On 13 May, the commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Mazloum Abdi, welcomed the announcement made the previous evening by the US Treasury that it would lift sanctions on Syrian territories controlled by the Autonomous Administration of North-East Syria (AANES). The request had been made for months. Activities in 12 different sectors are now allowed in these areas not held by the Syrian regime, notably in the fields of energy and health.
Conversely, the furious Turkish president warned that he could not “accept that the United States lifts sanctions in Syrian regions held by the YPG”. Mr Erdoğan had just announced on the 3rd his so-called “Voluntary Return” project according to which one million Syrian refugees currently in Turkey could return “voluntarily” to their country... Turkey proposes to have its “humanitarian associations” build accommodation centres in 13 different areas of northern Syria for this purpose. These declarations coincided with the visit of the Turkish Interior Minister, Süleyman Soylu, to the west of Aleppo, where he inaugurated such a centre together with several Turkish humanitarian organisations...
The pro-AKP website Sabah said in a report published on the 5th that the project aims to establish residential complexes in the areas of Azaz, Jarablus and al-Bab in the northern and north-eastern countryside of Aleppo as well as in the areas of Tell Abyad and Ras al-Ain in the countryside of Hasaka and Raqqa, all controlled by the Turkish-allied Free Syrian Army (FSA) (Al-Monitor).
In fact, given the pressure currently being exerted by the Turkish authorities on Syrian refugees, returns could be anything but voluntary. And the literally apocalyptic situation of the Syrian areas currently under Turkish control gives reason for concern, if these are to serve as a model for Mr Erdoğan’s project... Moreover, the idea hardly appeals to the main stakeholders. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reports that, according to its sources, “most Syrian refugees in Turkey and residents of the northern region of Syria, both displaced persons and indigenous inhabitants, express their rejection of the Turkish project”. One interviewee in northern Idlib explained: “Sending one million refugees back to northern Syria will lead to a real humanitarian disaster that will affect the whole region [...], because [it] is already overcrowded and does not have the capacity to accommodate this large number of refugees”. Others, who have been living in Turkey for years and have found work that allows them to send money back to their families in Syria, fear that an imposed return would destroy their fragile financial balance. Most reject the idea of “returning” to rudimentary settlements established elsewhere than in their home province, thus exchanging their refugee status for that of displaced persons...
Dozens of human rights organisations and several Kurdish parties also denounced the plan. The PYD, which dominates the AANES, said it “[calls] on the Syrian people to return to their original regions and properties and not to the settlements established by the Turkish occupation or those established under the auspices of [Muslim Brotherhood] associations” (WKI). On the 15th, hundreds of residents under occupation bravely demonstrated against the project and denounced the “Syrian Opposition Coalition” that supports it as “traitorous” (SOHR).
A Syrian opposition leader told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity: “We fear that this plan is ill-considered and will lead to counterproductive results in the northern parts of Syria, which are overcrowded after the influx of large numbers of displaced people from all parts of Syria. The question that arises in this context is: what would happen if Turkey brought in a million refugees? This would certainly exacerbate the problem [...]”.
A refugee interviewed by the SOHR notes that the land of the future settlements “does not belong to the refugees, [...] but to other people. Therefore, this return will greatly contribute to changing the demography of the northern Syrian region”. Behind the humanitarian veneer, this is undoubtedly one of Erdoğan’s main motivations. Faced with an economic crisis in Turkey, he is killing two birds with one stone: chasing away the refugees who are denting his popularity and making the Kurds a minority in northern Syria. Here we find the logic that presided over the “reconstruction” of medieval Diyarbakir, the district of Sur – or rather its transformation into a sinister barracks.
In Sur, the ground had been, so to speak, “prepared” by the army, which had completely razed the areas concerned. Be that as it may, Mr Erdoğan completed his “humanitarian” project on the 23rd with the threat of a new Turkish military intervention in Syria that could allow “clearing the ground”. It is clearly a question of “resettling a million Syrian refugees on Kurdish lands occupied by the Turkish army”.
The Turkish President said the new operation was aimed at completing the 30 km deep “security zone” planned several years ago, and would begin as soon as the army had completed its preparations. The target area stretches 458 km between Qamishli and Afrin, which implies seizing the city of Kobanê, highly symbolic for the Kurds (Le Monde). A year before a presidential election that looks very unfavourable for him, Mr Erdoğan also aims very clearly with this operation to revive nationalist sentiment in his favour among the Turkish electorate...
In response, Ilham Ahmed, Chairwoman of the Executive Committee of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), the political arm of the SDF, tweeted that “the Turkish attack on the multicultural region of Tall Tamr which is inhabited by Kurds, Arabs and Assyrians is a continuation of the genocidal approach against our people. These attacks must be stopped, especially by the states that have guaranteed the ceasefire agreement” (Rûdaw). For Kurdish officials and commanders, Ankara keeps violating the 2019 ceasefire agreements without any reaction from the Russians and Americans, their so-called guarantors...
The day after the Turkish announcement, Washington, expressing “deep concern”, warned Ankara against any new offensive in Syria that would endanger the 900 or so American soldiers still present there to fight ISIS. The Turkish president was quick to react: “We cannot fight terrorism by waiting for anyone’s permission”, he said, adding: “If the United States does not do its duty in the fight against terrorism [...], we will do it ourselves” (AFP). On the 29th, he repeated his threats: “We will suddenly fall on them one night”, before telling Vladimir Putin on the phone the next day that establishing, as foreseen in the 2019 Turkish-Russian agreement, a “terrorist-free zone” along the border was “imperative” (AFP). At the end of the month, Rojava was on high alert for the prospect of a new Turkish invasion.
Throughout the month, the Turkish army and its auxiliaries continued and even significantly increased their harassment of the territories administered by the AANES, whereas in April, according to the SDF, they had already carried out more than 600 attacks... At the beginning of the month, they heavily shelled the north of the province of Aleppo, sending more than 100 rockets to Tell Rifaat on the 2nd. The clashes continued in the following days, with a Kurdish infiltration attempt against “National Army” positions and the death of a Turkish soldier in an attack on his vehicle. On the 7th, Turkish shelling injured 2 regime soldiers, deployed in the area in-between SDF positions.
At the other end of the border area, in Hassakeh province, Turkish rockets wounded 2 fighters in the Tell Tamr Military Council, where on the 5th, after 72 hours of relative calm, the Turks shelled civilian targets with heavy artillery, without casualties. On the 7th, several Assyrian villages were hit by rockets, again without casualties. On the 10th, the M4 highway and the surroundings of Raqqa, Hasaka and Ain-Issa were bombed again. On the 11th, two Turkish drones hit a vehicle near Kobanê, killing a civilian, and a house in the city a few minutes later. Further artillery strikes targeted regime soldiers near the city on the 13th. The same sequence of events was repeated on the 22nd, this time targeting a pedestrian before a strike in the city.
