On 1st August, the 13th conference on the Syrian conflict was held in Nur-Sultan (new name of Astana, capital of Kazakhstan), bringing together Russia, Iran and Turkey, as well as delegations from the Damascus regime and the Syrian opposition supported by Turkey. The Autonomous Administration of North-East Syria, dominated by the Kurds of the PYD (Party of Democratic Unity) and military partner of the Washington-led anti-ISIS coalition, had not been invited. The discussion focused on the Idleb region, the country's last rebel stronghold, now totally overcrowded, which has been under siege by the Russian-backed Damascus army for months with intense bombardments. Ankara, for its part, wishes to avoid a massive offensive, which would precipitate millions of refugees on its territory, which already hosts more than three million: with the economic crisis, their presence has become a real domestic political problem. Turkey has obtained a ceasefire from Damascus, on condition that the rebels move back 20 km from the de-escalation line and withdraw their heavy and medium weapons. Fragile truce: the regime has often previously broken its commitments, and Turkey, which had promised to disarm the “moderate” rebels, has not succeeded....
The summit largely failed. The participants were unable to reach an agreement on how the Committee tasked with drafting the future Syrian constitution should operate, as its setting-up had to be delayed. Nor did the negotiators succeed in bringing lasting peace to the situation on the ground: as early as the 3rd, the “moderate” rebels they hoped to separate from the jihadists refused to leave the region.
The only “achievement” of Nur-Sultan is a final declaration which, reaffirming the will of the three participating countries to defend Syria's “unity and territorial integrity”, explicitly condemns the Autonomous Administration: the signatories “reject any attempt to create new realities on the ground under the pretext of combating terrorism, including initiatives of illegitimate autonomous powers”, and “oppose separatist agendas aimed at undermining Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and threatening the national security of neighbouring countries”, a transparent allusion to Turkey. The Turkish President, obsessively opposed to the Autonomous Administration, certainly played a role there, and Damascus, which wants to recover its territories in Northern Syria, could only approve. It was also a question of denouncing the American presence in the North of the country. But the denunciation of the Autonomous Administration is indeed the only point on which the summit participants were able to agree, and the consensus hardly goes beyond that, given the divergent interests on the ground. On the 5th, Damascus, accusing Ankara of not having respected its commitments, resumed the offensive on Idleb, not without having taken advantage of the temporary cessation of hostilities to reinforce its front line... On the 8th, the Syrian army began to advance on the ground. On the 19th, it bombed the vanguard of a Turkish convoy of 28 vehicles that arrived near the village of Khan Shaykhun, south of Idleb (Hama province). Damascus accused Ankara of trying to provide weapons and ammunition to the rebels. Tension quickly increased, with the Turkish Foreign Minister warning Syria on 20 July “not to play with fire”. But on the 23rd, once the rebels had withdrawn from Khan Shaykhun, the Syrian army surrounded the main Turkish observation post in Morek, about ten kilometres to the south... Other Turkish posts were fired upon in the following days. Turkey's position in Syria was becoming increasingly delicate, and on the 27th, as the Syrian army continued its advance northward, Mr. Erdoğan made a “surprise” visit to Moscow to try to save the day...
Meanwhile, in Afrin, where Turkish occupation and depredation continue, Kurdish fighters continue to regularly harass the Turkish military and their Jihadist auxiliaries. On the 6th, Kurdish sources reported that during the previous week, Turkish military and jihadists had set fire to thousands of olive trees, recalling that since the 2018 invasion, they had burned more than 14,000 hectares of agricultural land... On the 9th, the Turkish Ministry of Defence announced that an anti-tank missile attack on one of its bases from the Tell Rifaat area had injured two soldiers, and that Turkey had “retaliated”. For their part, the Afrin Liberation Forces (ALF) claimed to have wounded or killed several Turkish soldiers on the evening of the 8th at a base in the Shera or Sherawa district, in response to Turkish fire that killed one of their own (Rûdaw, NRT). Following these clashes, the Turkish army pounded the area with heavy weapons, wounding five members of the same family, including a child (RojInfo). On the 10th, the ALF announced having killed eight jihadists from Jabhat al-Shamiya in Al-Bab in a night attack. On 19 July, the Turkish Ministry of Defence reported that it had once again responded to fire in the Tell Rifaat area.
The indiscriminate firing by the Turkish army, which has been taking place for months or even years in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, forcing the evacuation of many villages, is also targeting Kurdistan in Syria. On 13 August, RojInfo reported on the situation in the small village of Tirbê Spî, very close to the border, not far from Derbasiya (Qamishlo canton). Some farmers have not been able to cultivate their fields for four years, Turkish soldiers sometimes even shooting at children... Others accuse the Turkish army of burning their fields. The co-president of the Tirbê Spî Farmers' Council, Kamiran Umer, estimates that 2,500 hectares have ceased to be exploited because of this situation....
In addition to the Turkish threat, according to a recent Pentagon report, the Syrian North-East is experiencing a more than worrying resurgence of ISIS. On the 6th, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a car bomb attack in al-Qahtaniya (Hasakah) claimed by the jihadist organization injured a police officer and killed five people, including three children (AFP). On August 11th, ISIS promised to intensify its attacks in a video showing scenes of decapitation and close-range shooting at prisoners portrayed as kidnapped Kurdish fighters... On August 13th, the YPG announced the loss on August 5 of a female fighter near Shadadi (Hasakah), Vejîn Zagros, also reporting having killed three jihadists in a special operation near Hasakah. On the 18th, a car bomb attack killed a Kurdish police officer (Asayish) in Qamishlo and injured two people, one seriously. On the evening of the 26th, another car bomb exploded near a church in Tabqa, just outside Raqqa, killing one civilian and injuring nine others. The Asayish were able to prevent the explosion of another vehicle. At the same time, the SDF announced the capture of one jihadist and the death of another in an operation on a village in Deir Ezzor.
It should be noted that on 3rd August, the SDF General Command sent an order to all commanders of its military units to stop all recruitment of personnel under the age of 18. This is the application of the agreement signed in Geneva on 29th June between the SDF, the Autonomous Administration and the United Nations to stop the incorporation of children.
The month was also dominated by long-running discussions between Turkey and the United States, accompanied by a true “war of communiqués”: if discussions with the Americans failed, the Turks would themselves create the “security zone”, with the help of Syrian rebels ready to participate in the offensive... The Americans retorted that they were ready to protect their SDF partners from any attack, while taking into account Ankara's concerns, as the American Special Representative for Syria, James Jeffrey, said on the first of the month.
At the same time, diplomats from both countries continued their discussions on the possible creation of a “security zone” separating the Turkish army from Kurdish fighters. According to the Turkish press, Turkey demanded full control of a 30 km deep area on the Syrian side, from which the SDF should withdraw. The Americans refused such an important depth. At the same time, the Turkish army massed tens of thousands of men along the border... On the 6th, the new Head of Pentagon, Mark Esper, described any Turkish offensive against Kurdish fighters as “unacceptable” and warned that Washington would prevent any “unilateral incursion”. On the same day, Aldar Khalil, a member of the Autonomous Administration, stated that the Administration was ready to accept a five-kilometre deep security zone, while refusing a Turkish presence and requesting surveillance by international observers. According to Khalil, these two points were rejected by Ankara, as was the direct participation of the Kurds in the discussions.
