B u l l e t i n

c o m p l e t

Bulletin N° 448 | July 2022



The Iranian Statistical Centre reported that as of 21 June, inflation had reached a monthly rate of 12.2%, meaning 146.4% annually! Worryingly, the price surge shows no sign of slowing down, on the contrary: monthly inflation has quadrupled compared to the previous month. One of the causes of this problem is the collapse of the currency. While the official exchange rate of the Iranian rial is 42,000 rials to the dollar, on the open market it is 281,000, almost seven times higher. For Al-Monitor, in the long term, the Iranian economy suffers above all from the shortcomings and inefficiency of its supply chains and distribution networks. The interventions in the market by the various governments have only created specific networks controlled by those close to the government, which compete with other companies and constitute as many vectors of corruption... Moreover, in the absence of oil revenues, the government has had to increase taxes, which companies can no longer afford to pay. The hopes that the population had for a rapid return to the nuclear agreement and a lifting of sanctions have vanished, hence the upsurge in protests.

A failure to reach a new agreement on the nuclear programme would certainly have catastrophic economic consequences. But time is running out. On the 12th, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna told the Foreign Affairs Committee of the French National Assembly that Iran had a “window of opportunity” of only “a few weeks” to reach an agreement: “We have shown great patience, but the current situation is no longer tenable, because for months Iran has been adopting a dilatory posture”, she said (AFP).

On the 7th, President Raisi went to Sanandaj, where he gave a speech in which he pledged further economic support and infrastructure development in the province. Mr. Raisi literally sang the praises of Iranian Kurdistan. Unusually, describing the existence of different ethnic groups in Iran as an opportunity for the country, he even exclaimed at one point: “Long live Kurdistan”, before promising that his government would act by “reforming the economic system and eliminating areas of rent-seeking, corruption, party games and unhealthy relations” (Iranian Presidency)...

This speech could hardly convince the Kurds. Since the advent of the Islamic Republic, the whole of Iranian Kurdistan has been deliberately left aside by Tehran in economic terms. On a daily basis, the Kurdish-majority provinces are confronted with the repression of the Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran) who are deployed there and are the real masters. Moreover, Mr. Raisi himself is known as one of the main actors in the massacres of political prisoners that followed the revolution. No wonder then that the inhabitants of Sanandaj did not turn out en masse to listen to the President. The authorities had to force teachers and local officials to attend the presidential address, but as this was not enough, members of the security forces had to be called in to fill the place...

On the day Mr Raisi was speaking in Sanandaj, health workers were protesting outside Kermanshah Medical University against the massive post-Covid layoffs. Meanwhile, pensioners’ demonstrations have been taking place throughout the country all month to protest against pension cuts or non-payment. HRANA (Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran) reported protests in Tehran, Kermanshah, Shahrekord, Karaj, Tabriz, Urmia, Isfahan, Ahvaz, Bojnurd and Sanandaj by pensioners of the state-owned Iran Telecommunication Company. In Tehran, the police dispersed the rally and arrested several pensioners...

Even as Mr Raisi was making his promises, the regime launched a new crackdown in Kurdistan to intimidate political activists and protesters. According to the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), troops were deployed at the end of June near Baneh and in Saqqez in anticipation of possible demonstrations. Preventive arrests were also made in Tehran, Sanandaj, Malekshahi, Marivan, Mahabad, Bokan and Oshnavieh (WKI).

The kolbars (Kurdish cross-border carriers) continued to suffer from fire from the repressive forces. One was injured on the 2nd near Baneh, 3 others near Nowsud. Then, near the same towns, 4 more were injured the following week, and finally 15 at the end of the month, while another was killed on the 27th near Ahvaz. The Hengaw association for human rights, which calculates the toll of these shootings every month, counted in June 2 kolbars killed and 19 wounded, then in July 3 killed and 34 wounded... Clashes also opposed the Pasdaran to fighters of several Kurdish parties. On 7 July, near Salmas, according to Hengaw, 4 Pasdars were killed and several others injured in a clash with the PKK. The authorities denied any casualties. On the 20th near Baneh, 2 border guards were killed in a clash with an unidentified Kurdish group (WKI).

For its part, the Kurdish Marxist party Komala reported that several of its peshmerga had been captured in Urmia (WKI). On the 13th, the Intelligence (Etelaat) announced the arrest of 10 members of a “terrorist network” affiliated to “Kurdish separatist groups” who were allegedly planning a series of attacks in the region. The KDPI immediately denied that its members had planned any attacks.

It soon became apparent that the Iranian authorities were using the terrorist plot to launch a large propaganda operation when they announced on 23 September the dismantling of a new “terrorist network” linked to the Israeli secret service (Mossad), which was planning attacks on “sensitive sites” in Iran. According to the official agency IRNA, “They intended to carry out unprecedented acts of sabotage and terrorist operations against sensitive areas and predetermined targets, using powerful operational equipment and the most powerful explosives”. On the 27th, the Etelaat claimed that the “agents” arrested the previous week “[were] part of the mercenary and terrorist group Komala” and were to “blow up a sensitive defence industrial site in the country” (AFP). Iran has repeatedly accused Israel of sabotaging some of its nuclear sites and murdering several scientists, and often links Kurdish parties to the “Zionist enemy” in its rhetoric, but this is the first time it has made such specific accusations and linked them to arrests.

On the 28th, the arrest of 5 other members of a network affiliated to Mossad was announced (AFP). At the end of the month, Komala rejected the regime’s “allegations and accusations”, accusing it of using them as “an excuse to continue the repression in Kurdistan” (WKI).

