October 2019 will remain in history as the month during which the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were abandoned almost overnight by their US military ally to confront a Turkish offensive. By announcing the withdrawal of his troops from Syria in a two-paragraph communiqué on October 6, President Donald Trump implicitly gave the green light to his Turkish counterpart to launch the invasion he had long wanted to carry out. In doing so, he literally stabbed in the back his five-year allies on the front line against ISIS, who had left in this war 11,000 fighters killed and more than 23,000 wounded. But he also betrayed his own diplomats, who had been trying for weeks to prevent a Turkish attack by negotiating the setting up in northern Syria of a “safe zone” guaranteed by American troops. While the SDF, with American mediation, had accepted a security mechanism in response to Turkish demands, had withdrawn from several posts and even destroyed some of their bor;der fortifications, the agreement with Ankara, which had been difficult to reach at the end of September, finally ended up in oblivion, without any consultation from the White House with the Pentagon or the State Department.
On the evening of the 6th, while Turkey was reinforcing its military presence on the border, the United States announced that Turkey would “soon” conduct a “long planned” military incursion “in northern Syria” and that American troops stationed in the country would leave the area (AFP). On the 7th, when the Pentagon announced that it “does not support” a Turkish offensive, the American military began its withdrawal from the border area... In the face of an attack that seemed imminent, the UN declared that it was “preparing for the worst”. Warnings about the risks of a resurgence of ISIS, including a warning from the European Union, were not heeded. And the ambiguous messages of the American president, who seemed for a while to be trying to go back on his statements of the previous day by threatening the Turkish economy with “destruction”, did not have any effect. On the 8th, after the Ankara Parliament voted to extend the authorisation to external military operations (a decision to which only the “pro-Kurdish” HDP opposed), the Defence Ministry announced that its preparations were completed.
The next day, the authorities in Rojava decreed a general mobilisation, urging the inhabitants to “resist”. On the 9th around 2 p.m., Mr. Erdoğan announced that the operation, cynically called “Spring of Peace”, had begun. The first phase consisted of air strikes, particularly in the vicinity of Ras al-Ain / Serê Kaniyê. Very quickly, the SDF indicated that at least two civilians had been injured, a figure that was quickly revised to fifteen dead, including 8 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). The ground offensive began the same evening, with the entry into the Tell Abyad/Girê Sipî sector of Turkish soldiers accompanied by Syrian auxiliaries, of whom Ankara had prepared tens of thousands. According to SDF spokesman Mustefa Balî, this initial advance was quickly repelled, as was a new assault on Ras al-Ain on the morning of the 10th, when Turkish artillery fire was aimed at both this city and Tell Abyad. The semi-autonomous Rojava administration also announced that Turkish bombing had hit a prison housing foreign fighters from ISIS. Already 60,000 civilians had fled the fighting at the border and headed east, including the town of Hassakeh (SOHR). On the Turkish side, around 20 people were wounded in Akçakale and Ceylanpinar by shells fired from Syria. On the 11th, while violent fighting was taking place along the 120 km between Tell Abyad and Ras al-Ain, the first casualty on the Turkish side was announced with the death of one soldier, soon followed by that of another, with three others wounded. Meanwhile, west of the invasion zone, two Turkish soldiers were killed and three wounded by shells at a military base near Azaz. On the evening of the 11th, on the SDF side there had been 41 fighters and 17 civilians killed. According to the SOHR, the Turks and their auxiliaries conquered eleven villages, two of which were quickly taken back by the SDF. Some Arab tribes joined the Turkish troops.
Also on the 11th, the Autonomous Administration announced that after Turkish fire had targeted several IDP camps, Mabrouka (7,000 residents) and Ain Issa (13,000 residents), it had begun evacuating the former. Among the residents of the second camp are 785 family members of ISIS fighters. The United Nations reported that the Turkish operation had caused the displacement of 100,000 people; fourteen humanitarian organizations warned that the situation could jeopardize the delivery of aid to civilians. However, Turkey intensified its bombing, and the Turkish President repeated that Turkey would not stop its operation. The next morning, Saturday 12, the fourth day of the operation, Ankara, after an artillery barrage and a simultaneous attack on three sides of Ras al-Ain, announced the capture of the city, almost immediately denied by the SDF, which indicated that the fighting was continuing. The SOHR counted 23 villages taken by the Turks since the beginning of the offensive. On the same day, the Pentagon stated that its troops near Kobane had suffered Turkish fire the day before, but did not sustain any casualties. Washington asked then Ankara to “avoid any action that could lead to an immediate retaliation”. Turkey denied targeting the Americans.
On the 12th, pro-Turkish Syrian proxies from Ahrar al Sharqiya intercepted the car of Hevrin Khalaf, Secretary General of the “Syria Future Party”, on the Qamichli-Manbij road. The 34-year-old woman, unarmed, was beaten and shot dead, along with her driver. At least ten civilians were summarily executed in various locations on that day (SOHR). The UN has also put the number of displaced people at nearly 130,000, worrying that this number will soon reach 400,000. On the 13th, while fighting continued between Tell Abyad and Ras al-Ain, near the latter city, the Turks had to retreat in front of the defence of the SDF, which according to one of their commanders used “underground tunnels” to surprise their attackers (AFP). According to the SOHR, they had then taken 36 villages, but no major towns, for a total of 104 SDF fighters and 52 civilians killed. The SDF, accusing the United States of having “stabbed them in the back”, called on them to “assume their moral responsibilities” and close Syrian airspace to Turkish aviation. By mid-day, the SOHR announced that the Turkish forces and their Syrian auxiliaries had taken Tell Abyad / Girê Spî, the first major city to fall into their hands since the 9th. On the same day, Turkey announced that it had taken control of the M4 motorway, which links the SDF-controlled territories from east to west. At the end of the day, the official Syrian agency Sana announced an agreement between Damascus and the Rojava authorities, according to which the Syrian army would deploy near the Turkish border. Russia indicated that it had played a facilitating role in the discussions. The next morning, the Damascus army, beginning its movement towards the Turkish border, entered Manbij and announced the next day being in full control of it, while the United States announced its withdrawal. A Turkish soldier was killed in night fighting around the city with the fighters of its Military Council. On the evening of the 16th, Turkey denounced that it would deem “unacceptable” any remaining of the YPGs in Manbij under Russian flag...
Further east, in Ras al-Ain, the SDF still fiercely resisted the Turks and their allies on the 15th. On the seventh day of the Turkish offensive, the SOHR counted 135 SDF fighters, 120 pro-Turkish fighters and 70 civilians killed. The UN estimated the number of displaced persons at 160,000, while according to the Rojava authorities, the 32 international NGOs present on the field had withdrawn their staff for security reasons and thus stopped all humanitarian activities (AFP). On the evening of the 15th, two soldiers of the Syrian regime were killed by artillery fire from pro-Turkish rebels (SOHR) near Ain Issa (halfway between Raqqa and the border), and on the morning of the 16th, near the M4 motorway, north-east of Ain Issa, “violent fighting” took place between the SDF assisted by the regime’s forces and the pro-Ankara rebels. Further fighting continued on the border near Ras al-Ain, which was targeted during the night by air strikes and artillery fire. In the afternoon, troops of the regime accompanied by Russian soldiers entered Kobane where, accompanied by SDF, they took possession of a former US military base (SOHR). On the same day, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Ankara in an attempt to stop Turkish operations in Syria. The Turkish President, after announcing for internal use that he would not receive them, finally agreed to a meeting, which took place on the 17th.
Late in the evening, after four hours of talks, Mike Pence announced that Turkey had agreed to a 120-hour (five-day) ceasefire, during which time the SDF would have to withdraw from Turkey’s desired security zone, a 32-km-deep border strip. The head of the SDF, Mazloum Abdi, said on the Kurdish TV channel Ronahi that the SDF were “ready to respect the ceasefire”. Pence also indicated that Turkey had committed itself to ensuring that its military presence would remain temporary and that there would be no mass population transfers…
The assessment drawn on the 17th by the SOHR of the humanitarian impact of the Turkish operation, supplemented by the figures quoted by AFP, is frightening. The offensive put to flee 300,000 people, one of the largest waves of displacement since the beginning of the conflict in 2011; from the 13th to the 16th alone, a thousand Kurds fled to Iraqi Kurdistan. 83,000 displaced people had to receive food aid from the World Food Programme. The UN also announced that it had provided blankets for 52,000 people. Forty schools in Hassakeh province had to be converted into emergency shelters (SOHR). Finally, 400,000 inhabitants of the city and the region of Hassakeh are threatened by a lack of drinking water (UN). Concerning civilian casualties, 72 civilians were killed on the Syrian side (and 20 on the Turkish side according to Ankara). On the same day, the autonomous administration accused Turkey of having used prohibited phosphorus incendiary bombs against civilian populations. The SOHR could not confirm their use, but reported the arrival of several wounded people suffering from burns at Tal Tamr hospital in the previous two days. Videos posted on the Internet show children whose burns are likely to be caused by such weapons. Mustafa Balî called for the intervention of international experts to examine them, as all those previously present had left the region during the withdrawal of NGOs caused by the Turkish invasion (AFP).
While a precarious calm was established on the morning of the 18th near the Turkish border, the fighting taking place in Ras al-Ain during the Ankara meeting continued intermittently. In a ceasefire violation denounced by the SDF, 10 new Turkish air raids and artillery fire and 27 ground attacks killed at least 14 civilians on the Syrian side, including in the village of Bab al-Kheir, according to the SOHR, which also put the toll at 275 SDF fighters killed since the beginning of the invasion. According to the SOHR, the staff of the Ras al-Ain hospital, damaged by the strikes, was blocked inside. On the 19th, SDF Commander Mazloum Abdi accused the Turks of “blocking the exit of our forces, the wounded and civilians from Ras al-Ain”, effectively preventing the withdrawal of the SDF to make them responsible for the continuation of the operation. Abdi pointed out the responsibility of the Americans, guarantors of the agreement which provided for the opening of a humanitarian corridor allowing evacuation. Finally, on Sunday 20, a convoy of more than eighty vehicles, including pick-ups and ambulances, was able to take wounded and SDF fighters to Tal Tamr (30 km to the south-east, on the road to Hassakeh), leaving Ras al-Ain to the Turkish forces.
On the 21st, the day before Mr. Erdoğan was due to meet his Russian counterpart in Sochi, Turkey announced its intention to begin the establishment of “its” security zone in North-Eastern Syria. Contrary to statements made on the 17th by Mike Pence, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar reiterated his intention to settle “two million” Syrian refugees there (AFP). With a length of 120 km between the cities of Ras al-Ain and Tell Abyad, instead of the 440 km initially desired, the area will for the moment be four times shorter than initially desired. To extend it further would require negotiations with Russia, since the Damascus army, with which the SDF has concluded a military alliance against the Turkish offensive, has deployed further west, accompanied by Russian troops trying to position itself in a way to avoid direct Turkish-Syrian clashes.