On 7th August, Turks and Americans announced in two separate communiqués that they had decided to rapidly establish a “joint operations centre”, located in Turkey, which would coordinate the establishment of the “security zone” to eventually receive Syrians currently refugees in Turkey. On the 8th, Khalil welcomed the US-Turkish agreement, while Damascus rejected it “categorically” as a “flagrant aggression” against its sovereignty. On the 12th, an American delegation arrived in Ankara to continue discussions, and an agreement was quickly announced to create a “security zone” in North-eastern Syria. On the 14th, the Pentagon indicated that the agreement would be implemented in stages. It should be noted that the former boss of the American forces in Syria and former head of the CentCom, General Joseph Votel, now retired, published in The National Interest an article opposing Ankara's control of the “security zone”. In this text, co-authored with a Turkish expert at George Washington University, Gönül Tol, Votel recalls that “Security zones [...] are usually designed to be neutral, demilitarized and focused on humanitarian objectives”... (AFP)
On 16 August, SDF Commander-in-Chief Mazloum Abdi said in an interview with the Hawar agency that discussions on the “security zone” had in fact begun as soon as President Trump announced the US withdrawal in December 2018. Abdi said that the SDF had asked their American partners to act as mediators between them and the Turkish state “to solve the problem through dialogue and not war”, and then participated indirectly in the discussions from the beginning. When asked whether the SDF would accept Turkish aviation reconnaissance flights over their area, Abdi replied that “they had not accepted it and would not accept it because such flights would also endanger the other areas held by the SDF”. The Turkish Ministry of Defence had announced on the 14th drone flights over the “security zone”. Regarding the return of Syrian refugees, Abdi said that former residents of these territories were welcome to return (Bianet).
On the same day, Russia, reiterating its support to Damascus for the recovery of all territories lost during the civil war, said that “attempts to isolate North-eastern Syria are a source of concern” and called for dialogue between Damascus and the Autonomous Administration. On 27 July, the latter announced the withdrawal of YPG units from several positions near the Turkish border, the dismantling of various small fortifications and the withdrawal of heavy weapons. These operations, which began on 24th in Ras al-Ayn / Serê Kaniyê, continued on the 26th in Girê Spî (Tell Abyad). The US military command in the Middle East (CentCom) confirmed on Twitter the withdrawals and destruction of fortifications, with photos in support, adding that this demonstrated “the commitment of the SDF to support the application of the security mechanism” (AFP). At the same time, opposition to a possible Turkish invasion remains strong; the Council of Girê Spî (Tell Abyad) has indicated its rejection of Turkish threats, and demonstrations have taken place in several cities in Rojava.
Recent figures from the Turkish economy give little cause for optimism. According to the TurkStat Institute of Statistics, inflation in July was 1.36% compared to the previous month, 16.65% for the year. But some sectoral figures are worse: transport cost inflation reaches 4.46% in one month; and annually 18.21% for food. As for unemployment, in May it was 12.8% for those over fifteen years old, or more than four million, an increase of more than one million in one year. It reaches 23.3% among young people aged 15 to 24. In addition, industrial production in June fell by 3.9% compared to June 2018 and by 3.7% compared to the previous month. Among the three sectoral indices, manufacturing production contracted the most, with 4.6%. The political consequences could be very negative for Mr. Erdoğan...
As an indication of growing opposition to the increasingly authoritarian regime instituted by the Turkish President, 43 Turkish bar associations indicated that they would not attend the opening ceremony of the legal year on 2nd September. On the 21st of August, twenty members of the Supreme Court of Appeal out of 380 did the same. Since the attempted coup d'état in July 2016, the ceremony has been held at the Ankara presidential complex – due to Mr. Erdoğan's fears for his own safety. One of the members of the Supreme Court anonymously told Bianet that he did not wish to attend a ceremony “under the supervision of the president of a political party”.
On the 5th August, the government again allowed visits to the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. His lawyers, who met with him on the 7th, issued his statements expressing his concern about the persistence of a militaristic policy from the Authorities, and his proposal to contribute to a political solution for the “Kurdish question”. After his lawyers, his brother Mehmet Öcalan was also able to visit him. Through these authorizations, the government, faced with political difficulties, seeks to give an impression of flexibility, but this is illusory as soon as we look at the whole picture: throughout the month, violent operations, arrests, dismissals of HDP elected officials and even extra-judicial killings at the border went on…
On 1st August, nine Kurdish activists were arrested in a police raid in Izmir. On the 2nd, several medical staff members of the Cizre hospital, including a doctor, were arrested for treating wounded people who arrived on the premises while they were on duty in 2015, including a 10-year-old child: they are now accused of having assisted the PKK... The Turkish Medical Association TTB and the Human Rights Foundation TİHV both condemned these arrests (Bianet).
On the 6th, the left-wing website Duvar announced the launch of the “Initiative to Free Demirtaş”, with the hashtag #FreeDemirtas. The HDP leader has now been in prison for three years. Participants in this initiative include journalist Can Dundar, human rights lawyer Eren Keskin, German parliamentarian Cem Özdemir, co-chair of the German party Die Linke Katja Kipping, and Dutch MEP Kati Piri. Another hashtag used by participants is #FreeThemAll, referring to former HDP Co-Chair Figen Yüksekdağ and the thousands of HDP members awaiting their trial in prison. The next hearing of the Demirtaş trial will be held on September 18.
As for the mathematician Tuna Altınel, placed on bail on 30th July after 81 days in prison, he has not finished yet with Turkish justice: still being prosecuted for having served as a translator in February 2019 at a meeting of the “Lyons Kurdish Friendship Association” (Amitiés kurdes de Lyon), his passport having been confiscated, he must wait in Turkey for his next hearing on the 19th November. He is also still prosecuted as a signatory to the petition of the “Academics for Peace”, a case whose hearing will be held on 26 December (Le Monde). Although the Constitutional Court has ruled that the signatories’ convictions violated their rights, many universities still refuse to reinstate them. A petition challenging the Constitutional Court's decision, entitled “The Constitutional Court cannot legitimize terrorism”, was even launched with (as if by chance) 1.071 signatures: this number amounts to a clear signature by the ultra-nationalists, as it refers to the battle of Mantzikiert (Malazgirt) which by the defeat of the Byzantines opened Anatolia to Seljuq Turks... On the 12th, Dr. Anıl Özgüc announced her resignation from the University Aydın in Istanbul, her name having been added to the petition without her consent (Bianet). Among the 1071 signatories, other academics also indicated that their signature was false: Şerif Eskin, Ercan Eyüboğlu, Mehmet Gürlek, Ahmet Yıldız and Alev Erarslan (Evrensel)…
On the 8th, nineteen students from the METU Technical University were charged with “participation in illegal assemblies and marches” and “refusal to disperse” for having participated in the ninth LGBT March of their university. The first hearing will take place on November 12. On the day of the parade, police attacked the parade, using rubber bullets and pepper spray, before arresting 21 students and a teacher. Since 2011, the university presidency has tried every year to prevent the parade by cutting off electricity in the buildings concerned or by calling the police, and then launched investigations against the organisers (Bianet).
On the 9th, police raided the HDP office at Muş, detaining several of its members, including the two local co-chairs Ferhat Çakı and Muhlise Karagüzel. On the same day, further arrests were made in Bitlis, Tatvan and the Bağlar district of Diyarbakir. In Gaziantep, ten people were detained following their messages on social networks. Two of them were charged with “pro-PKK propaganda”. Condemning the arrests, the HDP reported that they concerned a total of 21 individuals, city councillors, district co-chairs and members of youth assemblies.
On 19th August, the Minister of the Interior reported that 418 people had been detained in an operation in 29 provinces, a few hours after the dismissal of the metropolitan mayors HDP of Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van....
On the 29th, the Constitutional Court rejected the request of the family of the murdered Armenian journalist Hrant Dink to interrogate some state officials of the time. After the 2007 assassination of the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Agos, the Court dismissed 24 people, including some accused in the trial of the ultra-nationalist Ergenekon network, such as former Istanbul Deputy Governor Ergün Güngör and the head of the MIT Özel Yılmaz: precisely those people whose interrogation the Court still refuses to allow...
