The Turkish government is increasingly embarrassed by the economic situation. The TurkStat Statistical Institute reported on 2 September that production in the previous quarter fell by 1.5% compared to the same period in the previous year. Then a controversy developed around the inflation figures published by the institute, 0.86% for August and 15% over the last 12 months, described as “strange” by an economist. The vice-president of the CHP, Aykut Erdoğdu, recalled that the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce had estimated annual inflation at 22.55%. The figure of the trade union Türk-İş is almost identical. HDP MP Garo Paylan ironically said: “Mr. Son-in-law chooses TurkStat’s figures” (the president’s son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, is a little convincing Minister of Economy). On the 4th, a MetroPOLL survey gave a President’s approval rate of 44%, ten points lower than the previous year, with the disagreement rate rising from 38 to 48%. On 16, TurkStat published unemployment figures for June: 13%, up 2.8%, or 4,253,000 unemployed. For young people aged 15 to 24, it is 24.8%, an increase of 5.4%. As shown by the loss of the country’s largest cities in recent municipal elections, this situation has had a severe impact on the popularity of the government, which has begun to repress the comments of economic journalists. Thus 38 people, including two Bloomberg reporters, were charged with “opposition to the Capital Market Law” following articles in August 2018 analysing Article 102 of this law and pointing to a 24% collapse of the Turkish lira in one day... Bloomberg reporter Kerim Karakaya described the trial, whose first hearing took place on the 20th, as “tragic-comic”... The next hearing is scheduled for January 9.
Whatever the events, the present power seems to know nothing but censorship and repressive response: after the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Istanbul on the 26th, following a first on the 24th of 4.7 in the Marmara Sea, the director of the Kandilli Seismic Research Centre, Professor Halik Özener, reported that 200 earthquakes had been recorded in 24 hours and expressed concern that a very large earthquake could occur quickly. There were 43 minor injuries, 464 buildings were damaged, and many worried residents preferred to spend the night outside. On the 27th, the provincial governor threatened to prosecute the authors of alarmist messages on social networks...
On the 2nd, the opening ceremony of the legal year, held in the presidential complex of Ankara, was boycotted by forty-three bars of the country, including those of Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir and Diyarbakir. In his opening speech, the President Erdoğan accused them of “provocation”. On the 5th, the bars of Antalya, Istanbul and Ankara called for a general meeting of the Bars Union to “reassess” its president Metin Feyzioğlu, who delivered a speech during the ceremony (Bianet). At the same time, defections are increasing within the AKP. On the 13th, former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, anticipating his expulsion, announced his resignation, stating that the party could no longer, in his opinion, provide a solution to the country’s problems. He was quickly followed by other leaders: former President Abdullah Gül and former Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan...
Regarding the detention of former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, who has been in prison for almost three years, an Ankara court ordered his provisional release on 2 September at a hearing at which neither he nor his lawyers were present. They had stated that they preferred to wait for the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) concerning his pre-trial detention, scheduled for the 18th. The Turkish President has already refused to implement a decision of the ECHR of last 20 November ordering the early release of Demirtaş... The hearing was postponed to 7 January (AFP). On the 4th of september, the Party of European Socialists called for his release. On the 10th, the court unanimously dismissed the Ankara prosecutor’s appeal against Demirtaş’s release verdict, but he remains in prison because of another case... His lawyers have requested that the time already spent in detention be included in his sentence. If this request were accepted (which would be in accordance with Article 63/1 of the Turkish Penal Code), the Kurdish leader would be released. On 18 December, the ECHR indicated that its judgment would be delivered in the coming months. Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic spoke of a “situation where pre-trial detention, in effect, becomes an instrument of punishment”. On the 19th, the French newspaper l’Humanité published an appeal for the liberation of Demirtaş (signature at firstname.lastname@example.org). On the 20th, a new investigation was launched against him by the Ankara prosecutor in a clear attempt to keep him in detention. Later that same day, a new arrest verdict was handed down against him and the former HDP Co-Chair Figen Yüksekdağ. One of the lawyers, Nuray Özdoğan, told Bianet that there was no new information in this “new” case... On the 23rd, Demirtaş’s lawyers announced that they would file a criminal complaint against those responsible for this procedure.
Requests to visit Abdullah Öcalan on 6 September by his brother and sister were rejected later that day, as were those submitted on 20 September (TIHV): once the municipal elections have passed, the government has abandoned all pretence to humanity.
For several weeks now, the Turkish media have been giving a lot of attention to the “Mothers of Diyarbakir”, who have gathered in front of the office of the “pro-Kurdish” HDP party in Diyarbakir to protest against “the kidnapping by the PKK of their children” which would have forced them to join the guerrillas. The police have shown unusual tolerance towards these protesters, whose actions have been welcomed by the authorities, who are quick to accuse the HDP of terrorism. The Minister of the Interior, Süleyman Soylu, even came to visit them. Turkey has accused of bias the Western media, reluctant to enter its propaganda system. But on the 17th, when the mothers tried to continue their sit-in outside the AKP office by displaying a banner with the words: “Mothers for Peace”, the police suddenly regained their aggressiveness to deny access to them and the journalists, suddenly undesirable again (Bianet). Another example of two-tier justice in Turkey is the lack of progress in the investigation into the murder of Tahir Elçi, the President of Diyarbakir Bar, who was shot dead in the street in Turkey on 28 November 2015. The Tahir Elçi Foundation filed a criminal complaint on the 24th against the staff of the Forensic Institute for “spoliation of evidence”: according to the testimony of an employee of the institute, Mehtap Altuğ, a DNA sample was removed from the file on the order of an executive, without this leading to any investigation (Bianet).
Concerning the “Academics for Peace”, while the Constitutional Court decided on 26 July that the convictions for “propaganda for a terrorist organisation” violated their freedom of expression, the first acquittal verdict was handed down in favour of Özlem Şendeniz on 9 September after the prosecutor stated that he had “changed his mind”. The next day, five associations of psychologists (Europe, Italy, USA) called for the acquittal of Turkish academics, including Professor Serdar Değirmencioğlu, the former president of the European Community Psychological Association (ECPA). On the 10th, twenty-two academics had been released in one week. On 11 November, when the number of acquitted academics reached 38, the CHP announced that it had introduced a bill in parliament calling for their reinstatement and compensation. On the 12th, when a prosecutor requested prison sentences against a teacher, the court did not follow him and pronounced the acquittal. By that date, 106 academics had been acquitted. On the 16th, the HDP Kahramanmaraş MP, Mahmut Toğrul, submitted a bill calling for the reinstatement of academics dismissed by emergency decree, the restoration of their freedom to travel, and their removal from the lists of persons covered by these decrees. On 17 August, four other academics were acquitted in Istanbul and Kocaeli, and on 24 August, Reporters Without Borders’ representative for Turkey, Erol Önderoğlu, was acquitted of “propaganda for a terrorist organisation”. However, he called for caution: “As long as the Turkish judiciary does not adhere to democratic values and cannot function independently of the government, it would be wrong to welcome the acquittals. Spring does not come with a single flower”. On the 30th, academics Esra Mungan, Meral Camcı, Muzaffer Kaya and Kıvanç Ersoy were acquitted; Camcı said: “We got what was ours...”. Despite the verdict of the Constitutional Court, the State of Emergency Commission can still issue reverse decisions. If this were to happen, the academics concerned could appeal to the Council of State. As a last resort, the question would then come back to the Constitutional Court...