On the 22nd, the day the truce was due to expire at 19:00 GMT, Vladimir Putin received his Turkish counterpart in Sochi, while the Syrian President, making an unprecedented visit to his troops in the Idlib region, reaffirmed his readiness to support “any resistance to Turkish aggression”: a manner to appear supporting without mentioning them those same SDF he had some time before labelled as “traitors”… The SDF, for their part, indicated that they had “fully” met the conditions of the Turkish-American agreement through Redur Khalil, who stated: “We have fully complied with the terms of the ceasefire [...] and withdrew all our fighters and security forces from the military area of operations from Ras al-Ain to Tell Abyad”, adding: “We have also defined the demarcation lines between us and the Turks east of Ras al-Ain and west of Tell Abyad” (AFP). At the same time, the United States announced that it would lift the sanctions imposed on the 14th against three Turkish ministers if Ankara respected the agreement negotiated on the 16th, but that if it did not, new sanctions would be imposed on the country.
In Sochi, after a six-hour meeting, the Turkish President announced a “historic agreement” with his Russian counterpart. The two countries agreed to take joint control of most of the Syrian border strip, after Russia has supervised the withdrawal of SDS to a depth of 30 km. The SDS had no choice but to accept an agreement which, while stopping the Turkish operation, calls into question the very existence of their “autonomous administration”. Indeed, reiterating the joint Russian-Turkish will to “resist separatist aspirations on Syrian territory”, the agreement claims to preserve “the territorial integrity of Syria”. However, it leaves Turkey in control of the area between Tell Abyad and Ras al-Ain, with no deadline for withdrawal. To the east and west of this area, once the SDF have been removed at a depth of 30 km, control will be taken by joint Russian-Turkish patrols to a depth of 10 km. Russian-Turkish efforts to “facilitate the voluntary and safe return of refugees” are mentioned, which may raise fears of ethnic cleansing such as that carried out by the Turks in Afrin...
On the evening of the 22nd, the Turkish Ministry of Defence announced that it “did not need” to resume its offensive, as the SDF had withdrawn from the border area. On the 23rd, the Russian Ministry of Defence announced that at 12:00 local time (9:00 GMT), a column of Russian military police crossed the Euphrates River towards the Syrian-Turkish border, “to assist in the withdrawal of YPGs and their disarmament over a depth of 30 km”. Their first border patrols took place on the same day. SDF spokesman Mazloum Abdi thanked Russia for having put an end to the Turkish offensive, but expressed “reservations” about a Russian-Turkish agreement that allows the Damascus regime to return to the Rojava “in the Russian wagons”… According to the SOHR, “The SDF withdrew from positions between Derbasiyeh and Amouda, in the Hassakeh region”, but remained in many points along the Syrian-Turkish border strip, which stretches some 440 km in total.
On the 24th, Mazloum Abdi told journalists in Qamichli that the SDF was in favour of the German plan to create a “safe zone” under international control, which was to be discussed the same day in Brussels at the NATO foreign ministers’ summit. But unsurprisingly, with the participation of Turkey and after the conclusion of a Russian-Turkish agreement on the ground, this proposal, which would have risked provoking a direct confrontation with Russia, received little support. The very next day, Syrian troops, reappearing in the Syrian northeast for the first time since 2012, entered Hassakeh (70 km southeast of Ras al-Ain). On the 26th, 2.000 Syrian troops, supported by hundreds of military vehicles and elements of the Russian military police, deployed south of the Turkish-controlled area. The day before, however, Syria and Turkey had exchanged invective in the Security Council. The same day, the UN opened a second camp in Iraqi Kurdistan to take in Syrian Kurdish refugees, the first being saturated with 11,000 refugees (AFP).
In the evening, between Tal Tamr and Ras al-Ain, clashes took place between pro-Ankara forces, supported by the Turkish Air Force, and the SDF supported by the Syrian Army, resulting in nine deaths among pro-Turkish fighters and six among the SDF (SOHR). Exchanges of fire continued the next day near Ras al-Ain. On the 27th, the SDF confirmed their announcement of the 24th that they would “withdraw to a depth of 32 km” and that “central government border guards [would be deployed] along the border”. The official Sana agency confirmed the withdrawal, which was coordinated with the Syrian army. These various movements did not prevent new fighting on the 29th, which for the first time directly opposed the regime’s and Turkish forces. Five Syrian soldiers were killed by Turkish artillery fire, a sixth was “executed” by Syrian rebel fighters. Further east, in Derbassiye, a Russian patrol “mistakenly” received Turkish shelling (SOHR). On the same day, Russia and Turkey separately confirmed the full withdrawal of SDS from the border areas. This has not prevented Turkey from continuing to provide air support to its jihadi auxiliaries in their attacks on Kurdish villages from the “security zone”, westward between Tal Abyad and Kobane, and eastward between Ras al-Ain and Tal Tamr. Pro-Turkish jihadists, as usual, also engaged in looting in Ras al-Ain and several surrounding villages, including stealing 48,000 tons of wheat from the silos. The same day, the UN reported that the Turkish invasion had displaced at least 80,000 children (WKI). On the 30th, the Turkish President announced that joint patrols with Russia would begin on 1st November.
Also on the 30th, Damascus called on the SDF to join the Syrian army. The Ministry of the Interior made an identical appeal to the Asayish (Kurdish security) to join the police. The SDS immediately replied that Damascus should first recognise in a “political agreement [...] their specific structure and status”. According to Mazloum Abdi, the SDS have made concrete proposals to the regime in this regard…
Turkey had assured Mike Pence that its military presence would remain temporary, but the Russian-Turkish agreement did not specify any deadline for withdrawal... How sincere is the Turkish president? Mr Erdoğan signed on 4th October a decree ordering the opening of several higher education institutions in the Syrian territories under Turkish control: an institute of economics and administration in Al-Bab, a Faculty of Islamic Sciences in Azaz and a Faculty of Education in Afrin, all of which will come under the jurisdiction of the Gaziantep rectorate... Turkish Post has already opened an office in Al-Bab, and Turkey has set up schools and its own police in the Syrian territories under its control. Are we heading in the Syrian North towards a situation of the “Northern Cyprus” type, under Turkish occupation since 1974?
The Turkish attack on Northeast Syria provoked many reactions of anger, solidarity and support in France and in the world. In France, street demonstrations followed one another from the 9th. In Rennes, about fifty members of the Kurdish community gathered in front of the railway station to denounce the Turkish attack and the inaction of the international community, and to call for a large demonstration on the 11th (France Bleu). In the evening in Nice, a group of the same size demonstrated on the avenue Jean-Medecin (Nice Matin), and in Grenoble, about a hundred demonstrators responded to the call of the Isère Association of Friends of the Kurds, including trade unionists from Solidaires, migrant rights activists and several elected municipal officials. The next day in Quimper (Britanny), a rally was held in Place Terre-au-Duc at the call of local associations and parties, whose communiqué reproduced the appeal of the Kurdish Democratic Council of France (CDK-F): “The Turkish invasion is synonymous with massacres, ethnic cleansing and humanitarian tragedy. It will bog down Syria in an even deeper war and provoke a massive exodus of the civilian population which will amplify the flow of refugees to Europe... The Kurds, who gave 11.000 lives in the war against ISIS and developed a political system in the region based on democracy, pluralism and gender equality, pose no threat to anyone" (Le Télégramme). In Marseille, some 300 people marched on the Canebière.
On the 11th, demonstrations took place in Rennes, at 5 p.m. at Place de la République at the call of the Rennes Kurdish associations (West France), again in Marseille with hundreds of people, in Nancy at Place Maginot at the call of a collective. In Dreux, a rally was held at the foot of the belfry (L’Echo Républicain), in Montpellier, more than 300 people demanded economic and diplomatic sanctions against Turkey and above all, a lasting political solution for Kurdistan (France 3 Occitanie).
On the 12th, a Saturday, numerous demonstrations took place throughout France at the call of the CDK-F, often relayed locally by left-wing parties, associations and trade unions. In Angers, at the call of the Movement for Peace, two hundred people gathered at Place du Ralliement (Fr3 Pays de la Loire). In Avignon, it was at 2 p.m. on the Place de l’Horloge (Le Dauphiné), in Bordeaux (a thousand participants), in Châteaubriant at 6 p.m. on the square in front of the town hall, where the gendarmerie had to intervene when members of the Turkish community tried to burn a banner (Ouest France). In Fougères, UCL’s call to demonstrate in Place Aristide Briand was supported by the “France insoumise” party local group (Actu.fr). In Grenoble, the event brought together 500 participants in the city centre (France Bleu Isère). In Le Mans, about a hundred demonstrators gathered at Place des Jacobins in response to an appeal by “Collectif 72 pour la Paix” (County collective for peace) (Western France). In Lille, nearly 300 people gathered at 3 p.m. in Place de la République to chant “Erdogan terrorist!”. In Marseille, for the third gathering, several thousand participants marched to the top of the Canebière from 2 p.m. (AFP). In Montbéliard, the rally was held at 3 p.m. on the Human Rights Square at the call of a newly created “Solidarity Collective” to demand an end to the Turkish aggression and a ban on Syrian airspace for Turkish military, the creation of a security zone for the Kurds of the Rojava, the guarantee of access for humanitarian aid and “sanctions by France and the European Union against Erdogan’s Turkey if the aggression does not stop immediately” (France Bleu Doubs). In Lyon, the demonstration, which brought together 500 people, was marked by the provocation of a driver who showed a Turkish flag, triggering the anger of the demonstrators and fleeing by nearly running over a gendarme. In Morlaix, the rally in support of the Kurdish people was held at noon at the “kiosque” (West France). In Nantes place du Commerce at 4 p.m., more than 3.000 people responded to the call of the MRAP (anti-racism movement), which had joined the National Solidarity Kurdistan Coordination in various cities in France to denounce the Turkish military action. The former Prime Minister of François Hollande, Jean-Marc Ayrault, himself from Nantes, expressed his support on Twitter. The demonstration ended without violence in front of the Turkish consulate, protected by mobile gendarmes (Fr3 Pays de la Loire). In Nevers, the gathering was held at 10.30 a.m. at Place Carnot (Journal du Centre). In Nimes, it was held at the end of the morning on the square in front of the arenas on the initiative of the PCF (French communist party) (Midi Libre). In Pau, about sixty people gathered at Place Clémenceau, politicians, trade unionists, associations activists and ordinary citizens (France Bleu Pyrénées-Atlantiques). In Poitiers, several dozen people demonstrated in the morning in the city centre to denounce Turkey’s military intervention, in a rally supported by the (anarchist) UCL (The New Republic). In Strasbourg, the event took place from 2 to 4 p.m. at Place Kléber at the call of the ecologists of EELV. In Tours, 150 to 200 participants gathered at the Place Jean Jaurès to the call of the PCF and the association “France-Kurdistan 37” (France Indre-et-Loire).
In Paris, two demonstrations in support of the Rojava took place on Saturday 12th. The first, called in particular by the Kurdish Institute of Paris, the magazine La règle du jeu from the philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy and the Coordinating Council of Armenian Organisations of France (CCAF), took place at 11.30 a.m. on the “Esplanade des droits de l’homme” (Human rights esplanade), place du Trocadéro. In an op-ed published on the 10th in Le Monde, the organisers denounced the Turkish president as “the chief smuggler of the thousands of jihadists rallying the Caliphate via Turkey during the years of the war against ISIS”. The second one, at 2 p.m. in Place de la République, followed the call for the mobilization of the CDK-F.
