The context is becoming increasingly poisonous in Syria. The Russian air force is striking ISIS in the Syrian desert, and the pro-Turkish rebel factions in Idlib. The Turkish, Syrian and Russian armies sometimes clash directly. Israel has bombed Iranian positions, and drones, probably Iranian, have struck anti-ISIS coalition bases where American military personnel are stationed...
Turkey is now continuously harassing the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The latter had already counted 32 attacks in September, including numerous indiscriminate bombings of civilian areas, sometimes with chemical weapons or cluster munitions. On the 1st of the month, after a week of precarious calm, new artillery fire on the outskirts of Ain Issa and on the M4 highway forced many families to flee. On the 2nd, bombings targeted several regime military positions and the Christian town of Tall Tamr. On the 7th, after a SDF rocket killed a Turkish soldier at Al-Twîs base, more rockets hit AANES (Autonomous Administration of North-Eastern Syria)-administered areas. On the 9th, more fire targeted Tall Tamr. Kurds retaliated by shelling the outskirts of Azaz and shot down a Turkish drone on the front line (SOHR). On the 11th, a car bomb killed six people, including three civilians, in Afrin, near a cantonment of the pro-Turkish Jaish al-Islam faction, and in Marea, south of Jerablus, a mortar attack on a Turkish convoy killed two Turkish special forces policemen. Accused by Ankara, the SDF denied any responsibility, blaming Turkish intelligence. Al-Monitor recalled on the 15th that in 2014, an audio recording had leaked in which the head of the MIT planned to stage a missile attack on Turkey from Syria to provide a pretext for the war...
Following the deaths, the Turkish president renewed his threats against the “Kurdish terrorists”. “Forgetting” to mention the permanent harassment carried out by his troops, he declared that Turkey was “out of patience” and was preparing a new operation in Syria. According to separate sources, this one could target several areas: Tall Rifaat, a town between Afrin and Aleppo held by the SDF (but where Russian troops are also stationed), the town (and military base) of Manbij and, further east, the Kobanê region. Seizing these various objectives would give Ankara control of practically the whole of the Syrian North... But such an operation would require the agreement of the Russians, masters of the air space.
Hence the concern of the SDF, so more so with Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) further reporting that the Russians had given their consent to Turkish drone strikes against non-Syrian cadres of the SDF, i.e. commanders from the PKK, until October 25. Also according to SOHR, the Russians are as always using Turkish threats to try to force the AANES to make concessions to the regime.
Another effect of the growing tension is the regular moving of reinforcements by all the forces involved: on the 17th, the regime brought T-90 tanks and artillery to the front line. On the 22nd, according to SOHR informants, the leaders of the various pro-Turkish factions recalled their members so that they could be sent back to Tall Abyad (Girê Spî), a Kurdish border town 30 km east of Kobanê, where Turkish forces brought in tanks, artillery pieces, heavy weapons and logistical supplies... The SDF also strengthened its position near Ain Issa...
At the same time, while the Kurds succeeded in cutting off the Azaz-Afrin road by an infiltration operation, artillery fire and drone strikes continued without interruption, particularly on the 20th near Kobanê, where two SDF fighters were killed in their vehicle. On the 21st, the inhabitants gathered in front of the hospital in this city where victims of the Turkish strikes were being treated and demonstrated their anger at the Russian inaction by pelting the armoured vehicles of a patrol. On the 25th, for the second time in the month, the Kurds shot down a Turkish drone, this time near Tall Rifaat, forcing a second aircraft to withdraw.
On the 26th, the Turkish parliament voted to extend by two years the authorization for the Turkish army to operate in Syria and Iraq. On the same day, the SDF announced that a Turkish drone had killed three of their fighters who were returning from the hospital in Kobanê where they had just been treated for other injuries... The next day, Ankara deployed new troops to Syria, while Erdoğan repeated his threats.