In Manbij, a Turkish sniper killed a young man on the 3rd while Kurdish fighters announced that they had shot down a Turkish drone. On the morning of the 13th, the SOHR reported violent artillery exchanges lasting several hours between the Syrian army-backed Manbij Military Council on one side and Turkish forces and their Syrian auxiliaries on the other. Four Turkish soldiers and a girl were wounded by Syrian fire near Jerablous, while Turkish bombing caused fires in fields and wounded a woman and a child near Manbij.
On the 15th, the SOHR reported a “dramatic military escalation” by Turkish forces and the “National Army”, which continued until the end of the month, with heavy shelling in the provinces of Aleppo, Raqqa and Hassaké. Hundreds of heavy artillery shells and rockets fired over 72 hours at more than 50 villages and towns caused extensive destruction to civilian property in the targeted areas, including near the M4 highway. On the 16th, villages in the Shahba area were hit by around 50 rockets. On the 20th, the Turks again shelled the villages around Tall Tamr. On the 21st, after several days of artillery exchanges, more than 20 rockets and artillery shells, fired from Azaz, hit Kurdish and regime positions in the Afrin countryside. On the 22nd, a Turkish drone attacked a SDF checkpoint near Ain-Issa, injuring one fighter. On the 24th, the SOHR estimated that since the beginning of the month, Turkish attacks had targeted 57 villages, hit by hundreds of rockets or artillery shells, with almost daily strikes on dozens of villages. On the 25th, the NGO reported new strikes with more than 150 shells or rockets on 4 villages in Aleppo, with only material damage...
On 28 May, a Turkish drone flew over Tall Tamr while artillery strikes were intensified in the area. Dozens of shells fell in the centre of Abu Rasin, setting fire to a house and causing material damage. Several inhabitants of nearby Assyrian villages had to flee and one SDF member was injured. On the same day, the Turkish army again bombed villages near Kobane, while drones were flying over the area. Finally, on the 30th, a Turkish drone strike east of Qamishli killed 5 fighters and injured 3 civilians.
Another tug of war took place between the Turkish military and the inhabitants of Tadif, near Al-Bab. After 12 continuous days of sit-ins in front of the soldiers, the villagers succeeded in preventing them from digging as planned a trench separating the areas under Turkish control from those held by the regime, which would have cut their village in two... The Turkish soldiers evacuated their bulldozers, but for how long?
On the border, Turkish Jandarma again signalled themselves for their abuses against Syrians trying to flee the war. Since the beginning of 2022, they have already killed 12 people, including 3 children, and injured 20 others. On the 12th, they shot dead a young man in Ain-Diwar, north of Hassaké. On the 24th, they shot at shepherds in the same area and killed several sheep.
Turkey is also continuing its “Water War” against the Syrian Kurds, with increasingly serious humanitarian consequences (https://www.syriahr.com/en/251969/). The drop in the level of the Euphrates River threatens the irrigation of summer crops, including vegetables and cotton, particularly in Deir Ezzor. A local official told SOHR that four water stations had been put out of service and called on the UN and humanitarian organisations to “stop the violations committed by Turkey, which has deliberately blocked the flow of Syria’s share of water into the Euphrates”. The 1987 Syrian-Turkish agreement, according to which Syria should receive 500 m3/s, is clearly not being respected, as the flow has fallen below 400. According to the AANES Department of Agriculture, in the Hasaka and Raqqa regions, local farmers, who supply Syria with more than 90% of its bread, have already lost 80% of their harvest. The drop in water levels is increasing the pollution of the remaining water, and in the Tishrin dam, over 5m since December, it is causing electricity shortages. If it goes on, the turbines will stop completely, depriving the whole region of energy.
Turkey’s withholding of water is all the more damaging as it coincides with drought and worsening weather conditions across the Middle East, as evidenced by the sandstorm that killed at least seven displaced people in Abu Khashab camp (Deir Ezzor) in the middle of the month, including a woman and two children.
The human rights situation in Afrin remains dire, with the occupiers continuing to kidnap for ransom, steal, cut down fruit and olive trees, impose illegal taxes on all kinds of activities, and even kill. For example, it was reported earlier this month that on 30 April, members of Al-Jabha Al-Shamiyyah stationed at a checkpoint shot dead a young shepherd guarding sheep near their position in the village of Arab Wiran. The so-called “Sharia Courts” established by the factions only serve to give an appearance of legality to their plundering, and civilians who are summoned to them are sometimes severely beaten. This happened in Jindires to a father and son who had filed a complaint against the Nur Al-Din Al-Zanki faction in an attempt to get their house back. In another case of murder at a checkpoint, this time in Bulbul, after the faction in charge of the “National Army” refused to hand over the murderers, the tribe of the deceased attacked the faction in charge with about 100 armed fighters.
Factions also continue to sell stolen property to residents. According to the SOHR, in Afrin, members of the pro-Turkish “military police” sold two houses in the Al-Ashrafiyah neighbourhood for US$ 2,000 each, and rented shops for 400 Turkish Liras. In addition, Ahrar Al-Sharqiyah set up its headquarters in a house confiscated from a civilian.
“Arrests” for “communication with Kurdish forces” or “relations with the former administration” continue – mere pretexts for kidnapping for ransom. On the 11th, a civilian imprisoned in Afrin for “participation in the self-defence forces of the former administration” was released for US$ 1,000. The day before, a joint patrol of the “military police” and Turkish Intelligence had arrested 2 brothers for the same reason... Other “arrests” of the same nature took place until the end of the month, too numerous to be reported here...
For the inhabitants, the stress of the occupants is compounded by the stress caused by attacks on them, which can cause collateral casualties: on the 28th, a motorbike bomb exploded in Afrin near the Turkish forces’ headquarters on the Jendires road, injuring two people, including a policeman.
Jihadist factions occupying territories on behalf of Ankara also continued their archaeological looting. In Afrin, the “National Army” bulldozed the site of Be’r Jobana (Rajo district) in search of valuable artefacts, taking the opportunity to cut down dozens of olive and oak trees nearby. The site of Bishirak, near Maabatli, and nearby orchards were destroyed in the same way.