Demonstrations also took place abroad. As early as the 11th in Iraqi Kurdistan, thousands of demonstrators booed the Turkish President. In Liege, Belgium, about 400 Kurds gathered at Place Saint-Lambert at 5 p.m. (RTBF). In Switzerland, a thousand people demonstrated in Bern and 200 to 250 in Geneva at the Place des Nations. On the 12th, several thousand people demonstrated in Zurich, and 300 to 400 chanted “Erdogan murderer” in Bellinzone, demanding freedom for the Kurdish people (Swissinfo.ch). In Germany, home to a large Kurdish community, events were held on the 12th in Cologne (more than 10.000 participants), Frankfurt (4.000), Hamburg (3.000), Hannover (3.000), as well as in Berlin, Bremen and Saarbrücken. In Manchester (UK), 250-300 demonstrators gathered in Piccadilly Gardens waving Kurdish flags and placards bearing “Stop the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds” and “Boycott Turkey” (Manchester Evening News). Demonstrations also took place in Ireland, notably in Dublin, O’Connell Street. In Quebec, about 200 protesters gathered on the 12th in downtown Montreal at Phillps Square. Canada was among the countries that condemned the attack. “This is much appreciated, but much more needs to be done”, said Hovig Tufenkjian of the Armenian National Committee of Canada (Le Devoir).
In Greece, a thousand Kurds and sympathisers demonstrated in Thessaloniki, with placards asking “Where is the UN?”. In Athens, 2.000 demonstrators marched to the Turkish embassy, protected by police, and another group of 150 to the American embassy. In Jerusalem, several dozen people, some of Kurdish origin, demonstrated in front of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s residence. On the 10th, dozens of IDF officers signed a petition calling on the state to provide humanitarian assistance to Kurdish fighters in northern Syria (i24). In Beirut, nearly 300 Kurds demonstrated on the 13th in Martyrs Square (L’Orient Le Jour). Rallies were also held in Cyprus, Warsaw, Brussels and The Hague, where the police had to intervene to separate Dutch people of Turkish origin from the demonstrators.
In Turkey itself, on the 10th, Sezai Temelli, co-president of the HDP, the only party to oppose the operation in parliament, called on the government to put an immediate end to it; calling on the CHP (Kemalist opposition), which had approved it, to “get rid of its contradictions”, Temelli called on the EU, the US and the UN to act.
In addition to the solidarity expressed by the citizens of many countries, the Turkish invasion also provoked reactions from politicians. On the 7th, two days before the attack, the French President and Prime Minister had expressed their concerns, urging Turkey to abandon an operation that could contribute to a resurgence of ISIS. The President received at the Elysée Palace the Rojava Kurdish leader Ilham Ahmed, expressing the will to preserve the SDF. On the 8th, the United Kingdom expressed “deep concern”. After the launch of the invasion, negative reactions multiplied in France: Amélie de Montchalin, Secretary of State for European Affairs, announced a joint France-Germany-United Kingdom condemnation, Marielle de Sarnez, President of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly, Bruno Retailleau, President of the LR Senators, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon (LFI) condemned the invasion. Former President François Hollande called for sanctions against Turkey if the offensive continued. In the Netherlands, the Turkish ambassador has been summoned. On the same day, France referred the matter to the United Nations Security Council.
On the 10th, Ilham Ahmed unsuccessfully called in Brussels for EU countries to “freeze their diplomatic relations with Turkey by recalling their ambassadors immediately”.
Several European countries announced one by one the suspension of all arms exports to Ankara: Norway on the 10th, the Netherlands on the 11th, followed on the 12th by Germany (242,8 million euros of arms exported to Turkey in 2018, almost a third of its arms exports), and on the 15th by the United Kingdom. On the 13th, the Turkish president, retorting that these embargoes would not set Turkey back, repeated his usual threat to “send 3.6 million migrants” to the EU, prompting outrage from EU Council President Donald Tusk, who denounced (from Cyprus...) an “unacceptable” blackmail. The EU, recalling that it had allocated 97% of the planned aid funds to Turkey, reiterated its opposition to any demographic change in Syria, specifying that it would not grant any funding for the resettlement of refugees there.
In New York, following an emergency meeting of the Security Council, the five European countries sitting on the Council – Paris, Berlin, Brussels, London and Warsaw – demanded an end to “unilateral military action”, and France called for an emergency meeting of the international anti-ISIS coalition.
On the 13th, the French President and the German Chancellor together called on Turkey to stop the operation. In Italy (one of the main suppliers of arms to Turkey), the head of government Giuseppe Conte said he would like to see a “moratorium on arms sales to Turkey” in the EU framework “as soon as possible”. But on the 14th, the meeting of EU foreign ministers did not result in any formal decision. Upon his arrival in Luxembourg, the future head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, stressed that arms sales to Turkey were the result of “agreements concluded country by country” and that the decision to stop them was a matter for the sovereignty of each Member State. The final communiqué of the meeting condemned the Turkish operation and announced sanctions against... illegal Turkish drilling off the coast of Cyprus. A “lowest common denominator” agreement was reached on a “strict application” of the arms export policy, which states that arms exports should not “contribute to regional instability”. While Spain announced the withdrawal in December of its battery of Patriot missiles deployed by NATO in Adana, a senior European official explained that Turkey’s membership of NATO made it impossible for its allies to impose an embargo...
On the 17th, at the end of the first day of a summit held in Brussels, the European Council took note of the suspension of the Turkish operation and, reiterating its condemnation, again called on Ankara to withdraw its troops. On the 20th, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas declared that the Turkish attack violated international law. The next day, the Turkish president accused Western countries of “siding with the terrorists”. On the 23rd, the German government, criticising the Russian-Turkish agreement of the 22nd, proposed an international solution involving Europe as well to settle the conflict. On the same day, a joint declaration by European and American parliamentarians reiterated the condemnation of the Turkish operation, before a new condemnation the following day by the European Parliament characterising it as “a serious violation of international law”. Among other demands, the resolution voted by a show of hands called on Member States to impose “targeted sanctions and visa bans” against the senior Turkish officials “responsible for human rights abuses in the context of the ongoing military intervention” and those “responsible for the repression of fundamental rights in Turkey” and, as a last resort, to suspend the EU-Turkey customs union. During the debates many MEPs denounced the EU’s impotence.
The same powerlessness characterised NATO, whose semi-annual meeting of Defence Ministers opened on the 23rd. When the offensive was launched on the 9th, the organization had confined itself to calling Turkey to “restraint”. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declined to issue any condemnation, citing “legitimate security concerns [of Ankara]”... Fearing a new rapprochement between Ankara and Moscow, the allies have hardly given serious consideration to the German proposal for a protection zone under international control, supported by the Kurdish authorities in Syria: “There has been no request for a NATO mission in north-east Syria”, said Stoltenberg...
On the 30th, the French National Assembly unanimously adopted a “resolution” (non-binding, contrary to laws) proposed by Marielle de Sarnez, President of the Foreign Affairs Committee, condemning the Turkish offensive. Co-signed by the chairmen of the Assembly’s eight political groups, it “strongly condemns” the Turkish offensive, “calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities” and “affirms its unwavering support for the SDF”. All the speakers from the groups gave it their support, with some deploring the fact that Europe remained a “spectator”. Turkey “firmly” rejected it and summoned the French ambassador to Ankara the next day.
In Washington, Donald Trump’s abrupt decision to withdraw from the military caused an outcry, with several Republican supporters of the president, Lindsey Graham, Liz Cheney and Marco Rubio, urging him to reconsider this “mistake”. Former UN ambassador Nikki Haley also expressed her emotion. On the Democrat side, Hillary Clinton called the decision “a despicable betrayal” and Bernie Sanders, although a proponent of disengagement, called it “extremely irresponsible” in its suddenness. The Pentagon said it “does not condone” the Turkish operation, and on the 10th, the former head of US forces in the Middle East, General Joseph Votel, accused Trump of “abandoning” the Kurds.
On the 9th, two senators, Lindsey Graham (Rep.) and Chris Van Hollen (Dem.), unveiled a joint proposal for tough sanctions against Turkey if it did not withdraw its troops: freezing the assets in the United States of the Turkish President and several ministers, stopping US arms sales to Turkey, sanctions against any entity selling arms to the country, and visa restrictions for Turkish officials. The text also provided for the prompt implementation of the sanctions foreseen for the Turkish purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence system. On the 13th, Defense Minister Mark Esper, calling Ankara’s offensive “unacceptable”, said Turkey appeared to be committing war crimes. On the 14th, the United States condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the “extrajudicial” execution of Hevrin Khalaf by pro-Ankara Syrian rebels, and the President signed a presidential decree imposing targeted sanctions on three Turkish ministers. On the 16th, the House of Representatives passed a (non-binding) resolution condemning the US withdrawal from Rojava by a large majority, two-thirds of whom were Republicans. As Lindsey Graham and Chris Van Hollen’s sanctions plan came to a vote in the Senate, the announcement of the ceasefire obtained in Ankara by Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo largely calmed the revolt, even if Republican politicians such as Marco Rubio and Mitt Romney remained critical, the latter declaring that the agreement was “far from being a victory”. But on the 23rd, Donald Trump announced the lifting of the sanctions imposed on the 14th: they would have lasted only ten days...
The next day, the United States announced that it would maintain military forces in eastern Syria to prevent the takeover of its oil fields by the regime and its Russian and especially Iranian allies, while Ilham Ahmed, co-chair of the Executive Committee of the Syrian Democratic Council, tried to obtain minimum political support from Congress and the Trump administration. According to Al-Monitor, she made several demands, including the imposition of sanctions against Turkey, the deployment of an international peacekeeping force on the Syrian-Turkish border, the suspension of article 5 of the NATO charter with regard to Turkish aggression in Syria, the imposition in the airspace controlled by the anti-ISIS coalition of a no-fly zone preventing Turkish bombing. Finally, she asked for US support for the SDC to participate in the discussions initiated under the aegis of the UN. At the end of the month, none of these requests appeared to have been heard...
All in all, while indignation and expressions of support were widespread in Europe and the United States, at the institutional level, the Rojava’s western allies demonstrated their powerlessness, their divisions, and their lack of political will to stop the Turkish operation. Beyond Turkey’s condemnations in words, none of the desperate requests of its Authorities have received any concrete response.
Faced with growing economic and political difficulties, Mr Erdoğan, following a tried and tested recipe, tried to make people forget them by launching the military operation “Spring of Peace” against the Rojava on 9 October. The “Kurdish external enemy” seems to be playing its part well, but it remains to be seen how long this diversion will work. As former co-chairman of the “pro-Kurdish” HDP party Selahattin Demirtaş told Özgür Politika: “The AKP [...] knows very well that it could not stay in power even for a month without a policy of war. But war is a double-edged sword: if you don’t get results, it will cut you at the end”.
As after the attacks on Kurdish cities in Turkey in 2016 and the invasion of Afrin last year, the Turkish authorities launched a hunt against all those who dared to criticise the operation on social networks and sent the police to suppress any demonstrations; then they resumed dismissing HDP mayors.