Caught between Damascus and Ankara, the AANES has also tried to loosen the stranglehold through diplomacy. Last month, the president of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), Ilham Ahmed, went to Moscow to ask Russia to use its influence on Damascus to convince Bashar Al-Assad to start negotiations. In early October, she led a delegation to Washington asking for a green light for these negotiations, without which the AANES would be subject to the American “Caesar” sanctions. Ahmed also asked the US to support AANES’ participation in the UN-sponsored Geneva talks on Syria, which would give it the opportunity to talk directly with Damascus. The talks, which were resumed on the 18th after a nine-month hiatus, and from which the autonomous administration is still excluded, ended in failure on the 22nd, with the UN envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, expressing his “great disappointment” (UN News).
Last but not least, Ilhan Ahmed said the Biden administration is committed to keeping the 900 U.S. troops supporting the SDF in the fight against ISIS in place. Their presence provides some protection against Turkey and its mercenaries, but also against Damascus (National News)...
In the Turkish-occupied region of Afrin, new abuses are regularly reported: arbitrary arrests for “relations with the former administration”, ransom demands... On the 2nd in Jindires, three civilians, including an elderly woman, were arrested and held incommunicado, while in the same region, in Kafr Safra, the Liwaa al-Samarqand confiscated nearly 3,200 olive trees and forbade the owners to harvest. The SOHR estimates that since the Turkish invasion of 2018, this faction has seized more than 36,000 fruit trees in this village alone! On the 5th, a young Kurd from Afrin who had been the victim of continuous harassment by a Jabha al-Shamiyyah militiaman finally committed suicide. On the 12th, an olive thief from the Sultan Murad Division was killed by the guards protecting the village of Qurna (Bulbul), who chased the thieves away. Some farmers who were able to harvest their olives had to sell the bags to the pro-Turkish factions for $400 per bag instead of the normal price of $2,500, or else their crop would be seized. Others have been beaten up for trying to access their olive groves. On the 12th, a young girl was injured in the leg while trying to escape a kidnapping by a Jabha al-Shamiyah official. On the 18th, the SOHR reported new violations: felling of olive trees, theft of crops, taxes imposed on owners... Members of Suqur al-Sham threatened to arrest all those who would harvest on behalf of displaced people. At present, the export of Syrian olives, whether from Afrin or Idlib, is totally monopolized by a Turkish-owned company based in Afrin, controlled by the Turkish-backed factions, and... known for paying late. Producers on the Syrian side can no longer sell directly to the Turkish side.
On the 19th, the Kurdish National Council of Syria (ENKS, regrouping about ten opposition parties of the AANES) condemned as crimes against humanity the robberies, violations and ransom demands imposed by the factions occupying Afrin on behalf of Turkey. The Council also condemned the inaction of Turkey and the “National Coalition” of the Syrian opposition, with which it had signed an agreement to monitor these abuses. The ENKS demanded the expulsion of armed groups from occupied areas and the return of their administration to their original inhabitants.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence that this denunciation has had any impact on the situation. On the 20th, the SOHR reported that a six-month pregnant woman from the village of Hamshlak in the Rajo district was tortured to death at the Turkish intelligence headquarters (MIT) in Afrin. She was arrested on the 11th with other civilians, accused of being involved in the explosion that had killed nine people the same day, and died of her injuries in hospital. The MIT threatened her relatives with kidnapping if they ever spoke to the media, trying to force them to declare that she had died due to a health problem related to her pregnancy. The other prisoners were released for lack of evidence.
On the Turkish-Syrian border, the abuses by Turkish jandarma continued. On the 18th, three young men and a woman who were trying to cross into Turkey east of Kobanê were beaten and tortured before being thrown over the border wall. They were hospitalized in Kobanê.
At the same time, the SDF continued its operations against ISIS with the help of the Coalition. On the 3rd, they announced the elimination of two jihadists and the capture of three others who were planning an attack in Raqqa. On the 10th, two more ISIS members were killed and a third wounded in a failed ambush attempt against a SDF commander east of Deir Ezzor. In the same area, another jihadist was killed on the 16th in firefights with the SDF during the arrest of 8 people, including a village leader, supported by coalition helicopters. In addition, the SDF announced the arrest of two more jihadists, including a financial executive.
