The month of November was marked in Iran by massive demonstrations, which were fiercely repressed. Triggered on the 15th by the announcement of the tripling of the price of petrol, the protests quickly turned into a global challenge to the regime, with demonstrators beginning to call for the dismissal of the main leaders. This is the most significant unrest in the country since the contested rigged election of Ahmadinejad in 2009, and perhaps even since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
The protests began the day after the announcement, on the evening of the 14th, of the increase in the price of petrol from 10.000 to 30.000 rials per litre, with the introduction of a monthly “quota” per vehicle of 60 litres maximum for 15.000 rials. According to the government, the $2,55 billion recovered annually will fund additional subsidies for 18 million poor families. But given the level of corruption rampant in the country, this declaration did not convince anyone... The way in which a decision with such an impact on all Iranians was taken also aroused anger: in a meeting of the Heads of the three branches of government, the judiciary, the executive and the legislature, bypassing Parliament!
Calling protesters “thugs” linked to exiled opponents and the United States, Israel or Saudi Arabia, the regime drowned the protests in blood. The day after the first movements, on the 16th, the Supreme Council of National Security ordered the closure of the Internet in most of the country, even if this meant cutting off electricity. The government hoped to prevent the protesters from coordinating and to conceal the repression, but people smuggled videos out of Iran, and death reports soon emerged. At the end of the month, Amnesty International counted at least 143 people killed by security forces, a number later revised to 161, but these were only those the organization was able to confirm. Radio Farda for its part estimated on the 21st that at least 138 protesters had been killed in six days by the security forces, but the Kurdistan Human Rights Association KMMK estimated that there had been 300 dead and more than 4.000 wounded, and on the 28th, the news site Kalameh, close to former presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, reported that at least 366 people, including a nine-year-old child, had been shot dead since the 15th. According to the Entekhab news website, a member of the parliamentary committee on national security, Hossein Naqavi-Hosseini, has put the number of arrests at seven thousand at the end of the month...
The videos that have arrived on social networks despite censorship, testifying to the ferocity of the repression, unfortunately make likely the highest estimates. The security forces, including the Bassidji, belonging to the Revolutionary Guards, are seen firing live ammunition directly at demonstrators, facts confirmed to foreign media by relatives of several victims. Tweets mentioned the deaths of children or teenagers, including a fourteen-year-old girl. In addition, the Centre for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) expressed concern about the lack of information about people who have disappeared, been injured, killed, or imprisoned and held incommunicado. On the 17th, the government had acknowledged the death of only three people.
Demonstrations began peacefully on the 16th in more than 50 cities, including Tehran, Mashhad, Shiraz, Isfahan, Tabriz, Qazvin, Kermanshah, Ummiyeh, Marivan, Sanandaj, Saveh, Behbahan and Sirjan. But the violent repression, far from stopping the movement, has on the contrary radicalized it and provoked its extension. Shots were heard in Shiraz, Bushehr and Tehran where security forces reportedly opened fire at the Azari intersection in the south-western part of the city. Clashes were reported in at least three cities, Mashhad, Ahvaz (Khuzistan) and Sirjan (Kerman). In the latter city, where the security forces repelled an attack by demonstrators against a fuel depot, according to the IRNA agency, social networks reported one death among the protesters (Radio Farda). On the 17th, the authorities announced hundreds of arrests in Yazd, while the Tehran bazaar went on strike and disturbances were reported at Tabriz University. On the 18th, forty-eight towns were affected by the protests, including in Kurdistan Ilam, Sanandaj, Mariwan and Urmiyah. In Sanandaj, the demonstration turned violent, with videos appearing to show police using tear gas on protesters and crowds trying to set fire to official buildings.
On the 19th, the CHRI called for an end to State violence, an independent investigation into it, and respect for the rights of defense of those arrested. It also called for the families of those killed, injured and arrested to be informed of their fate, and urged the international community to condemn both excessive state force and the information blackout. The United States, the United Nations, Germany and France have expressed their condemnation.
Faced with the impossibility of concealing the scale of the demonstrations, the regime’s political leaders chose to report them, or even exaggerate their violence to justify their repression. On the evening of the 26th on the state-run Channel One, minister of Interior Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli said that up to 200.000 people had taken part in the attacks across the country and that some 731 banks, 70 petrol stations and 140 government sites had been burned and more than 50 security force bases attacked (Radio Farda). On the 16th, Fars News had already announced the burning of 100 banks and 57 supermarkets: at least some of these fires, particularly on Tuesday 19 morning, seem to have been set by members of the security services in civilian clothes infiltrated among the demonstrators to provide a pretext for repression. Rahmani-Fazli also said that most of the demonstrations took place “in the suburbs and poor areas of the cities”, and that particularly the cities of Khuzistan had experienced major unrest, as well as the cities near the west of Tehran, Baharestan, Malard, Shahriar and Shahr-i Qods. Rahmani-Fazli’s statements partly corroborate the information broadcast on the 20th by Radio Farda, which had reported receiving reports from listeners that armed clashes had occurred between demonstrators and security forces in several towns in Khuzistan, in particular Mahshahr and Behbahan, and that in Mashhad, protesters had attempted to attack the office of conservative Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda, the local representative of the Supreme Leader. A video of the protests at Shiraz University shows pasdaran opening fire on demonstrators with machine guns, another shot elsewhere shows snipers shooting at demonstrators from the roofs of public buildings. According to these reports, after five days of repression, the protesters started going out at night to attack the security forces. In Mahshahr, there were reports of armed citizens confronting tanks. Government spokesman Ali Rabiei acknowledged the use of “illegal weapons” by demonstrators.
The clashes are said to have been the most violent and the victims of repression the most numerous in Khuzistan and the province of Kurdistan (capital Sanandaj). Amnesty reported on the 26th that, after Khuzistan (40 killed), the province of Kermanshah, south of Kurdistan, had the highest number of deaths (34 killed), and that in Western Azerbaijan (where Mahabad is located), there were four deaths. According to a Mariwan journalist, Adnan Hasanpour, in Javanrud security forces fired on the crowd, killing at least seven people. In Sanandaj, one person was killed and several others injured (Bianet). It seems that the provinces making up Iran’s Kurdistan have been particularly affected by violence. Many people were reportedly killed as soon as the demonstrations began. Additional forces of repression were deployed early on in Marivan and Kermanshah, towns placed under curfew while the Internet was disconnected. Marivan had 10 dead and 10 wounded, Kermanshah had 15 dead and an unknown number of wounded, and according to the chief of police, a major was killed there on the 16th in clashes with the demonstrators. In Bokan, three Kurds were killed. On the 19th, several dozen residents of Marivan staged a strike to protest against the excessive use of force by the regime.
After the crushing of the protests, the forces of repression arrested their so-called “organisers” and participants in a series of raids, arresting hundreds of people in Kurdistan, including in Javanrud, Kermanshah, Marivan, Sanandaj, Saqqez and Salas-e Bawajani. In Bokan, the Etelaat (Intelligence Service) arrested the Kurdish activist Azad Mahmodian. In Kelardasht (Mazanderan), the Kurdish writer Mozhgan Kawasi was arrested on charges of “supporting protests”. In Sarpol-e Zahab, journalist Fereshta Chraghy, a member of the Yarsan Kurdish religious minority, was also arrested... (WKI)
Even more shockingly, the CHRI learned on the 25th that, even before the announcement of the price rise that triggered the protests, the Ministry of Intelligence had warned journalists to respect the official description of the events on pain of being charged. Thus the regime, foreseeing the protests, had prepared its repression in advance. As stated by the Director of CHRI, Mr. Ghaemi: “State violence is not the product of unforeseen chaos, but a planned decision by the state to crush the unrest violently and mercilessly”... The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Orientation has also made some journalists sign an undertaking not to broadcast reports on the protests or the Internet blackout on pain of being charged with aiding foreign enemies... The CHRI was able to obtain the text sent to the media by the ministry and reproduced it in full on its website.