On the very day of the attack, the Security Directorate announced it had launched investigations against 78 people (TIHV). On the 10th in Ankara, eight people were imprisoned when the HDP tried to hold a press conference in protest. They were released the next day, but eleven others were imprisoned at a new press conference (TIHV). On the same day, more than twenty people were arrested in Mardin for “terrorist propaganda” (Anatolia) and “inciting public hatred”, including the co-Mayor of Derik (Mardin), Şerif Kıran, and several municipal councillors... A judicial investigation was opened against the co-presidents of the HDP, Sezai Temelli and Pervin Buldan, for calling the operation an “invasion”, as well as against HDP MP Muş, Gülüstan Kılıç, and HDP MPs Leyla Güven and Berdan Öztürk, also co-chairmen of the Congress for a Democratic Society (DTK). The head of the Birgün newspaper’s website, Hakan Demir, and the editor of the news website Diken were arrested overnight at their homes, charged with “inciting public hatred”, before being released on parole the next day with their passports confiscated. Birgün had simply tweeted an article reporting the deaths of civilians in Turkish strikes. Two journalists who had reported SDF statements were imprisoned. The governors of Urfa and then Kocaeli announced a 15-day ban on all public protests.
On the 11th, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) announced censorship of all criticism, stating that no broadcasts “supporting terrorism” would be tolerated. On the same day, the bars of Diyarbakır, Van, Urfa, Mardin, Şırnak, Muş, Adıyaman, Bingöl and Dersim jointly called for the “immediate end to the war”. Interior Minister Suleiman Soylu announced that since 9 October, 121 people had been taken into police custody across the country. He added on the 13th that measures had been taken against 500 people who had “insulted the operation or defined our country as an invader on social media”. On the same day, the Turkish President reported that 109 people had been imprisoned and 589 subjected to administrative measures (Bianet).
Also on the 11th, 13 people were imprisoned in Izmir, 12 released the next day and one arrested for “propaganda for an illegal organisation”, eight in Nusaybin, including the local BDP co-president and several municipal councillors. In Diyarbakir, the co-mayors of the Bismil district, Gülşen Özer and Orhan Ayaz, were imprisoned and then released the same day. On the 12th, police prevented an HDP press conference in Adana, and Iskenderun HDP co-chair Hülya Ateş was detained and charged with “membership in an illegal organisation”. In Antalya and Hatay, several members of left-wing parties were arrested. Arabiya journalist Zidan Zankloi, who was covering the operation in Urfa, was arrested. In Diyarbakir, Vahit Aba, leader of the Partiya Azadiya Kurdistan (PAK), was detained and placed under house arrest. At Şırnak, five people were incarcerated, and two in Silopi. In Izmir, 16 members of the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) and four members of the Communist Movement (TKH) who distributed the newspaper Boyun Eğme and Sosyalist Cumhuriyet, whose front page was about the operation, were imprisoned. On the 13th, the HDP Co-Chairs of Ceyhan District, Delal Mamuk and Seyfettin Aydemir, were detained and then released after deposition. An HDP executive, Tahir Özdemir, was arrested for “membership in an illegal organisation”. On the 14th, the Ankara prosecutor launched an investigation against Istanbul CHP MP Sezgin Tanrıkulu for having publicly described the operation as an “unjust war” (Bianet) at the 759th gathering of the “Saturday Mothers”.
On the 15th, seventy-nine “Artists Against War” courageously launched on change.org a petition in Turkish, Kurdish and English, proclaiming: “No to war, no to lies, no to plunder”. On the 16th, the Anatolia agency reported 186 incarcerations for “disinformation” on social networks. 38 people were released and 40 were released under judicial supervision. In Bursa, five out of 15 people in prison were charged the next day with “propaganda for an illegal organisation”. In Erzincan, former local HDP co-chair Ayhan Pakan was arrested. Other incarcerations took place in Istanbul, Izmir, Çanakkale and Diyarbakir, where one of the ten incarcerated, aged 17, was charged with “membership in an illegal organisation”. In Istanbul, nine of the seventeen people incarcerated have been charged. In Diyarbakir, Mersin and Şırnak, police prevented HDP press conferences, using pepper spray that seriously affected MP Nuran İmir and İdil Co-Mayor Songül Erden… At Şişli (Istanbul), two Dev-Güç members who had occupied the CHP premises and suspended banners opposing the operation were arrested. In Izmir, Adana and Şırnak, HDP rallies were banned in advance by the governor because of “possible protests” against the military operation.
On 17 October, four people were imprisoned in Kocaeli, thirteen in Adana, eight in Denizli, ten in Ankara, one in Urfa, eight in Mardin, fourteen in Elazığ, and at least six in Çanakkale. Eight people were arrested in Bursa, Kocaeli, Antalya and Konya. The detentions of thirty people incarcerated on the 11th in Nusaybin were extended. Three of the eleven people incarcerated in Antalya have been charged. In Istanbul, the publisher of the magazine Meşale, Özgür Sazlık, was imprisoned during a raid on his home; the same happened to a member of a revolutionary party. The leader of the Partîya Komunîst a Kurdistan (KKPê) Sinan Çiftyürek, who had been imprisoned at Diyarbakīr the day before, was released under judicial supervision. On the same day, the Governors of Mardin, Eskişehir and Adana banned in advance any public events due to “possible protests” against the operation. In Urfa, already subject to the ban since 19 August, the governor took the same decision on 21 August. On the 25th, the Governors of Adana, Batman and Van (where all public events had already been banned since 21 September) did the same; Iğdır followed on the 28th.
On the 18th, three children were imprisoned in home raids in Istanbul for taking part in protest demonstrations. They were released on the 21st. In Mardin on the 21st, local HDP leader Abidin Uyan, who was incarcerated on the 10th, was charged with “membership in an illegal organisation”. Eighteen other persons incarcerated in the same investigation were released under judicial supervision, with four remaining in detention. On the 23rd, three HDP officials from Kocaeli were jailed for their messages on social networks, as was a NetNews reporter in Istanbul, Emre Orman. Several people incarcerated in the previous days across the country were charged. On the 24th, five people were incarcerated in Adiyaman. There has also been reports of police violence: on the 16th in Diyarbakir, during a raid on her home, Çimen Ülker was kicked and her mother threatened with strangulation by an officer pointing a pistol at her head. On the 28th in Urfa, a father and his two sons were handcuffed behind their backs, laid on the ground, beaten and threatened with death (“The State has ordered us to shoot, we can kill you”). Taken to Security, they were hit again. A doctor forged a fake certificate for the police without even examining them... (TIHV)
The HDP’s criticism of the Rojava invasion provided new excuses for the power to repress its members and elected officials, as only the HDP refused to approve the Rojava invasion in parliament; so new HDP municipal officials were removed from office.
The month began with the trial, on the 1st, of twelve members and officials of the HDP in Istanbul, including the former local co-chair, Doğan Erbaş; all were accused of “membership in an illegal organisation”. The trial was adjourned to January 30. At the same time, four members of the DEV-GÜÇ (Young Revolutionaries) were imprisoned during raids in Istanbul and Izmir. In Tunceli (Dersim), the provincial HDP co-chairs Hıdır Çiçek and Özlem Toprak were incarcerated together with the İHD executive Gürbüz Solmaz and other local HDP leaders, including the Mazgirt district co-chair Celal Aydın. In Diyarbakir, the prosecutor requested the waiver of immunity of Hakkari HDP MP and DTP co-chair Leyla Güven for her public criticism of the appointment of an administrator to the Diyarbakir mayor’s office. At Şırnak, the governor again banned all demonstrations for 15 days; the first ban followed the appointment of administrators to the municipalities of Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van. The next day, the Governor of Adana made the same decision for the fourth time (TIHV).
On the 2nd, the final hearing of the trial of lawyer Feride Laçin for participation in the activities of the Congress for a Democratic Society (DTK) was held in Diyarbakir. Accused of “creating and directing an illegal organization”, she was acquitted. On the 4th, former HDP MP Sirri Süreyya Önder, sentenced to three years and six months in prison for terrorist propaganda following his speech at Newrouz 2013, was released on the basis of a decision of the Constitutional Court, which ruled that his freedom of expression had been violated. One of Selahattin’s lawyers Demirtaş, Mr. Kayaoğlu, pointed out that the Constitutional Court had been careful not to issue a verdict on the violation of his client’s rights, for which a file had been submitted two days before the one concerning Önder and for the same facts... (Bianet) Moreover, Demirtaş was again sentenced on the 7th to one year and three months suspended imprisonment for participating in an event in 2013 (TIHV).
On the 5th, fourteen people were arrested in their homes at Şırnak, including Councillor Gurbet Güleş. Eight were released on the 8th. On the 6th, sixteen HDP members of Kayapınar (Diyarbakir), including the district co-president, were incarcerated during raids on their homes, and released the next day. On the 7th, nine people, members of the HDP, DTP and the of Federation of Socialist Assemblies, were similarly imprisoned in Tunceli. On the 7th, the Governor of Urfa announced the renewal of the ban on all public events for fifteen days. This is the third such ban since the appointment of trustees in Diyarbakır, Mardin and Van (TIHV).
On the 8th, the former HDP co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ was acquitted during the final hearing of her trial in Ankara for “insulting the Turkish nation, the Republic of Turkey and its institutions”. This acquittal did not affect her incarceration, as she remains charged in many other cases…
On the 9th, at least 31 persons, including members of municipal councils and leaders of political parties and trade unions, were detained in raids in several districts of Urfa province. On the same day, four HDP members were imprisoned in Diyarbakir, before being released the same day. On the 11th, the court accepted the indictment against the former metropolitan mayor of Van, Özgökçe Ertan, who had been dismissed on the 19 August. Accused in particular of “membership in a terrorist organisation”, she faces up to 30 years in prison (Bianet). On the 11th, 12th and 13th, police prevented several sit-ins in front of the HDP office in Diyarbakir, planned as protests against the appointment of administrators at Diyarbakır, Mardin and Van. Twenty-six people were arrested under the governor’s ban on public demonstrations, among them, two HDP officials from the district of Bağlar, its co-chair Fatma Kavmaz, and the party assembly member Şahin Tanrıverdi, accused of “propaganda for an illegal organisation”, who were placed under house arrest and forbidden to leave the country. A rally in support of them before the court was violently dispersed. Another HDP sit-in in Van was also prevented.
Also on the 13th, in Istanbul, a commemoration for the seventh anniversary of the founding of the HDP was attacked by Istanbul police with rubber bullets and pepper spray, and nine people were arrested, including the co-chairman of the district of Şişli Mutlu Öztürk, and the co-chairman of the district of Küçükçekmece Hüseyin Fidanboy. Those arrested were formally charged on the 15th with “violation of the law on meetings and gatherings” and “terrorist propaganda”. On the 14th, Hülya Ertaş, a member of the HDP executive board, was arrested in Diyarbakir.