On the 23rd, SOHR learned that a ISIS official was killed by a Coalition drone in a Turkish-controlled area of Raqqa province. The man had served in the ranks of Jabhat al-Nusra, an organization that pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda, before joining Ahrar al-Sharqiyyah. Once again, the presence of many jihadists in areas controlled by Turkish forces in Syria is revealed... On the 26th, SOHR published an “Exclusive Report” under the title: “Turkish-held areas provide safe haven for jihadists and members of ISIS and al-Qaeda”. The SOHR has counted since 2019 the elimination of 51 jihadists “in different areas under the control of jihadist organizations and factions supported by Turkey”...
In addition, several repatriations of relatives of jihadists have taken place this month. On the 7th, Germany repatriated 8 women and 23 children from the Roj camp, the largest contingent since 2019, and Denmark 3 women and 14 children. Three of the women were apprehended on arrival in Germany, including one on suspicion of crimes against humanity, including against Yezidis, three others in Denmark (AFP). On the 19th, the AANES announced that it had handed over 3 children to the British Special Representative for Syria. On the 21st, a Swedish delegation on an official visit to AANES received 3 women and 6 children. On the same day, female jihadists trying to escape from the Roj camp started a fire and attacked the guards who had managed to put it out...
Finally, SOHR reported on the 3rd that the Child Protection Office, established by AANES in August 2020 after several allegations of underage military recruitment, had returned to their families 54 minors aged 15-17 who had joined the SDF. SDF Commander-in-Chief Mazloum Abdi had signed an agreement with the United Nations in Geneva in June 2020 prohibiting the recruitment or conscription of children under 18. However, SOHR accused the “Revolutionary Youth Movement” (Tevgera Ciwanên Şoreşger) of continuing underage recruitment (Kurdistan-24).
The early parliamentary elections of 10 October were generally calm, without major incidents and without enthusiasm.
Despite the reform of the electoral code now allowing independent candidates to run, turnout was only 41% compared to 44.56% in 2018. Much of the population seems to despair of the largely corrupt and incompetent political class which, despite the notable improvement in the security situation, has failed to provide basic services and rebuild a country and society devastated by more than 40 years of war.
In this difficult context, parties with a loyal popular base were able to mobilise their voters and emerge victorious from an election marked by considerable political fragmentation.
167 parties and more than 3,200 candidates were vying for the election of 329 MPs.
The Independent High Electoral Commission, after examining various appeals and carrying out checks, announced the almost final results on 16 October at a press conference in Baghdad. Its chairman certified the sincerity of the election where, for the first time, voters were provided with biometric identity cards, which in principle prevented multiple voting or ballot box stuffing.
According to these results, in the Kurdistan Region and in the Kurdish territories under federal administration such as Kirkuk or Sinjar, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) obtained 33 seats, its historical rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), 16 seats, a recent opposition formation, New Generation, 9 seats, the Islamic Union (Yekgirtû) 4 seats and another Islamic group, Komala, 1 seat. The Goran (Change) party, which had come third in the previous elections in Kurdistan, failed to win any seats despite its alliance with the PUK. The death of its charismatic leader Nowshirvan Mustafa and the succession quarrels that followed had a negative impact on the audience of this party, which was born of a split in the PUK. The latter party is also in sharp decline as in the 2018 elections it had won 18 seats.
In its traditional stronghold of Suleimaniyeh, the turnout was only 37% compared to 54% in Duhok and 46% in Erbil, both KDP strongholds. The PUK obtained 1 seat out of 11 in Dohuk and 2 seats out of 15 in Erbil.
In Dohuk the KDP gets 8 out of 11 seats, Islamic Union 2 seats. In Erbil, the KDP gets 11 out of 15 seats, New Generation 3 seats.