Amnesty has also criticized the international community’s inadequate response as the numerous video footage analyzed by the NGO’s Digital Verification Corps provides clear evidence that Iranian security forces intentionally used firearms against unarmed demonstrators who represented no life-threatening menace. Amnesty also reports that the Iranian authorities have harassed the victims’ families, refused to hand over the bodies of their loved ones, imprisoned hospitalised protesters, refused to provide prisoners with medical care, and in some cases demanded payment from the families for the bullets that killed their relatives or for the destruction caused by the protests.
Even more worrying for the future, Rahmani-Fazli said those arrested should “confess” to their wrongdoings, despite the fact that it is known how Iranian repressive forces use torture to obtain “confessions” from suspects. On the 27th, about 50 people were arrested in a new wave of police raids. The police said they had obtained several “confessions” from inmates, which the authorities could use to “prove” the existence of a foreign conspiracy. Already, several people accused of sending photographs of the demonstrations to the United States have been arrested...
In addition to the demonstrations and their repression, Iranian border guards have this month continued the killings of kolbars, the cross-border Kurdish porters, 64 of whom have been killed and 129 wounded since the beginning of 2019. On 31 October, a Sewlawa farmer working in his field, Jamal Mohammidî, was shot dead because he had been mistaken for a kolbar. Another kolbar, Peyman Yousifî, injured at the end of October near Sardasht, died in hospital earlier this month. Near Saqqez, a young shepherd lost a leg on a mine. In the Hewraman region, further south, another Kurdish porter was shot dead by border guards while trying to enter Iraqi Kurdistan. In the Khoy countryside, another man with serious gunshot wounds had to be hospitalized. On the 9th, two others were injured near Sardasht and, due to the severity of their condition, transferred to the hospital in Qala Diza on the Iraqi side. On the 10th, yet another was injured in the same area. On the 26th, the Kurdish Institute in Washington reported three more such incidents in the previous week: a 23-year-old kolbar killed near the Hadji Omran border post, another 33-year-old near Baneh, and finally a group ambushed in the Hewraman, whose loads were confiscated. At the end of the month, border guards wounded another kolbar near Saqqez, and ambushed a group in Sardasht, injuring one of its members. In addition, a kolbar died of a heart attack near Marivan (WKI).
At the same time, several Kurdish activists arrested after protesting in October against the Turkish invasion of the Rojava were still imprisoned at the beginning of the month (according to the Kurdistan Human Rights Association KMMK, they are said to be eighteen). For some who were put in solitary confinement, on the 6th there were still no news of them. Political prisoner Iqbal Zerai, sentenced in 2015 to five years in prison for “membership in a Kurdish opposition party”, and who should have been released after serving his sentence, has started a hunger strike to protest against Etelaat’s decision to keep him in detention. On the 10th, Urumieh Revolutionary Court sentenced Celal Tahîrî to five years in prison for “belonging to a Kurdish opposition party” (WKI). On the same day, according to the human rights association HRANA, a prisoner convicted of murder died of illness in Urumieh prison after the administration refused to transfer him to hospital. On the 11th, at least two inmates of the same prison, sentenced to death for murder, were transferred to solitary confinement cells in preparation for their execution. On the 12th, HRANA announced the execution of at least four prisoners convicted of murders in Tabriz, Shiraz, Ardabil and Borujerd, as well as the sentencing to death and whipping of three prisoners, two accused of drug trafficking in Esfahan and the third of sexual assault in Tehran.
The Baha’is, whose religion is not recognized in Iran, continue to be victims of repression. HRANA reported several cases this month, indicating on the 15th that Baha’is in Semnan had had their temporary releases suspended and were incarcerated with a ban on visits. Sentenced for imaginary offences related to so-called “activities against national security”, they will have to serve five to ten years in prison. On the 16th, a Baha’i resident of Karaj was arrested. On the 25th, HRANA announced seven others had had their sentences of three years in prison each confirmed by the Bushehr Court of Appeal. At the end of the month, nine other Baha’is were arrested in Esfahan, then another eleven in Esfahan and Omidiyeh (Khuzistan), some of whom were then held incommunicado. In several cases, the homes of those arrested were searched and objects (computers, smartphones...) confiscated, probably in search of “evidence”.
In addition, on the 20th, it was learned that six of the eight wildlife advocates detained in Iran since January 2018 had been sentenced to between six and ten years’ imprisonment. After spending nearly two years in Tehran’s Evin prison, with long periods of isolation and often without access to lawyers, they were convicted of espionage or “contacts with the enemy state of the United States”. The court has not yet announced its verdict for the last two defendants. One of the condemned, Nilufar Bayani, sentenced to ten years, will also have to repay years of salaries received from the United Nations. As is often the case in political trials in Iran, the convicts, who were informed orally of the sentences handed down against them, did not receive a written copy of the verdict. One of the defense lawyers indicated that he was not allowed to attend the trial (CHRI).
On the 21st, Iran’s two oldest political prisoners, Osman Mostafapour and Mohammad Nazari, were released on parole. They had been incarcerated in Tabriz since 1991 and in Urumieh since 1994. Mostafapur was first convicted of “participation in a murder” and then of “cooperation with a Kurdish opposition group”, a charge also brought against Nazari. They were reportedly released following the pardon granted by the Supreme Leader on the occasion of the Prophet’s birthday, along with 32 “security prisoners”.
Finally, the Hengaw Association for Human Rights reported on 6 November that the suicide rate in Iranian Kurdistan continues to rise as a result of poor living conditions and political oppression: seven people have committed suicide in Sanandaj in recent weeks; a 28-year-old committed suicide in Dehgolan and in Mahabad, a 63-year-old inhabitant has taken his own life...
The record of war crimes perpetrated in the Rojava since 9 October by Turkish forces and their Syrian Jihadist auxiliaries continues to thicken. Already in Afrin, after the invasion by exactly the same forces a year ago, they quickly acquired quite a reputation for their massive exactions against Kurdish civilians. At the start of the operation last October, the assassination of Hevrin Khalaf, the young secretary general of the Future of Syria Party and her driver, after her vehicle was intercepted, was carried out by the same pro-Turkish jihadists, Ahrar al-Sharqiya, who had confronted other groups a few months before in Afrîn in a dispute over the olives stolen from the Kurds. At the same time, the first testimonies of civilians injured by phosphorus munitions had emerged.
On 1st November, a new account of Turkish war crimes in Rojava was published on the website Peace in Kurdistan Campaign (PIKC), that of an Iranian-Swedish doctor, Dr. Abbas Mansouran. He came to Rojava as a volunteer and examined hundreds of wounded, mostly civilians. Having extensive experience with chemical weapons, Dr. Mansouran concluded from his examinations that about 30 of his patients had been victims of white phosphorus munitions and other chemical weapons of a nature unknown to him used by the Turkish army: “On 13 October 2019 [writes the doctor], I joined the medical staff of the main hospital in Hassakeh to help the wounded [...]. During my stay there, I met many patients suffering from severe burns that, based on my experience as founder and head of the Committee for Nosocomial Infection Control at Shiraz University Hospital in southern Iran, I would consider abnormal. [...] The shape and appearance of the burns I have treated here in Rojava are clearly very different from the usual burns [...]. They show that the Turkish armed forces used chemical munitions. I can point out that white phosphorus and other unknown chemicals such as DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive) munitions were used in October in Rojava. [...] These tungsten alloy bombs are made of microfibers containing 1 to 2 mm micro-fragments of heavy metals such as cobalt, tungsten and nickel powder. The characteristics of the wounds caused by these DIMEs are very similar to those of white phosphorus ammunition and are often fatal”.