On the information front, the authorities have continued their censorship efforts, including a massive attack on news websites. On the 2nd, the Bianet site reported that a court in Ankara had blocked access to 136 sites - including Bianet! - following a request from the gendarmerie dated 16 July. Bianet had already been blocked, but they only concerned certain items. There, the whole site was blocked, i.e. 200,000 articles and reports. The Turkish Journalists' Union (TGS), TİHV and the Human Rights Association İHD have issued press releases denouncing a further violation of press freedom and human rights. The Presidents of Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara and Diyarbakır also denounced this blocking order, as did the International Federation and the European Federation of Journalists (https://europeanjournalists.org/blog/2019/08/06/turkish-court-imposes-access-block-on-news-portals/), which brought the case to the Council of Europe platform for the protection of journalism. An online petition has been launched (https://www.change.org/p/ankara-3-ceza-sulh-mahkemesi-bianet-kapat%C4%B1lmas%C4%B1n-haber-alma-%C3%B6zg%C3%BCrl%C3%BC%C4%9F%C3%BC-k%C4%B1s%C4%B1tlanamaz). Harlem Désir, media representative of the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe), denounced the blockade, as did Reporters Without Borders (https://rsf.org/en/news/censorship-catching-bianet-rsfs-partner-turkey), Amnesty International ( https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/08/turkey-mass-blocking-of-social-media-and-news-sites-is-full-frontal-assault-on-freedom-of-expression/) and the International Press Institute (https://freeturkeyjournalists.ipi.media/turkey-violates-right-to-information-again-2/). However, on the same day, the court indicated that the blocking order for the Bianet site had been cancelled, adding that it had been placed on the list of sites blocked “by mistake” (Le Figaro).
On 9 August, the lawyers of the Media and Law Studies Association referred the matter to the Council of State to request the suspension of the new “Regulation on radio, television and voluntary Internet broadcasting”, which came into force on 1st August 2019. The latter entrusts the Supreme Radio and Television Council (RTÜK) with the authority to supervise Internet content. For the association, “having to ask for permission and pay fees to announce news is a violation of Turkey's constitution”. The fear is also that the “imprecise language” in which the text is written may allow it to be “used for censorship purposes and with bad intentions”. The Ankara Bar Association also challenged the same text on the 6th.
On the 16th, the reporter Ergin Çağlar, from the Mezopotamya news agency, was imprisoned in Mersin on charges of “belonging to a terrorist organization”. On the 19th, his colleague Ziyan Karahan was imprisoned in Diyarbakir. According to her lawyer, she was told that she was detained “because of [her] journalistic activities” (Bianet). On the 20th, the writer and peace activist Ayşegül Tözeren, an editorialist for the left-wing daily Evrensel, was also jailed in Istanbul after a police raid on her home. Placed on parole on the 23rd, she has been prohibited from leaving the country. On the 30th, four former leaders of the left-wing daily BirGün were prosecuted for “assistance to a terrorist organisation as non-members”. In 2016, they had reported on Tweeter messages broadcast under the pseudonym “Fuat Avni” that made public sensitive information about the authorities’ censorship policy.
However, the criminal complaint filed on July 8 by the Media and Law Studies Association against the SETA foundation was dismissed. After SETA published a report targeting journalists working for foreign media, the association called for the foundation’s conviction for “inciting the public to enmity and hatred”, “recording personal data” and “encouraging to commit crimes”. But the report was judged “within the limits of freedom of expression”, which provoked the irony of the association’s co-director: this same prosecutor, who keeps charging journalists who are only doing their job, defends the freedom of expression of pro-government institutions and media...
On 29th August, in front of the members of the Association of Broadcast Journalists, the Turkish President said: “We want a more pluralist Turkey with a freer press”... Explaining his statement, he attacked the media coverage of the protests in Gezi Park, which, he said, were “manufactured news”, and the international media, which were guilty of “anti-Turkish propaganda”. As anyone may understand, for Mr Erdoğan, “free press” means a press free to be favourable to him…
Overly critical cultural actors have learned the hard way about the cost of talking – or singing – too loud: on 27th August, Şahinkaya wrote to Bianet from Van prison that the musicians of Grup Yorum imprisoned there were reaching their 102nd day of hunger strike. Of the 18 members of the music group, 11 are in jail. Among them, Bahar Kurt has been fasting for 77 days, Helin Bölek for 70 days, İbrahim Gökçek for 71 days and Barış Yüksel for 72 days... Since her women’s prison in Izmir, Sultan Gökçek reported she had been brutalized for requesting her books, and filed a criminal complaint against her guards after a beginning of strangulation. She could not testify to this attack at the hearing, which she was attending from a distance, because the sound of the video system had been turned off.
Another conflict is the one around the Ilisu dam, whose gates were closed on July 18, thus starting the filling process. Protests in defence of the medieval city of Hasankeyf, which will be drowned with many Kurdish villages, continued despite police attacks on demonstrators, such as on the 6th August, and on the 13th, when several HDP protesters were arrested. On the 26th, the Governor of Batman announced a ban on access to the city as of 8th October. The “Hasankeyf Coordination” described this decision as a “cordonning of destruction”, before deciding to organise a series of actions on 14th September. These will by no means be violent, but will consist in playing music or carrying out an activity to signal one’s solidarity with the threatened city (Bianet).
Regarding military operations, after launching the “Claws” operation against the PKK in Iraqi Kurdistan on the 27th May, the Turkish army launched the second phase, “Claws-2”, on 13th July. The clashes continued throughout August, marked as usual by exchanges of claims between the two sides on the losses inflicted on the opponent...
On the 2nd, on the Turkish side of the Iraqi-Turkish border, in the Hakkari region, soldiers opened fire on three young shepherds who had crossed the border to retrieve animals gone to the Iraqi side. The youngest, 14 years old, died quickly, as the soldiers did nothing to assist him or seek help. According to another report, the youth were bringing contraband goods when they were targeted by helicopter fire. Already in 2011, a Turkish air strike on the Iraqi border had killed 34 civilians near the border village of Roboski (Şırnak). These genuine extrajudicial executions are never prosecuted by the Turkish courts... On the same day, the Turkish Ministry of Defence indicated without specifying a date that it had “neutralized” five Kurdish fighters in the province of Dohuk in Iraqi Kurdistan. According to numerous local testimonies, these strikes have resulted in many civilian casualties with no connection to the PKK.
On 3rd August, the PKK announced that on 1st August it had killed 14 Turkish soldiers in a surprise attack on their positions near Uludere (Şırnak), and six others the following day. Six Kurdish fighters were killed in these clashes (eKurd). Turkey has not confirmed its own losses. On the 5th, RojInfo announced clashes between PKK and Turkish soldiers in Khwakurk, Iraqi Kurdistan, during which more than ten soldiers were reportedly killed. On the morning of the 6th, the Turkish Ministry of Defence again announced it had “neutralized” 14 Kurdish fighters in an air strike in Khwakurk, before announcing on the 8th the neutralization of two PKK leaders in Iraq and, in a separate attack, of three other members of the organisation in Hakkari, on the Turkish side.