On the 15th at dawn, police raided several municipalities in Hakkari, Mardin and Van provinces and arrested many HDP members and local elected officials, including the co-mayors of Hakkari, Yüksekova, Erciş and Nusaybin. In Hakkari, the raids targeted the town hall and the home of the co-Mayor, Cihan Karaman, who was arrested at his home. Yüksekova’s co-mayors, Remziye Yaşar and İrfan Sarı, as well as those of Nusaybin, Semire Nergiz and Ferhat Kut, were also arrested at their homes. A violent raid also targeted the “crisis centre” set up in Nusaybin by the HDP to help the inhabitants of this border town, which has been the target of mortar attacks since the beginning of the Turkish offensive in Rojava. The police broke down the door, beat several people present, and arrested on the spot Councillor Mehmet Emin Alkan. In Van, the police arrested in the town hall the co-mayors of the district of Erciş Yıldız Çetin and Bayram Çilek. Municipal Councillor Erhan Akbaş and District HDP Co-Chairs Hicran Kandemir and Şakir Asıl, and Baran Karaca were arrested at their homes. Finally, on the morning of the 15th, police arrested several HDP members in Bursa, Istanbul and Malatya. On the 17th, Nergiz, Kurt, Karaman, Yaşar and Sarı were charged with “membership in an illegal organization” and “propaganda for an illegal organization”. They were immediately suspended from their posts by the Ministry of the Interior, which appointed the Governor or Deputy Governor of their jurisdiction as administrators in their place. Alkan was released.
On the 16th, the Diyarbakir prosecutor launched an investigation against the HDP mayor of Mardin, Ahmet Türk, who had been suspended in August, for “propaganda for an illegal organisation” on the basis of a speech he gave at Newrouz 2018. In his statement, Türk stated that he defended peace and democracy. On the 17th, Izmir police prevented a “rally for democracy” in front of the HDP office, allowing only HDP co-president Sezai Temelli to make a statement from his office. The same thing happened in Van. On the same day, several leaders of women’s associations imprisoned in Diyarbakir during raids on their homes were subjected by police officers to sexist insults and threats (TIHV). Also on the 17th, Hakkari HDP co-chair Sinan Kaya was sentenced to ten years and four months in prison for, among other things, “propaganda for an illegal organisation” and “resisting a police officer”.
Early on the morning of the 21st, four new HDP co-mayors were incarcerated after raids on their homes: Selçuk Mızraklı, co-Mayor of Diyarbakır, dismissed on August 19, Keziban Yılmaz, co-Mayor (female) of Kayapınar, Orhan Ayaz, co-Mayor of Bismil, and Rojda Nazlıer, co-Mayor (female) of Kocaköy. The police closed down and searched the town halls of the districts of Kayapınar, Bismil and Kocaköy, and the investigation was declared confidential. The HDP called on the opposition “not to remain silent”, through its deputy parliamentary group leader Saruhan Oluç, who said the government continued to “flout the will of the people by using war as a pretext”. On the 22nd, Mizraklı was charged with “membership in a terrorist organization”, and Yılmaz and Nazlıer were also arrested and replaced by trustees, as well as Cizre’s co-Mayor, Mehmet Zırığ. On the same day, Mesut Ürün, HDP co-chair of Mazıdağı (between Diyarbakir and Mardin), was imprisoned, and four people were detained in Tatvan before being released under judicial supervision. On the 23rd, three members of the HDP were incarcerated at Muş and two in Malatya, each time including the local co-chair. Two of the detainees at Muş were charged on the 25th with “propaganda for an illegal organisation” and the third was released under judicial supervision. As of that date, eleven HDP representatives had been dismissed since the March 31 elections. But the government did not stop there. On the 24th, he launched a broad anti-HDP offensive in parliament, with the filing of 31 different requests for prosecution with the Constitution and Justice Commission against one member of the party İYİ and 19 HDP deputies, including Sezai Temelli (involved in five cases) and Pervin Buldan (one case).
On the 28th, the three dismissed mayors Mızraklı, Yılmaz and Nazlıer, were transferred from Diyarbakir to Kayzeri, 600 km to the west, without any reason given. On the 29th, the police violently dispersed a protest against the dismissal of Zırığ at Şırnak, injuring many people and arresting four, including two Cizre town councillors, Mesut Uçkaç and Serhat Küçük. On this day, the number of HDP mayors dismissed since the March 31 elections stood at thirteen, including those from the metropolitan municipalities of Van, Diyarbakır and Mardin.
After its invasion of Rojava, the Turkish government again intensified its repression, targeting all those who dared to criticise its military operation and launching a new wave of dismissals of elected HDP members. At the same time, he also continued with attacks against the media, human rights defenders and more generally, all the victims of his policies who dared to raise their heads, such as dismissed civil servants daring to protest – or simply those who speak Kurdish...
On the first of the month, a trial hearing was held in Istanbul for the former editor of the newspaper Yeni Yaşam, Osman Akın, which was immediately adjourned to January 9, 2020, and the next day, on 2nd October, another was held in Ankara for Rahmi Yıldırım, against whom two to four years in prison are being sought for an article about defence minister Hulusi Akar. The trial has been postponed until 25 December. The same day, the trial of eight defendants, including seven former journalists from the Dicle News Agency (DİHA), later closed by emergency decree, was held in Diyarbakir for articles about Musa Çitil, a gendarmerie brigadier-general, during the curfew in the Sur district of Diyarbakir. One to five years are required for “disclosing the identity of counter-terrorism officials”. The trial was adjourned until 18 December. On the 9th, the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld the sentence of eight years and nine months for “membership in an illegal organization” of journalist Türfent, also from DİHA: he had reported human rights violations during the curfew on Yüksekova, and interviewed members of the YPS armed group.
On the 18th, Journalist Hayri Demir, charged with “membership in an illegal organisation”, denounced the inclusion in the indictment of a photo taken with Selahattin Demirtaş during an interview in October 2015, stolen from his home in February 2018 and “mysteriously” passed on to the police... “Is it a crime to interview the president of a party that has received six million votes?”, Demir asked, adding: “We are going to days when even breathing will be considered a crime” (Bianet). Journalist Emre Orman, who regularly covered the protests of the “Saturday Mothers” in Istanbul, was charged with “propaganda for a terrorist organisation” on 24 October. On the 25th, the Turkish president filed a complaint against the French magazine Le Point, which in the front page of its last issue had called him the “eradicator” of Syria’s Kurds. On the same day, Turkish Vice-President Fuat Oktay, answering a parliamentary question from CHP deputy Fethi Gürer, said that since 2015, 3.804 press cards had been cancelled, including 715 since January 2019, their number having fallen from 15,485 to 12,735 (Bianet). The day before, the Bianet site had reported that in the past three months, 31 journalists had been fired, 212 tried and 13 imprisoned, and 577 online articles had been blocked. Nurcan Kaya, a journalist with the website Artı Gerçek, was jailed at Istanbul airport on the 27th. Charged with “inciting hatred and hostility” following her publications on social networks, she was released after giving evidence. The trial of the newspaper Sözcü, whose several employees, including its editor, are accused of “directing an illegal organisation”, was held on the 28th. It was adjourned until December 27.
Finally, on the 30th of June, eight journalists on the daily Hürriyet were informed of their dismissal by letter. According to OdaTV, the editor-in-chief, Vahap Munyar, was not aware of this. The next day, more than a dozen more journalists were sacked. In this context, editorialists Gülse Birsel and Naim Dilmener announced their resignation on Twitter. Since March 2018, the group Doğan, owner of Hürriyet, belongs to the Demirören family, very close to Mr. Erdoğan (Bianet).
In a rare bit of good news, on the 11th, Necla Demir, former editor of the news website Gazete Karınca, was acquitted of “repeated propaganda for a terrorist organisation”, of which she had been charged after covering the attack on Afrin. On the 16th, Beritan Canözer, of the JINHA agency, accused of “membership in an illegal organisation” for her coverage of the violence suffered by the inhabitants of Sur (Diyarbakir), was acquitted. On the 23rd, the Constitutional Court ruled that four publication bans imposed on media outlets had violated their rights. Among the cases concerned were the ban imposed on Cumhuriyet on the supply of arms by the MIT (Turkish secret service) to Syrian rebels, and the ban imposed on Bianet regarding the parliamentary inquiry into corruption against four AKP ministers in 2013. On the 25th, the day after the new “judicial package” came into force, the last defendant in the Cumhuriyet case, Emre İper, originally sentenced to more than three years imprisonment, was released on appeal. On the same day, the court ordered the release of Hüseyin Aykol, former co-editor-in-chief of Özgür Gündem, later closed by an emergency decree, originally sentenced to nearly four years in prison on 12 July. Aykol said he thought he had been “released temporarily to soften Europe”, as Turkey wants EU funds to resettle refugees in Syria. Also on the 25th, Meltem Oktay and Uğur Akgül, of the agency DİHA, were released after action by their lawyers. They had been charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” for covering the 2015-2016 curfews.
In Istanbul, police continued to prevent “Saturday Mothers” gatherings by blocking access to Galatasaray Square on 12 and 26 October. On the 12th, the Mothers and their supporters wanted to read in front of İHD premises a statement about Cemil Kırbayır, who disappeared in detention after the 1980 coup d’état, and expressing opposition to the Turkish invasion of the Rojava, but the police dispersed them with truncheons and pepper spray. The police also prevented Mothers from attending an HDP meeting on the 7th in Ankara. One of them, Nazife Yiğit, was stopped en route, in Urfa, and others at the Adana road terminal were forcibly put back into buses to their home towns.
Numerous demonstrations by people dismissed by emergency decree and calling for their reinstatement were also repressed. This problem also concerns the “Academics for Peace”, those teachers who were fired after signing a petition against the violence of 2016 in Kurdish cities. While the ruling in their favour by the Constitutional Court on 26 July led to the acquittal of 329 of them, 406 are still unemployed and 549 deprived of their passports. In a joint statement issued on the 4th, they have been calling for return of their travel documents, automatic reinstatement by the Higher Education Council (YÖK) or the allocation of an equivalent post, and full payment of the withheld salaries.
In Ankara, the police prevented numerous public statements by dismissed public servants, organised twice a day in front of the Human Rights Monument on Yüksel Street. Several protesters were detained each time and usually released in the evening or the following day. On October 1, 2, 7 and 8, four people were incarcerated. Incarcerations continued on the 9th (six incarcerations), and on the 11th, 12th and 13th (twelve incarcerations over the three days), and so on until the end of the month. Not only were the protesters not reinstated, but some were charged and arrested for protesting! The police repressed other protests: on the 7th in Ankara (health workers, two imprisoned, a new protest on the 29th also repressed) and in Istanbul (a woman violently imprisoned, returned protesting in the street on the 21st and again imprisoned). On the 5th and again on the 14th, the gendarmerie prevented a march to Ankara of the Manisa miners, who had been dismissed without compensation, even though the administrative court had lifted the governor’s ban on the march. There was repression on the 17th in Düzce, then again in Ankara on the 21st against health workers, in Istanbul against the cleaning staff of Maltepe University who were protesting against dismissals. On the 24th at Eskişehir, the police attacked the employees of Zeytinoğlu Holding, unpaid for months and then dismissed without compensation, with truncheons and pepper spray, preventing them from walking to Ankara (32 arrests, several hospitalizations due to pepper spray). Finally, several people dismissed by decree and missing for months “reappeared” in the hands of the police, who had placed them in solitary confinement. Others haven’t been heard from for almost a year...