The KDP won 2 of 18 seats in Suleimaniyeh. The KDP won mainly in the mixed Kurdish-Arab governorate of Nineveh, which includes Mosul, 10 out of 31 seats, including the 3 seats in the predominantly Kurdish Yezidi canton of Sinjar. The PUK won 1 seat there.
In Kirkuk, which has lost part of its Kurdish population since 2017, the turnout was 44%. Unlike previous elections where Kurdish parties ran on a joint list to maximize their chances of victory, this time they went to the vote scattered and this dispersion cost them 2 seats. The PUK obtained 3 seats, the KDP 2 seats and New Generation 1 seat, 4 Arab candidates were elected as well as 2 Turkmen, including 1 from the Turkmen Front, which is strongly supported and financed by Turkey. In 2013, the united list of the Kurdistan Alliance, led by the late Dr. Najmaldine Karim, had won 8 seats out of 12. Candidates from the smaller pro-PKK parties did not win any seats.
In total, the Kurdish deputies will be 63 out of a total of 329 in the Iraqi Parliament, and even 64 if we add an independent Kurdish candidate, Nasik Mehdî Kherib, elected in the governorate of Salahedin. In the outgoing parliament, there were 58.
The Christian community, for its part, elected 2 deputies out of its quota, 1 in Erbil and 1 in Mosul.
The new Iraqi Parliament will include 97 women, i.e. 29.4% of the elected members, thus exceeding the mandatory minimum quota of 25% enshrined in the 2005 Iraqi Constitution at the initiative of the Kurdish parties. With 22 female legislators out of 64, women represent 34.37% of Kurdish elected representatives. They are aiming for parity within 10 years.
In the Arab part of Iraq, the list of the Sadrist Movement, a coalition around the influential Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr, came first with 73 seats. The Sunni alliance al-Taqadum (Progress), led by the Speaker of Parliament, did well with 38 seats. In third place is the “State of Law” coalition led by former Prime Minister Maliki, which gets 34 seats, up from 26 in 2018. Coming in first in Kurdistan, the KDP, with its 33 seats, ranks as the 4th parliamentary group in Iraq. The oldest political party in Iraq (founded in 1946) after the ICP, which is currently in very poor condition, the KDP thus asserts itself as the leading party at the Iraqi level because, unlike the other parliamentary groups made up of coalitions of parties, the KDP stood alone in the elections.
The Fatah (Conquest) alliance of various pro-Iranian militias fell sharply with only 17 seats. Independent candidates won 40 seats.
Several Shiite parties, including the Fatah Alliance, denounced the election results as “fraudulent”. The High Electoral Commission will examine the 356 complaints lodged within a few days. Then it will be up to the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court to ratify the final results.
Because of the fragmentation of the political scene, difficult and lengthy negotiations lasting several weeks or months are expected for the formation of the future government. In the meantime, the Kurdish parties have begun to meet in Baghdad to define a common line.
At the beginning of October, the Turkish president finally decided to send the Paris climate agreement to parliament for ratification. The agreement was passed unanimously on the 6th. It was hardly a question of saving the planet; the aim was rather to avoid the economic cost of non-ratification, after the adoption by the European Union, the country’s main economic partner, of a “green pact” that allows subjecting imports from “non-green" countries to a carbon tax. According to the same pact, this ratification will allow Turkey to benefit from 3.1 billion euros in loans to help it meet its CO2 reduction targets. A good operation then, but one that shows how Turkey’s dire economic situation is increasingly reducing Mr. Erdoğan’s room for manoeuvre.
Another example of this is the “ambassadors’ affair”. On 23 October, a week before the G20, the Turkish President declared ten Western ambassadors, including those from France, Germany and the United States, personae non gratae in Turkey: they had dared to ask in a joint declaration for the release of the philanthropist Osman Kavala, imprisoned without trial for four years on ridiculous charges of attempted coup d’état. The European Court of Human Rights had already ruled in favor of Kavala’s release as well as that of Kurdish leader Selahettin Demirtas who has been in prison since 2016, but Ankara chose to ignore the court’s nonetheless binding rulings. HDP co-chairs Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar stigmatized the Turkish president’s reckless warmongering: “A country in conflict with all its neighbours, whose currency is constantly losing value, whose foreign debt has surpassed 400 billion and which devotes a significant part of its resources to war and armaments does really not need new enemies”.