All patients involved reported being victims of ammunition dropped or fired by drones in different locations and during different attacks. Turkey, which now produces its own drones, is clearly making massive use of them, since it also regularly uses them in its operations in Iraqi Kurdistan, and it appears that it has now armed them, and with ammunition of the type described by witnesses, the indiscriminate use of which against civilians constitutes war crimes. In 2009, a group of Italian scientists affiliated with the New Weapons Research Committee (NWRC) monitoring group characterized injuries caused by DIME ammunition as "incurable", because the tungsten powder that these munitions instil in them cannot be removed surgically .
On 26 October, the Guardian mentioned the numerous videos circulating on social networks highlighting “potential war crimes” committed by Syrian auxiliaries to the Turkish army, filmed torturing their prisoners or mutilating the bodies of Kurdish fighters. The British newspaper quoted Elizabeth Tsurkov’s declarations, of the Foreign Policy Research Institute (Philadelphia), who stated that since 2016, when Turkey had given up on bringing down Assad’s regime, those who had joined the pro-Turkish militias were mostly “individuals ready to fight, for a fee, for Turkish interests”. In addition to these abuses, the indiscriminate nature of the Turkish strikes was demonstrated by the death on the 3rd of a Burmese rescuer from the medical organization Free Burma Rangers, killed by shellfire near Tall Tamr (AFP). SDF commander Mazloum Abdi, indicating that a Kurdish family in Kobane had been massacred on the 21st in a drone strike, while Turkey declared that it had eliminated seven terrorists, again called on the United States and Russia to fulfil their role as guarantors of the ceasefire.
In addition, the humanitarian situation in the areas affected by the Turkish invasion is a matter of growing concern, as the cold winter weather is rapidly threatening to make conditions more difficult for the IDPs. The Kurdish Red Crescent (Heyva Sor, KRC), published a report on 30 October, also on PIKC. In Hassakeh alone there were nearly 3.000 displaced families and about 11.500 individuals, including more than 5.000 children under the age of 13, and more than 400 pregnant or nursing women. But the number of displaced people around Raqqa, Tabqa, Qamishli etc, is much larger. Whereas a thousand Kurds from Rojava has arrived on the Iraqi side, the autonomous administration has started the construction of a new camp near Hassakeh that could accommodate 40-50.000 people. Another camp for the Yezidis, “Newrouz” is expected to receive 10-15.000 people. The lack of camps has forced hundreds of displaced people to stay in schools, especially near Tell Tamr, where classes have had to be interrupted. Concerning civilian victims of the invasion, the KRC counted 87 dead, including 6 under 18 years of age and 9 women, and 2.472 wounded (or shocked), 43 under 18 years of age and 61 women. Much of the civilian casualties are due to the massive use of armed drones by the Turkish army, about which the Syrian Kurds have repeatedly asked the Pentagon to block the US-controlled airspace. Ilham Ahmed, the female co-president of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), said the Kurds would hold the Pentagon responsible for Turkish war crimes if they did nothing to guarantee their air protection. Contradicting US statements that the ceasefire in Syria was respected, she said that Turkish-backed drone, artillery and militia attacks continued, and that since the beginning of the invasion, 509 civilians and 412 SDF fighters had been killed. Ahmed also said that deploying troops to the oilfields near Deir Ezzor would do nothing to protect her people...
As of 10 November, the United Nations had counted more than 200.000 displaced persons, whose testimonies poured in on the brutalities, summary executions of “blasphemers”, kidnappings and looting perpetrated by the jihadists. One (albeit Turkish-speaking) resident of Ras al-Ain described the fighters of the “Syrian National Army” as “full of hatred and bloodlust”. Another civilian said the invasion reminded him of the ISIS invasion of 2014: “[They] destroyed a stone lion at the entrance to our building, thinking it was idolatry...” (Washington Post). The accumulating testimonies did not prevent the Turkish President from defending his proxies in front of journalists, declaring that they were not terrorists at all but “sacred Islamic warriors [...] defending their land over there, hand in hand, arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder with our soldiers”...
In fact, while the dissemination of these videos of abuses clearly damaged Turkey’s image, it also contributed to Turkey’s ethnic cleansing plans by deliberately spreading terror among the population, causing all those who feared being murdered for ethnic reasons to flee. According to a local Yezidi leader, 45 Yezidi families have fled in the Ras al-Ain area alone; at least three hundred Christians from several towns in the northeast have left their homes, including dozens of families around Tal Tamr. On the 8th, William Roebuck, the American envoy of the anti-ISIS coalition, castigated in a report quoted by the New York Times “the determined efforts of ethnic cleansing” against the Kurds in Syria by Turkey and its allies (AFP). On the 13th, U.S. Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said he was “very concerned” about Turkish war crimes in Syria. On the 19th, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said the United States expects Turkey to hold the Syrian National Army (SNA) accountable for its war crimes (Bianet). The question remains as to whether these multiple statements will remain mere wishful thinking?
On the 23rd, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), violent fighting was still taking place between the SDF and the invading forces near Ain Issa, which the assailants were trying to conquer. The city, which is located south-east of Kobane, is however outside the so-called “safe zone” on which Turkey has made an agreement with the Americans and Russians... The SDF announced on the 25th that it had taken back several villages in this sector, criticizing the inaction of the Russians, who are supposed to be the guarantors of the cease-fire, in the face of the Turkish advance. In Tall Tamr, Turkish UAVs struck the Damascus forces, which had replaced the Russian-controlled SDF.
On the 27th, the human rights organization Human Rights Watch denounced in a report the “summary executions” and “expropriations” carried out by Turkey in the Syrian territories under its effective control. The NGO also reported that pro-Ankara fighters were unable to clarify the fate of humanitarian workers reported missing in their areas of operation. On the same day, two Turkish soldiers were killed by mortar shells fired at their post on the Syrian border in south-west Turkey. Military sources say there had been retaliation. The attack was blamed on YPG. The next day, Turkey renewed its accusations of “support for terrorism” against French President Emmanuel Macron, for having said that Ankara had put “its allies before a fait accompli” and endangered “the coalition’s action against ISIS”. “In any case, he [Macron] is a godfather of the terrorist organization, he receives them regularly at the Elysée Palace”, Turkish chief diplomat Mevlüt Cavusoglu reacted... (AFP)
At the end of the month, another Turkish artillery strike at Tell Rifat killed eight children and two adults in a school, also wounding eight children and two adults.