For a long time in Turkey, prisons have been a place of political struggle that can go as far as hunger strike, and of ill-treatment that can go as far as torture, to which the authorities turn a blind eye. Detainees are sometimes illegally forbidden to listen to the radio or to access the books sent to them, which are confiscated before they reach them. The former co-mayor of Diyarbakir, Gültan Kışanak, who is being held in the prison of Kandıra, wrote in a letter to the press sent on the 21st that they were forbidden to read the newspaper Yeni Yaşam and that the administration refused them the books they were sent, forcing them to buy books in the facility instead. On the 17th, a court replied to a prisoner asking for the radio he had bought in prison and that was confioscated afterwards, that he was indeed “legally entitled to have a radio, but could not use this right, by decision of the Ministry of Justice”... A prisoner in Amasya Type E prison, Fethi Yaşa, was charged 180 T£ (€25) for translation costs after he sent letters in Kurdish.
It is common practice to forcibly transfer detainees away from their loved ones: Ferhat Kut, Co-Mayor of Nusaybin, arrested on the 17th, was placed in solitary confinement at Elaziğ on the 26th; Keziban Yılmaz, co-mayor of Kayapınar (Diyarbakir) and Rojda Nazlıer, co-mayor of Kocaköy (Diyarbakir), arrested on the 22nd, were transferred on the 27th to Kayseri, in Central Anatolia, hundreds of kilometres from their homes. Prison overcrowding is such that in Izmir, for example, prisoners sleep on the ground while detained spouses are prevented from seeing each other. In Çanakkale, the prisoners are piled up to fourteen in cells of eight. Detainees on hunger strike have no medical assistance. In the Sincan women’s prison, inmates are not transferred to the infirmary, allegedly due to the lack of a doctor. Finally, the police systematically repress the actions of defenders of prisoners’ rights. On the 12th and 26th in Istanbul, it blocked access to Galatasaray Square to prevent a sit-in by the IHD association calling for the release of sick detainees. The İHD members had to make their public statement in front of their premises. On the 21st, Zeynep and Hakan Koçak, whose son Mustafa is on hunger strike, were arrested in front of the Parliament where they had come to meet MPs.
On the 13th, Istanbul police prevented a press conference of the Prisoners’ Families Solidarity Association (TAYAD) which wanted to announce a march to Ankara in support of the musical group Grup Yorum (TIHV). Several of its detained members have been on indefinite hunger strike, some for 144 days, to obtain their release, the lifting of their charges and the ban on their concerts, and an end to the harassment against the Cultural Centre İdil in Istanbul where they rehearse, and which has suffered eight police raids over the past two years, during which thirty people have been arrested and their instruments broken or stolen. Two of the musicians, Selma and İnan, have sought asylum in France.
Lawyers and human rights defenders continue to be systematically prosecuted. On 9 October, the ninth hearing in the trial of eleven members of associations accused of “membership in an illegal organisation” was held in Istanbul. Among the defendants are the two foreign trainers (Swedish and German) and lawyer Taner Kılıç, honorary president of Amnesty International Turkey. Ten were arrested together on the island of Büyükada (Istanbul) on 5 July 2017 while participating in a workshop entitled “Digital Security and Protection of Human Rights Defenders”. Kılıç was arrested along with 22 other lawyers in June 2017 for another case. Amnesty International Secretary General Kumi Naidoo called for “an end to the judicial farce”, stressing that in two years the prosecution could not provide any evidence of criminal activity (Bianet). On the 16th, the Court of Appeal upheld the 159 years of imprisonment imposed on members of the “Association of Modern Lawyers”. Six of them, sentenced to sentences of less than five years, cannot appeal; twelve others, sentenced to sentences of more than five years, can go to the Supreme Court of Appeal…
On the evening of the 22nd, police raided the home of the co-president of the human rights association İHD, lawyer Eren Keskin, in her absence. She was then summoned to the anti-terrorist branch. Keskin, founder of the Legal Aid Office against sexual harassment and rape in detention, and also a former editor and columnist for Özgür Gundem, is accused of “propaganda for a terrorist organisation” and is the target of 143 different lawsuits, including some for “insulting the president” and “degrading the Turkish nation”…
The trial of Osman Kavala, arrested on 1st November 2017 in the so-called “Gezi Park case” for the 2013 protests, continued, with a hearing on 8 October. The prosecution is seeking life sentences for 16 defendants charged with “attempting to overthrow the government”, and prison terms on other charges. Citing a “flight risk”, the court decided to keep in custody Kavala, now the only defendant still in prison, and adjourned the trial to 24-25 December. Kavala’s lawyers have denounced his 707-day incarceration as a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, and the fact that the entire prosecution file is a compilation of illegal recordings (Bianet).
Arrests related to the July 2016 coup attempt also continue. On 1st October, thirty-six incarcerations took place in eighteen cities across the country, with another thirty targeted at military personnel and medical officers. On the 8th, fourteen incarcerations took place in twenty-one cities following an enquiry launched from Ankara and thirty-six others in ten cities following another one in Izmir. On the 24th, thirty-one people were apprehended across fifteen cities...
Finally, speaking or singing in Kurdish (or simply being Kurdish) continues to be grounds for imprisonment, or worse. On the 4th, seven musicians from two different groups who were singing in Kurdish at a wedding were arrested at Şanlıurfa and charged on the 7th with “propaganda for an illegal organisation” (TIHV). On the 13th, Şirin Tosun, a nineteen-year-old seasonal worker, who was shot in the head in a Sakarya street on 23 August because he spoke Kurdish, died of his injuries in hospital (Evrensel). On the 25th, it was learned that Ozan Okur, a Kurdish man waiting for a bus for Adana at the Edirne bus station on 20th September, had been taken to the police station, beaten up and stripped of his bus ticket, money and phone. Police violence also marred the trials against residents of Kurdish towns forcibly evacuated during curfews. On 8th of October, forty residents of Sur (Diyarbakir) were evacuated from the courtroom and beaten by gendarmes, and family members were incarcerated.
In addition to the invasion of North-eastern Syria, the Turkish army continued its operations in the Kurdish provinces of the country as well as in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. On 1st October, the media reported the death of two Kurdish activists in an air strike at Şırnak on 28 September, and two people identified as MLKP activists were killed and two police officers injured in an attack on a house at Eskişehir. On the 7th and 8th, the Defence Ministry announced the “neutralisation” of twelve PKK fighters in several air strikes in Iraqi Kurdistan (AFP), and on the 10th, the “neutralisation” of four THKP-C/MLSPB militants near Dohuk on 16 September. On the 8th, in connection with the attack in Syria, the governor of Hakkari announced the designation of fourteen border areas as security zones, prohibited from entry. On the 14th, the districts of Central Hakkari, Çukurca, Şemdinli, Yüksekova and Derecik were designated safe areas for two weeks. On the 17th, eleven zones in the province were again designated as safe zones until the 21st (HVT). On the 29th, a new announcement extended these designations for five zones until 12 November (Bianet).
On the 9th, a seven-year-old child was run over by an armoured vehicle in Silopi, without any investigation being opened (news published on the 24th). On the 15th, the Ministry of Interior announced the incarceration of 391 people during the previous three days in an operation targeting the PKK (245 incarcerations in 36 provinces) and ISIS (146 incarcerations in 25 provinces), an operation that is still ongoing (Bianet). On the 17th, a civilian was killed by gunfire from soldiers in Lice during an attack on a house (TIHV). On the 18th, the governor of Van announced the death of a soldier on patrol in Çaldiran in an attack in which two others were wounded. On the 21st, a one-day curfew was imposed on four districts of Derik (Mardin). On the same day, the death of a soldier was announced in the same area, and another death at Şemdinli (Hakkari). In addition, five soldiers and three village guards were injured in an attack on a patrol at Kağızman (Kars). On the 27th, a soldier wounded by a missile on the 23rd in Yüksekova died in hospital. That same day, the army announced the “neutralisation” by air strike of four Kurdish fighters in Haftanin in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the next day that of three others in Derik (Mardin).
Even before the Turkish invasion of the Rojava, the Middle East Monitor (MEMO) pointed out on October 1st the resurgence of ISIS in Syria. In Palmyra, jihadists used a car bomb against Russian Special Forces and pro-regime militias, and surrounded and attacked a Russian convoy, which had to be cleared by air strikes. Near Raqqa, the former capital of the “Caliphate”, the organisation claimed responsibility for an attack against the SDF, in which five fighters were killed or wounded. But the most important operation mentioned by MEMO remains the capture of Al-Sukhna, a small town of 16.000 inhabitants on the Palmyra-Raqqa road, on 29 September. Forced to withdraw by Russian air strikes, the jihadists retook the city on 1st October, killing 20 pro-Damascus militiamen. Also on the 29th, three civilians were killed in a bomb attack near the Al-Omar oil field, controlled by the SDF, which also uses it as a military base. Although the attack was aimed at the SDF, a vehicle transporting field workers was hit instead... (SOHR) The attack was not immediately claimed but in this region the SDF is often the target of attacks by ISIS. The jihadist organisation used to control the Al-Omar field, which, before being destroyed in October 2015 by raids by the international coalition, brought in between 1.7 and 5.1 million dollars a month (1.5 and 4.6 million euros) to the jihadists (AFP).
On the 9th, ISIS claimed responsibility for another suicide bombing in Raqqa that claimed no victims. On the 11th, the explosion of a car bomb, parked near a popular restaurant in Qamishli, which killed six people, including civilians, and injured nine, was claimed. On the same day, as a result of the Turkish attack, five members of ISIS were able to flee from “Navkur” prison, located on the western outskirts of Qamichli, after Turkish air strikes nearby. And in the Al-Hol camp, where are kept more than 70.000 displaced people, including 3.000 families of djijhadists, a riot broke out when local Asayish (Kurdish Security) were attacked by women from the camp who had organized a demonstration and refused to obey the guards. The incident occurred after part of the Kurdish security forces in the camp were redeployed further north to assist in the fight against the Turkish attack. A Kurdish official assured that no jihadists had managed to escape in the turmoil.
However, on the 13th, the Kurdish authorities announced the flight of 785 relatives of foreign jihadists from the Ain Isa camp, which had been targeted by Turkish aerial bombardments and from which its guards had had to leave. Expressing its “concern”, France reiterated its request to Turkey to “conclude its intervention as soon as possible”. The next day, Turkey accused the SDF of deliberately releasing members of ISIS in order to “sow chaos” in the region. On the 15th, the lawyers of three French women hitherto detained by the SDF in Syria learned that they had been “recovered” by ISIS as a result of the Turkish military intervention in the country. On the 17th, the organisation claimed to have “freed” several female prisoners held in Raqqa by attacking an SDF headquarters near that city.
On the 16th, the SDF commander, Mazloum Abdi, announced the suspension of operations against ISIS, before announcing their resumption on the 19th: “We have resumed military operations against the ISIS cells in Deir Ezzor, our forces are working there with those of the coalition”, he said in a telephone interview with AFP.
On the 23rd, James Jeffrey, US envoy to Syria, told the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee that more than 100 ISIS prisoners had escaped since the Turkish offensive: “We believe the number is now over 100. We don’t know where they are”, he said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) also reported that a ISIS leader with 150 terrorists took advantage of the chaos and looting caused by the Turkish operation to make his return to Tell Abyad (WKI).