However, alerted by his diplomats, Mr. Erdoğan did not go through with his threats: at the end of October, he renounced the expulsions. Here again, the economic situation has weighed in. With inflation well above the official 19.5%, a Turkish lira at its lowest, empty coffers, and foreign investors absent, he can no longer afford to defy his main economic, diplomatic and military partners... Moreover, according to an American diplomatic source, Mr. Biden had warned him against “precipitous” actions in this matter (L’Express).
Internationally, statements criticizing Erdoğan’s political line have multiplied. In the United States, eight senators urged the president on September 30 to react against the “disenfranchisement of Turkey’s Kurdish population”, to condemn Erdoğan’s attempt to ban the “pro-Kurdish” HDP party, and to “work with [European Union] partners to prevent any further democratic backsliding in Turkey”. On October 19, the EU for its part pointed out in its 2021 report on Turkey (English version https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/qanda_21_5282) among other things “serious deficiencies in the functioning of democratic institutions”... In themselves, such statements without immediate consequences matter little to the Turkish president. But indirectly, they have an impact on the economy. When the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) added Turkey to its list of poor performers in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing on 21 September, its decision certainly cost Turkey new foreign investments (Le Monde).
This does not make Mr. Erdoğan any less dangerous. His threats to expel ambassadors were aimed at satisfying his Islamist and ultranationalist base and, as Kemal Kiliçdaroğlu, the leader of the CHP (Republican People’s Party, Kemalist, the main opposition party), accused him of doing, “to mask his disastrous record” (Le Monde). Since this diversion had no effect on his fall in the polls, it is feared that Mr. Erdoğan will raise the stakes. Speaking to reporters on the 30th after his meeting with Mr. Biden on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome, he said he had reiterated to him Turkish opposition to U.S. support for Syrian Kurdish “terrorists” of the YPG (Reuters). On the 26th, the parliament extended the authorization for the deployment of Turkish soldiers in Syria by two years. A new invasion of Rojava is perhaps to be feared...
On the domestic side, the government is still giving in to its anti-refugee rhetoric. A video showing an altercation that took place on the 17th in Istanbul between a man and a group of Syrian refugees has gone viral on the Internet. The man complained that he could no longer afford bananas while, according to him, Syrians were buying “kilos” of them. In response, groups of young Syrians posted numerous videos on the web showing them eating bananas and laughing! On the 27th, authorities announced that they had arrested and initiated deportation proceedings against at least seven migrants, accused of eating bananas in a “provocative” manner as part of a TikTok challenge... (Insider) On the 28th, local media reported that immigration authorities had arrested eleven Syrians, accused of “humiliating the [Turkish] people out of hatred and hostility” (Washington Post). The HDP denounced a “misleading propaganda campaign [...] making migrants look like the cause of the economic and social crisis”.
At the same time, the repression of the Kurds and the HDP continues. Earlier this month, some 30 defendants were sentenced in Hakkari to prison terms ranging from eight years and nine months to 17 years and nine months for “belonging to an illegal organization”. The authorities also launched a case against the HDP leader in Iskenderun (Alexandrette), Abdurrahim Şahin, for remarks made during a speech. More than a dozen people were also arrested in raids in Diyarbakir, Ankara, Hakkari, Istanbul, Bursa and Konya (WKI). On the 10th, Ankara police attacked a gathering commemorating the 2015 bombing that had killed 104 people, mostly Kurds and HDP members or supporters. In parliament, the HDP has tabled a bill proposal to establish a national day of remembrance on that date. In Urfa, the four-year and six-month prison sentence of Suruç HDP leader Yaşar Gündüzalp was upheld on appeal. In Van, former Özalp mayor Yakup Almaç received eight years and six months in prison for “belonging to an illegal organization”. Other arrests and convictions took place the following week, such as in Edirne, where singer Hozan Canê was again sentenced in her absence to three years and six weeks in prison for “supporting” the PKK (a German citizen, Canê lives in Germany). In Diyarbakir, the court sentenced Mehmet Mamedoğlu, an HDP assembly member, to seven years and six months in prison for belonging to the PKK on the basis of an anonymous testimony. In Van, the court sentenced former HDP deputy Aysel Tuğluk, who is already serving a 10-year sentence for “membership” in and “propaganda” for the PKK, to an additional 20 months in prison on the 15th. On the 18th, the fifth hearing of the “Kobanê trial” against 108 HDP members took place in Ankara. The defendants challenged the validity of the hearing as the appointed judge was absent due to illness (WKI).