Turkey continues to condemn its journalists. On the 10th, in the case of the Editors-in-Chief on Watch campaign of the newspaper Özgür Gündem, closed by emergency decree, the prosecutor appealed against the verdict of acquittal of Şebnem Korur-Fincancı, Erol Önderoğlu and Ahmet Nesin, delivered on the last 17 July. On the same day, the reporter of the website Jin News Melike Aydın received 15 months in prison for “propaganda for a terrorist organization” for her messages on social networks in... 2006. On the same day, the Constitutional Court announced its verdict in the case of the Evrensel journalist, Erdal İmrek, who was attacked with pepper spray and beaten by police officers on 31 May 2014 while covering the first anniversary of the demonstrations in Gezi Park. While the prosecutor decided not to prosecute the police officers concerned, the Court decided that İmrek’s freedom of expression had been violated (Bianet). On 11 November, Austrian journalist Max Zirngast, who has been living in Ankara for three years, was acquitted of the charge of “belonging to a terrorist organisation” and released after three months in prison, but he is still prohibited from leaving the country. Zirngast collaborates with the German newspapers Junge Welt and re:volt, and the American magazine Jacobin. On the same day in Diyarbakir, the trial of the two journalists Ayşegül Doğan (İMC TV, now closed) and Yusuf Karataş (Evrensel) was postponed to 25 December after a five-minute hearing. They each face 22 years in prison for “creating and leading an armed terrorist organization” for their participation in debates and conferences in the course of their professional activities.
On the 12th, the co-director of the Media Legal Studies Association (MLSA) Veysel Ok and the journalist Cihan Acar, of the daily Özgür Düşünce, were sentenced to five months in prison each for “slandering the judicial bodies of the state”. Veysel Ok had stated in an interview with Özgür Düşünce, which has since been closed by emergency decree, that “the judiciary is unicolor”. On the same day, the journalist Barış İnce was sentenced to eleven months and twenty days of suspended imprisonment. Taken to court over an article in the BirGün newspaper entitled “They built a two-lane highway into their pockets” that was reporting suspicions of corruption against the Turkish president and his son Bilal and sentenced for “insulting the president”, he was charged again with the same charge after submitting to the court a written statement of defence, the first letters of which on each line acrostically formed the words Hırsız Tayyip (“Tayyip the Thief”)... On the same day, seven former Cumhuriyet journalists convicted of “assisting a terrorist organization” were released after a decision by the Supreme Court of Appeal. Among them was the investigative journalist and HDP deputy of Istanbul Ahmet Şık, whose book on Gülen, The Imam’s Army (İmamın Ordusu), had been banned before publication. The prosecutor requested the prosecution of Şık for “terrorist propaganda” (Bianet).
Also on the 12th, editorialist Özlem Albayrak resigned from the pro-government newspaper Yeni Şafak after her article criticising the conviction of Istanbul Canan HPC leader Kaftancıoğlu was censored. She made public the rejected article, where she openly wondered whether Kaftancıoğlu’s conviction for, among other things, “insulting the president” and “propaganda for a terrorist organization” was not simply revenge for the loss of Istanbul...
On the 24th, Ziya Ataman, a journalist with the agency (closed by emergency decree) DIHA, was sentenced to 14 years and three months in prison for “membership in a terrorist organisation”. Seriously ill, the accused had requested his acquittal, reminding the Court that the statements incriminating him had been obtained under torture and subsequently withdrawn. His lawyers will appeal. On the same day in Diyarbakir, the trial of reporter Kibriye Evren of the JinNews website, charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” and “propaganda for a terrorist organization”, was postponed to 12 November. Arrested along with 142 others in October 2018, Evren, who faces up to 20 years in prison, was kept in pre-trial detention. On 26 September, the editorial writer of Bianet Bülent Şık, also a food engineer, was sentenced to 15 months in prison for “revealing professional information”: at the time deputy director of the Food Security Research Centre at Akdeniz University, he had participated in research whose results were not published by the Ministry of Health. He was prosecuted after publishing a series of four articles in Cumhuriyet in April 2018 entitled: “The State has hidden carcinogen products, we make them public! Here is the poison list”...
Regarding Internet censorship, on the 27th, an article from the Bianet site reporting the blocking of a previous article from the same site was in turn blocked. Both referred to the death of musician Sevim Tanürek, who was hit by a car in 1998 while crossing a pedestrian crossing by a car driven by the Turkish President’s eldest son, Ahmet Burak Erdoğan....
On 29 September, the Turkish President, who came to New York to participate in the United Nations General Assembly, said in an interview with Fox News: “The figures [of arrested journalists] you mention are imaginary”. In contrast to these statements, eighteen human rights organizations sent a joint letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council on 11 November urging it to stop “ignoring such flagrant violations of Turkey’s obligations and commitments under international human rights law” (https://www.article19.org/resources/turkey-joint-letter-urges-un-human-rights-council-to-address-crackdown-against-journalists/).
With the deaths of several detainees in prison this month, conditions of detention in Turkish prisons have once again been called into question. On the 4th, CHP Deputy Atila Sertel submitted a parliamentary question on the death of fourteen prisoners in eight months in Menemen prison. Designed for sick prisoners, it currently houses three times the number of prisoners for whom it was built, to the point that “prisoners are forced to sleep in toilets and corridors”. After the death on the 10th in hospital of an elderly prisoner from a prison in Maraş where he had fallen ill, the human rights association İHD published a count according to which, since the beginning of 2017, 73 people have died in prison, 39 of whom were suffering from a disease. According to the Department of Justice’s own figures, between 2011 and 2017, there were 280 deaths of prisoners attributed to suicides... (Bianet) On the 15th, former BDP co-president Mustafa Akyol, incarcerated since 2011, died in hospital from his heart disease (Turkey Purge). In addition to these poor conditions of incarceration and lack of care, there is the ill-treatment of prisoners, such as those 70 people, including 17 children arrested during curfews in Nusaybin in 2016, who were beaten by gendarmes for protesting against their heavy sentences in court... (TIHV)
On the 19th, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered Turkey to pay six thousand euros in compensation to the two prisoners Abdülkerim Avşar and Abdülkerim Tekin, who had been transferred to Kırıkkale prison against their will, deciding that their right to respect for their family life had been violated. This judgment also applies to other HDP prisoners, such as Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş, but also former MPs Seben Tuncel, Selma Irmak, Çağlar Demirel, İdris Baluken and Abdullah Zeydan, who have all been transferred up to 1,500 km from their home region....