With regard to the jihadist organisation ISIS, after the considerable increase in the activities of its sleeper cells in April, there was some slowing down in May. This does not mean that the problem is over. The SDF has conducted several anti-ISIS operations in Deir Ezzor province this month and announced the capture of 7 jihadists, including 2 commanders.
On 3rd of May, two Syrians escaped an assassination attempt in al-Hol camp, which remains subject to numerous escape attempts, attacks and killings. At the end of the month, security forces in al-Hol discovered in the camp the decapitated body of an Iraqi woman, the 18th murder in the camp since January.
On the 23rd, several French associations, including the human rights organisation Human Rights Watch, solemnly reiterated their appeal to France to repatriate the children and their mothers still detained in Syria as soon as possible. The signatory associations also asked to be received by the French President. AANES has been asking for this repatriation for years... At the end of the month, it handed over several Albanian women and children to a joint delegation from Albania and Kosovo.
On 5th May, the Turkish Statistics Office (Tüik) published the inflation figures for April. At nearly 70% annually, it is at its highest rate since February 2002. And this is still the official figure: on the 2nd, independent Turkish economists calculated a figure more than twice as high, 156.86% over one year. Following the instructions of the Turkish president, who has been transformed into a “chief economist”, the Turkish Central Bank has contributed to this surge by maintaining its key rate at 14% since the end of 2021, the date on which Mr Erdoğan had already forced it to lower it from its previous 19%. As a result, the currency, which in 2021 had already fallen by 44% against the dollar, has lost a further 11% since January... (France-24) On the 10th, the March unemployment figures came out: it rose to 11.5%, compared with 11.1 in February, and on the 16th, the Turkish lira lost 1% against the dollar in a single day, increasing its fall to 16% since the beginning of 2022.
Despite Erdoğan’s optimistic words, promising a decline “after May”, little improvement is expected in the medium term. Istanbul Analytics predicts that the Turkish Central Bank’s reserves will now start to melt by approximately $7-10 billion per month, even without monetary intervention. While Turkey imports 68% of its energy, the war in Ukraine is driving up both gas and oil prices, pushing up all production costs. Moreover, Ankara also imports 78% of its wheat from Ukraine (Reuters).
The population is overwhelmed by the increases that are piling up on all sides: +260% for meat, +97% for electricity, +70% for rents, +60% for gas... with consequences on the popularity of the president. According to the latest MetroPOLL poll, dated April and published on the 3rd May, if the elections were held now, the AKP would get only 25.2% of the votes. This rate rises to 32.1% if the votes of the voters declaring themselves “undecided” are distributed. The poll explores various scenarios, with the conclusion that the CHP (Republican People’s Party, Kemalist) mayor of Ankara, Mansur Yavaş, if opposed to Erdoğan, could beat him, but the Kurdish votes then appear decisive in this regard. The next poll, conducted in May by Yöneylem and published on the 15th, is even harsher: the incumbent president would be defeated by any opposition candidate, as the question asked of the respondents did not specify the identity of the latter... (Bianet)
It is in this context of a popularity deficit that we can understand Erdoğan’s gesticulations about a new invasion of Rojava, the plan to return Syrian refugees to their country, or his opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO: everything is good for stirring up the patriotic fibre of voters... and reaping the benefits. As a victim of the crisis, public opinion is increasingly turning against refugees, estimated at 3.7 million on Turkish soil. Part of the opposition is now trying to pull the rug out from under the president by accusing him of not doing enough to drive them out. Thus Kemal Kilicdaroğlu, the leader of the CHP, tweeted: “Fugitives continue to pour in from the border. [...] We are fed up with your lies”. The unfortunate Syrian refugees are thus blamed for the president’s economic mistakes.
Another aspect of this policy of hatred is the designation by the government of an internal enemy: as always, it is the Kurds and the HDP who play this role...
Already on 1st of May, Labour Day, hundreds of Kurds defied the government by gathering in Diyarbakir for a street meeting in the presence of several HDP leaders. In Istanbul, a similar demonstration was attacked by the police, who arrested at least 160 participants. In addition, earlier this month, former HDP MP Hilal Aksoy was sentenced to one year in prison for calling the Kurds killed by the Turkish government “our martyrs” during a speech in 2009. The case had originally been quickly dismissed but was reopened last year by a pro-AKP prosecutor... (WKI)
On the 5th, incidents took place in front of the HDP office in Ankara after 3 members of the Diyarbakir Anneleri (“Mothers of Diyarbakir”) laid a funeral wreath there. These are families, largely supported by the government, who accuse the HDP of being responsible for the disappearance of their children, “kidnapped” to fight with the guerrillas: the aim is to give credence to the government’s discourse according to which the HDP and the PKK are one and the same thing... After the departure of the protesters, the police, who had guided and protected them, blocked access to the office and, when the HDP cadres protested, attacked them. One of them, lawyer Yunus Emre Şahan, had to be briefly hospitalised after a blow to the head. A police officer threatened to shoot HDP MP Ayşe Acar-Başaran, who was trying to make a statement to the press, with his gun. Police attacked HDP members again in the afternoon. Eight people were arrested during these incidents and released the next day. HDP Foreign Affairs Committee co-spokespersons Feleknas Uca and Hişyar Özsoy denounced the provocations, saying they expected them to increase, as in previous pre-election periods. The day before, they had already issued a statement denouncing the recent wave of illegal imprisonments using the “Kobanê trial” as a pretext to criminalise the HDP in order to get it banned (Bianet). These events led to demonstrations by Kurdish and feminist organisations in several Kurdish cities across the country.
On the same day, a well-known pro-AKP cleric, Ahmet Mahmut Ünlü, also known as Cübbeli Ahmet Hoca, called in a Youtube video to “destroy” the HDP and deprive its supporters of their Turkish citizenship. He accused voters choosing the HDP of “supporting the PKK” and, for good measure, the HDP of “working for the Jews”...
On the 8th, the HDP Women’s Assembly once again denounced the cruelty of keeping in a cell former MP Aysel Tuğluk, who is suffering from dementia and is now unable to perform daily life gestures by herself. But a new scandal sparked outrage, when on the 12th HDP MP Gülistan Kılıç-Koçyiğit denounced before the Parliament’s Human Rights Inquiry Committee the non-release of Kurdish prisoner Dilan Oynaş, who had nevertheless served her sentence. After inquiring, it revealed that “four other prisoners in Sincan Prison [...], Berrin Sarı, Hanım Yıldırım, Jiyan Ateş and Rojdan Erez, were not released based on a decision of the Executive Supervision of the Prison Board”. In fact, according to data obtained from the Association of Lawyers for Freedom (ÖHD) by Kılıç-Koçyiğit, following the promulgation on 1st January 2021 of a new prison regulation, as of February 2022, at least 166 prisoners at the end of their sentences had not been released!