As regards Russian-Turkish relations, the first joint patrols provided for in the agreement signed on 22 October in Sochi between Mr Erdoğan and Putin took place on 1st November near Derbasiye, after the YPG withdrawal from the area. According to AFP, no vehicle carried a flag, at Moscow’s request. These joint patrols cover a depth of 10 km in Syrian territory between Tall Abyad and Ras el-Ain. The Syrian president had said the day before that the Russian-Turkish agreement was “temporary” and would allow the regime to “gradually” regain control of these territories, a few days before the Geneva meeting on the future of the country, where representatives of the regime and the opposition met for the first time. A second joint Russian-Turkish patrol, started on the 5th near Kobane, was the target of stone throwing by Kurdish villagers. One of the Kurdish civilians, a young man hit by one of the tanks, later died of internal bleeding in hospital. On the 12th, a second civilian was killed by fire from Turkish forces on patrol with Russian forces during a demonstration in the Kobané region. According to a communiqué from the Asayish (Kurdish Security), “Turkish vehicles participating in a joint patrol with the Russian military police targeted unarmed civilians as they passed through the Kobane region”. “Turkish forces used tear gas and in response the demonstrators threw stones at Turkish vehicles. Soldiers of the [Turkish] occupation then fired on the civilians, killing one and wounding six others, some of them seriously” (AFP).
At the same time, the Damascus regime is still trying to exploit the difficulties created for the SDF by the Turkish invasion. Thus the Syrian Ministry of Defense once again called on SDF fighters to join its forces on an individual basis, an approach criticized by Mazloum Abdi. On the 26th, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov called on the SDF to join the Syrian army as soon as possible...
For their part, American troops have redeployed to the east of Derbassiye, in the Deir Ezzor region, near the Iraqi border. A few tanks were seen on 31 October near the village of Qahtaniya, then on 2 November visited several Kurdish bases near Qamishli. Asked about the mission of American troops on the Syrian oil fields, Defense Minister Mark Esper replied without specifying further that it was a question of “forbidding access to the Islamic State Group and other actors in the region”. SDC co-chair Ilham Ahmad said she was opposed to US control of the oil fields. On the 19th, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said oil revenues from the fields would be handed over to the SDF (Bianet).
Finally, the region has seen several attacks during this month. On 2 October in Tell Abyad, a town controlled by Turkey since 9 October, a car bomb killed at least 13 people in a market, both civilians and pro-Turkish rebels, and wounded 31 others. Turkey blamed the attack on the YPG, while the SOHR said it could not identify those responsible. “The Turkish army and its auxiliaries are creating chaos in Tall Abyad with explosions targeting civilians” to drive them to flee and replace them with Syrian refugees settled in Turkey, Mustafa Bali reacted on Twitter, an accusation also made by Ilham Ahmad (AFP, WKI). In Qamishli on the 11th, three simultaneous, unclaimed attacks using two cars and a motorcycle bomb killed six people and injured forty-two civilians. These attacks occurred just after ISIS claimed responsibility for the murder of a Catholic priest and his son on the road to Deir Ezzor, where they were on their way to supervise the restoration work on a church that had precisely been destroyed by ISIS. On the 10th, Tell Abyad was again hit by an explosion that killed eight people, and again on the 16th when a car bomb killed nine people and injured twenty-two others. On the 26th, a car bomb killed seventeen people in Tell Halaf, a town under the control of the Syrian auxiliaries of Turkey west of Ras al-Ain, and injured more than twenty. Most of the victims are Syrian fighters (AFP).
Since the beginning of the protest movement in Iraq, more than 400 people – mostly demonstrators – have lost their lives in the violence. On the 4th, violent clashes took place in Baghdad late into the night between demonstrators and law enforcement agencies, particularly on the bridges over the Tigris River leading to the Iranian Embassy, the seat of government and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Justice. Law enforcement officers fired live ammunition, killing two people. On the 5th, despite the announcement of the start of the work of a parliamentary committee charged with proposing constitutional amendments, and after the death in 36 hours of at least ten demonstrators, the streets continued to demand the departure of all those responsible and a new political system. Demonstrations or rallies also affected Kerbala, Nassiriya, Kout, Diwaniya, Basra and the port of Umm Qasr. The latter was not able to resume normal operations until the 9th. At the same time, the Baghdad parliament dissolved the Provincial Councils throughout the country except in Kurdistan.
Although the interruption of the Internet from 3 to 17 October had had no impact on the demonstrations, the government again tried to resort to this means, without more success. The movement has taken an increasingly openly anti-Iranian stance, and General Qassem Soleimani, the country’s chief of external operations, has stepped up visits to Iraq to lobby against a change of government. Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei denounced an American and Israeli plot, which only served to exacerbate the anger of the demonstrators (AFP).
On the 4th, the human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused the authorities in Al-Anbar province of arresting people who had expressed their support for the demonstrations on social networks, and the Iraqi Human Rights Commission called for an investigation into the abduction of activist and volunteer caregiver Saba al-Madawi in Baghdad on the 2nd (ISHM).
Protesters also blocked several oil fields and facilities in the south of the country: Qurna field on the 4th, Nassiriya refinery on the 6th, Shanfiyah refinery (Diwaniya). In response, the government has stepped up repression. The United Nations Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) presented in vain a roadmap on the 10th, providing for the release of arrested demonstrators and investigations into disappearances and excessive use of violence by the security forces, but received little attention. On the contrary, on the same day, security forces opened fire on Nassiriya, killing three people and injuring hundreds. In Baghdad, they threw gas ammunition into the crowd, injuring 20 people. In Dhi-Qar province, 25 police officers were injured in the clashes, while the Iraqi Human Rights Commission reported four deaths, 130 injuries and 34 arbitrary arrests among the demonstrators. On the 12th, dozens of policemen joined the demonstrators in Karbala. On the 13th, security forces continued to use tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition, killing at least four demonstrators and injuring 52. According to medical sources, almost half of the injured had been shot by live ammunition (Reuters). On the 14th, HRW reported that security directly targeted volunteer doctors and their tents and ambulances with tear gas and live ammunition. As of 14, at least 327 demonstrators had been killed since 1st October. On the 15th, an improvised explosive device killed three demonstrators and wounded 18 in Baghdad, and another injured 18 in a tent in Nassiriya (ISHM). Nevertheless, demonstrations and blockades continued. On the 21st, four demonstrators were killed by live ammunition and military gas ammunition in Baghdad, bringing the death toll to at least 330 since the start of the movement.
On the 26th, the same day four demonstrators were killed by live ammunition in Karbala, the Sayroon coalition (supporters of Moqtada Sadr and communists) announced its opposition to the electoral bill, which had been under consideration since the 19th, arguing that it would only perpetuate the power of the current parties. Sayroon did not have enough seats to block the adoption of the law on his own. The law, which provides for a reduction in the number of parliamentarians to 251, as opposed to 329 at present, therefore went to a second reading. Another law approved on the 19th had also reduced the financial benefits enjoyed by senior officials.
