Shia militias and Pasdaran. One of the wounded kolbars testified that the militiamen had tortured their prisoners. On the 7th, a kolbar lost a leg near Sardasht on a mine from the Iran-Iraq war. On the 8th, border guards shot 28 horses belonging to kolbars near Piranshahr. On the 13th, one porter was killed in an ambush near Baneh, and two others wounded in Piranshahr and Sardasht. Further South, in the Hawraman region on the 18th, a group of kolbars attacked by border guards had to abandon their loads. Border guards also confiscated 25 horses near Oshnavieh.
In addition, the situation of many political prisoners, still treated very harshly, continues to cause concern to their families and observers. Many, including the elderly, are denied medical care as a means of blackmailing those who defy the authorities or dare to file complaints against their conditions... On 3 June, former political prisoner Saba Kord-Afshari was again arrested and transferred to Vozara prison. She had already served a one-year sentence in Evin after participating in the demonstrations in the summer of 2018. The reasons for her arrest remain unknown (HRANA).
On 7 June, CHRI called for the immediate hospitalisation of human rights defender Nargis Mohammadi. After waiting in prison for a year for permission to have a hysterectomy, she finally incurred the surgery in May. However, although doctors indicated that she was at risk of a serious post-surgical infection and would better remain in hospital or at home for a month to recover, she was sent back to the cell only after a week and was then deprived of her antibiotic treatment...
On 11 November, political prisoner Alireza Shirmohammadali was stabbed to death by another prisoner after being transferred to the section for violent prisoners or people sentenced for drug offences. The law provides for the separation of detainees according to the nature of their crime, but according to Hengaw, prisoners who complain too much are often punished by being transferred to these dangerous places. Shirmohammadali had gone on hunger strike three months earlier to protest against his conditions of detention. Convicted of “insulting the sacred”, “insulting the Supreme Leader” and “propaganda against the State” after posts on social networks, he had appealed and his lawyer was confident that he would be granted parole at the hearing scheduled for 9 June (CHRI).
On the 25th, Kazem Safabakhsh, an Azeri activist arrested in November 2018, was sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment for separatism (HRANA). Several Kurdish activists have also been convicted of “belonging to an opposition political party”, such as Mohammed Kanani in Sanandadj, who was given five years before being released on parole. Three other civilians were arrested by Etelaat in Nagadeh and Bokan for “belonging to a Kurdish party”. Afsheen Shikhol, an environmental activist, also from Sanandadj, has been imposed a travel ban. In Urumieh, the fate of another Kurdish activist, Ismaat Salsahour, arrested by Etelaat for “assistance to Kurdish opposition parties” and then held incommunicado, remains unknown (WKI).
In another type of repression, on 24 April, the death sentence imposed in 2015 on Soghra Khalili, who had been imprisoned for seven years in Sanandadj, was confirmed on appeal. Her husband supported her, testifying that she had ended up killing a man who kept harassing her – and was known to have harassed other women before her. The prisoner’s four-year-old son lives with her in prison. The couple has another 14-year-old son. The husband called for help, indicating that the payment of the “blood money” could prevent the execution, which is to take place in August (NCRI).
Abroad, the British Richard Ratcliffe started a hunger strike on the 15th in front of the Iranian Embassy in London. His aim is to support his wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, in her own fast. She was imprisoned in Evin prison after being sentenced to five years on fabricated charges of espionage, after being arrested by the Pasdaran in April 2016 while visiting her parents in Tehran with her then 22-month-old daughter. The CHRI demanded her immediate release, and in the event of a refusal, permission for the British consular services to visit her to check her health – which they have been denied for three years – and of course a visit by her husband. A judge reportedly told the convicted woman that she was imprisoned as “bargaining chip” in a financial dispute with the United Kingdom... According to CHRI, at least eleven foreigners, dual nationals (dual nationality is not recognized by Tehran) or Iranians residing abroad, are currently detained in Iran.