The violence of the security forces, almost always unpunished, is too ubiquitous to be fully reported here. While the investigation into the ill-treatment of persons held in police custody in Helfeti during an anti-PKK operation last May has still not been completed, Fatma Kılıçarslan has been prosecuted for sharing photos on social networks showing prisoners lying on the ground and handcuffed behind their backs. She is accused of “public provocation to enmity and hatred”. The first hearing of the case is scheduled for 9 October (Bianet). Finally, on the 13th, a six-year-old child was killed by a military vehicle in Diyarbakir. Unfortunately, it is only the last of a long series, since nineteen people have experienced this fate in Turkey’s Kurdistan over the past three years. According to the human rights association İHD, over the past ten years, these armoured vehicles have caused 63 accidents, killing 36 people, including six women and sixteen children (Bianet).
Bianet announced on the 18th that eighteen Turkish rappers who sang a politically critical song entitled “I can’t keep silent” (Susamamam, https://youtu.be/L5K3IxINr7A ), were prosecuted. In addition, the musician Tunç, currently abroad, did not attend the hearing of his trial for “insulting the president” and “provoking the public to enmity and hatred”. Accused because of his publications on social media, he faces up to fifteen years in prison. The trial has been postponed to 14 February 2020. Tunç said that the law and justice, put at the service of the “fascist alliance AKP-MHP”, had lost all meaning. It is true that convictions for “insulting the president” are taking on increasingly outrageous proportions. On the 23rd, a Van Kurd named Burhan Borak received 12 years and three months in prison for seven messages sent on social networks in 2014, i.e. a period of one year and nine months for each message incriminated (Mezopotamya).
In preparation for the October 2 anniversary of Osman Kavala, the only defendant imprisoned for more than two years following the Gazi Park protests, the businessman and philanthropist’s supporters organized a social media campaign with the hashtag #DearOsmanKavala. They remind on the Free Osman Kavala website that no evidence has ever been provided against him. Among the signatories are the HDP Siirt MP Danış Beştaş and the co-president of the association İHD Eren Keskin.
Military operations were particularly numerous in September, both inside Kurdistan of Iraq, with the continuation of the anti-PKK operation "Greenhouses", but also in Kurdistan in Turkey. On the 4th, several villages near Nusaybin and Ömerli were placed under curfew before a military operation was launched that caused forest fires near Ömerli. On the 7th, Mardin’s special security operations manager was killed and a village guard was wounded and died of his injuries on the 14th (TIHV). On the 9th, two Kurdish fighters were killed near Dicle (news from the 14th only) and two others on the 11th near Muş (news known on the 17th). But the most significant attack of the month occurred on the 12th near Kulp (Diyarbakir). The provincial governor reported that seven people, described as civilians, were killed in the afternoon when a bomb exploded. The Turkish President, calling the attack “atrocious”, promised to arrest the perpetrators. But on the 20th, the PKK claimed responsibility for the operation and indicated that the victims were not civilians but informants of the authorities (ANF). In fact, on the 25th, several village guards attacked HDP offices in Diyarbakir, claiming to have lost relatives in Kulp (Diken).
On the 14th, the Governor of Hakkari placed five areas of the province under special security until the 28th: the central area plus four others in the districts of Çukurca, Şemdinli, Yüksekova and Derecik (TIHV). On the 19th, the media reported the deaths on the 17th of two Kurdish fighters during clashes with security forces near Beytüşşebap (Şırnak), another near Bitlis, and two others earlier in the month, on the 3rd and 6th in Çukurca (Hakkari). On the same day, at least three Turkish soldiers were killed and their vehicles destroyed in a PKK attack on an oil facility in Silopi (AMN). On the 22nd, while one civilian was killed by a military vehicle in Göktepe (Tunceli), another was killed by a bomb at Dağiçi (Nusaybin), an operation attributed to the PKK, and security forces announced the “neutralisation” of seven Kurdish fighters in Siirt. As for the PKK, it claimed the death of two intelligence officers in Mardin and fifteen Turkish soldiers on the 21st. On the 25th, five people, including one police officer, were killed at Yüreğir (Adana) in the explosion of a bomb distance-triggered against a passing riot police vehicle (Bianet). On the same day, five Kurdish activists were killed in a clash with security forces near Gevaş (Van). On the 27th, it was reported that another activist died on the 24th near Yüksekova (Hakkari) in an air strike that also damaged homes and crops. On the 30th, the Anadolu agency announced the “neutralisation” of three militants in the provinces of Diyarbakir and Mardin.
On the Iraqi side, three Turkish soldiers were killed on the 4th, while a Kurdish fighter died in an air strike on Haftanin (TIHV). On the 10th, Turkish air force bombed a village near Amêdî, causing a fire (RojNews). On the evening of the 13th, according to local sources, two Kurdish fighters were killed near Qandil in strikes that also destroyed homes and set fire to fields. On the 15th, two others were killed in a strike on Haftanin, and on the 19th, the death of two others on the 4th near Xakurk was announced, while Ankara, acknowledging the loss of 28 soldiers, claimed having eliminated in three months nearly 400 Kurdish militants, an unverifiable figure... On the 22nd, in cross claims, Turkish security forces announced the “neutralisation” of 14 Kurdish fighters in Haftanin and the PKK the death of eight Turkish soldiers (Rûdaw). On the 23rd, two soldiers of a Turkish supply convoy (AFP) were killed. On the evening of the 24th, an air strike killed a shopkeeper in Chamanke, near Dohuk. The chief of district indicated that these strikes were daily. The Turkish Ministry of Defence, for its part, claimed the neutralisation of three PKK fighters, without mentioning civilian casualties (Rûdaw). On the 25th, Turkish planes struck the foot of the Qandil Mountains, injuring two civilians in Zewka (Pishdar), according to local witnesses (Kurdistan-24). On the 29th, Turkish media reported the deaths of five Kurdish fighters in two strikes on the 25th and 26th in the Haftanin and Avashin areas (Kurdistan-24).
The HDP mayors of the three predominantly Kurdish cities of Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van, who won the 31 March municipal elections, were dismissed on 19 August on the grounds that they were under investigation for terrorism. These new dismissals provoked protests and demonstrations that continued throughout September.