On the 20th, Free Women’s Movement (Tevgera Jinên Azad, TJA) spokeswoman and former Nusaybin mayor Ayşe Gökkan, whose trial had been marked the previous month by the judge’s iniquitous attitude and police brutality against the public and defence lawyers, was sentenced to 30 years in prison in Diyarbakir (RojInfo). On October 21, 17 HDP members were arrested in Izmir for their criticism of the government on social media (WKI).
As if the thousands of arrests of HDP members or sympathizers recorded in 2021 were not enough, systemic anti-Kurdish racism continues to run rampant, sometimes resulting in tragedy. On the 11th, the Ankara Anti-Terrorist Police (TEM) raided a wedding after receiving a complaint that some attendees were wearing Kurdish clothing. According to one participant, the police asked to receive the videos of the party so that they could be “analysed” (Duvar). On the 14th, the Kiziltepe prosecutor launched an investigation for “inciting the public to hatred and hostility or humiliation” against journalist Öznur Değer of the JinNews agency, who had covered the massacre of seven Kurdish family members in Konya on July 30. Some of her professional posts on social networks denouncing anti-Kurdish racism were cited as evidence (Bianet). Finally, on the 29th, a Kurd from Siirt, Cemil Taşkesen, was charged with “terrorist propaganda” for saying in a discussion with Meral Aksener, the candidate of the Iyi (“Good Party”) party: “We are Kurds; we are denied our language, our identity, and Kurdistan, but the place where you are now is Kurdistan”. Aksener had protested last March against a stamp issued by the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq (KRG) to commemorate the visit of Pope Francis, on which was a map of Kurdistan... (Kurdistan 24)
On the 20th, another Kurdish child was run over by an armoured military vehicle. This time it was a 5 year old girl who was injured in Urfa. This is the 14th child to suffer this fate. Last month, a seven-year-old child was killed in Sirnak; the HDP described his death as part of a “massacre”, adding: “Deaths involving security forces and the vehicles they use in Kurdish provinces are not accidents” (Rûdaw).
Still kept at arm’s length by Erdoğan’s opposition, the HDP, which last month published a program to defend democracy, called on the CHP to conduct “transparent politics” rather than “backroom negotiations”: this would mean forging a democratic alliance in which the HDP would find its place. So far, the CHP, the “Good Party” (IYI), and several of Erdoğan’s former political companions, such as Ahmet Davutoglu, who have launched new formations, show little reaction. On the 15th, HDP co-chair Mithat Sancar met with nine other Kurdish parties in Diyarbakir as part of a “Kurdistan Alliance”. In the last municipal elections, the Kurdish and HDP votes had been decisive in wresting Istanbul and Ankara from AKP...
The Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDP-I) has published three reports warning of a policy of demographic changes in Kurdistan of Iran by the regime (Sorani text on Kurdistan Media: https://kurdistanmedia.com/so/news/%DA%95%DB%8E%DA%98%DB%8C%D9%85-%D9%84%DB%95-%D9%BE%DB%8C%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%86%DB%8C-%D8%AE%DB%86%DB%8C-%D8%A8%DB%86-%D8%AF%D8%A7%DA%AF%DB%8C%D8%B1%DA%A9%D8%A7%D8%B1%DB%8C%DB%8C-%DA%A9%D9%88%D8%B1%D8%AF%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A8%DB%95%D8%B1%D8%AF%DB%95%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%85%DB%95). The Kurdish party mentions in particular the recent resettlement of dozens of Azeri (Turkish-speaking) families in Mahabad, as well as numerous purchases of agricultural land by Azeris in the Bokan and Piranshahr regions. These recent events create the fear that the government, perhaps inspired by the policy of Arabisation carried out in his time by Saddam Hussein in Iraqi Kurdistan, is in turn launching a policy of minorisation of the Kurds of Iran in their own region...
In addition, killings of cross-border Kurdish porters, known as kolbars, continued this month. On the 14th, the Kurdpa agency reported that a porter had been shot dead without warning near Sardasht. Jian Ali-Pour was married with two children (HRANA) and was killed in an ambush after which Iranian border guards seized hundreds of cattle. On the 16th, another kolbar was injured near Baneh, and another in Sanandaj. Another was seriously injured by a mine near Nowsud. On the 23rd, three more porters were killed and three more injured when their vehicle overturned between Nowdeshah and Marivan. In addition, two Kurdish civilians were injured near Mahabad and Harsin by mines dating from the Iran-Iraq war. Unlike the regular army, the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) have not bothered to recover or record the mines they laid during the conflict (WKI).
This month also saw many arrests and convictions. Some of the arrests made at the end of September were not known until early October. For example, Salah Hossein-Panah was arrested in Baneh on 22 September and held incommunicado without any charges being brought against him, as was environmental activist Salar Salehi, who was arrested on 27 September in Sanandaj along with Armin Aesparlous (KurdPa). The Hengaw human rights organisation said that in September the authorities had arrested 39 Kurds for activism...
On the 5 October, according to the Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA), the Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence of political prisoner Shaker Behruz, detained in Urmia, despite the existence of a credible alibi, which the court had refused to take into account. Behruz is accused of the murder of a Revolutionary Guard (pasdar), although 12 witnesses state that he was in his shop when the crime was committed. Security officials had tried unsuccessfully to intimidate the victim’s family, who do not believe in Behruz’s guilt, to force them to accuse him. The Supreme Court therefore ruled in the absence of accusers and without taking into account the testimony of witnesses.
Hengaw Human Rights Organization reported that Iranian security forces arrested four Kurds of the Solîmanî family in Mahabad on the 9th. In addition, Etelaat (Intelligence) agents shot and arrested a Kurd named Hiwa Mosazahad near Piranshahr. At the same time, an imprisoned Kurdish activist, Naser Hamilti, was sentenced to one year in prison for “propaganda against the state”. Hamiti was already serving a two-year sentence on similar charges after participating in the November 2019 protests (WKI).
On the 11th, two prisoners were executed for murder in Kermanshah, without the executions being officially announced. One of the prisoners, Ismail Soltan-Abadi, had been convicted in a “swearing-in ceremony” (ghassameh) in which guilt can be pronounced after the accusers and their relatives have sworn in. The accusers need not be eyewitnesses, but must be at least 25 in the case of murder (50 for premeditated murder). This ceremony allows for convictions without direct evidence. In addition, Soltan-Abadi was executed without his family being informed, and was therefore deprived of the opportunity for a final visit. According to the latest report by Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRANA) Center for Statistics and Publication, of the 266 executions conducted between October 8, 2020 and October 9, 2021, 82% remained secret, not being officially announced... (HRANA).
In Marivan, a Kurd by the name of Hassan Faraji was sentenced to 10 months in prison for “propaganda against the Islamic Republic”, in Saqqez, the activist Ibrahim Shoriani was sentenced to seven months in prison for the same reason after messages on social networks. In Naqadeh, Mohammed Hussein was sentenced to 15 months in prison for participating in a demonstration and “belonging to a Kurdish opposition party”. In parallel, several arrests took place in Ilam, Piranshahr and Baneh, two of them targeting women (WKI).