Also on 8th August, Al-Monitor analysed in a paper the assassination of Turkish vice-consul Osman Kose. Kose had been shot dead on July 17 in a restaurant in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, by a killer with a pistol and silencer. This is the first assassination since 1994 of a Turkish diplomat in office, and it is the first such attack in Iraqi Kurdistan. It may well be a response to the death on 27th June of Diyar Gharib Muhammad, one of the seven members of the PKK Central Committee, a native of Sulemani, killed in his vehicle near Qandil by a Turkish airstrike. According to Bahoz Erdal, the Head of special missions at the PKK, Kose, although officially a diplomat, coordinated intelligence operations against the PKK in Qandil within the MIT (Turkish Secret Service). He had therefore played a decisive role in preparing for the strike that led to Gharib Muhammad’s death. Although the PKK denied being involved in the attack against Kose, statements by its author, Mazlum Dağ, arrested on 21st July, point to the existence of “sleeping” PKK members in Iraqi Kurdistan. Al-Monitor wonders whether the PKK-Turkey military confrontation is not entering a new phase, characterized by a greater importance of intelligence warfare, in a context where the Turkish army now has tools with more precise striking capabilities such as armed drones and long-range missiles...
On the morning of the 16th, according to local sources, a new Turkish airstrike targeting the Qandil Mountains caused fires around several villages below (Kurdistan 24). In particular, Rûdaw reported the destruction of several orchards and farms near the village of Sangasar (between Ranya and Qele Dize, not far from Lake Dokan). The Turkish Ministry of Defence confirmed strikes on PKK shelters and weapons caches. The PKK has denied the neutralisation of hundreds of its fighters since late May. On the 19th, several houses were destroyed and three civilians were wounded in a new strike on Sangasar. Turkish television reported that five PKK members had been neutralized. The next day, an airstrike destroyed a PKK vehicle near the village of Babire (Dohuk), already partially evacuated by its inhabitants following the Turkish bombardments. On the Turkish side, the governorate of Sirnak announced on the 21st that one soldier had been killed and three wounded in clashes with the PKK (AFP). Then three Turkish soldiers were killed on the 22nd near Silopi, not far from Syrian and Iraqi borders.
On 24th August, the Turkish Ministry of Defence announced the launch of Phase 3 of Operation “Claws” in the Sinat-Haftanin (or Batifa) region of northern Dohuk province in Iraqi Kurdistan. The next day, he announced almost simultaneously strikes on Zirebar (Aqrê district in Iraqi Kurdistan), a village already partially evacuated by its inhabitants, and the death of three soldiers in clashes whose location was unspecified. Seven other soldiers were wounded in the same clashes. Also on the 25th, the “neutralisation” of nine other Kurdish militants in the Batifa sector was announced. On the 30th, five areas of Hakkari province, on the Turkish side, were declared “special security zones”. These are the centre of Hakkari, plus Çukurca, Şemdinli, Yüksekova and Derecik. Entry to these areas has been banned for 15 days.
The Turkish government continues its hateful prosecution against the HDP mayors who won the 31st March elections in Kurdistan of Turkey. On August 13, Medeni Özer, co-mayor of Edremit district, and Faruk Demir, co-mayor of Çaldıran (Van Province), were both dismissed for “links with the PKK” and replaced by a pro-AKP administrator (Turkey Purge). Then on the morning of the 19th, the mayors of Diyarbakir, Adnan Selçuk Mizrakli, Mardin, Ahmet Türk, and Van, Bedia Özgökçe Ertan, suffered the same fate, each time replaced by the provincial governor, appointed by Ankara. Despite the particularly unfair conditions of the election campaign, where public television stations gave 53 hours of airtime to the AKP-MHP tandem, 14 hours to the CHP, and nothing to the HDP, Mr. Mizrakli had been elected with 63% of the votes, Mr. Türk got 56%, and Ms. Ertan 54%. Thousands of Kurds have taken to the streets all over Turkey to protest. In Diyarbakir, hundreds of people, gathered outside the town hall, were dispersed by water cannons, and two were slightly injured (AFP). In Van, police violently attacked hundreds of protesters gathered outside the town hall. HDP deputies gathered to protest in Istanbul, Ankara and Diyarbakir. In Istanbul, the rally was prevented from accessing Taksim Square, and seven HDP officials were detained (Bianet). In simultaneous sweep operations throughout the country, 418 people, mostly HDP members or supporters, were detained.
The MHP, the ultra-nationalist ally of the AKP, expressed its satisfaction, but the CHP (Kemalist opposition) condemned the decision, its Vice-President Veli Agbaba describing it as “fascist”, while the Mayor of the CHP of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoğlu, elected thanks to the Kurdish vote, declared it “unacceptable”. Former Turkish President Abdullah Gül and former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, despite being members of the AKP, have also expressed their opposition to a decision “contrary to the spirit of democracy” (Reuters). In general, condemnation was massive. 28 bar associations throughout the country issued a joint statement: “The fact that three elected mayors, whose appointment had been approved by the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK), were dismissed from office by an ‘administrative decision’ five months later and on the basis of investigations [...] not yet completed, once again demonstrates the executive’s supervision over the judiciary”. The Association of Contemporary Lawyers (ÇHD), the Union of Turkish Chambers of Engineers and Architects (TMMOB), Lawyers for Democracy, the Human Rights Association (İHD) and the Turkish Human Rights Foundation (TİHV) have issued statements on the dismissals. Referring in their joint statement to article 38 of the Constitution that no one can be considered guilty until convicted by a court, İHD and TİHV described the decision as an “absolute violation of the Constitution”. Following an emergency meeting of the HDP, its co-chair Sezai Temelli told journalists that the decision was a “civil coup d'état”, a “new 12 September” (date of the 1980 coup d'état) (Bianet).
The protests lasted until the end of the month, despite numerous police attacks in Ankara, Istanbul, Dersim, Diyarbakir, Van, Erzurum and Bitlis (WKI). Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu defended his decision: “Those who claim that being elected brings impunity for terrorist crimes are wrong”... In Diyarbakir, police blocked all streets leading to the metropolitan city hall and prevented a public statement by Sezai Temelli. In Mardin, five journalists from different media covering the protests were detained and released only after several days, after being subjected to strip searches and physical violence. On the 21st, police dispersed new rallies. In Diyarbakir, where at least two hundred people had gathered, seven were arrested. Speaking to the foreign press, Minister Soylu accused the HDP of being responsible for the situation: “The main problem is the HDP’s attitude, which has challenged the State by appointing as mayors people who are already being prosecuted”...
The administrator appointed in Van, Governor Mehmet Emin Bilmez, informed the members of the municipal council of the dissolution of the council and the abolition of the next meetings planned... by a texto! On the 22nd, twenty-six lawyers protesting against the dismissals were attacked and beaten by police, who also insulted journalists covering the event, and MP HDP Erol Katırcıoğlu was separated from the group and taken away by force. Izmir bar president, Özkan Yücel, and a group from the association, who arrived after the incident, were prevented from approaching. On the same day, the Ministry of Interior dismissed eight HDP municipal councillors from Edremit, Çaldıran and Tuşba districts, and the Governor of Batman dismissed the mukhtars or village chiefs of Çay, Korik, Bağlar and Kösetarla, under the pretext of ongoing prosecutions or investigations against them, replacing them with administrators. In two days, more than 500 HDP members and supporters who were protesting were arrested, a source from the HDP told AFP.
A video showing police violence against protesters sheltering in a café in Van caused such a scandal that even an AKP MP from Istanbul, Mustafa Yeneroğlu, was moved, describing these images as “horrible”. Another video widely distributed on the Internet shows an Istanbul police officer shooting rubber bullets at close range in the head of an unarmed demonstrator. In Ankara, police officers held a 12-year-old child on the ground and handcuffed him behind his back before taking him away. The president of the Association of Contemporary Lawyers ÇHD recalled the illegality of this practice for a child (Bianet).
On the 23rd, the Turkish President defended the dismissals by accusing the dismissed mayors of having put themselves “in the service of terrorism” (AFP).