The 26th was, however, the day of a major blow to the jihadist organization, with a raid by the American Special Forces on the Idlib region that resulted in the killing of ISIS’s leader, the self-proclaimed Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. American commandos were transported close to their objective by eight helicopters that left from Iraqi Kurdistan and landed in the night near the hideout of the jihadist leader. The SDF had managed to infiltrate an informant into the entourage of the “Caliph” of ISIS, who had been able to obtain an undergarment from his target and then a sample of his blood, which was invaluable in verifying the identity of the suspect before the strike, and later in ensuring his DNA identification. It was this informant, who remained on the scene, who guided the American commandos to the end.
The next day, it was ISIS’s spokesman Abu Hassan Al-Mouhadjir who was killed in another raid in the village of Ain al-Bayda near Jerablous – a city under Turkish control. On the 31st, ISIS confirmed the death of its leader and appointed his successor, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashem al-Qurashi, threatening the United States with reprisals.
The month of October has been marked by the extension of popular protests triggered at the end of September by the dismissal of Lieutenant-General Abdul Wahab Al-Saadi. Widely regarded by public opinion as one of the main architects of the victory over ISIS, Al-Saadi, who was transferred to the Ministry of Defence on 27 September, said he felt the decision was “a humiliation in his military career”. The authorities even had a statue of him covered up and placed under guard to prevent it from being unveiled by the population! It was reported he owed his dismissal to his bad relationship with the pro-Tehran Hashd al-Shaabi militia…
Demonstrators’ demands quickly expanded, with protesters calling for the departure of corrupt political elites responsible for the country’s dire situation with massive unemployment and lack of basic services. When thousands of citizens took to the streets in Baghdad, including Tahrir Square, on 1st October, security forces did not hesitate to use live ammunition to disperse them. Far from stopping the movement, this excessive use of violence accelerated its spread throughout the country, including Kirkuk… The repression left 21 people dead and more than 800 injured.
On the 2nd, the government blocked the Internet and declared a curfew in Baghdad. On the evening of the 3rd, Prime Minister Abd al-Mahdi intervened to declare that he had heard the demands of the demonstrators and would try to respond to them, although he had “no magic solution”. He announced the forthcoming introduction of a minimum income. During the following week, 1,3 million Iraqis applied for the unemployment benefits subsequently created by the Ministry of Finance, but this did nothing to calm the protesters. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani urged the government to take action and respond to the demonstrators’ demands, and Amnesty International called for an investigation into the violence by the security forces and for those responsible to be brought to justice.
By the 5th, the death toll had risen to over a hundred dead and 6,000 injured. The Speaker of Parliament, Mohammad Al-Halbousi, announced a special session to discuss the demands of the demonstrators. But on the night of the 6th to the 7th, in Sadr City, east of Baghdad, the security forces used heavy weapons and thirteen people were killed. On the 7th, President Barham Saleh called for “an end to the escalation” and called for “frank and total political dialogue” without “foreign interference”. The army acknowledged an “excessive use” of force, which was condemned by the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights.
Demonstrations took an increasingly anti-Iranian turn, with many protesters accusing this country of seeking to weaken the Iraqi army in favour of militias that are sympathetic to it. The Iranian commander of the Pasdaran Foreign Action Force, Al-Quds, Qassem Soleimani, and the head of the Shiite militia Hashd Al-Sha’abi, the Iranian-Iraqi Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, were singled out. Moreover, at the end of the month, Reuters and Associated Press both reported that, as soon as the protests began, Soleimani went to Baghdad to encourage security officials to apply the violent Iranian methods of repression, with the results that we know of... On the 30th, the Iranian Supreme Guide, Ali Khamenei, attributed the protests in Iraq and Lebanon to the instigation of the Gulf countries. On the 9th, Amnesty published a report documenting the use of snipers by law enforcement agencies, and on the 10th, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported about intimidation and attacks on journalists covering the protests.
The Prime Minister initiated a cabinet reshuffle; the leaders of Kurdistan gave him their support. Indeed, Baghdad and Erbil were on the verge of concluding a budget agreement for the next six years: Baghdad would pay civil servants of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and allocate 13% of its budget to it, in exchange for the daily delivery of 250.000 barrels of oil. The KRG was hence not really enthusiastic about a change of interlocutor, which might bring the discussions back to square one...
On the 11th, Ayatollah Sistani blamed the government for the many deaths and gave the Iraqi leaders two weeks to investigate them and make the results known. The Prime Minister complied the next day by setting up a Commission of Inquiry. On the 14th, the Iraqi Lawyers Association said that the government, despite promises to release all arrested demonstrators, was still holding more than 6.000 people, mostly teenagers, in detention. On the 17th, two security officials revealed the role played by pro-Iranian militia snipers in the killings of protesters. On the 22nd, the report of the Commission was disappointing: although admitting excessive use of violence and recommending the dismissal of several security officials, it did not address the responsibilities of the pro-Iranian militias. On the same day, the UN mission in Iraq (UNAMI) released its own report in which it found that the Iraqi Security Forces had violated “the right to life, liberty and security of persons, as well as the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly”. On the 18th, Amnesty spoke out again, calling on the Iraqi government to end its violations and in particular the disappearances of protesters (ISHM). Announcements of the creation of 4.500 civil service posts for students on the 19th did not prevent the resumption of demonstrations on the 25th in several cities, including Baghdad, Nasiriya, Basra and Samawa. The security forces again fired live ammunition and on the 31st, it was estimated that since the 25th, more than 100 Iraqis had been killed and 5.500 wounded .
As pressure mounted to force the Prime Minister to resign and to call early elections, the parliament on 26th launched a series of measures: it passed a law to dissolve provincial, district and sub-district councils, established a Commission to make recommendations for constitutional amendments, and passed a law to eliminate financial benefits for members of the government. At the same time, the demonstrations began to have an economic impact: on 29 November, the port of Umm-Qasr (Basra) was blocked by demonstrators, and the 46th Baghdad International Fair, scheduled for 1st November, was postponed. On the 31st, President Salih declared on television that he supported the demands of the protesters and was in favour of snap elections.
The extension of the protests also led to the suspension of the Baghdad-Erbil negotiations. Several delegation visits to Baghdad or Erbil were cancelled, and on the 22nd, the KRG’s Head of External Relations, Safîn Dizayî, officially announced that the situation had forced Baghdad to change its priorities. He indicated that the KRG was ready to resume discussions as soon as possible. On the 27th, KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and Iraqi Security Advisor Falih Fayyadh, after a meeting on the security situation in the disputed territories, reaffirmed “the continued cooperation between the Pechmergas and the Iraqi Security Forces”. In fact, since the departure of the pechmergas in October 2017, the security situation in these territories remains catastrophic. Moreover, Baghdad’s decision to hold provincial elections in these territories has caused new tensions between Erbil and Baghdad. The Kurdish channel NRT reported on 1st October that the KRG justice minister, Farsat Ahmad, had filed a complaint with the supreme court on 24 September against the speaker of the Federal parliament, Muhammad al-Halbousi, for ratifying an electoral law that was illegal because it is unconstitutional. NRT does not specify the reasons for this unconstitutionality, but it is highly likely that it relates to non-compliance with Article 140, which subjects the definition of the electorate in the disputed territories to a validation process that has never been carried out…
While contesting the holding of provincial elections in the disputed territories, the Kurdish parties at the same time made arrangements to participate in them if they are held. They formed a common electoral list for each of the provinces of Kirkuk, Diyala, Salahaddin and Ninewa, called “Kurdistani”. For Kirkuk, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the Kurdistan Islamic Union (Yekgirtûy Îslamî), the Movement for Change (Goran) and the Islamic Group (Komal), meeting on 1st October, chose as their joint candidate to the function of governor Abdulrahman Mustafa, former governor of Kirkuk from 2003 to 2011. He indicated that he would campaign on inter-community coexistence and the implementation of Article 140. In Kirkuk, the provincial council is still in conflict with the interim governor appointed by Baghdad after the dismissal of Nejmeddin Karim, Rakan Said Al-Jabouri, whose budget it rejected and whom it accuses of concealing documents. At the end of the month, the Iraqi Integrity Commission arrested seven provincial civil servants and issued arrest warrants for several others for corruption: they had allegedly used public money to pay for Al-Jabouri’s personal expenses...
In Tuz Khurmatu, Kurdish traders in the city observed a 24-hour strike on 16 October on the second anniversary of the attack on the city in 2017 by the Iraqi army and pro-Iranian militias, which had caused the destruction of 160 Kurdish houses and numerous abuses. In Kirkuk, after the return to the city of the KDP, which had left on the same day in 2017, a small group of Turkmen and Arab inhabitants of the city gathered to protest against this return and launch racist anti-Kurdish slogans (WKI).
The chronicle of jihadist attacks in the disputed territories for this month is frightening, with many attacks using homemade bombs / improvised explosive devices (IEDs). On the 2nd, one of them killed two tribal fighters in Al-Shura (Ninewa), while a coalition air strike killed ten jihadists in Hawija (Kirkuk) and another five in Salahaddin in the Hamrin Mountains (ISHM). The jihadists became so confident that they were able to briefly cut the Baghdad-Samarra road on the 3rd before Security restored the passage. On the 10th, according to local officials, increased jihadist activity in northeast Baqubah (Diyala) prompted 140 families to leave; jihadists also killed the Mukhtar of Rashad (southwest of Kirkuk) and possibly a civilian in the old city of Mosul on the 11th. On the 12th, two civilians were killed by a bomb south of this city. On the 13th, two separate attacks killed one officer and wounded two soldiers in Anbar (car bomb), and an IED wounded three members of the Security forces south of Kirkuk. The following day, a bomb injured two farmers in Diyala and another two Hashd al-Shaabi de-miners in Salahaddine, and on the 16th a civilian north of Mosul. On the same day the security forces were able to neutralize seven jihadists in Daquq (Kirkuk) with Coalition support, but clashes with ISIS left one militia member dead and two injured in Diyala, where a bomb hit three soldiers the next day. On the 18th, Baghdad closed the Syrian border in an attempt to prevent the infiltration of jihadists. But from the next day on, a series of IEDs hit Iraq: on the 19th, a civilian was wounded in Taza (Kirkuk), a policeman wounded south of Kirkuk, two civilians injured inside the city; a fourth IED did not cause any casualties. On the 23rd, another killed three civilians and wounded a fourth in Riyadh (west of Kirkuk), and on the 24th, two civilians were killed and two wounded in Khazir (north-west of Kirkuk). Besides, two police officers and four members of their escort were killed in an ambush on the 22nd in Salahaddin, and the security forces had two dead and three wounded in a separate attack on an oil field. On the 24th in Abu Saida (Diyala), snipers shot dead three local officials and at least one civilian. On the 19th, twenty more terrorized families left their village near Khanaqin. On the 25th, snipers killed two and wounded three federal police officers in Taza (south of Kirkuk).
The death in an American raid of the ISIS leader in Syria on the 26th did not stop the activities of jihadists in Iraq. On the 27th, they wounded four members of the Hashd al-Shaabi in Diyala in an attack on their outpost and launched an attack on an oil field. On the 28th, two civilians were killed in a bomb explosion in Mukhdadiyah, and on the 30th, mortar shells were fired at the provincial government headquarters in Baqubah without causing any casualties. On the 31st, as ISIS announced the appointment of Baghdadi’s successor, an attack on a roadblock in Tarmiyah (near Baqubah) left one security force (ISHM) dead and five wounded.