At the same time, the record of AKP municipal teams in the cities won by the opposition has not been exactly brilliant. Whether they were cities that were actually won by the ballot box or those that were authoritatively awarded to unelected AKP “administrators” (kayyım) after dismissals, there have been a succession of corruption scandals. In the major cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Adana, won by the CHP, the new teams discovered a power system based on cronyism and corruption. In Istanbul, where the debt left by the previous team is truly gigantic, TL 30 billion for an annual budget of TL 42.6 billion, TL 357 million had been transferred to foundations, and 2,500 people hired between the elections of 15 March and those held on 23 June after the cancellation of the former. 20 million had been paid to a TRT TV series, and 1,730 cars purchased for which the new municipality returned 1,250, worth TL 50 million... In Ankara, TL 1.5 million had been paid for works that had not been completed. In Adana, a company responsible for installing 35 wells received 5 million while only the well covers were made... In the Kurdish cities taken over by the AKP after 31 March, the HDP municipal councils succeeding the AKP administrators had made similar “discoveries”...
The government has cracked down with an iron fist on protests against these new HDP mayors’ destitutions. In Mardin, on the 2nd, the HDP organized a sit-in at the park Karayolları in which several HDP MPs participated. In Diyarbakir, during another sit-in, a banner was displayed with the words: “Hands off my voice!” In Van, the demonstrations took place in front of one of the HDP offices. In Mersin, a banner was unrolled vertically on the façade of the HDP building, with the slogan: “The appointment of directors is a coup against political will, the will of the people is the foundation”. By order of the Governor, it was withdrawn by the police on the 7th (TIHV). On the 3rd, an investigation was launched against Ahmet Türk, the mayor of Mardin dismissed on August 19, for “co-presidency” (Mezopotamya). On the 4th, the HDP staged sits-in in several cities, including Istanbul and Ankara, as well as in Izmir, Adana and Gaziantep. Police attacked several rallies and arrested many participants, including 42 people in Ankara, nine HDP members at Ağrı, ten in Mersin, and two in Lice (WKI). In Izmir, it prevented a press conference from being held by HDP deputies, declaring it illegal and dispersing the rally (Bianet). On the 8th, the Batman and Izmir police forces were ordered by the prosecutor to seize leaflets and protest stickers at the HDP premises. In Diyarbakir, the documents were seized from the car of the HDP district co-chair of Kayapınar (TIHV). In addition to suppressing the protests, the government also continued with the dismissals: at Muş, seven HDP municipal councillors were dismissed and replaced by appointed administrators, and nine others previously dismissed in two districts of Van Province were replaced in the same way (WKI). On the 10th, the HDP reported that twenty of its municipal councillors had been dismissed (Bianet).
On the 13th, 46 MEPs from different European political parties sent an open letter to the Turkish President urging him to “stop the repression against members of the HDP and CHP and accept the results of the local elections”.
On the same day, an explosion at Ağaçkorur, in the Kulp district of Diyarbakir, killed seven passengers in a vehicle. Following this attack, since claimed by the PKK, the district HDP leader and the municipal public works official were taken into police custody, and the police launched a night raid on the home of the co-mayor of Kulp. The HDP official for Diyarbakir, Zeyyat Ceylan, like the HDP co-chairs, said that the authorities were seeking to take advantage of the incident to attack the HDP. The HDP co-chairs condemned the attack “in the strongest possible terms”. On the 16th, the former HDP candidate for Kulp, Mehmet Emin Ay, whose candidature had been rejected by the Electoral Commission (YSK), was imprisoned. Then the two co-mayors of the Kulp district, Mehmet Fatih Taş and Fatma Ay, elected last March, were arrested and dismissed, and administrators appointed to replace them, including the district governor Mustafa Gözlet (Bianet). In Erzurum, HDP co-mayor of Karayazı, Melike Göksu, was imprisoned as well as several city councillors. Göksu has just had her sentence of seven years and six months’ imprisonment confirmed on appeal for “belonging to a terrorist organisation”.
On the 17th, the creation of a “Kurdish Friendship Group” in the European Parliament was announced in a press conference held in the presence of HDP Co-Chair Sezai Temelli. The fifteen members of the group, who hope to be joined by other MEPs, will meet in Brussels in October to formalise the existence of the group, which will focus in particular on the dismissal of HDP elected representatives, although Dutch MEP Kati Piri pointed out that the issue of dismissals goes beyond the HDP alone, since the Turkish Interior Minister threatened the CHP Mayor of Istanbul Ekrem Imamoğlu after he visited several demoted HDP mayors (Ahval). On 19 December, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning the replacement of the mayors of Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van by administrators and calling for the annulment of the almost ten-year prison sentence imposed on the head of the Istanbul HPC Canan Kaftanoğlu. The latter, the text states, “is clearly punished for her key role in the victorious campaign of the CHP Mayor of Istanbul”. The resolution also calls on Turkey to respect the verdicts of the European Court of Human Rights, in particular those concerning the release of Selahattin Demirtaş (Bianet).
On the 24th, the former mayor of Diyarbakir, Selçuk Mızraklı, dismissed and replaced by an administrator on the 20th of August, addressed a forum organized for the 42nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council by MRAP (Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peoples, Movement against racism and friendship between peoples). Deprived of the right to travel outside Turkey, Mızraklı had to intervene by teleconference. He outlined and denounced in his speech the “militaristic” methods by which the AKP, after it “came to power in 2002 with the promise of achieving democracy”, has “particularly since 2015”, tried to establish an authoritarian regime “without any respect for the law”. Mızraklı called on the Council “not to remain silent” in the face of these injustices.
The protests continued until the end of the month, particularly outside the town halls of the cities whose mayors were dismissed, Mardin, Diyarbakir and Van. On the 26th, police attacked the HDP’s “democracy watch” in Istanbul’s Esenyurt district using tear gas and rubber bullets. In Izmir, the watch, supported by the city bar, was blocked by the police. On the 29th, the Esenyurt watch was again attacked by the police and ten participants arrested. HDP MP Kemal Bülbül had to be hospitalized after losing consciousness. On the 30th, police attacked the protesters in Mardin and arrested eight HDP members. Two other HDP members were arrested in Diyarbakir. Finally, in Dersim, police arrested four HDP members in raids, including two municipal officials.
Turkey continues to threaten an invasion of Rojava, justifying its aggressiveness with the threat of an autonomous Kurdish entity on its southern border. In the Washington Examiner, a former Pentagon official, Michael Rubin, debunked the Turkish allegations on September 3. The 2019 database of border incidents put online by the Rojava Information Centre shows that, out of some 30 clashes, only one, contrary to Turkish claims, resulted from an attack launched from Rojava – and yet its perpetrator was subsequently arrested by the FDS. All other incidents resulted from attacks from Turkey, which resulted in 27 civilian casualties, including one child. Rubin assumes without hesitation the fact of relying on information of Syrian Kurdish origin: if Turkey or its American interlocutors contest this database, he writes, “it’s time they release their own record of Kurdish terrorism emanating from Syria. Their silence suggests, frankly, Turkish grievances are without merit […]. Rather than Kurdish terrorism, it is Turkey’s proposed buffer zone, Turkey’s revanchism, and its use of fake grievances to justify its imperialism that poses the greatest threat to the region” (https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/the-emptiness-of-turkeys-complaints-against-syrian-kurds).