The 27th marked a decisive escalation in the movement: in Najaf, protesters seized and burned down the Iranian consulate, whose staff had previously been evacuated, replacing the flag there with an Iraqi flag; live ammunition from the police protecting the building killed at least 37 people. In Baghdad, there were two dead and 35 wounded on Rashid Street. The toll compiled by AFP at the time counted more than 390 dead and 15,000 wounded. In Nassiriya, where police killed 25 people and injured more than 250, demonstrators defied the curfew to bury the victims. On the site of the pro-Iranian Hashd al-Shaabi militia, their military commander, the Iraqi-Iranian Abu-Mahdi al-Mouhandis, threatened to “cut off the hands” of anyone who would threaten the Shiite clergy of Najaf, in particular Ayatollah Al-Sistani – despite he had appeared to support the protesters from the beginning of the movement…
On 29 November, Moqtada Sadr reiterated his call for the government to resign, and Ayatollah Sistani’s representative, in his Friday sermon, called on parliament to withdraw its confidence in him. After a long resistance, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi then announced that he would submit his resignation to parliament, a decision welcomed by an explosion of joy in the streets of Baghdad. The death toll then stood, according to Reuters, at least 408 since October 1st…
Faced with the deterioration of the political situation in Iraq, the authorities and political parties in Kurdistan were torn between their tendency to preserve an Iraqi Prime Minister with whom negotiations were progressing and the need not to appear to be opposed to the demands of the protesters. On the 4th, the President of the Region, Nechirvan Barzani, warned against any radical changes to the Iraqi Constitution that might have an impact on the rights and interests of Kurdistan and expressed his opposition to early national elections. On the 5th, the leaders of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq held several meetings in which Iraqi President Barham Saleh, himself a Kurd, participated. At the end of the discussions, Nechirvan Barzani stressed the Region’s support for the “legitimate demands” of the demonstrators, while indicating that any constitutional changes had to be made in a “stable atmosphere”. On the 11th, the Iraqi Parliament’s decision to increase the number of Kurdish members of the Constitutional Amendment Commission from three to six helped reassure the Kurds. On the 13th, Barzani told the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, Mohammed al-Halbousi, that he would support “any constitutional amendments that contribute to the stability of Iraq and meet the demands of the people”. UN experts should participate in the work of the commission (ISHM).
Another matter of satisfaction for the Kurds is the decision taken on the 12th by the Baghdad parliament to postpone sine die for “logistical and security reasons” the provincial elections, originally scheduled for 20 April 2020. This postponement coincides with the Iraqi Supreme Court’s decision to allow displaced persons from the disputed territories to vote in their current place of residence rather than in their province of origin if they have not been able to return to it.This decision followed a complaint lodged against the electoral law by several Kurdish MPs: many Kurds from Kirkuk, Shingal (Sindjar) or Khanaqin have still not been able to return since Baghdad took control of these territories in October 2017...
Regarding the dispute between Erbil and Baghdad over the management of Kurdistan’s oil, Iraqi Oil Minister Thamir Ghadhban said on the 21st in a TV interview that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) could start delivering to Baghdad in January 2020 the 250.000 daily barrels of oil planned in the budget. The oil would be delivered to the state-owned company SOMO, which would export it through the Turkish port of Ceyhan. This oil, which should have started to be supplied two years ago when the agreement between Baghdad and Erbil on oil supply was concluded, comes in exchange for the payment by Baghdad of the salaries of KRG civil servants. The latter has not started deliveries because of its indebtedness to the oil companies operating in its Region, resulting from Baghdad’s failure to pay the financial allocation due to Kurdistan since 2014. On the 25th, after an exchange of visits between delegations of the two governments, the Minister formally announced the agreement at a press conference.
Concerning the internal policy of the Kurdistan Region, the Vice-President of the Erbil Parliament, Hêmin Hewramî, announced on the 14th that the Parliament would draft a Constitution for the Region during its current term of office, which would be submitted to the deputies. The Region has now been operating for 28 years without a written constitution – as has the United Kingdom, for example. A committee had begun drafting the new constitution during the previous legislature but was unable to complete it because the parliament ceased to function due to disagreements between parties over the method of appointing the President of the Region – an issue that should be addressed by the new constitution (eKurd).
In the disputed territories, attacks, ambushes and bombs by the jihadist ISIS organization were on an unprecedented scale throughout the month. This deterioration in security demonstrates that ISIS’s territorial defeat and the death of its historic leader in no way signifies the end of the danger. On the 18th, Lieutenant-General Saad al-Allaq, head of Iraqi Intelligence, said on CNN that he had information that jihadist leaders had been able to regroup in Gaziantep in Turkey and were preparing a series of escapes in Iraq and Syria to rebuild their organization...
The Diyala region has been particularly affected, as the Hashd al-Shaabi militias that control it are unable to provide security. Jihadists had already abducted one civilian and killed another near Khanaqin in late October; on 3rd October, according to local sources, several terrorized families left the village of Ramadan near Khanaqin. On the 11th, an attack on an Iraqi patrol inspecting the site of an air strike left four people dead, six injured and four missing. On the same day, another air strike killed four jihadists near Kenaan in the south of the province, and another one the next day killed 10 between Khanaqin and Jalawla. A ground column sent after the strike eliminated four more ISIS militants, and another strike northeast of Baqouba killed another twelve. On 14 November, another air strike eliminated five jihadists and destroyed six caches in the Hamrin region, north-east of Baqubah; the next day, a local chief of ISIS was killed in the same area. On 17 November, 55 new families fled their village of Abu-Karma, in the same area, while 30 families were waiting for vehicles to leave. The exodus is particularly marked in the Khanaqin region. On the 20th, an improvised explosive device detonated without causing casualties near a coffeeshop frequented by the youth of Qara Tapa. In the last week of the month, a series of attacks claimed the lives of civilians, pechmergas, militiamen and Iraqi security forces.
Attacks have also hit Kirkuk province. On the 10th, an improvised explosive device injured five Italian Special Forces soldiers in a counselling and training mission near the city. Two of them had to be amputated, one leg and one foot. The next day, an air strike killed two jihadists and destroyed two caches in the villages of al-Awashra and Shabija. On the 12th, a joint operation near Hawija between Hashd and police killed three jihadists, including a prominent leader, Ali Hashim Mulan. On the same day, a federal policeman was killed by an improvised explosive device in Rashad, south of Kirkuk. At Sargaran, in the village of Palkan, the Pechmergas launched a raid against ISIS’s caches on the 13th with French air support. On the 16th, two jihadi leaders were killed by Iraqi security in Riyadh. On the 20th, three policemen were killed and a fourth injured in an attack on their patrol in Rashad. On the 30th, three improvised explosive devices (IED) wounded 16 people in Kirkuk city, two in a bazaar, the third in the Domiz district. A Kurdish couple was murdered on the 27th in Haftaghar (Daquq). Also at the end of the month, a mortar attack hit a village southeast of Kifri. The Asayish (Kurdish security) who came in response were attacked by snipers and an IED; three of them were killed and three others wounded.
In the province of Ninawa (Mosul), seventeen Katyusha rockets were fired on the 8t onto the Qayyara base, south of the city, which also houses American soldiers. The retaliation killed three assailants and destroyed the rocket vehicle. On the 9th, an IED targeting an Iraqi patrol near Tal Afar injured two civilians. Three others were injured the same way in Qaraj (south of Mosul) the next day. On the 11th, 14 jihadis were killed by an air strike in the mountains near Makhmur, and the next day another air strike killed two jihadis and destroyed two tunnels used as hiding places in the Badoush Mountains (north-west of Mosul); a new operation on the 20th in the same area killed six jihadis who were preparing an attack in the city. On the 18th, a moukhtar (village chief) from West Mosul was shot dead.
In Kirkuk, Kurdish farmers in the province continue to protest against court decisions confiscating parts of their land. These were reallocated to Arab settlers under the previous regime, who now return to claim, with the support of the interim governor, himself an Arab, the plots of land that had been wrongly allocated to them at the time. In twelve Kurdish villages in the province, the Baathist regime had expelled Kurdish farmers in 1975 on the pretext that they were in forbidden oil zones... before reallocating their land to Arab settlers under Decree No. 949 of the Baathist Supreme Revolutionary Council. A spokesman for the Kirkuk Arabs has even stated in Rudaw that there is “official evidence” and documents from the 1940s and 1950s that the area belongs to the Shammar Arab tribe... A committee set up by the Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture following a request from the KRG must examine all these disputes.