Beyond the HDP, all voices that could be an obstacle to the government are targeted. For example, on 12 May 2022, the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld the 4-year and 11-month prison sentence imposed on Canan Kaftancıoğlu, the CHP’s provincial chairperson for Istanbul. The court approved three different sentences against her for “insulting an official”, “explicitly degrading the Turkish Republic” and “insulting the President”. The ruling smacks of revenge: Kaftancıoğlu was head of the Istanbul CHP when it ousted the AKP in the 2019 municipal elections... The HDP has taken a stand against the conviction – which is far from always the case with the CHP when it is the HDP that is targeted...
On the 19th, police arrested 13 members of the HDP and the Youth Assembly in Diyarbakir, Urfa and Mardin. In Istanbul, several participants in an HDP rally against the Turkish invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan were also arrested. The government is also pursuing its “war on the dead”, as shown by the raid launched on the 24th by the Diyarbakir police on the home of the mother of the guerrilla fighter Agit Ipek, whose remains had been sent back to her by post. The previous week, police had already attacked participants in the funeral of Kurdish activist Aysel Doğan, who died in exile in Germany at the age of 69, and whose remains had been sent back to Turkey for burial. Several people, including women, were arrested (WKI).
In the face of these constant attacks, the HDP does not allow itself to be intimidated and continues its activities with courage, denouncing in particular the aberrant economic policy of the government. On the 3rd, it issued a statement condemning the military operation in Iraq against the Yezidis. When Erdoğan launched his threats of a new invasion of Rojava, HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan immediately made the party’s opposition known, quipping “They are preparing to run their election campaign with tanks” (WKI).
It is also worth mentioning the despicable use of the judiciary by the authorities in the case of the murder of the young HDP activist Deniz Poyraz by a Turkish fascist on 17 June 2021. After the father of the murdered young woman, Abdülillah, said in an interview: “The Kurdish people are under pressure and whatever identity is oppressed, one should always oppose oppression”, the government launched a case against him at the end of May for “propaganda for a terrorist organisation”.
Alongside the political and judicial attacks, cultural discrimination against the Kurds continues to grow.
If on the 5th, the Department of Religious Affairs had to add Kurmancî and Zazakî to the explanatory panels of the great mosque of Diyarbakir, which originally included English, Turkish, Arabic and even Russian, but not these two local languages, the authorities continue to regularly prohibit concerts in Kurdish throughout the country. The website Bianet has documented this and concluded that there have been dozens of bans in the last 3 years (https://bianet.org/english/discrimination/262018-dozens-of-kurdish-concerts-plays-banned-in-turkey-in-three-years), and that artists are now having difficulty finding venues to hold events. Throughout May, concerts by musicians Aynur Doğan, Metin-Kemal Kahraman, Apolas Lermi, Niyazi Koyuncu and Burhan Şeşen were cancelled. On the 16th, the AKP municipality of Derince (Kocaeli) cancelled Aynur Doğan’s concert, scheduled for the 20th, as “inappropriate”, without explaining what it meant by this. The singer had taken a stand for the Gezi protests. On the 25th, the rector of the Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara cancelled all the concerts scheduled for the evening of the 34th International Festival, citing the death of Turkish soldiers in Iraq as the reason. In Bursa, the governor’s office banned the concert of Kurdish musician Mem Ararat (scheduled for the 29th) on the 26th for “public security reasons”. The concert that musician Melek Mosso was to give in Isparta as part of the International Rose Festival was also banned. Two associations had campaigned on social networks against concerts “opposed to the morals and beliefs of society”.
In addition, in Istanbul, Kurdish bard (dengbêj) Xalîde, one of the musicians of the Mezopotamya Cultural Centre, was beaten by police at her home and taken into custody. Special forces raided her flat as part of an “investigation”, damaged a saz and beat her with their fists.
Internationally, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on the 31st condemned Turkey for the 2017 pre-trial detention “without plausible reasons” of the President of the Turkish branch of Amnesty International, Taner Kiliç. The ruling was made by a unanimous decision of the 7 judges, including a Turkish judge. After several prolonged pre-trial detentions, Kiliç was sentenced in the summer of 2020 to 6 years and 3 months in prison for “belonging to a terrorist organisation”, allegedly the Gulenist “FETÖ”... After the ECHR ruling, Amnesty International immediately called on Turkey to “overturn the unjust and unfounded conviction of Taner Kiliç, who faces an additional two and a half years in prison if his sentence is confirmed” (Le Monde).
Iraq is still without a president or a government. The various political forces represented in the Baghdad parliament have not managed to reach an agreement, and each of the main communities making up the country’s population is itself divided.
The parliament is divided into three parts: two rival blocs, plus independent MPs. The blocs are the “Salvation of the Homeland” (Inqadh al-Watan) alliance and the pro-Iranian “Coordination Framework”. The first alliance, with 155 MPs, includes the Shiite supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Sunni “Alliance for Sovereignty” of Mohammad al-Halboussi. On the other side, the “Coordination Framework”, with 83 elected members, mainly gathers the Coalition for the Rule of Law of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the Fatah Alliance, a front for several militias of the Popular Mobilisation Units (Hashd al-Shaabi), some Sunni deputies and the historical ally-adversary of the KDP, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) (Al-Monitor).
The two Kurdish parties – and thus the two alliances to which they belong – are opposed to each other over the choice of the Iraqi president, whose designation by the parliament is the prerequisite for the formation of a new government. The PUK supports the incumbent Barham Salih, while the KDP, for the first time, opposes its own candidate, Reber Ahmad.
Since 2005, the President, by tacit consensus a Kurd, was chosen by agreement between Kurdish parties, and the Prime Minister, a Shiite, similarly by agreement between Shiite parties. The KDP and PUK shared the posts, with the PUK taking the post of Iraqi President and the KDP taking the post of President of the Kurdistan Region. The PUK-PDK opposition for the presidency and the intra-Shiite divisions exploded this agreement, and since the last legislative elections, neither side has enough deputies (two-thirds of the 329 deputies are needed) to obtain the designation of its candidate for the presidency of the country.
After three successive failures, Sadr finally gave the “Coordination Framework” 40 days – until 8 May – to form a government. The latter failed to do so. Sadr then launched a new initiative, this time calling on independent members of parliament to try to form a government that the Alliance would support, giving them until 19 May to do so. Again, the attempt failed, with only 202 independents attending the session to nominate the president. The intra-Shiite division, which seems to be set in stone, with 73 “Sadrists” on one side and about 60 “pro-Iranians” on the other, does not allow for a quick resolution of the deadlock. But Sadr persists: even though his alliance does not have the necessary majority in parliament, he wants a majority government, unlike the national unity governments that have led the country since 2005. At the end of May, the situation remained blocked...