On the 24th, two CHP MPs, Ilhan Cihaner and Ali Seker, travelled to Diyarbakir to visit Mizrakli, then to Mardin the next day to meet Ahmet Türk. On the 26th, a delegation from the HDP visited the CHP premises to meet with its President Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and discuss the dismissals, the constitution and judicial reform. The HDP then issued a statement indicating the agreement of both parties to consider the acts of the government as a “political coup” and to defend democratic principles together.
In addition, after questions expressed on television by Ahmet Türk, the dismissed mayor of Mardin, about the debts left to the municipality by director and governor Mustafa Yaman, a scandal involving the undue expenses of some of the AKP directors between 2016 and 2019 began to emerge, particularly following an investigation by journalist Tunca Öğreten of Deutsche Welle. On the 26th in Van, more than 80 protesters were arrested, 38 of whom were then brought to court. On the 27th, 189 people, academics, journalists, politicians and lawyers, signed a declaration opposing the destitutions (http://bianet.org/english/politics/212298-189-people-sign-declaration-against-trustees?bia_source=mailchimpt=t%28RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN+-+Bianet+English+Daily%29). In Diyarbakir, the presidents of several professional organizations or trade unions, DİSK, KESK, TTB and TMMOB, as well as the mayor of Dersim Fatih Mehmet Maçoğlu, participated in a protest sit-in.
The protests continued until the 28th, when the police special operations department arrested former HDP MP Selim Sadak in Diyarbakir.
On 28th August, the Turkish President, speaking to journalists on board the plane bringing him back from Moscow, once again justified the dismissals by accusing the dismissed mayors of having “sent taxes to Qandil”, “turning them into bullets”. In the evening, the three dismissed mayors, speaking on the private television channel Halk, close to the CHP, indicated their intention to go to court to contest their dismissal. Van Mayor Bedia Özgökçe Ertan said, in response to the Turkish President: “ ’Sending money to Qandil’ is not one of the charges against me. It does not appear in the summary of the proceedings communicated by the public prosecutor's office”... (Bianet)
On the 31st, Istanbul's CHP Mayor, Ekrem Imamoğlu, also visited Diyarbakir, where he met with the city’s dismissed Mayor, Adnan Selcuk Mizrakli, and Mardin’s Mayor, Ahmet Türk. Reiterating his criticism of the deportations, he described Ankara’s decision as “reckless”, telling journalists: “There can be no democracy or rule of law when elected officials leave their posts without having been disowned by the ballot box”. Imamoğlu also visited the grave of Tahir Elci, the Diyarbakir president of the Bar and Kurdish activist, shot dead in the street in 2015 under extremely suspicious conditions while he was supposedly protected by the police.
On the same day, the programmes of the “Peace Rallies” scheduled for 1st September in Istanbul, Diyarbakir, Ankara and Izmir were published. The governors of three provinces banned several slogans or signs containing the word “administrator” or “coup d'état”...
Reactions have also been negative abroad. The human rights organization Human Rights Watch denounced the detentions on its website as early as August 20, (https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/08/20/turkey-3-kurdish-mayors-removed-office), stating that they violated voters’ rights. The Council of Europe also reacted, through Anders Knape, President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, who expressed his concern on the institution’s website, recalling that the Congress had already expressed its concern in the past about “the excessive use of judicial proceedings against local elected representatives in Turkey”. The European Union Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, Maja Kocijanic, called for the cancellation of the renditions, and Ms. Kati Piri, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey, said that the AKP, having been unable to win the elections, was now getting what it wanted “through undemocratic and totally illegal means”… Several European parliamentary groups or national political parties have condemned the destitutions, including the socialist and communist parties in France.
On the 21st, the US State Department described the decision to dismiss the three HDP mayors as “obviously worrying”. In Geneva, Kurds gathered in front of the “Palais des Nations” with banners bearing the words “No to the coup against Kurdish municipalities” and chanted: “Dictator Erdogan, take your hands off our town halls”.
The Iraqi Prime Minister is facing difficulties in enforcing his decisions regarding Iran-supported Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militias, whose integration into the army and withdrawal from certain territories he has ordered. On 5th August, members of these militias and their supporters demonstrated in Nineveh province, blocking the Mosul-Erbil road and throwing stones at the Iraqi army convoy arriving to replace them (ISHM). On 6th June, Falih Fayadh, National Security Advisor, but also Head of the Hashd al-Shaabi Council, announced that Nineveh’s security would be jointly provided by the Hashd, the Iraqi army and the local police, and on 10th September, requested a two-month deadline deferment for the integration of the Hashd into the army. As to the Sunni inhabitants of Mosul, they are in favour of the withdrawal.
Concerning relations with the Kurds, recent history, and particularly the genocidal attempt of the Anfal, regularly reappears in the news with the discovery of new mass graves. On 1st August, the Iraqi Martyrs Foundation announced the beginning of the exhumation of one of them in the Samawa desert. It contains up to 130 bodies of Kurds assassinated during the Ba'athist regime, mostly women and children. Two other mass graves discovered nearby will be excavated soon.
Other points of contention between Baghdad and Erbil, the disputed territories and budgetary issues. On 3rd March, a delegation from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) came to Baghdad to discuss the normalisation of the situation in Kirkuk. The Kurds are calling for a return to civilian administration before the provincial elections in April 2020. On the 4th, the UN Secretary General’s Representative for Iraq asked Erbil and Baghdad to cooperate in restoring security in Sinjar, echoing the same request by Nobel Prize winner Nadia Mourad. Regarding the 2020 budget and the KRG’s oil deliveries to Baghdad planned in the 2019 budget, despite several high-level meetings initiated as soon as the new KRG was installed, the agreement has yet to be reached... The Iraqi Prime Minister has hands partly tied by some of his coalition parties, which refuse to compromise on this question – as well as on the return of the pechmergas to Kirkuk. The KRG argues that the Maliki government’s decision to stop sending the federal budget to the Region in 2014 forced it to export its oil without coordination with Baghdad (Al-Monitor). On the 19th, Jutyar Adil, spokesman for the KRG, recalled that Baghdad was still cutting the region's budget by more than the value of the 250,000 daily barrels that the KRG should deliver to Baghdad (only 5440 billion dinars out of an official budget of 12,840 billion). On the 22nd, a member of the Iraqi Parliament's Finance Committee, Abdulhadi Sadawi, nevertheless blamed the KRG for part of the country’s budget deficit, projected at 72,000 billion dinars for 2020. On 24th July, Jabar Yawar, Secretary General of the Ministry of Peshmergas, noted that the funds sent by Baghdad still did not cover the pechmergas salaries (NRT).
In other areas, the relationship is less confrontational. Thus, for higher education, the Iraqi Ministry announced on 2nd February the impending official recognition of nine Kurdish universities in Iraq. According to Mohammed Shakir, member of the Iraqi Parliament's Committee on Education, the current lack of recognition is not due to any problem in quality of teaching, but to a lack of coordination at the time of their opening. This situation, which puts at a disadvantage graduates wishing to pursue studies or obtain scholarships abroad, will hence soon be resolved (Kurdistan-24).
Regarding the internal policy of the Kurdistan Region, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) announced that it had chosen Jafar Mustafa Ali (Sheikh Jafar) to hold the position of Second Vice-President of the Region, attributed to this party, while Goran (Movement for Change) has appointed Mustafa Said Qaidi as Vice-President. President Nechirvan Barzani will issue the decree formalizing their functions (WKI).