At the same time, new arrest warrants were issued earlier this month by the Iraqi Integrity Commission against members of the provincial administration, including its interim governor appointed by Baghdad Rakan Al-Jabouri. He had been released on parole on a first warrant. On the 20th, the Commission announced that it had issued warrants against other officials, including the vice-governor in charge of technical affairs, several university and oil officials, some of whom were in office between 2015 and 2018, and the former mayor of Doubis (eKurd). Finally, after Ankara’s October 9 invasion of the Rojava, many Kurds in Iraq are now boycotting Turkish products. “We can’t go to the front to fight the Turks with weapons, so our weapon is the boycott of Turkish products”, Hamid Banye, a famous Iraqi Kurdish singer who launched the campaign with others, told AFP. The campaign got the support of the SDF: “Every penny spent on Turkish products or tourism is turned into bullets and bombs that kill our children in north-eastern Syria”, said Mustafa Bali, their spokesman.
In preparation for the “International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women” on 25 November, the HDP MP for Ağrı and spokeswoman of the HDP Women’s Assembly Dilan Dirayet Taşdemir filed a petition on 20 November asking that male violence against women be investigated by Parliament. The request was rejected by the ruling AKP and MHP, with the “Good Party” İYİ (far right) abstaining. Taşdemir criticized this rejection and the bans on several events planned by the HDP on this issue. On 21 November, the Women’s Assembly of the People’s Democratic Congress (HDK) issued a statement expressing concern about the increase in violence, accusing the “misogynistic policies of the government” of being responsible for the murder of Güleda Cankel on 18 November. According to the assessment prepared by Bianet from local and national newspapers, news websites and agencies, men killed at least 302 women and inflicted violence on at least 532 women between 1 January and 20 November 2019; 198 women were killed by their husbands, ex-husbands, boyfriends or ex-boyfriends (http://bianet.org/english/male-violence/216170-men-kill-302-women-inflict-violence-on-532-women-in-324-days?bia_source=mailchimpt=t%28RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN+-+Bianet+English+Daily%29). Bianet’s monthly balance sheet counted on 2019 21 to 40 feminicides each month (http://bianet.org/english/gender/134394-bianet-is-monitoring-male-violence). On the 25th, the human rights association İHD stated that it considered that “the provisions of the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence are not respected” in the country, and called on the State to “abandon its policy of impunity for violence against women”. “The provisions of the Convention İstanbul on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence are not respected”, the association said.
On the same day, the Legal Aid Bureau for Assistance against Sexual Harassment and Rape in Custody issued its own statistical report for 2019. The document records 26 cases of sexual harassment in police custody in 2019, in which 11 women stated that they did not dare to take legal action “because they were afraid”. Thirty-one women, eleven of whom are still in prison and two of whom are under the age of 18, have applied to the office for assistance. Twenty-four of them are Kurds, five Turks and two Azerbaijanis. Twenty-six were harassed and five were sexually assaulted. The signatories of the report, Human Rights Association (İHD) co-chair Eren Keskin and human rights defender Leman Yurtsever, said that “the increase in violence against women and feminicide is not independent of political violence”. Twenty-four of the perpetrators are police officers, two soldiers or gendarmerie officers, three prison guards, three are other officials and two are members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
The district governor of Beyoğlu issued a ban on the women’s march scheduled for 25 November and, after discussions with the organizers’ platform, finally lifted it at the last minute. The rally began on the evening of the 25th in Tünel Square in Taksim, İstanbul, and then the women participants, numbering about 2.000, took to the avenue İstiklal chanting slogans and holding signs with the names of the women killed. The Women MPs of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) Oya Ersoy and Züleyha Gülüm, the co-president of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) Özlem Gümüştaş and the women’s rights defender of the “78ers Foundation” Nimet Tanrıkulu were present. The faces of several women who were murdered or died in suspicious circumstances have appeared on numerous signs, such as Şule Cet, Ozgecan Aslan, Aysun Yildirim and Rabia Naz Vatan. Mansur Yavas, the mayor of Ankara, highlighted in a tweet the case of Ceren Ozdemir, a young ballerina murdered outside her apartment in the port city of Ordu the previous week.
As people began to disperse after the press statement, a small group tried to cross the police barricade, leading the police to use tear gas and rubber bullets against the women, many of whom were hit. Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu denied any police violence during a meeting of gendarmerie commanders, stating that the “allegation” that the police used violence against women is a “huge lie”: “After the end of the press release 50 LGBTI people attacked the police. A little gas was fired. After the gas was fired, the incident ended”…
Internationally, the month got off to a bad start for Ankara, which expressed anger at the U.S. House of Representatives’ formal recognition on October 29 of the Armenian genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire in 1915. The non-binding text was adopted by 405 votes out of 435 and only 11 against, in a rare union between Democrats and Republicans. The intense Turkish lobbying will have been useless...
As regards the economy, the opposition CHP (Republican People’s Party, formerly the Kemalist single party) published on 1st November its Report on Youth with the explosive subtitle of: Unemployed, desperate and with no future, where it indicates that 26% of university graduates, or 1.34 million, are now unemployed, compared to 97.545 in 2004. According to TurkStat’s latest official statistics, the number of unemployed people over 15 years old now exceeds 4,596 million, an increase of 1,65 million in 12 months (Bianet). On the 11th, CHP Vice-President Gamze İlgezdi gave the conclusions of her own report, Turkey’s Army of Unemployed: The 2018 Report of the Turkish Employment Agency (İŞKUR). The number of unemployed registered by İŞKUR rose from 587.479 in 2003 to 3.509.603 in 2018, i.e. +497% during the AKP power period... İlgezdi also pointed to the exclusion from the labour market affecting women and young people, who together provide 82% of the unemployed. It is in the Kurdish province of Mardin that unemployment among women and young people has increased the most...
One of the scandals of the present situation in Turkey remains the way in which “justice” is done, as the following examples will show: despite the Constitutional Court’s ruling dated 26th July that the freedom of expression of the academics who signed the “Petition for Peace” had been violated and calling for their acquittal, some courts are continuing the trials. In Mersin, the prosecutor appealed against the acquittal, because the “Declaration of Peace” “presents characteristics of terrorist propaganda” and cannot be included in the decision of the Constitutional Court... At Eskişehir, the criminal court did not acquit the defendants either and set a date for a next hearing... On the 19th, the mathematician and lecturer at the University Claude-Bernard Lyon-1 Tuna Altınel attended the second hearing of his trial at Balıkesir. Arrested in May during a holiday in Turkey, Altınel, a signatory of the Academics for Peace Petition, was first charged with “membership of a terrorist organization”. He was released afterwards, but as his passport had been confiscated, he was unable to return to France. He is now accused of “terrorist propaganda”, notably for having served as an interpreter for former HDP MP Osman Baydemir during a public meeting of the Amitiés Kurdes de Lyon on the civilians killed in the bombing of Cizre by the Turkish army in 2015 and 2016. “This is not terrorist propaganda, but an account of reality”, replied the mathematician, dismissing the accusation. The court has postponed the trial until 24 January 2020 (AFP).