However, the Turkish President continued his bellicose statements throughout the month. While it threatens Rojava with a Turkish military invasion, it threatens the European Union with an invasion of another kind, that of Syrian refugees: “Turkey has not received the necessary international support, in particular from the European Union, on the burden of Syrian refugees [he said on the 5th]. We may have to let them enter Europe to get help”, he added (Bianet). In fact, Mr. Erdoğan, put in difficulty inside by the presence of three million Syrian refugees on Turkish soil, wants to kill two birds with one stone. By organizing the invasion of Rojava, it could simultaneously destroy the autonomous administration set up by the Kurds of Syria and permanently change the demography of the conquered areas by settling up to three million refugees from other parts of Syria, thus securing the votes of his ultranationalist partners in the MHP. He reiterated his threats on the 8th at Eskişehir in front of activists of his party, the AKP (Le Monde). Educated by the ethnic cleansing and abuses that took place in Afrîn after the Turkish invasion, the Autonomous Authorities of North-East Syria understood the danger quite clearly. After a meeting with the anti-ISIS coalition, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) declared on the 17th that only Syrians originally from the Syrian North-East could be accepted, and only those who had neither carried out terrorist activities nor committed crimes. They also specified that returns should be voluntary (Rûdaw). On the same day, Mr. Erdoğan, speaking just after the Russia-Iran-Turkey summit held in Ankara, said that Turkish military operations in Rojava could start in two weeks...
On the ground, the SDF played the game of the “security zone” requested by the Turks. As early as September 4, they conducted joint patrols with the American military to select the fortifications that should be dismantled in anticipation of its implementation. The previous week, they had reported that they had begun to withdraw fighters from the border towns of Tell Abyad / Girê Spî and Serê Kaniyê / Ras el-Aïn. On the 6th, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar stated that joint Turkish-American patrols would begin on the 8th, adding that several helicopter flights over the area had taken place in preparation. On the 8th, the first Turkish-American patrol indeed took place, with six Turkish and six American vehicles. The Syrian government immediately denounced these patrols. The head of the SDF military council in Tell Abyad said they would implement the agreement without any problems, if this could prevent a war. However, the precise outline of the safety zone remains unclear, with SDF talking about 5 km deep, while Turkey refers to 32 km – or 20 miles. On the 15th, the anti-ISIS coalition announced in a statement that it would continue discussions with Turkey to clarify the details of the implementation of the security zone. On the 18th, the head of the Pentagon’s anti-ISIS working group, Chris Maier, said he was convinced that with the progress made, “the hypothesis of a Turkish incursion into Syria [was] much less likely”. Asked about the possible return of refugees to this area, as requested by Ankara, Mr. Maier stressed that the United States would not accept forced return (AFP).
Since its conquest in 2018 by the Turkish army and the jihadist mercenaries in its service, Afrin has experienced regular abuses. Earlier this month, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) published two reports taking stock of the human rights violations suffered by the Kurdish population in Afrin. In particular, an elderly couple died when jihadists attacked their house to steal their belongings. Thirteen Kurds were arrested by jihadists in the vicinity of the city. On the 9th, clashes took place between the Jaysh al-Islam Jihadist faction and the Sultan Murad division (Firqat Sultan Murad, named after the Ottoman Sultan Murad II), an Islamist Turkmen group close to the Turkish government. They were fighting over the looted property of the inhabitants. On the 13th, the Firat agency reported that 61 Kurds had been kidnapped by jihadists since the beginning of the month. In particular, the SOHR reported that members of the Sham Legion (Faylaq al-Sham) kidnapped nine civilians from the village of Derbalut, near Afrin. Attacks also degrade security: on the same day, a vehicle bomb exploded in Afrin, and on the 15th, another car bomb exploded near a hospital in Al-Ray, a city controlled by the Turkish army, killing at least one pharmacist and two of his children. these attacks were not immediately claimed (SOHR).
Although under constant threat of a Turkish attack in the north, the SDF, which according to the Pentagon continues to receive American weapons, have continued their fight against ISIS. On the 5th, the Autonomous Administration handed over three orphans from the same family linked to ISIS (AFP) to a Nigerian delegation. On the 10th, the SDF General Commander Mazloum Abdi described the Al-Hol camp as a “time bomb” due to the overcrowding of its 71,000 residents and insufficient resources. On the 17th, the SDF killed two jihadists and arrested ten others during operations in Shadadi, Tabqa and Raqqa; in Deir Ezzor, security forces disarmed a truck bomb containing nearly 500 kg of C4 explosive. The following week, the SDF announced the dismantling of a cell of 18 jihadists, including seven women. Finally, at the end of the month, serious unrest broke out in al-Hol camp when women tried to set up an Islamic court to try some of the detainees who they believed were responsible for violating Islamic law. Several murders of “traitors” to ISIS had already occurred in this camp... When guards intervened, the jihadist women opened fire with weapons introduced into the camp. One of them was killed and six others wounded, and about 50 women who had participated in the revolt were re-interned.
On the 25th of the month, the United Nations announced the formation of a “Constitutional Committee” to draft a new Syrian constitution. It will include 150 representatives, including 50 from the Damascus regime, 50 from the opposition and 50 chosen by the UN. But it does not include any representative of the Autonomous Administration of the North-East of Syria, dominated by the PYD, which controls more than 30% of Syrian territory. The latter issued a statement denouncing its exclusion, as did the Syriac Union, made up of Christians from the North-East of Syria, represented in the autonomous administration (WKI).
Regarding the Autonomous Region’s internal policy, after France, it was the United Kingdom that tried to offer its mediation to bring the Kurdish political parties belonging to the Kurdish National Council (KNC), in opposition to the Autonomous Administration, closer to it. A delegation from the British Foreign Office visited the area in early September and met with several KNC officials, including leaders of the Yekiti party, as well as with the Administration. However, one source denied that the main purpose of the visit had been to attempt such a rapprochement (Al-Monitor).
On the 6th, the Administration announced that the Kurdish channel of Iraq Kurdistan 24 was allowed to resume its news coverage on its territory. Kurdistan 24, which has been in Rojava since 2015, had had its licence suspended for about a month, prompting a reaction from Reporters Without Borders.