Regarding security, ISIS’s attacks were worryingly widespread throughout the month, particularly in the disputed areas left by the Pechmergas in 2017, where Iraqi forces have been unable to provide security. On 1st August, the Rûdaw channel announced that jihadists had killed four Asayish (Kurdish security) the previous night, including an officer, and seriously wounded two civilians, in an attack on a checkpoint near Kifri, in the Garmiyan region south of Kirkuk. The attack began with mortar fire on the village, then snipers targeted the checkpoint. Finally, an anti-terrorist unit vehicle sent to the scene was hit by a mine laid by the jihadists, and two of its passengers were killed. On the 5th, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his report to the Security Council indicated that ISIS still had $300 million in financial resources (ISHM). On the same day, Iraqi security forces announced the launch of the third phase of Operation “Will to Win” in Diyala and Nineveh (Ninawa). In the Kifri region, where the Iraqi Prime Minister arrived early Monday to supervise the operation himself, the Iraqi pechmergas and security forces launched a simultaneous operation (Rûdaw). In the Makhmur area, south of Erbil, an anti-ISIS coalition airstrike killed six jihadists, whose bodies were later found by the ground troops. On the 6th, Iraqi police announced that they had arrested five jihadists from ISIS in Mosul (Kurdistan-24), but on the same day ten improvised explosive devices targeted soldiers and civilians in Rumaila (an oil field near Basra), Diyala, Anbar and as far as Baghdad... (ISHM) On the 7th, four jihadists were killed in Diyala, and the Hashd reported having secured 147 villages. However, on the 8th, a new mortar attack in the province left two civilians dead and two wounded (ISHM). On the 9th, Iraqi Military Security announced that it had killed four infiltrated jihadists in their hiding place in Diyala. Other coalition air strikes killed an unspecified number of jihadists in the Kanus area (Nineveh), then two in the subsequent ground operation, in which it appears that an American advisor was killed (Kurdistan-24).
On 11th and 14th August, improvised explosive devices exploded in Kirkuk and Diyala, while jihadists and Iraqi soldiers were killed in action. On the 12th, an Iraqi counter-terrorist unit operating in coordination with the coalition aviation killed ten jihadists in Anbar, two of whom were wearing explosive vests. On the same day, an Iraqi checkpoint south of Daqouq (Kirkuk) was attacked, two federal police officers killed and two others wounded. The Minister of Pechmergas indicated in a press conference that the increase in attacks showed that ISIS had reorganized (WKI). On the 14th, another improvised explosive device wounded two police officers in their vehicle west of Daquq, and jihadists attacked a checkpoint between Hawija and Dibis, west of Kirkuk. On the same day, Iraqi planes killed four jihadists, including an explosives expert.
Besides, a delegation of Daquq residents terrified by the jihadist threat went to Baghdad to seek government protection. Accompanied by MP Dilan Ghafur, the group visited the Ministry of Interior and met with the Iraqi President. ISIS seems to be particularly targeting the fifteen Kaka’i villages in this area. Ghafur said that the Iraqi President had created a committee to visit these villages and report back to him (Rûdaw). Many Kurdish inhabitants of this region have recently left their villages.
On the evening of the 15th, the pechmergas repelled an attack from the Hamrin Mountains, south of Khanaqin district (Diyala), on Kani Masi (Kurdistan-24). On the evening of the 17th, mortar fire struck a village north of Khanaqin, killing no one. On the 18th, an airstrike destroyed a car bomb in Anbar. On the 20th, two improvised explosive devices wounded four Iraqi soldiers in northeast Baqubah (Diyala), and a new airstrike killed six jihadists in Nineveh. On the 22nd, Diyala again suffered a mortar attack, and six jihadists, including four suicide bombers, were killed. On 24th September, the Iraqi Security Forces announced the launch of phase five of the anti-ISIS operation “Will to Victory”. The previous phase included the destruction of 31 jihadist installations, including tunnels, and the seizure or detonation of 72 bombs (ISHM). On the same day, a new attack killed five Hashd militiamen in Daquq, where jihadists, after firing at civilians in a football stadium, attacked the militiamen with rockets (another report reports six deaths, including one policeman). The civilian victims are mainly Shia Turkmen. ISIS claimed afterwards several attacks in this province without mentioning this one in particular.
On the 25th, Iraqi security forces announced that they had killed four jihadists and arrested two others in Anbar. On the 27th, Iraqi anti-terrorism announced that one of ISIS's leaders, known as Abu Muslim, was killed in Anbar with two other leaders in an airstrike around the 13th of the month. In Diyala, on 26th August, ISIS attacked an Iraqi checkpoint near Khanaqin, killing two soldiers, and west of Baqubah, a bomb killed one police officer and wounded another; on 27th August, a bomb seriously wounded a civilian near a farm, and mortar fire targeted a village in the Muqdadiyah subdistrict, again targeted the next day by a victimless bomb. Finally, on the 29th, ISIS wounded three police officers in Jalawla (Diyala) and bombed an Iraqi patrol in Nineveh, two of whose members were wounded (ISHM).
Regarding the disputed territories, on 8th August the Kurdish parties rejected the decision of the Baghdad parliament to hold provincial elections there on 1st April 2020. Especially in Kirkuk, they fear this will deprive displaced Kurds of their electoral rights and embed the ongoing Arabization policy in the demographic landscape. Indeed, since the law provides for the establishment of voters’ lists on the basis of ration cards, the Kurds for whom these cards have been transferred to other provinces will not be able to vote. Conversely, according to official figures from the Iraqi Ministry of Commerce, over the past seven months, ration cards of more than 37,000 Arab Iraqis from other provinces have been transferred to Kirkuk, which would allow them to vote, contrary to the decree prohibiting any movement aimed at changing the demographic balance of a province. On 25th July, the Kurdish channel Kurdistan 24 announced that it had had access to documents showing that 600 Arab families from the provinces of Salahaddin, Al-Anbar, Maysan and Baghdad had obtained residency in Kirkuk during the past six months...
The Kurdish parties are therefore calling either for an electorate based on the 1957 census, which was conducted before Saddam Hussein’s Arabisation policy, or for the application of Article 4 of the Electoral Law, which allows the Council of Ministers to exclude a province from the elections. For his part, the leader of the Turkmen Front, Arshad Salehi, accused the Kurdish parties of having installed in Kirkuk up to 600,000 Kurds from Erbil, Suleimaniyeh, or even neighbouring countries! While it is true that dozens of Kurds who were deported under Saddam Hussein have returned home since 2003, the figure given by the Turkmen leader supported by Ankara is grossly exaggerated. For the Kurds, the definitive solution, in accordance with the 2005 Iraqi Constitution, would be the application of Article 140. The province has not had an election since 2005 (Rûdaw)...
On the 13th, the Kurdish parties in Kirkuk decided to legally challenge the law establishing the provincial elections, the same day that the Deputy Director of the Iraqi Electoral Commission expressed concern that many displaced persons could not vote there because they could not go to the polling stations in their home towns with up-to-date electoral cards (ISHM).
Throughout Kurdistan, Turkish strikes continued throughout the month, regularly causing civilian casualties. In 25 villages in Dohuk, there are abandoned houses, and about ten Christian villages in the Kani Masi district have even been completely evacuated. According to the district head, Turkish air force strikes almost daily (Rûdaw). On a larger scale, hundreds of villages have been abandoned by their inhabitants since May. On 12th December, KDP President Massoud Barzani reported that the KRG was trying through diplomatic channels to stop the continuous strikes by Turkey and Iran on its territory against the PKK and the PDKI. Without specifying the content of the ongoing discussions, he insisted that they would not lead to fighting between “Kurdish brothers”, suggesting that the KRG would not use force to expel the Kurds targeted by these strikes in exchange for their end (ISHM). On the 20th, a few hours after Turkish strikes wounded three villagers near the Qandil Mountains, the KRG spokesman again called on Turkey and the PKK to avoid any harm to the inhabitants of Iraqi Kurdistan.