Another shameful example is that of Çağlayan Bozacı: the son of Turan Bozacı, killed with 102 other people in the suicide bombing of Ankara railway station on 10 October 2015, was sentenced on the 14th to 11 months imprisonment for “insulting the president” after his statements in court. His lawyer was outraged: he is being indicted when “none of those responsible for the massacre have yet been accused”. On the 15th, the HDP MP for Siirt MP Meral Danış Beştaş submitted a parliamentary question concerning “the causes and effects of inconsistent and illegal judgments rendered by judicial bodies and the measures to be taken in this regard” (Bianet). At the end of the month, seven lawyers’ organisations, including the Association of Contemporary Lawyers (ÇHD) of Turkey, in a joint statement called on the European Union to stop all police and judicial cooperation with Turkey, and demanded an end to the 2016 refugee agreement with Ankara.
In another example of inconsistency and political manipulation, while the Court of Cassation had quashed the convictions of all former Cumhuriyet journalists, the court upheld them again on the 21st, except for Kadri Gürsel. The case will come back in cassation before the criminal court...
The latest example of inconsistency and manifest illegality is the continued detention of former HDP co-president Selahattin Demirtaş: while the 26th Criminal Court in Istanbul ordered his release, the 1st Criminal Court in Ankara conveniently ordered his arrest in another case. The previous time, his release had not taken place because he had already been sentenced by... the 26th Istanbul Criminal Court. One of his lawyers, Neşet Giresun, commented on Twitter: “When a release order is given in a case where [Demirtaş] has been arrested, he cannot be released because he is convicted. When a release order is given in the case where he has been convicted, he cannot be released because he is arrested...”. On the 25th, the lawyers of Demirtaş submitted to the Constitutional Court a sixth request for his release.
Many other HDP members, including several elected officials, were targeted throughout the month by arrests or convictions. On 1st November, fifteen people were incarcerated early in the morning in house raids. Among them, the HDP co-mayor of Saray (Van), Caziye Duman, elected on March 31 with 61% of the votes, a “Saturday Mother”, Pervin Özgür, a BDP executive, and several members of the “free women’s movement” TJA. According to Van’s security, all are suspected of “participation in the activities of the women’s structure of the terrorist organization”. On the same day, Abubekir Erkmen, who was also elected HDP co-Mayor of Dağpınar (Kars) with 55% of the votes, but had been refused his election certificate for being removed from office by an emergency decree of the President Erdoğan in 2016, was arrested early in the morning without charges being brought against him. On the 4th, it was the co-mayor of Kızıltepe (Mardin), Nilüfer Elik Yılmaz, elected with 70.45%, who was dismissed on suspicion of “belonging to a terrorist organization” and replaced by the district governor. On the 6th, the indictment against the Metropolitan Mayor of Diyarbakir, Dr. Adnan Selçuk Mızraklı, dismissed and then arrested on 22 October on suspicion of “propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “membership of a terrorist organization”, was accepted by the court. This scandalous indictment considers several of his political activities, such as the demonstrations he attended for Leyla Güven or his Newrouz speeches, as incriminating elements. On the 13th, the prosecutor demanded 15 years of detention, while the lawyer for Mızraklı discovered that one of the prosecution witnesses had lied about working with the accused in hospital and attending his pro-PKK activities (this woman accused Mızraklı of operating on a PKK member and then letting him go without turning him over to the police). In fact, the accuser doesn’t even appear to have worked in this hospital during the period indicated...
On the 8th, the court accepted an even more outrageous indictment against Kocaköy’s co-mayor, Rojda Nazlier, which includes several anonymous testimonies – a sure way of preventing her lawyers from proving them false. On the same day, Ipekyolu (Van)’s two co-mayors, Azim Yacan and Sehsade Kurt, elected in March by 54.47% of the vote, were taken into police custody early in the morning on charges of “terrorist propaganda” and “belonging to a terrorist organization”, while police raided the town hall. Charged on the 12th, they were replaced by administrators appointed by Ankara and imprisoned. The co-spokesman of the People’s Democratic Congress (HDK), Sedat Şenoğlu, was also arrested at his home at Diyarbakır. On the same day, the Constitutional Court overturned Ahmet Urhan’s conviction for “membership of a terrorist organization”. As the “Young Socialist Association” (SGD) of which he was a member was perfectly legal, it considered this verdict a violation of freedom of association and requested a retrial.
At İstanbul, four students belonging to the “Revolutionary Youth Associations” (DGD) who had hung a banner on the 11th on the Demirören shopping mall bearing: “The AKP system kills, the boss’s media hide the truth”, and distributed leaflets accusing: “It’s not depression that kills, it’s the AKP system”, were incarcerated and then accused of “terrorist propaganda”. They were released on the evening of the 12th with a ban on leaving the country.
On the 13th, four new HDP Co-Mayors were dismissed and replaced by administrators. At Diyarbakır, they are Belgin Diken (Yenişehir district) and Ahmet Çevik (Hazro), and in Dersim, Orhan Çelebi, co-Mayor of the city of Akpazar. At Şırnak, it is the co-mayor of the district of İdil, Songül Erden (Ahval). Ipekyolu’s co-mayors, Azim Yacan and Şehsade Kurt, were also arrested. The Istanbul prosecutor has also opened investigations against HDP co-chairs Sezai Temelli and Pervin Buldan for “propaganda for a terrorist organization”.
On the 15th, one of the four HDP co-mayors incarcerated on 15 October, Semire Nergiz, co-mayor of Nusaybin, was dismissed from her post and released on parole with a ban on leaving the country. But four female HDP co-mayors detained in Mardin, Gülistan Öncü (co-mayor of Savur district), Nalan Özaydın (Mazıdağı), Mülkiye Esmez (Derik), and Hatice Çevik (Suruç) were imprisoned. Çevik was charged on the 20th with “membership of a terrorist organization” and “propaganda for a terrorist organization”, the other three co-Mayors were arrested on the 27th. The town halls concerned have been blocked by the police, and several municipal officials have also been imprisoned. On the 18th, the investigation opened against the deputy mayor of Cizre, Mehmet Zırığ, dismissed because of a speech by Newroz, ended in dismissal. This investigation is one of two investigations used as pretexts for his removal from office. The prosecutor’s office objected to the verdict. The authorities also requested the lifting of the immunity of five HDP MPs, including its co-president Sezai Temelli. On the 20th, the HDP indicated in a report published online (https://www.hdp.org.tr/images/UserFiles/Documents/Editor/12%20Trustee%20report%202019.pdf ) that 24 of its elected mayors had been dismissed and replaced by administrators, and called for early municipal elections to end unelected control. On the 22nd, the HDP spokesman, Mr. Kubilay, called on the opposition to unite in support of this request.
On the 27th, the police launched new raids in the provinces of Ankara, Antep, Urfa, Diyarbakır, Batman, Ağrı and Adıyaman, imprisoning more than 70 people, including members of the HDP and DBP parties and the human rights association İHD. Eleven people were imprisoned in Ankara, twenty-three in Kocaeli; in Adıyaman, the former HDP deputy Behçet Yıldırım and the reporter Hacı Yusuf Topaloğlu, from DIHA, who was closed down by presidential emergency decree, were incarcerated. At Diyarbakır, also detained were, among others, the DBP Co-Vice-President Mehmet Şirin Tunç, a DBP executive for the district of Bağlar, Tahir Gül, an HDP city councillor from Kayapınar, Songül Dağ Kapancı, and the Co-President of Branch No. 1 of Eğitim Sen (Science and Education Union) Hatice Efe; three people in Siirt, at least twenty-five people in Batman and several HDP members in Ağrı.