The Iraqi political class continues to divide over the status of the Shia Hashd-al-Shaabi militias, theoretically integrated into the Iraqi army, but which seem to continue to form a genuine state within the state. After they were targeted by Israeli strikes, the vice-president of the “Popular Mobilization Committee”, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, announced that they would acquire their own air force to defend themselves! This provoked the anger of Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr, who threatened on September 6 to turn against the government if it did not take steps to restore its authority. Besides, MPs from several blocs began collecting signatures on the 30th for a bill that would allow them and journalists to enter the Jurf al-Sakhar sub-district in Babylon province to ascertain the existence of illegal detention centres in the area that are reported holding 3,000 prisoners in the hands of militia... (ISHM)
On the 15th, the Ministry of Migration announced the closure of the “Jadah-6” camp for displaced persons in Nineveh province. Despite persistent concerns about the safety of returnees, Iraqi IDP camps resulting from the conflict with ISIS are gradually being closed. Haj-Ali’s should be the next one, and Hamam-Ali’s 1 and 2 should be regrouped together. An increase in financial assistance afforded to returnees could accelerate returns, particularly to Mosul and Sinjar. On the 23rd, the Ministry announced that the return of 1,326 displaced persons from Nineveh province had resulted in the closure of four camps (ISHM).
With regard to Arab displaced persons in the Kurdistan Region, the Human Rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently published a report entitled Kurdistan Region of Iraq: Arabs Not Allowed Home, in which it states that the GRK has prevented 4,200 Sunni Arabs displaced by the conflict with ISIS from returning to 12 villages east of Mosul. The KRG Coordinator in charge of responses to international reports, Dindar Zêbarî, replied that the main objective of the KRG was indeed “the voluntary return of displaced persons to their areas of origin, without discrimination of ethnic or religious origin”.
Concerning the relations between the Federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the usual points of disagreement concern the disputed territories as well as oil and its revenues. This last point is particularly important for the preparation of the 2020 budget, part of which must go to the Kurdistan Region. The two governments still differ on the unilateral oil exports by the KRG, whose revenues Baghdad asks for, while the Kurds reply that the KRG had to make these exports in order to meet its needs precisely because Baghdad had not sent any budget to their Region since 2014. But both interlocutors seem to have made the choice to solve this problem through discussion. On the 11th, KRG spokesman Jutyar Adil announced that a delegation including members of the Ministries of Planning and Finance would quickly visit the Ministry of Finance in Baghdad to discuss the issue, and on the 16th, the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court indefinitely delayed the proceedings against the KRG regarding its unilateral oil exports. Senior Judge Midhat Mahmoud indicated that the court would not set a new hearing date if Prime Minister Abd el-Mahdi did not sign the court order, which he has so far refused to do.
Another topic of discussion between the two governments is the establishment of a joint committee to oversee preparations for the general census scheduled for 2020. According to Jutyar Adil, the committee will ensure that “the rights of the different ethnic and religious [communities] in Kurdistan are taken into consideration” (Kurdistan 24).
On 22 September, several Kurdish members of the Baghdad Parliament declared that the federal government should pay the $3 billion due by the KRG to oil companies operating in the Kurdistan Region before the latter can start delivering to Baghdad the 250,000 barrels per day provided for in the budget... (ISHM) In this context, the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Mohamed al-Halbousi travelled to Kurdistan and met with the KRG leaders to continue discussions on the 2020 budget. At the end of the month, the Kurdistan Parliament announced the upcoming dispatch of Commissions to Baghdad to continue discussions...
With regard to the internal policy of the Kurdistan Region, the Erbil Parliament has begun consultations with the political parties to prepare the drafting of a Constitution. The Second Deputy Speaker of the Parliament, Mrs. Muna Kahveci, stated on the 5th that a specific Committee representing all political entities in the Region would be set up. A draft Constitution of 122 articles, initiated in 2009, had not been adopted due to disagreements between political parties. A further attempt during the last parliament had resulted in a draft of 70 articles, which had not been completed either, for the same reasons. On 9 September, the Speaker of Parliament, Ms. Rewaz Fayiq, mentioned the subject again, confirming that parliamentary officials were seeking the agreement of political parties. Among the issues under discussion was the part of Islamic law as a source of the law used in the Region. After 28 years of operation and nine government offices, the Kurdistan Region still does not have a written constitution (eKurd).
Throughout the month, jihadist attacks continued, particularly in the disputed territories between Baghdad and Erbil, where security has collapsed since October 2017 with the withdrawal of the pechmergas. On 5 September, they repelled a jihadist attack on a village in Diyala. In the Makhmur area, some villages had to be evacuated. Jihadists, very active particularly in Diyala province, used improvised explosive devices (two Iraqi soldiers wounded on the 8th in Jalawla, one civilian killed on the 11th and nine others in different parts of Kirkuk, one Iraqi soldier on patrol killed and three wounded in northeast Baqubah) and mortar fire (one wounded on the 9th in northeast Baqubah, another shot on the 10th in a village near Muqdadiya). On the 11th, a sniper also killed an Iraqi soldier northeast of Baqubah. The anti-ISIS coalition responded with numerous air strikes: eight jihadists killed on the 8th on a Tiger island in Nineveh province, fifteen others on the 9th on the limit between Diyala and Salahaddin, and ten southeast of Erbil. Some strikes in Makhmur were guided by the pechmergas. On the 10th, coalition aircraft bombed 37 ISIS targets on Qanus Island, on the Tiger (ISHM), dropping more than 36 tons of bombs.
On the 13th, an improvised explosive device killed one civilian and wounded another, both south of Mosul. On the 15th, another killed two police officers and wounded two others south of Kirkuk. On the 16th, four bombs wounded twelve civilians in Baghdad, and on the 18th, two tribal fighters were wounded, again in Mosul (ISHM). Jihadists also attacked a military post between Diyala and Salahaddin, killing one soldier and wounding two, and killed six civilians between the 15th and 19th in Baghdad, Wasit and Diyala.
On the 16th, the Iraqi army announced the launch of phase 5 of the anti-ISIS operation Will of Victory, but jihadist attacks continued until the end of the month. On the 19th, one police officer was killed and another wounded by an improvised explosive device in Hawija (west of Kirkuk), another wounded two farmers near Jalawla (Diyala) the next day, and on the 22nd, another wounded four people in Makhmur. On the 23rd, a mine-clearing export was killed in Baqubah by a bomb he was trying to deactivate. On the 24th, a ISIS attack killed a Hashd al-Shaabi militiaman and wounded three others in Khanaqin. On the 26th, an improvised explosive device killed two civilians and wounded a third in Daquq (south of Kirkuk), another wounded two civilians in Hamam al-Alil (Nineveh) and two farmers in Jalawla (Diyala) on the 28th. On the 29th, an improvised explosive device wounded two Shia militiamen in al-Shura (Nineveh) and two others on the 30th in Jurf al-Sakhar (Babylon). In the village of Makhasi, near Khanaqin, three Kurdish shepherds were mistakenly killed on the 27th by border guards who had been targeted by an attack by ISIS. On the 28th, twelve jihadists were killed by an air strike in the desert between Anbar and Salahaddin, and eight others west of Tikrit.