The Kurdish Parliament announced on 1st August that it was debating the designation of 3rd August as “Day of Remembrance of the Genocide of the Yezidis” perpetrated by ISIS. The law should pass during the session scheduled for the following Saturday, precisely on the 3rd (Kurdistan-24). On the same day, the Yezidi Yazda rights organization organized a commemoration of the event, which brought together Iraqi and foreign officials. Council of Ministers Secretary General Mahdi al-Alaq reported that, of the sixty-seven mass graves in Yezidis discovered after the withdrawal from ISIS, seventeen have now been opened, mainly by UNITAD, the United Nations organization investigating ISIS's crimes. Alaq also announced that the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education had authorized the opening of the first university in Sinjar (Shingal), as well as a museum and especially a hospital that will specialize in the treatment of women and children victims of kidnapping and torture (Rûdaw).
According to the head of the KRG's Yezidi Women's Safeguarding Bureau, Hussein Koro, who was speaking at a separate press conference, of the 6,417 Yezidi women abducted by ISIS, only 3,509 have been saved. Koro reported having reliable information that a number of these women and children were in Al-Hol camp in Rojava. A team sent to the area was unable to ascertain their presence, let alone bring them back... On the 3rd, former ISIS captive and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad called on them from Stuttgart, where she was at the invitation of the German Yezidi Council, to return to Sinjar: “Today, more than 90,000 have returned [...]. More have to come back to defeat ISIS’s plan to chase them away”. She also criticized the Iraqi and Kurdish authorities for failing to take action to help the survivors, and requested compensation for them. It should be noted that the resolution adopted on the same day by the Kurdish Parliament also calls for the federal government to provide reparations to the families of the victims “according to the Iraqi constitution”. Nadia Murad thanked the Kurdistan Parliament for this resolution.
On August 30th, local police discovered in Sinjar a new mass grave of Yezidis killed by ISIS, containing at least six victims (ISHM).
The Autonomous Administration of the Syrian North-East continues to call on Western countries to assume their responsibilities towards their jihadist nationals. The camps located on its territory hold more than 70,000 prisoners, including 10,000 foreigners, divided into 2,000 women and 8,000 children, with 370 French people, including 250 children. The newspaper Le Monde counted 800 Western men, 700 women, and nearly 1,500 children. These camps are now so overcrowded that living conditions have become totally unworthy. How can radicalization be stopped in such a situation? As guards have been attacked or stabbed, more and more observers believe that these camps have become real ticking time bombs. Yet countries of origin are still as reluctant to recover their nationals who have become jihadists, nor do they want their relatives, women or children. Nor does the international community provide the Kurdish administration with the financial means to set up better equipped camps.
On 12th August, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnès Callamard, sent a six-page letter to the French government accusing it of double talk: while the country claims to oppose the death penalty, it agreed to transfer thirteen French ISIS members to Iraq where they were promptly sentenced to death. Callamard argued that such a transfer constituted a violation of international law. France defended its decision by arguing that jihadists should be tried as close as possible to the places where they had committed crimes (ISHM), and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave a very critical response to this letter by referring to “unsubstantiated allegations” and “pure speculation”: “The allegations made by Agnès Callamard are not based on any prior exchange with the French authorities, as provided for by the Human Rights Council’s special procedures. They are in no way substantiated, are pure speculation and are solely of her responsability”.
The French Centre for the Analysis of Terrorism (CAT), which dispatched one of its analysts in Syria this summer to learn about the potential presence there of sponsors of attacks carried out in France, called for their repatriation so that they will be present at the trials planned for these attacks. But more generally, the CAT mission also testified to the difficulties encountered by the Kurds in “organising the detention and trial of foreign combatants. They lack just about everything, evidence about them, financial resources; they do not have the funds at this stage to create prisons for women. They also lack legal expertise. Recently, they have been supporting the project of an international tribunal on the spot, but this is not possible as it stands” (L'Express). If an on-site judgment is to be made, then the Autonomous Administration should be assisted in doing so.
As pointed out by the Huffington Post, an international tribunal is created by a special resolution of the UN Security Council, as was done in the cases of the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. In 2014, Resolution 2170, which created the Coalition Against ISIS, “urges all States to cooperate [...] in efforts to find and bring to justice” ISIS fighters and other terrorist organizations. The Member States of the coalition therefore have the legal basis to set up a specific international tribunal, other options being to extend the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in The Hague or to create a mixed court on the model of Cambodia after the genocide of the Khmer Rouge, composed of local and international lawyers...
On the 19th, in any case, the Autonomous Administration of North-East Syria handed over on the spot four orphans of jihadist fighters to a delegation of the German government (AFP). According to a local source, the Rojava Information Centre, Germany could take back on its territory more than a hundred children born in Syria to German parents suspected of having come to the country to support ISIS. Even more men and women would then be repatriated. Last July, a German court ordered the repatriation of a woman with three children, whom the Ministry of Foreign Affairs intended to repatriate without their mother. The mother’s family had then filed a complaint (Rûdaw).
The beginning of August was marked by the scandal caused by the chilling statements uttered by Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi at the end of July. The current adviser to the Head of the Iranian judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, and former Minister of the Interior and Justice, defended on 24th July in an interview with Mosalas magazine the extrajudicial executions of 1988, during which 30,000 political prisoners were sent to the gallows outside any legal framework. Non content with approving this crime against humanity, which he described as a legitimate act of war, Pour-Mohammadi went further by declaring that he was ready to continue the executions. Beyond the organization of the Mujahedin-e Khalq, mentioned by name, all protesters are targeted. Pour-Mohammadi was at the time of the killings sitting alongside Ebrahim Raissi in Tehran’s “Death Commission”, established by a fatwa of Ayatollah Khomeiny, who had ordered the executions. The interview, posted online by the magazine and subtitled in English by activists, is available on the Internet (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAo6w1QOFqw). In their stiffening under US sanctions, the Iranian authorities have sent a truly horrifying message showing how far they are prepared to go in their repression of any protest. On 5th August, the Centre for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) condemned these statements and called on Raisi to disavow them. CHRI also calls on the Head of the judiciary to commit not to resume these practices in order to silence political opponents, and calls on the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, as well as on all governments, to publicly condemn Pour-Mohammadi's statements.
Besides, new arson attacks occurred in the Kurdish regions of Iran between late July and early August. According to KMMK, in the Kermanshah region of Dalahu, the fire burned for four days without the authorities making any attempt to fight it. The response came from local volunteers and environment activists. On the 3rd, a major fire struck Javanrud, while 50 ha were devastated near Sardasht (WKI).
The Kolbars, these cross-border Kurdish carriers, continue to pay with their lives for their attempts to survive economically. According to the KMMK, since the beginning of the year, nearly 50 people have been killed and nearly 100 injured. Hengaw reported in early August that during the month of July seven kolbars had been killed and twenty injured. Two were wounded on 31st July on the Iraqi side, not far from the Haji Omran border crossing, opposite Piranshahr (KMMK). On the same day, another one injured himself in a fall in Hawraman, and yet another in a border guard ambush near Kileh Shin (between Saqqez and Baneh). In Nowdeshah (opposite Halabja), a kolbar was wounded by border guard fire, and on the 7th, two were wounded near Sardasht and one killed in Piranshahr. On the 10th, the Pasdaran opened fire on a group of kolbars near the Khoy border crossing, killing one of them and injuring another. On the 11th, a man was killed near Oshnavieh when the Pasdaran opened fire on his vehicle. Another kolbar, captured, was tortured. On the 21st, security forces wounded a kolbar in an ambush on a group near Sardasht. Another one received a bullet in his leg on the same day in Urumieh. On the 25th, another was killed near Baneh and one was seriously shot near Khoy. Finally, on the 27th, border guards attacked a group near Oshnavieh and killed a 32-year-old Kurd named Mohamadi Hamizadeh (WKI).