On the 22nd, trade unionist Othman Esmaili was arrested at 6pm outside his home in Saqqez by ten security agents and then taken into custody. The charges against him were not indicated (HRANA). On the 25th, Roya Jalali, a female resident of Sanandaj, was given a two-year suspended sentence for “belonging to the Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK)” (WKI). She had been violently arrested at her home on 2 February and released on bail after a month in detention. Jalali, who has multiple sclerosis, was denied access to a lawyer, phone calls and visits from her family during her detention. Her husband, Khabat Mafakheri, was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment, also suspended, for “collaboration with an opposition political party” (HRANA). At the same time, another 66-year-old citizen, Abdullah Shadab, was arrested in Oshnavieh, as were two Kurds from Piranshahr and Bokan (WKI).
In the last week of the month, a new wave of arrests hit Iranian Kurdistan. Seven people were arrested, a father and his 16-year-old son near Chaldiran, an environmental activist from Marivan, two Kurds from Oshnavieh and two people from Sanandaj and Piranshahr. The Hengaw Organization for Human Rights reported that 31 Kurds were arrested for political activism in October...
Another worrying situation is that of women victims of violence, whom the regime seeks to silence by intimidating them. Several Kurdish women activists gathered outside the court in Sanandaj on the 6th to protest against violence against women in Iran. The demonstrators carried banners reading “Stop the killing of women” and “Enough” and called on the police to investigate the recent suspected suicide of a woman named Faiza Malaki (WKI). Several recent cases have highlighted how the regime is not only reluctant to punish perpetrators of violence against women, for example in so-called “honour killings”, but also tries to silence witnesses or the victims themselves. On October 3, after a surgeon mentioned on his Instagram page the death of a 22-year-old girl burned alive by her father because she was dating a young man out of wedlock, the provincial attorney general announced that he would be prosecuted for publicizing an “unverified” case. On the 13th, the reformist daily Shargh revealed that in mid-August at least six women in Esfahan had been injured by shotgun blasts, and that the suspect initially arrested had been released after twenty days... The regime’s pressure against women seems to have been increasing for some time, and the arrival in power of the ultraconservative president Ebrahim Raisi is likely to accentuate this trend (Le Figaro).
In Kurdistan, the inmates of Urmia women’s prison went on strike on the 16th to protest against the increasing torture and repression of the prisoners. Deprived of telephone communications if they refuse to attend classes imposed by the administration, they even went on mutiny by setting fire to their blankets... (Kurdistan au Féminin).
Kurdish fighters exhibited in Bayeux
The 28th Bayeux Prize for War Correspondents began on 4 October with the opening of several photographic exhibitions, on mutual aid between Jews and Muslims in Sarajevo, repression in Burma and Kurdish women fighters.
The latter are the subject of the exhibition entitled “Rising from the Ruins, Dancing Between the Bullets”, by Maryam Ashrafi, which evokes in particular the transformation of the status of women brought about by the Kurdish movement during the Syrian civil war (AFP).
The 11the Berlin Kurdish Film Festival
The Berlin Kurdish Film Festival, established in 2002, is considered the largest event dedicated to Kurdish films in Europe. Its 11th edition was held this year from 14 to 20 October. It focused particularly on Southern Kurdistan (Bashur), i.e. Iraqi Kurdistan, of which it attempted a retrospective, with 40 feature films, documentaries and short films, as well as complementary events such as round tables. This year, the film that “opened the ball” was “The Examination”, by Shawkat Amin Korki. Other features included two films by the French-Kurdish director Hiner Saleem, including his 2009 film “After the Fall”, which shows the fall of the dictator Saddam Hussein from the perspective of the Kurdish diaspora in Berlin.
Also screened were 11 short films from all regions of Kurdistan and the diaspora, as well as works by international filmmakers who have dealt with Kurdish subjects.
Until the end of November, it is still possible to buy a “Pass” to watch from home several of the films screened at the festival.