On the political level, the Kurdish parties in Kirkuk continued discussions with their non-Kurdish counterparts. Discussions have been felt necessary since 11 July, when the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) agreed on the name of Tayib Jabar as the candidate for the post of Governor of Kirkuk. This would put an end to the policy of the interim governor appointed by Baghdad, Rakan al-Jaburi, who is accused by many Kurds of having resumed the Ba’athist regime’s Arabization policy. But this choice only between Kurdish parties met with opposition from non-Kurdish parties, who denounced a “takeover” of the province. The discussions will also have to concern the provincial elections, scheduled for April 2020, which the Kurdish parties in Kirkuk are opposed to, considering that the number of displaced Kurds in the province makes the voters’ lists inaccurate and unfair to their community...
On 2 September, the KDP told Voice of America that the “Fraternity” list, bringing together all the Kurdish parties in Kirkuk, would meet with the Arab and Turkmen parties. On the 4th, “Fraternity” met the Turkmen Front. Among other things, security issues and land conflicts were discussed. The Turkmen Front stated after the meeting that dialogue would continue to develop a consensual solution (NRT). On the 9th, the Kurdish parties in Kirkuk, meeting to discuss the issue of the 2020 provincial elections, issued hereafter a six-point statement. It specifies the list of parties to participate, calls for the normalisation of the situation in the province (i.e. a return to civilian management) and for further discussions with the other political entities in Kirkuk, with the mediation of the United Nations. On the 18th, the Iraqi Electoral Commission rejected the name chosen by the common list of Kurdish parties for the Kirkuk provincial elections, “Kirkuk is Kurdistani”. The Commission explained its decision by fear that the use of this name could lead to new ethnic tensions in the province (Rûdaw).
Another source of tension is the intensification of Turkish incursions and airstrikes in Kurdistan, as part of the anti-PKK operation Claws, which affects the regions of Amadiya, Zakho, Bradost, Qandil and Haftanin. The situation has become so serious for the inhabitants of the villages in the Turkish area of operations that a local Dohuk official has called on them to leave their homes. Dozens of civilians have been killed since the operation was launched last May. On the afternoon of the 10th, an air strike on a village near Dohuk caused a fire in the area (RojInfo). On the evening of the 13th, another strike, which according to the Turkish military eliminated two Kurdish fighters near Qandil, also led to the destruction of homes and field, and forest fires, road closures, power cuts and other material damage, including the partial destruction of a mosque in the Choman district... (Rûdaw)
Iran is at the heart of growing international tensions with the continuation of US sanctions and especially the September 14 attack on Saudi oil installations. Although the operation was claimed by the Yemeni Houthi rebels, the Trump administration accused Iran of launching it from its territory with a dozen cruise missiles and more than 20 drones. And inside, sanctions continue to strangle the economy. On 24 September, the Iranian Statistical Centre announced that inflation had reached 42.7% in the twelve months following August 2018. For imported goods, it reached 150% due to the collapse of the rial, but the most serious is the rate on daily products, much higher than the average: 62.7% for food and beverages and up to 80% for tobacco, meat, fish and dairy products. Even these high figures may be underestimated, as the Centre is dependent on the government and remains the only source of statistics since the Central Bank was banned from publishing statistics... (Radio Farda). These increases are having a catastrophic impact on the lives of residents, particularly in the Kurdish region of Iran, which was already economically devastated before the United States imposed sanctions again: earlier this month, three residents of Sanandaj and Kamyaran ended their lives, and since early 2019, 64 Kurds from Iran have committed suicide due to their life difficulties (WKI).
Others find a way to survive only by turning to the low-paying and extremely dangerous job of cross-border carrier, or kolbar. Considered as smugglers by the repressive forces, they are regularly shot dead in the mountains bordering the borders. Since the beginning of the year, at least 50 of them have been killed and more than 100 injured. On 6 September, border guards ambushed a carrier near Piranshahr, seriously wounding him. The next day, another had to be hospitalized in Sardasht for the same reason. On the 13th, another 25-year-old was injured when a group was caught under fire from border guards near Khoy. On the 15th, Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) killed a Kurdish shepherd in the same region (WKI). On the 19th, a driver suspected of smuggling in connection with kolbars was seriously injured in Sanandaj when his vehicle was targeted by soldiers, and on the same day, another porter was killed in Mako, near the Turkish border. Sometimes, Turkish security forces also intervene to repress Iranian kolbars. According to the Kurdistan Human Rights Committee (KMMK), they tortured a porter they had captured, who then died in hospital in Erzurum. Then another carrier died in a new attack in Piranshahr. On the 21st, another was wounded in Sardasht, and the next day, in two different incidents, another was wounded in Saqqez in an ambush for a group, and another was killed near Urmia. At the end of the month, the death toll was 64 kolbars and 114 wounded since at least January...
The appointment of Ebrahim Raissi as head of Iranian justice last March did not give hope of a reduction in sentences: this former Conservative candidate for the 2017 presidential elections was one of four members of the infamous “Death Commission”, which ordered the illegal execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. Six months after his appointment, the results are unfortunately in line with the fears raised by his appointment: under his guidance, the system sanctioned activists with a total of 1,027 years in prison and 1,428 lashes! This is an increase in sanctions of 119% over the same period of time during the leadership of his predecessor Sadegh Larijani, during which massive demonstrations and riots yet took place in January 2017 and August 2018. Figures compiled by Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI) paradoxically show a decrease in the number of arrests, which means that it is the severity of convictions that has increased (HRANA). According to Radio Farda, in the first weeks of September, the judiciary handed down unusually harsh sentences – even for Iran – against trade union or human rights activists. Esmail Bakhshi, from the Haft Tappeh sugar factory, was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment and 74 lashes, and Sepideh Qolian, a civil rights activist, to over 19 years’ imprisonment. Others were given eighteen years simply for protesting against unpaid wages or supporting those who were demonstrating... Why such severity? For Radio Farda, Ebrahim Raissi shows his strength to establish himself as the leader of the conservative camp.