In addition, a wave of arrests has targeted Kurdish activists; according to the Kurdistan Human Rights Association (KMMK), 270 of them have been arrested since the beginning of the year, and at the same time many convictions have been handed down. Six people were arrested earlier this month: three in Marivan, one in Piranshahr and two in Oshnavieh (Shino). In Marivan, women's rights defender Parwin Adawai was arrested, then on the 2nd, Etelaat (Intelligence Service) arrested two more people, Hamdi and Shaho Kawan. In Oshnavieh, the two Kurds arrested, Aso Garmiani and Majid Darî, were charged with “assistance to the Kurdish opposition parties” and sentenced to prison terms ranging from three months to four years. Since the beginning of the year, more than 250 Kurds have been arrested by the regime. In Urumieh, five Kurdish political prisoners went on hunger strike to protest against their conditions of detention, as did the singer Peyman Mîrzadeh, after receiving a hundred lashes for “propaganda against the Islamic Republic” (WKI).
On the 6th, Etelaat raided the homes of several activists in Kamyaran and arrested seven of them. On the 9th, Kurdish activist Sirun Abbasi was arrested in such a raid in Dehgolan after calling for the resignation of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. In Rabati, near Sardasht, two Kurds were detained by Etelaat without charge (WKI).
On the 18th , the United Nations General Assembly published a report on the human rights situation in Iran (https://undocs.org/en/A/74/188). Written by Special Rapporteur Javaid Rehman, this report discusses the regime's multiple violations, including its persecution of minorities. The report states that Kurds represent half of Iran's political detainees and are the first to suffer political executions. The report also addresses the prohibition of the Kurdish language in education and expresses the author's concern about the persecution of Kurdish-speaking teachers. It mentions in particular Zara Mohammadi, arrested on 23rd May 2019 for having organised private Kurdish language courses in Sanandaj (WKI).
Other Kurdish activists were arrested later in the month. In Sanandaj, Zanyar Zamran, arrested last December, was sentenced to three months' imprisonment for “propaganda against the Islamic Republic”. Also in Sanandaj, a Kamyaran activist, Omed Assadi, was sentenced to one year in prison for “propaganda for an opposition Kurdish party”. In Sardasht, a Kurdish businessman, Sabir Bapiri, was wounded by security forces fire on his car (KMMK). On the 20th, Etelaat arrested Kurdish activists Mohsen Saiedpour and Akbar Gawili during raids on their homes. He had already been imprisoned for political reasons (KMMK).
On the 28th, the Washington Kurdish Institute (WKI) reported that three Sanandaj Kurds visiting the city of Damawand were arrested simply because they were wearing traditional Kurdish clothing...
Beyond Iran's Kurdistan, repression has also affected many women, particularly those having publicly removed their veils. On the 7th, the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) announced that three women activists had been sentenced on July 31st in Varamin to 55 years in prison. HRANA also announced on the 14th the publication of a book written by human rights defenders that can be downloaded from its website (https://www.hra-news.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/What-is-Right-by-Amin-Ghazaei-HRAI.pdf). On the 19th, the CHRI reported that, since January 2018, 32 people have been arrested for such acts of civil disobedience against the obligation to wear the hijab, and at least 12 have been sentenced to prison terms of six months to thirty-three years. In addition, several studies on people's feelings about the obligation of the veil show that an increasing proportion of the population considers it a personal choice and that the hijab should not be made mandatory. Thus, surveys conducted by the Iranian Student Survey Association in 2006 and 2014, and published by the Rouhani administration in 2018 (https://click.icptrack.com/icp/relay.php?r=70632417sgid=971919ct=GHQ4=333585estination=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.css.ir%2FMedia%2FPDF%2F1396%2F11%2F14%2F636532375414083535.pdf), show that 49.2% of the population share this opinion. A report published in March 2018 by the Parliamentary Research Centre (http://www.mizanonline.com/files/fa/news/1397/5/6/1727106_316.pdf) also concluded that there is a growing disaffection with the veil and suggests a revision of the law. But since its publication, nothing has changed. The courts equate the refusal to wear the veil with prostitution and impose sentences for, inter alia, “encouraging corruption and prostitution”, “publishing indecent material on social media” or “public commission of prohibited acts”.
On the 27th, Saba Kord Afshari was sentenced to a total of 24 years in prison on several charges following her participation in protests in Tehran. She faces the risk of serving the longest sentence of 15 years for publicly removing her veil, which has led her to be charged with "spreading prostitution" (HRANA). Despite the arrest of his mother, who was also present during the demonstrations, Afshari refused, according to human rights groups, to record a video confession. Three other women had been sentenced to six years' imprisonment the previous day.
On the 24th August, writer and director Kiumars Marzban, arrested during a raid on his Tehran home on 26th August 2018 and detained since then in Evin prison, was sentenced on several charges to a total of 23 years in prison. He should serve the longest sentence, i.e. 11 years. On the same day, journalist Marzieh Amiri was sentenced to ten years and six months in prison after being arrested in Tehran with several activists during the 1st of May demonstration (HRANA).
Researchers have also been targeted by the regime's repression, particularly those linked to foreign countries. In Tehran, a Kurdish anthropologist with dual Iranian and British nationality, Kamil Ahmadi (Kameel Ahmady), author of a 2015 study on female genital mutilation (http://kameelahmady.com/wp-content/uploads/Kameel%20-%20EN%20Final.pdf), updated in 2017 (https://www.28toomany.org/static/media/uploads/Continent%20Research%20and%20Resources/Middle%20East/the-changing-paradigms-of-fgmc-web.pdf), was according to his wife arrested and sentenced to one month in prison. His arrest follows that of another anthropologist, Farida Adelkhah, living in France and also working on Iranian women. Adelkhah, arrested in early June for “espionage” while visiting her family, is still in detention in the sinister prison of Evin, in northern Tehran...
Our friend and colleague Şerafettin GÜRBÜZ died on Monday 5 August 2019 in Paris at the age of 57.
Born in 1962 in Pertek, Dersim province, he was a geological engineer by training. Fleeing the mass repression in Kurdistan of Turkey in the 1980s, he came to France as a refugee. After taking French courses at the Institute, rather than returning to engineering work in France as he could have done, he preferred to join the Kurdish Institute team in 1991 and became a cornerstone of it. He was a welcoming, helpful and courteous visitor receptionist who was loved and appreciated by everyone at the Institute and by his friends passing through. In addition, he prepared the press review of the Institute's monthly Bulletin, and also provided a large part of the logistics, maintenance and supplies necessary for the daily running of the offices. He also prepared Saturday cultural meetings, painting and photography exhibitions, and welcomed guests to the conferences organized by the Institute.
Suffering for a few months from violent tinnitus that made his life difficult, he decided to commit suicide. He leaves behind a daughter and a son.
In accordance with his will, his funeral was held in Kurdistan, in his native village in Dersim province, in the presence of his family and a large crowd.
A meeting was held in his memory on Saturday from 3 to 7 pm at the Kurdish Institute for his colleagues, relatives, friends and all those who knew and appreciated him. It brought together more than 300 people, some of whom coming from other European countries. The Institute has also received many messages of sympathy from personalities and parties in Kurdistan. A discreet and courteous man, “Şeref” has chosen to leave without complaining, without bothering his friends and relatives, in an old Kurdish tradition of “knowing how to die”. We cannot think of him without emotion.