However, the last weeks of the month have seen some progress at the Kurdish level. Regional President Nechirvan Barzani (KDP) went to Suleimaniyeh in an effort to restore dialogue with the PUK and unblock the situation regarding the country’s presidency. He met with all parties except New Generation. On the 25th, the KDP and PUK ended months of non-communication by meeting in Erbil. The two parties subsequently issued a joint statement stressing “the importance of dialogue” and announced further meetings. The establishment of a joint committee to try to resolve disagreements was also announced.
On the 26th, the United Nations Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) invited 6 Kurdish parties to a closed meeting in its premises in Erbil. Bafel Talabani (UPK), Fazil Mirani (PDK), Ali Bapir (Kurdistan Justice Group, Islamist), Salahadin Babakir (Yekgirtû Islamic League), Badria Rashid (New Generation), Omar Said Ali (Goran), took part in the meeting, in particular to discuss inter-party dialogue and the next elections in Kurdistan, scheduled for next 1st October (UNAMI)
Among the announcements that followed Nechirvan Barzani’s visit to Suleimaniyeh was that of bilateral discussions to ensure unity against the Iraqi Federal Court ruling of unconstitutionality of the Kurdistan oil law. The oil issue, while the stalemate over the formation of the new government has taken it out of the spotlight somewhat, remains unresolved. Discussions in April between a KRG delegation and the Federal Ministry of Oil failed to reach an agreement and in early May, Iraqi Oil Minister Ihsan Abduljabbar Ismail threatened to implement the Court’s decision. The KRG counter-attacked the following week by accusing the Iraqi North Oil Company’s (NOC) of operating illegally in Iraqi Kurdistan for years.
On the 17th, the Kurdistan Legal Council issued a statement in which it considered that the law in question was in conformity with the Iraqi Constitution: “The Oil and Gas Law No. 22 (of 2007) issued by the Kurdistan Regional Parliament does not violate the provisions of the Constitution, and the implementation of its provisions should be pursued because the oil and gas issue does not fall under the exclusive competence of the federal authorities”. This conclusion is based on Articles 110 and 112 of the Constitution, in particular 112, which places “present deposits” under federal responsibility. This is in line with the KRG’s interpretation that it is plausibly entitled to control all fields discovered after 2005, the time when the Constitution was adopted. This interpretation is obviously not that of the Iraqi National Oil Company...
In addition, Kurdistan has been the target of several attacks on its oil installations this month: on 1st of May, six Katyusha rockets targeted the Kawergosk refinery, near Khabat, two of which caused “minor damage”, including the burning of one of the main storage tanks, which was quickly brought under control. The fire came from the province of Nineveh (Mosul), from the area of Hamdaniya where pro-Iranian militias of the Hashd al-Shaabi are present. Kawergosk had already suffered such shots on 6 April which had not caused any casualties or damage (AFP). It should be noted that the refinery belongs to the Kurdish oil company Kar Group, headed by Baz Karim Barzinji, whose home in Erbil was hit by a salvo of Iranian missiles on 13 March...
On the 23rd, the “Iraqi Resistance Coordination Committee” threatened further attacks on the KRG, which it accused of training “foreign and domestic anti-Iranian elements” under “clear Zionist influence” on its soil. Formed in October 2020, the committee includes most of the Iranian-backed Shiite armed militias that have carried out rocket and drone attacks on coalition bases, government offices and energy facilities in Kurdistan. The Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) responded the next day by declaring: “Any aggressor against the Kurdistan Region, a constitutionally recognised Iraqi entity, will pay a high price”, and reiterating that it is the responsibility of the federal government to “protect the sovereignty of Iraq and put an end to this aggression and unrest” (Kurdistan-24).
Another source of tension between Erbil and Baghdad is the daily violence in the disputed territories. In addition to the terrorist actions of ISIS, which have fortunately decreased somewhat this month, there have been clashes in Sindjar between the Iraqi army and local Yezidi militias of the PKK persuasion, as well as numerous air strikes and ground operations by the Turkish army against this party.
In the first week of the month, the peshmerga repelled 2 attacks by ISIS jihadists near the Qarachokh Mountains in Makhmur. On the 16th, in a joint operation between the Peshmerga and the Iraqi military, with the support of the anti-ISIS coalition, an Iraqi air strike killed 6 suspected jihadists and destroyed several weapons caches in the same area. The peshmerga also killed two jihadists on the ground during the operation (Kurdistan-24). In another joint Kurdish-Iraqi operation, a peshmerga was injured by an IED near Tuz Khurmatu (WKI). However, at the end of the month, many Kurdish villages in Makhmour district remained empty of inhabitants, some of them abandoned for five years. A local resident told Rûdaw: “There are 38 villages in the Qaraj area. They are empty”. In addition, jihadists launched two attacks on the evening of 23 May in the south of Kirkuk province and in Diyala, killing 10 people and wounding 6. In Daquq, fires targeted the fields of several Kurdish farmers. In Tuz Khurmatu, jihadists murdered 6 farmers working in their fields.
In Sindjar, the Iraqi army, which had brought in troops and armoured vehicles at the end of April, clashed violently on 1st and 2nd May with the “Sindjar Resistance Units” (YBŞ) in the Sinuni district. Baghdad is trying to implement the agreement reached with Erbil in October 2020, which provides for the evacuation of any non-governmental armed forces. According to an Iraqi source, one Iraqi soldier and 13 Yezidi fighters were killed, but more importantly, the fighting has forced many Yezidis to flee the district, to the point that UNAMI has expressed “concern” (WKI). By the 3rd, the fighting had already caused more than 4,000 displaced people to return to the Dohuk province of the Kurdistan Region, where many of them had been living in camps since 2014. By the 5th, the number had risen to over 10,000. Many of the newly displaced had only returned to Sindh in 2020. After years spent in camps, they have had to return, overloading them while conditions are already very harsh (AFP). One of the displaced from Chamisko camp, which has a population of more than 22,000, said: “If we are not guaranteed security and stability, this time we will not return to Sinjar. We can’t go back and be displaced every time. […] If the Hashd, the PKK and the army stay in the area, people will be afraid and no one will return” (L’Express).