As regards journalists, the month began with several releases: firstly that of NetNews journalist Emre Orman, who was released on the evening of 31 October after his lawyers objected. He had been arrested on 24 October on charges of “propaganda for a terrorist organization” following his coverage of the “Saturday Mothers” demonstrations in Istanbul and his messages on social networks. Then, those of the two journalists and writers Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak, on the decision of the 26th Istanbul Criminal Court following the Court of Cassation’s annulment verdict. They had been incarcerated on 1st September 2016 after the attempted coup of 15 July. Ms. Ilıcak spent 1.197 days and Altan 1.138 days in detention. The chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP, far-right, allied to the AKP), Devlet Bahçeli, issued a statement that their release “wounds the conscience of the Nation”. Ahmet Altan’s freedom was short-lived, as he was re-arrested on the 12th after the prosecutor’s office contested the release... Tried again despite the verdict of annulment by the Court of Cassation, he was sentenced to 10 years and 6 months in prison for “knowingly aiding and abetting a terrorist organization as a non-member”. On the 20th, the German PEN Centre declared him in support an honorary member, and on the 26th, Amnesty International called for “urgent action” on his behalf, asking its members to write to the Turkish Minister of Justice Abdülhamit Gül (https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur44/1474/2019/fr/).
Forty-five journalists recently fired by the daily Hürriyet held a press conference at the Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS) on the 6th to express their will to continue fighting for their rights. They were supported by union officials and colleagues, including journalists from the daily Sözcü, also dismissed for having joined a union. On the 10th, Hakan Demir, head of digital services for the news website BirGün, was jailed for his criticism of the Turkish invasion of the Rojava. Accused of “inciting enmity and hatred” for a tweet sent from BirGün’s official account, he was released on parole on the 11th with a ban on leaving the country. The Court finally decided on the 14th not to prosecute him. JinNews journalist Kibriye Evren was released under judicial supervision at her eighth hearing on the 12th with a foreign travel ban. Accused of “membership of a terrorist organization” and “propaganda for a terrorist organization”, she had been in pre-trial detention for more than a year and still faces 20 years in prison. On the same day, Ruken Demir, a reporter for the Mezopotamya Agency, was arrested during a raid on her home in Izmir in the early hours of the morning. The police seized her computer and mobile phone and some of her equipment from her home.
On the 18th, eight international press freedom and journalism organisations published a report on the situation in Turkey, Turkish Journalists in the dock: how the judiciary has silenced the Fourth Estate, which was presented publicly in Brussels. This report is the result of a joint mission to Turkey in September, during which the Turkish Constitutional Court, Court of Cassation and Ministry of Justice, as well as journalists and civil society organisations were met (https://freeturkeyjournalists.ipi.media/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Turkey-Mission-Report-IPI-FINAL4PRINT.pdf). The report denounces the “continued imprisonment of more than 120 journalists” and the fact that “dozens of journalists are being held on the most serious terrorism-related charges for months, sometimes years, on the basis of the slightest evidence in which critical journalism is confused with terrorist propaganda, all as part of a campaign to silence opposition voices and suppress freedom of expression”.
Ahmet Takan, a columnist for the daily Korkusuz, was attacked outside his home in Ankara with a baseball bat on 21 October. He had just been publicly denounced by the president and general secretary of the MHP. Briefly hospitalized, Takan filed a complaint. On the 28th, İdris Sayılğan, a journalist with the Dicle agency (DİHA), closed by decree in 2016, was released on appeal from the closed Trabzon Type-E prison after 1.137 days in prison. He had been sentenced to 8 years and 3 months in prison for “membership of an illegal organization” and “propaganda for an illegal organization”. On the 29th, Doğan Akın, founder and editor-in-chief of the news portal T24, was prosecuted for “assisting a terrorist organization without being a member” after he rebroadcast 108 tweets from an account called "Fuat Avni", which the judiciary considers to be Gulenist. Akın is facing 5 to 15 years in prison.
Besides, the situation in Turkish prisons is still as worrying as ever: abuses, illegal punishments, beatings... Bianet reported on 1st November the story of Ülkü Şeyda Başaraner, who, while visiting a hunger-striking detainee, Musa Karakaş, in Izmir prison on 18 October, said hello to his cellmate. Forbidden to speak to him by the guards, she simply waved to him. On the 21st, she was informed that she had been banned from visiting for four months by the prison management for “endangering the security of the institution”. On the 4th, four inmates of Van prison denounced in a letter to Bianet the illegal punishment to which they had been subjected: having started a hunger strike in support of the members of Grup Yorum, they were deprived of their paid work in prison for one month. In Ankara, Erdinç Tulay (63), a prisoner in Sinjan prison, has been refused the six months’ release that would have allowed him to undergo the necessary chemotherapy for his metastatic cancer: the five applications filed by his lawyer have still not been examined. According to the Ankara branch of the Human Rights Association İHD, thirty-nine sick inmates died in prison between early 2017 and August 2019. On the 12th, lawyer Mustafa Vefa, a member of the Human Rights Commission of the Urfa Bar Association, reported the beating of two detainees by four guards in a room without surveillance cameras. The prison doctor had to insist that the two men be sent to hospital. The lawyer intends to file a complaint. In Istanbul, thirty-six members of the HDP Youth Assembly arrested for chanting anti-war slogans at the 3rd HDP Congress, detained for six days at the Security Directorate, were tortured, “strip-searched and beaten”. On the same day, the inmates of Osmaniye T-type Prison No. 2 went on hunger strike to protest against beatings by their guards (one of the prisoners had his arm broken), arbitrary punishments such as banning visits or banning newspapers or books etc. On the 21st, the HDP MP from Şırnak, Hüseyin Kaçmaz, addressed a parliamentary question to the Minister of Justice regarding this hunger strike.
Finally, the construction site for the new Istanbul airport continues to be characterised by poor working and safety conditions. On 31 October, an 18-year-old worker from Gürpınar (Van) killed himself when he fell down an unprotected elevator shaft. Three hundred workers on the site went on strike on the 1st to denounce their working conditions: excessive daily working hours, insufficient lighting requiring the use of their telephone lamps, empty lift shafts that were neither signaled nor blocked, and a lack of warm clothing adapted to the sometimes bitter cold. Judging by the figures published on the 9th by the Committee for the Supervision of Accidents at Work (İSİG), this construction site unfortunately seems to be in line with the norm: at least 155 deaths in October, and 145 in September, for a total of 1.477 over the first ten months of 2019...
In addition to its military operations in Rojava, Turkey also continued its anti-PKK operation “Claws” in Kurdistan and northern Iraq. On the 4th, air strikes targeted the predominantly Yezidi region of Xana Sor, north-western Sinjar (Shengal), Nineveh province, targeting a base of the Sinjar Resistance Units (Yekîneyên Berxwedana Şengalê, YBŞ), killing three members and wounding two others. Other YBŞ bases were hit the next day in Bara, northern Sindjar, and three people were wounded, while armed drones killed five PKK fighters in the Avashin region. On the 12th, further strikes in the Qandil and Metina areas killed six PKK fighters, and on the 19th, further strikes again hit Xana Sor, wounding between five and twenty YBŞ fighters, figures differing according to sources. On the 20th, it was the Hwakurk region that was targeted, where ten PKK fighters were reportedly killed. The Turkish Air Force also bombed the area of Haji Omran, Smelan, and the Halgurd Mountains in the Balakayati district, apparently without causing any casualties (ISHM).
On the Turkish side, the governor of Şırnak announced on the 11th, due to a military operation on Mount Cudi, the designation of sixteen zones in the Silopi district as “special temporary security zones” forbidden to civilians from the 10th to the 17th.