The authorities also seem to have wanted to set an example by cracking down particularly hard on workers at the Haft Tappeh sugar factory, more than 500 of whom went on strike in the summer of 2018 to protest against its privatisation for the benefit of the Pasdaran body. Privatisation is often used in Iran to ensure income for the regime’s supporters, in a system of widespread patronage and corruption. The workers of the factory had stopped working on the one hand in protest for unpaid wages since 2017, and also to support their current leaders, dismissed by the authorities. The regime is clearly concerned about the risk of generalization of the challenge to the economic system. On the 9th, several independent journalists and workers’ rights activists were sentenced to heavy prison terms of up to 18 years. These convictions are still linked to the strike at the Haft Tappeh sugar factory. They specifically target activists who, incarcerated by the Etelaat (intelligence service), have suffered acts of torture during their detention, and who, once released on parole, have dared to publicly denounce them. The journalists convicted at the same time were those who had covered the case and disseminated the information through the Telegram application... (HRANA)
In the Kurdish provinces of the country, tension was manifested earlier this month by a series of armed clashes between Iranian repressive forces and various Kurdish groups, resulting in at least two deaths and several injuries. On the 7th, a Pasdar (Revolutionary Guard) was killed and another wounded near Mariwan during an attempt to intercept a Kurdish group that had just crossed the border. The day before, another Pasdar had been killed near Saravband (Kurdistan province). Another incident occurred near Oshnavieh. These incidents, which have not been claimed, are sometimes due to civilians rebelling against the abuses of the repressive forces. The Hengaw association also reported fighting between the military and Kurdish workers in Sardasht (Western Azerbaijan). Perhaps as a result of these difficulties, new appointments have taken place within the Pasdaran units stationed in Iranian Kurdistan. The new deputy commander, Gholamhossein Gheybparvar, is known for his radical positions both in the face of domestic opposition and in foreign policy. In addition, the number of small motorcycle units specializing in the suppression of demonstrations, first created in Tehran during the 2009 unrest, has since increased and they could be deployed in the provinces. All these elements indicate that the regime is worried and wants to step up the level of repression, the only response it knows.
The report on human rights violations in Iran for the month of August published by the Iran Human Rights Monitor (https://iran-hrm.com/index.php/2019/09/07/iran-human-rights-monitor-monthly-report-august-2019/) is already frightening, however. At least 41 people were executed, including two in public. In reality, the number is probably higher, as executions often remain secret in Iran. Among the victims were political prisoners Abdullah Karmollah Chab, Ghassem Abdullah and Hamidreza Derakhshandeh. The torture of prisoners also continued, with several reports of beatings and floggings. Thus, Sufi prisoner of conscience Elham Ahmadi received 74 lashes before his release. Other prisoners, who are sick, are getting worse because they are denied care. According to the KMMK, since early 2019, the Iranian regime has imprisoned about 275 Kurds, mostly activists, in Iran’s Kurdistan.
The pace and number of arrests and convictions were equally frightening in September. Earlier this month, Etelaat arrested in Sanandaj the Kurdish activist Soran Azizi for “cooperation with a Kurdish opposition party” and the labour activist Aram Zindi, who had tried to defend the rights of workers previously arrested. At the end of August, two other Kurdish activists, Karo Kawa and Sina Jasat, had already been arrested in Marivan. In Oshnavieh, it was a Kurdish student, Mohammed Iqbal, who was arrested without a warrant by Etelaat. It was not until September 4 that it became known that on the morning of August 28, at least eight prisoners sentenced to death for murder or drug trafficking had been hanged in Karaj. Iran is the world’s country with the most capital executions in proportion to its population, and the country also executes minors or people who were minors at the time of their crime (six in 2018). Etelaat also arrested four Kurdish activists in Urmia, including three members of the same family, Farhad, Safar and Parwez Noori, accusing them of “aiding an opposition Kurdish party”, and held them incommunicado without trial. At the end of the month, their situation remained unknown (WKI). In Saqqez, security forces arrested Kurdish labour activist Kamaran Sakhtumangar during a raid on his home and confiscated his personal belongings. In Kamyaran, Etelaat arrested a 28-year-old Kurdish man, Aram Zafar, without making known what he was accused of (WKI). The same week, the revolutionary courts sentenced four Kurdish activists to prison terms. In Oshnavieh, Gafour Barham received eleven years, for “breach of national security” among others things; in Sanandaj, Wali Nasri received six years for “cooperation with a Kurdish party against the Islamic Republic”; in Urmia, a resident of Mako received one year for “assistance to Kurdish parties”, while the activist Eran Rahibikar received three years for “breach of national security”.
The week of the 8th, arrests and convictions continued. In Sanandaj, Kurdish labour activist Nabzan Kianpour was arrested, and another Kurd named Afshar Fathi was sentenced to six years in prison for “belonging to a Kurdish opposition party”. In Divandara, Etelaat detained a local council member, Amir Khani, and two residents of Bokan and Urmia, Naser Khadami and Naser Mohammed, were imprisoned and charged with “membership of an organization opposed to the state”. In Sanandaj, the trial of Zara Mohammedi, who has been imprisoned for months for teaching Kurdish language, has begun. She is accused of belonging to a Kurdish political party, despite the fact that the cultural association that employs her denies the accusation. In Ilam, it was the Kurdish writer and poet Ali Mohammed Mohammadi who was sentenced to four years in prison for “disrespecting imams” (WKI).
The regime also continued its repression of environmental activists. In Paweh, one of them, Irfan Rashidi, was sentenced to one year in prison and banned from activism for two years. In late September, activist Sirwan Rahimi was arrested in Dehgolan, and eight people were arrested in Sanandaj for posting messages on social networks and thus provoking a “national security breach”. Also in Sanandaj, the head of the taxi union, Ibrahim Piri, was arrested for trying to organise a taxi strike in response to poor working conditions.
Iran also continues to detain several foreigners. These arbitrary imprisonments, most often targeting dual-nationality people, give the power a means of pressure as relations with Western countries continue to deteriorate. For example, on the 11th, the Australian government reported that three of its nationals had been arrested in Iran (Le Monde). It was reported that Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who had been detained for almost a year, had been kept in solitary confinement for months without any charges being revealed. Two other Australian nationals, travellers Jolie King and Mark Firkin, have been in Evin prison since July... Another academic, Chinese-American Xiyue Wang, a doctoral student in history at Princeton, is serving a 10-year prison sentence in Evin after being convicted of espionage in 2017 (HRANA). According to CHRI, at least 15 foreigners are currently detained in Iran. Moreover, the Iranian judiciary does not hesitate to attack the families of Iranian nationals living abroad if they are too critical. An example is Masih Alinejad, an Iranian woman living in New York. After she launched an Internet campaign from Brooklyn against mandatory veiling, her brother Ali Alinejad was arrested on 24 September. These intimidation practices have existed for a long time, and may also target Iranian journalists working for foreign media: in October 2017, the BBC had asked the UN to investigate Iran’s freezing of the assets of 152 of its Iranian employees or former employees, in Iran and abroad (HRANA).