The local situation is very complex, with the presence of Iraqi troops, the YBŞ and several militias affiliated to them, such as the Ezidxan Asayish, Hashd al-Shaabi militias, which are mainly Shiite, but also include Yezidi units, peshmerga units composed of Yezidis, etc. (Al-Monitor). Many observers see Turkish pressure behind the latest Iraqi operations in this sector. Ankara regularly strikes Sindjar and declares just as regularly that it will not let it become “a second Qandil”. For Turkey, eliminating pro-PKK elements from Sindjar is a strategic objective to isolate Qandil from Rojava...
At the end of the month, Turkish operations against the PKK intensified throughout northern Iraq, and were marked by the death of both Iraqi civilians and Turkish soldiers. On the 21st, according to local officials interviewed by AFP, at least 6 people, including 3 civilians, were killed in two separate areas by drone strikes blamed on Turkey. The first strike in the morning targeted the Chamchamal district, west of Suleimaniyeh. It appears that civilians were targeted as they tried to rescue fighters who had been seriously wounded by the first strike. The second strike, in the afternoon, killed a resident of the Makhmour refugee camp, although it is theoretically under the protection of the United Nations... On the 24th, the Turkish Ministry of Defence announced the death of 3 soldiers in Iraq, without specifying the place of their death (AFP). On the same day, a restaurant owner from Kurdistan in Turkey who had been living in Suleimaniyeh for more than 10 years was shot dead by two unknown gunmen. Zaki Chalabi was known for his defence of the rights of Kurds in Turkey. In Dohuk province, several villages near Amedi were attacked by helicopters and ground troops (WKI). On the 25th again, 5 Turkish soldiers died and 2 were injured in northern Iraq. According to the Anadolu Agency, they were shot at by PKK fighters in a cave. Another Ankara soldier was killed the next day, while two children were killed in rocket fire on orchards near Bamarni, not far from a Turkish military base. The Kurdish anti-terrorist services blamed the PKK for the shooting, which it denied (AFP), but a local leader told the Rûdaw channel that soldiers at the nearby base had responded to a PKK attack by “bombing the crowd and our families”.
On the 29th, Turkish warplanes also carried out at least 12 air strikes near the village of Hiror. With the death of another Turkish soldier that same day in a homemade bomb explosion as his vehicle passed by, and two others on the 30th, the Ankara army has lost eight men in five days.
Iran has been rocked this month by major “bread protests”. In three weeks, the price of a kilo of bread has increased fivefold, from 25,000 rials (€0.10) to around 125,000 rials (€0.48) (Middle East Eye). The reason: the Raisi government’s decision to put an end to import subsidies for wheat and flour, which until then had benefited from a preferential exchange rate against the dollar (42,000 rials, the country’s official rate, instead of the real rate of 300,000 rials). This measure was bound to provoke strong reactions in a country where nearly half of the 85 million inhabitants live below the poverty line. At the same time, on the 10th, the prices of four basic products, chicken, eggs, oil and dairy products also rose sharply.
The protests started on 6 May in Khuzestan and then spread to the whole country. It should also be noted that they did not only affect the big cities, but also all rural areas. An Iranian sociologist, testifying anonymously for fear of reprisals, told Middle East Eye: “People living in Tehran and the big cities can still endure economic hardship, but in the villages and small towns it is impossible to earn more to cope with these new difficulties”.
If the US sanctions and the war in Ukraine explain part of the country’s difficulties, Iranians know that other important reasons for their suffering are the government’s mismanagement and widespread corruption, and its policy of regional military intervention (Syria, Iraq, Lebanon etc.), financed at their expense. The reformist daily Shargh accused the government of manipulating market prices: “Officials claim that the current situation is related to the war between Russia and Ukraine. However, everyone is aware that years of government intervention in the market have caused the current food shortage and price hike” (Middle East Eye). Even the economist Hossain Raghfar, close to the regime, described the measure as “a new episode in the looting of the Iranian economy that the government is carrying out to compensate for the budget deficit”... (NCRI) Finally, the abolition of the preferential exchange rate will have allowed “insiders” close to the regime to make juicy profits by importing at the old price before reselling at the new one...
As in 2019, when the tripling of the price of fuel had sent many Iranians into the streets, the security forces, police and Revolutionary Guards (pasdaran) responded with violence, tear gas, gunfire and mass arrests. And as in 2019, the demonstrations quickly became politicised, with protesters calling for the end of the Islamic Republic and the resignation of Raisi and reviling the Supreme Leader. In Tehran, dozens of bus drivers stopped work for several days (HRANA).
The regime also resumed its old method of cutting off the means of communication, mobile telephony, Internet and social networks. Then, on the 20th, faced with the scale of the mobilisations, it resorted to using its supporters to organise its own demonstrations. The state media, which had until then been at pains to play down the protests, obviously covered and supported this massive propaganda operation. Thousands of participants, including 50,000 pasdaran and Bassij militiamen, gathered outside the capital chanting “Death to America” or “Death to Israel”, and pasdaran commander Hossein Salami declared live: “Our enemies mistakenly thought that the Iranian people would be receptive [...] to the lies they tell” (Reuters).
But on the same day, the Iranian president, who had come to the Kurdish cities of Mahabad and Urumeh, was welcomed by a boycott of the inhabitants, who preferred to stay at home (WKI).
In Kurdistan, Etelaat (Intelligence) agents threatened dozens of Kurdish activists to dissuade them from demonstrating or posting information on social media about the price hikes. Dozens of activists were arrested, such as Shabaan Mohammadi in Marivan, Farhad Mirazee in Kermanshah, Ali Salihi in Sanandaj, and Narmin Abadi (61) in Bokan (WKI). The regime has also deployed additional troops in several cities to deal with possible demonstrations. The popular Kurdish footballer Voria Ghafouri, who dared to criticise the regime’s inability to address poor living conditions, was banned from public television, prompting protests by thousands of football fans (WKI).
On the 25th , the “Human Rights Activists News Agency” (HRANA) published a report on the demonstrations and their repression. Following calls for demonstrations, which have become viral on social networks, the demonstrations, which started in Khuzestan, have affected more than 31 cities and 10 provinces in 3 weeks, leading to hundreds of arrests and dozens of deaths and injuries, starting with at least thirty in Khuzestan. 53 protest rallies were held, but 45 others were aborted in the face of the massive presence of the repressive forces. Finally, HRANA says: “During these demonstrations, on at least 22 occasions in 14 cities, police and security forces used tear gas, warning shots, pellet guns and, in some cases, heavy weapons against demonstrators [...] In eight cities, security forces fired directly at the crowd”. By the 25th, there were at least 449 arrests and 6 deaths. On the same day, the Centre for Cooperation of Kurdish Parties in Iran (CCIKP) called for the creation of a “unified coordination structure” to continue the action.