Concerning the Turkish operation in Rojava, the KRG called on Turkey on the 8th to avoid any action that could jeopardise the fight against ISIS. On the 15th, Erbil’s parliament called by a large majority for an immediate end to the attack. The following day, the KRG criticised the US withdrawal, expressing concern about the risk of ISIS’s re-emergence and further population displacements. Kurdish political parties have also condemned the abuses committed against the Kurds of Syria by pro-Ankara jihadists, and thousands of Kurds demonstrated in Erbil and Suleimaniyeh (WKI). Seventy trucks of aid were collected and sent to Rojava. Following numerous calls on social networks for the boycott of Turkish products, their prices have literally collapsed. On the 17th, the Russian oil company Rosneft announced the closure for security reasons of a field near the Syrian border. On 31 October, the KRG Crisis Coordination Centre announced that since 14 October, 13.572 Kurdish refugees from Syria had arrived in the Region. The KRG, which is already hosting more than 1,1 million refugees and displaced persons, announced an emergency plan to assist them.
Parallel to the invasion of the Rojava launched on the 9th, the Turkish army continued in Iraqi Kurdistan its anti-PKK operation “Claws” launched last May. On 1st and 2nd October, air strikes killed at least nine fighters of this organisation (ISHM), including three in a vehicle hit on the 1st near Ozmana (north of Dohuk). Another strike near Zakho caused significant agricultural damage (Kurdistan-24). On the 2nd, another strike hit Çemankê, near Amêdî, causing a fire and extensive material damage (RojInfo). On the 5th, the Turkish Ministry of Defence announced the elimination in Avashin of seventeen Kurdish fighters, an unverifiable allegation. On the 15th, security forces in Suleimaniyeh announced that an armed Turkish drone (UAV) had killed two fighters; local officials denounced an attack too close to populated areas. On the 16th, another air strike hit the village of Blava (Dohuk).
At the beginning of the month, the World Bank published its 2019 assessment for the Iranian economy, which is still subject to US sanctions: it contracted by 8.7%. Then on October 15, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in its World Economic Outlook Report, forecast a contraction of 9.5% for 2019. Adding up the contraction of the previous year leads to a total of 14%... This is Tehran’s worst economic performance since 1984. For inflation in 2019, the same two sources put it at 38%, after the 30% of 2018. However, the governor of the Central Bank, Abdolnasser Hemmati, proclaimed that the regime had succeeded in stabilising the economy, echoing President Rouhani’s assertion before the United Nations General Assembly. It is true that, after the lifting of sanctions in early 2016, oil exports arithmetically boosted growth, but this was only the expression of new income, without any development, since the industry had only grown by 1% at the time. As for the drop in inflation, it means that prices are rising at a slower pace, not stabilizing... On the 28th, the IMF indicated that to balance its 2020 budget, Iran needed an oil barrel at $ 195. It is currently at $ 65 (Radio Farda)…
The regime showed its declarations to be mere propaganda when it decided to cut back on the financial aid introduced by President Ahmadinejad from 2005 onwards, by gradually raising the thresholds for its allocation. In September, 700,000 Iranians were deprived of it, and in October another 400,000. These successive removals will continue until March 2020, when they will affect 24 million Iranians. Even if the value of this aid, paid in rials, had already fallen sharply with the collapse of the currency, abolishing it will deal a blow to the poorest. It is in this context that the five-year prison sentence on appeal for corruption of President Rouhani’s brother, Hossein Fereydoun, also accused of money laundering in other cases, came about. The President’s supporters denounced a political condemnation, prepared by the Conservatives. But it does show that the Islamic Republic is a regime of profiteers...
On 7 October, the abolition of fuel price subsidies was discussed in parliament in a closed-door session in the presence of the deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guard, Ali Fadavi. Closed-door session, no media reporting: clearly, the regime fears reactions from the street.
The repression exercised by the regime is commensurate with its fear. The month began with the announcement on the 2nd of the execution on 25th September of at least eight inmates of Rajai Shahr (Karaj) prison, sentenced to death for murder or drug trafficking. In Iran, executions often take place in secret and are known only with delay. But Iran is the country that executes the most in proportion to its population. The Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) compiled data from several reports and counted 195 from January 1st to December 20, 2018, thirteen of which were public and six concerned minors (or minors at the time of the alleged acts). According to another HRANA estimate, from 10 October 2018 to 8 October 2019, there were 134 death sentences and 242 executions, 16 of which were public and five of which of minors. Given such figures, is it worth rejoicing that according to HRANA, the courts handed down 47.6% fewer death sentences than in the previous year? Executions have fallen by 5.4%...
Recently, women seem particularly targeted by the repression: eight Iranian women have been executed over three months. Among the political prisoners who refuse to give in is Atena Daemi, who is being held in Evin prison. She had already received three more years in prison for protesting the executions of three Kurdish political prisoners, Zanyar and Loghman Moradi, and Ramin Hossein Panahi. On the anniversary of their executions, she reiterated her opposition to the death penalty in an open letter sent from her cell, in which she declared herself “honoured” by this new sentence. On 2 September, it was learned that the sentence of student activist Parisa Rafiyeh had been upheld on appeal in Tehran on 25 September. Arrested in February 2018 in front of her university, the art student was sentenced to seven years in prison and 74 lashes for “propaganda against the state”, “disturbing public order” and “assembly and collusion against national security”. According to an anonymous source, Rafiyeh was abused during her interrogations, including being forced to undergo a virginity test, and threatened with torture and execution ...
On 10 October, for the first time since 1981, Iranian women were able to legally buy tickets for a football match in Tehran. To achieve this result, FIFA had to threaten to suspend Iran from international tournaments. But the trigger was Sahar Khodayari’s suicide. Arrested for attempting to enter a stadium disguised as a man, the girl known as “the blue girl”, the colour of the Istiqlal team she supported, was sentenced to six months in prison. Terrified at the prospect, she set herself on fire in front of the court and died in hospital on September 9.
On 14 October, the Tehran Court of Appeal upheld the three-year prison sentence imposed on women’s rights defender Aliyeh Motalebzadeh for “propaganda against the state” and “collusion”. Motalebzadeh had already been arrested several times (HRANA) as a signatory of the “One Million Signatures Against Discriminatory Laws” appeal.
Workers daring to protest against low wages, late payment or working conditions, as well as activists trying to defend them, are also particularly targeted. According to the food industry union, the contracts of 150 workers at the Haft Tappeh sugar factory in Shush have not been renewed. Protests at the 4.000-strong sugar factory, Iran’s oldest, began on September 23 after 21 workers were fired.
On the 14th, trade union leader Nahid Khodajû, arrested on 1st of May in front of the Parliament together with other demonstrators, was sentenced to six years in prison and 74 lashes for “disturbing public order” and “assembly and collusion against national security”. According to the Iranian penal code, she will have to serve her highest sentence, five years for “assembly and collusion”. Arrested in the same circumstances, Atefeh Rangriz, sentenced to 11 years in prison and 74 lashes and incarcerated in Qarchak Prison, went on hunger strike on the 16th (HRANA). In Sanandaj, Etelaat (Iranian intelligence) arrested on the 19th the trade unionist Faramarz Sharyatî, and on the 23rd, another trade unionist, Saman Malakî (WKI). On the 20th, thirteen employees of a subcontracting company in the municipality of Kut-e Abdollah (Khuzistan) were arrested for attempting to launch a strike after unsuccessfully demanding the payment of their salaries.
The Kurds are still as much targeted by repression, and among them cross-border porters or kolbars, a dangerous occupation to which are turning, because of the disastrous economic situation, according to the Human Rights Association of Kurdistan (KMMK), more and more Kurds, and even recently an increasing number of Kurdish women. At the end of the month, KMMK counted since the beginning of 2019 60 kolbars killed and at least 119 wounded by the regime. On the 13th, two porters, Abdulrahman and Sadiq Mouradî, were killed by security forces near Piranshahr. In Pawa, another was victim of a mine and had to have both legs amputated. At Hewraman, a shopkeeper was shot for his relations with kolbars. On the 15th, again in Piranshahr, a kolbar was seriously wounded in an ambush, and one killed and another wounded in Sardacht. On the 16th, one was wounded in Salmas, a second the next day, again in Piranshahr, and a third the day after again in Sardacht, where on the 21st, a kolbar was again killed in an ambush. On the 23rd, another was shot in his vehicle in an ambush to a group near Javanrud. On the 24th, another died after falling in a ravine in Nowsud while fleeing border guards. On the 27th, another was injured near Baneh (WKI).
The Kurds who gathered to protest against Turkey’s invasion of Rojava (although it had been denounced by Tehran) were also targeted by the repression. Many people took to the streets on Saturday 12th, as evidenced by videos posted on social networks from Piranshahr, Sanandaj, Baneh, Marivan... Demonstrations took place in about twenty cities in Iranian Kurdistan as well as in Tehran. The protesters used the #Resistance hashtag on Twitter to mobilize. The authorities did not react immediately, allowing the protests to proceed smoothly. But on the following Monday, 14 October, Etelaat arrested more than 20 people involved in organizing the protests, many of them Marivan, and charged them with “disturbing public order”. The same week, Kurdish activist Arman Ghafuri was sentenced to six months in prison on the same charge for organising a protest against the Turkish invasion of Afrîn. Four other activists were arrested in Bokan on the 19th. At the end of the month, in Ilam, the “Revolutionary Court” sentenced Ahmed Shokrî to one year in prison for organising a protest demonstration against the Turkish invasion of the Rojava. Also at the end of the month, five Kurds arrested this summer in Urumieh and Sanandaj by the Etelaat were sentenced in Urumieh to one year in prison for “aiding Kurdish opposition parties” and “propaganda against the Islamic Republic”.
Also targeted are religious minorities, particularly the Baha’i, as their religion is not recognized. On the 12th, three Baha’is from Abadan and Ahwaz each received one year in prison for “propaganda against the state”. On the 21st, three more Baha’is from Shiraz were placed in solitary confinement after a city-wide search campaign. As for Iranian Sunnis, it was learned on October 2 that a former imam of Talesh, Tohid Ghoreishi, had been sentenced on September 25 to sixteen years in prison for “supporting opposition groups”, “assembly and collusion against national security” and “propaganda against the state” (HRNA). On 11 October, a Urumieh resident, Seyed Aram Aminzadeh, was sentenced on appeal to 11 years in prison for “propaganda against the state by creating a Salafist group on social networks”.
Finally, intellectuals, always suspect of dissidence, are also targeted: the Kurdish writer Emîn Massori was arrested, and on the 13th, the short film director Kyumars Marzban was sentenced on appeal to 23 years and nine months in prison, in his absence and without his defence being heard. According to the penal code, he will have to serve his most important sentence, eleven years for “cooperation with a hostile state”, a sentence that is entirely fabricated (the organisation employing him is recognised in Iran as an NGO). The incredible list of Marzban’s other convictions demonstrates the true nature of this regime: seven years and six months for “blasphemy”, three years for “insulting the Supreme Guide and Founder of the Revolution” and nine months for “insulting the authorities”...