Having acted as a kind of scout ahead of these massive demonstrations, teachers had started their own protests in April, and naturally joined the movement. As early as 1st of May, on the call of the Coordinating Council of Iranian Teachers’ Professional Associations, they gathered in front of the Ministry of Education in Tehran. The massive presence of security forces eventually forced them to hold several rallies in parks around the capital. On the 5th, a group of teachers from the Sanandaj and Mariwan unions held demonstrations on the day of the Education Minister’s visit to Sanandaj, demanding among other things the release of detained teachers Eskandar Lotfi and Masoud Nikkhah. On the 31st, a group of Sanandaj teachers gathered in front of the Ministry of Education to demand the release of the imprisoned teachers (HRANA).
Kurdish farmers also demonstrated. On the 7th, they protested in Sheykh Taqqeh (Kordestan) against the plan to build a factory on their land, even though the former Zagros Steel factory is already there: “It is already equipped with gas and water and is near the railway. We wonder why they want to build the factory on our farmland”. In Sarpol-e Zahab (Kermanshah), a group of farmers gathered on the 19th in front of the Ministry of Agriculture office to protest against the poor quality of the seeds they received. On the 28th, they demonstrated in Khorramabad (Lorestan) to demand their irrigation water allocation: the disastrous effects of the current drought are compounded by the catastrophic management of water infrastructures due to the incompetence and corruption of officials (HRANA). In general, the corruption, demagoguery and incompetence of the Islamic regime’s leaders were revealed during these protests.
Besides, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) denounced the regime’s attempts to change the demography of the Kurdish areas, mainly by changing the administrative boundaries of several Kurdish villages in the districts of Mahabad and Bokan to the Azeri-majority city of Miandoab... (WKI)
Despite the scale of the economic crisis, which is hitting particularly hard the Kurdish regions, which have been abandoned by the regime, the repressive forces have continued their systematic assassinations of cross-border carriers (kolbars) in the mountains of Kurdistan. The Kurdish Human Rights Network (KHRN) reported on 2nd of May that in Nowsud (Kermanshah), a porter from Paveh, father of two, was shot dead on 30th April by border guards, who reportedly fired on his group at point-blank range without warning, injuring five other members. According to KHRN, in the last three weeks of April, 2 kolbars were killed and at least 31 injured... In the middle of the month, at least 8 porters were targeted and injured near Marivan and Nowsud. On the 25th, two more were injured in Hawraman and Nowsud, and on the 28th, another kolbar was killed in Baneh. Finally, the Pasdaran killed an Iraqi kolbar near Piranshahr.
Concerning the sentences, especially the death penalty, Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA) reports in its latest report that at least 299 executions were carried out between 1st of January and 20 December 2021, including 4 minors. In the same period, 85 death sentences were passed. Over 88% of executions are not publicly announced (HRANA).
In anticipation of 1st of May, the security forces arrested in advance about ten activists in Baneh and Saqqez, threatening others to dissuade them from any activity on this symbolic day (WKI). Furthermore, on 1st of May, the police attacked the rally we mentioned before in front of the Ministry of Education office in Marivan, making several arrests, including 3 Kurdish teachers, Shabaan Mohamadi, Eskandar Lotfi and Massoud Nikekha. They immediately started a hunger strike (HRANA).
On the 4th, a resident of Urmia was arrested for protesting by writing slogans on the wall of the intelligence office (!) and setting his own car on fire. A video showing a security guard pointing a gun at him went viral on social media (HRANA).
On the 9th , dozens of teachers gathered in front of the Education Office in Marivan in support of their imprisoned colleagues. On the 12th, in response to a call by the Coordinating Council of the Iranian Teachers’ Union, retired and active teachers from dozens of cities demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Education in several cities and in front of the Iranian Parliament in Tehran. Dozens of them were arrested. According to information obtained by HRANA, many people other than teachers also joined the protests.
In Sanandaj, the brother of Kurdish activist Ramin Panahi, who was executed in 2018, Afshin Panahi, was sentenced to one year in prison for cooperation with the Kurdish exile party Komala. The same court also sentenced seven members of the Kurdish Revival Charity to prison for “forming illegal groups”. Meanwhile, several residents of Sanandaj, Kermanshah, Paveh and Malekshahi were arrested for protesting against price hikes. In Ouroumieh, an activist named Nakhsheen Ahmed was sentenced to three months in prison for “cooperating with a Kurdish party”, and in Sanandaj, an environmental activist received six months for the same charge (WKI).
Finally, on the 31st, teacher trade unionist Majid Karimi was arrested in Sanandaj and held incommunicado. He was apprehended by the pasdaran when he came in front of their office with several other people to ask for information about the situation of Masoud Farhikhteh, another detained teacher unionist (HRANA).
On the 25th, a political prisoner named Siawesh Bahrami was found dead in his siblings’ house only hours after being released in Paveh. His relatives suspect that he was poisoned by the authorities before being released, although the coroner suggested it was a heart attack (WKI).
To the chapter on arrests, we must add those of several foreign or bi-national nationals, which allow Iran to exercise a real “judicial blackmail” on their country of origin, for example for the Iranian-Swedish academic Ahmad Reza Jalali. Professor Jalali, who has lived in Sweden since 2009, came to Iran in May 2016 at the invitation of Tehran University. He was arrested and accused of “enmity against God” (moharebeh) because of “espionage activities for Israel”, which he has always fiercely denied, and was sentenced to death in 2017. Iran accused him of having provided the Mossad, the Israeli secret service, with information that allowed the assassination of two Iranian nuclear scientists. On the 4th, the ISNA agency reported that his execution had been set for the 21st. This announcement raised concerns that the regime intended to use the case to force Stockholm to release Hamid Nouri: this Iranian official is on trial in Sweden for “crimes against humanity” for his suspected involvement in the mass executions of political prisoners in 1988. On the 22nd, Jalali’s wife, who remained in Sweden, said the scheduled execution had not taken place, and his lawyers said they had requested a retrial a few days earlier.
Other arrests of foreign nationals have taken place this month. On the 6th, a Swedish tourist who had come to Iran on an organised tour was arrested as he was about to leave the country. On the 11th, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence announced the arrest of 2 other European nationals, without giving details, also for espionage, adding that they were in contact with the Coordinating Council of the Iranian Teachers’ Professional Association. On the 13th they were identified as Cécile Kohler, a French teacher trade unionist, and her husband. The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs called for their immediate release (HRANA).
In addition, the Iranian regime continues its practice of state terrorism abroad: on the 11th, it launched new attacks with drones, rockets and artillery against bases of the Kurdish opposition in exile in Iraqi Kurdistan. Also in Iraqi Kurdistan, the head of the Sangaser (Suleimaniyeh) sub-district, Nehro Abdullah, said that Iranian forces had arrested seven Kurdish civilians on the Iraqi side of the border, near the Qandil mountains (WKI).
Finally, on the 30th, international tensions with Tehran were raised a notch when the Pasdaran naval forces boarded two Greek-flagged oil tankers leaving Basra, Iraq. This was in retaliation for the seizure by the Greek authorities a month earlier of a cargo of Iranian oil initially transported by a Russian ship, which was quickly transferred in an unclear manner to the Iranian flag... (Le Monde).
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Finland and Sweden decided to break with a policy of neutrality dating back more than half a century in the case of Finland, and several centuries in the case of Sweden, by applying for NATO membership.
However, an unexpected obstacle to this accession, motivated by concern about Russia, has arisen: the opposition of Turkish President Erdoğan. On 18 May, after the two countries had submitted their formal application for membership, a first meeting of ambassadors to NATO, which was supposed to launch the process immediately, was blocked by the Turkish refusal: Ankara demanded that the Alliance first take into account its security concerns. Finland and especially Sweden must put an end to what Mr Erdoğan calls “support for terrorist organisations” in their countries, mainly the PKK.
Ankara’s second demand: the lifting of export bans on certain arms sales to Turkey – also due to hostility against the Kurds, this time from Syria, since these embargoes were decided in retaliation for the Turkish attack on Rojava in October 2019 (New York Times).
The Kurdish question is thus at the centre of the difficulties – and as always at the centre of relations between Turkey and the West.
Concretely, Mr Erdoğan is asking Sweden and Finland to accept the extradition of some 30 people, which has been refused so far, in particular 6 suspected PKK members from Finland and 11 from Sweden. In front of the Turkish parliament he said: “You will not hand over the terrorists but you want to join NATO. We cannot say yes to a security organisation that is devoid of security”. Moreover, adding to the picture the Turkish President’s “other main enemy”, the preacher Fethullah Gülen, exiled in the United States since 1999, whom Ankara accuses of the 2016 coup attempt, Turkey is requesting the extradition of a total of 12 refugees in Finland and 21 in Sweden.
While NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said he hopes for a swift conclusion, the fact that membership must be ratified unanimously gives Turkey undeniable leverage to slow or even halt the process. The Guardian notes: “No one doubts that Erdoğan’s intervention could put Nato in trouble over this for months”.
Erdoğan blames Sweden in particular, for allowing activities to take place on its soil during which the Kurdish community, which is very large (100,000 people) and well organised in that country, unfurls banners bearing pro-PKK slogans and flags and portraits of Öcalan. Stockholm, whose anti-terrorism laws have nothing to do with those in Turkey, can hardly change them – let alone change its culture regarding freedom of assembly and expression. But Kurds in the country are no less worried. In 2009, Erdoğan said he would not allow Anders Fogh Rasmussen to become NATO Secretary General if Denmark did not shut down the pro-PKK satellite TV broadcasting from its soil. Rasmussen did take up his post, but a year later the TV station closed down... Are we in danger of such a backroom deal on the backs of the Kurds?
The Turkish President then extended his anathema to other countries. After declaring on the 19th that “Sweden [...] is a hotbed of terror, an absolute nest of terrorists”, seeming less severe towards Finland, he went on to denounce “Germany, France and Greece”, which had “welcomed members of the Fetö [Fethullah Gülen] terrorist organisation in their homes”. After the visit of Swedish and Finnish delegations to Ankara on the 25th and a meeting that lasted 5 hours, Presidency spokesman Ibrahim Kalın said that nothing could move forward without “concrete measures and with a defined timetable”. On the 31st, Ankara summoned the French and German ambassadors to protest against activities organised in these two countries by Kurdish groups.
The Turkish president’s inflexibility could be counterproductive, especially vis-à-vis a number of US senators who were already very wary of Ankara after the purchase of the Russian S-400 defence system and the 2019 attack on Rojava. In The National Interest, David L. Phillips points out the hidden reasons for Erdogan’s position: his very bad domestic political situation, his economic ties with Moscow (which caused his refusal to apply sanctions against Russia). Moreover, notes the Washington Post, before the parliamentary elections scheduled in Sweden next September, there is little chance that any of the parties involved will want to display what might look like a submission to Erdoğan’s demands... As for Finland, which is home to a very small Kurdish community (15,000 people), its Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto noted that “anti-democratic practices, such as oppression and blackmail” are not suitable for “an alliance of democratic countries”...
Finally, if we are to mention the support given to terrorist groups by certain countries that are already members of NATO, then it is impossible to ignore the period during which jihadists were able to use the “Turkish highway” to travel from Syria to Europe without any problems in order to carry out attacks.
In the columns of Haaretz, Akil Marceau, former director of the Representative Office of Iraqi Kurdistan in France and a Frenchman from Rojava, compares the regimes established by “Sultan” Erdoğan in Turkey and by “Tsar” Putin in Russia. Then he recalls some of the personalities that Mr. Erdoğan has in turn accused of “terrorism”: Zuhal Demir, the current Minister of Justice of the Flanders region in Belgium, the American pastor Andrew Brunson, to whom one can add many Turkish journalists – and the human rights defender Osman Kavala... He concludes: “Why should the Nordic countries, which are far ahead of the other major European democracies, such as Britain and France, in human rights, gender equality and feminism, debase themselves by trying to convince the authoritarian Islamo-fascist Turkish regime?”.
In Sweden, left-wing MP of Kurdish origin Amineh Kakabaveh told AFP that “accelerating NATO membership” should not lead to “weakening democracy”. Le Monde reports that on the 25th, seventeen personalities, including the presidents of the writers’, playwrights’ and journalists’ unions as well as representatives of Reporters Without Borders and the Pen association, published a tribune, urging not to “fall into Erdogan’s trap: under no circumstances can Sweden hand over intellectuals to a regime that tries to silence its critics well beyond Sweden’s borders”. Kurdo Baksi, a journalist of Kurdish origin and signatory of the petition, says: “He is a demagogue fighting for his survival. If we start to give in to him, then he will make more demands”.
The subject will be at the heart of the NATO summit to be held in Madrid on 29 and 30 June. Baksi and Kakabaveh have made it very clear that the danger is not only for the Kurds, but also for democracy.