Another target of the regime is women: on the 5th, the Iranian President ordered the implementation of a new “law on the hijab and chastity of the country”, which essentially means a greater degree of repression in terms of clothing restrictions: the headscarf, which was already compulsory, must now cover not only the hair, but also the neck and shoulders. Some companies were quick to add their own restrictions to the new rules. For example, Bank Mellat, which has more than 1,400 branches in Iran, has banned its female employees from wearing high heels and stockings, and has forbidden its male managers from having female administrative assistants. In Mashhad, the prosecutor’s office has asked the municipality to ban women wearing an “inappropriate hijab” from using the subway... Meanwhile, the Ministry of Islamic Guidance has informed advertising agencies by letter that it is now forbidden to feature women in advertising clips. This follows an advertisement deemed “immoral” showing a woman eating ice cream while adding layer upon layer of clothing... (Farda)

In response to this growing repression, activists launched a campaign on social media under the hashtag #no2hijab to boycott companies attempting to introduce further restrictions and to ask women to go out without a hijab on the 12th, “National Hijab and Chastity Day”. On that day, women’s rights activists posted videos of themselves publicly removing their veils (RFI).

This latest attack on women’s rights has provoked condemnation even from religious figures. Abdolhadi Mar’ashi, an influential cleric in the holy city of Mashhad, resigned from his provincial post to protest against the behaviour of the morality police, or “Guidance Patrols”, who control women’s clothing in the streets. He published an interesting letter to explain his resignation: “Our understanding of what is right and wrong in Islam is limited to the hijab", he wrote, before suggesting that the authorities should rather focus on “government corruption, social justice, economic security, class disparities, drug abuse, national poverty and freedom of expression”...

The recent tightening against women, which Raisi is trying to amplify, seems to have been rather counterproductive. In fact, as the morality police became more and more violent, women showed more resistance, so much so that MP Jalal Rashidi Koochi declared that the morality police “did not make anyone observe the hijab” (Farda). In Kurdistan, the police chief of Kermanshah province announced on the 13th that since the beginning of the spring, 1,700 women who had failed to wear the veil had been summoned or taken into custody (HRANA).

It is impossible to give an account here of all the arrests made during July throughout the country, and even only in Kurdistan, as their number is so high. The regime appears to be increasingly nervous and worried about the growing discontent and mobilisation of citizens, who are expressing their anger for a whole range of reasons: high living costs, insufficient or unpaid pensions and salaries, widespread corruption and mismanagement, drought, the drying up of Lake Urmia, the repression of the 2019 protests... The most notable arrests concern President Mohammad Khatami’s former deputy interior minister, Mostafa Tajzadeh, who was arrested by the pasdaran on the 8th in the capital for “assembly and collusion to act against national security” and “publishing lies to disturb public opinion”, which says a lot about the fractures within the ruling circles, and the filmmakers Mohammad Rasoulof, Mostafa Al-Ahmad and Jafar Panahi, also arrested in Tehran between 8th and 11th July (HRANA).

After the “Green Movement” against Ahmadinejad’s re-election in 2009, Tajzadeh had been sentenced to 6 years in prison, but did not hesitate to publish an open letter from his cell criticising the Supreme Leader. As for the filmmakers, the first two were arrested at their homes on the 8th for their “anti-revolutionary activism, and Panahi on the 11th in front of their prison, where he had come to inquire about their fate. Along with many other artists, all three had signed a petition on social networks against the repression of protests against the collapse of the Metropolis Tower in Abadan, which had killed 43 people on 23 May. Many other signatories were also summoned for questioning.

The crackdown also targeted the families of the victims of the November 2019 protests against fuel price increases. On the 11th, at least 10 people were arrested. The Fars News agency, affiliated with the pasdaran, the main actors of the crackdown, justified the arrests shortly afterwards by calling these families who had dared to demand justice for their murdered relatives “agitators” and “troublemakers” and accused them of having “received money to cause unrest and insecurity” (HRANA).

Iran also continues to arrest foreigners on its soil in order to exert pressure internationally. On the 7th, the two French teachers arrested on 8 May, Cécile Kohler and Jacques Paris, were indicted with “assembly and collusion against national security”. A few days after their arrest, state television had claimed that they were linked to the Teachers’ Coordination Council and the recent nationwide teachers’ protests.  The day before, HRANA had warned by e-mail that the sentence of another Frenchman, Benjamin Brière, to 8 years and 8 months in prison for “espionage” and “propaganda against the regime”, had been confirmed on appeal on 29 June. According to his lawyer, in this verdict, France was considered hostile to Iran and statements such as condolences to the families of the victims of the Ukrainian flight shot down by the Pasdaran were included in the indictment file (HRANA)...

Finally, on the 8th, the Polish Foreign Ministry confirmed the arrest in Iran of scientist Maciej Walczak. On the 6th, Iranian state television had claimed that Walczak and three of his colleagues had been caught taking soil samples at a restricted site used for missile testing... (HRANA)

Sweden has warned its citizens to avoid travelling to Iran. Indeed, on the 14th, the former pasdar and deputy prosecutor of Karadj Hamid Nouri, convicted of involvement in the 1988 wave of executions of political prisoners, was sentenced to life imprisonment in Stockholm for “crimes against humanity (war crimes) and murder”. Nouri, who represented the prosecutor at Gohardacht prison, was involved in organising the extrajudicial executions of political prisoners. While Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have confirmed the murder of 5,000 prisoners in two months, the most common estimates put the number of victims at 12,000. The prisoners were usually hanged and then secretly buried in mass graves. The current Iranian President was a member of one of the “Death commissions” that handed down the sentences. Recognised by an exiled former prisoner who had spent years documenting the massacre, Nouri was lured to Sweden by the promise of a luxury trip throughout Europe and arrested as he stepped off the plane. It is the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows Sweden to prosecute alleged perpetrators of crimes against humanity, that made it possible to open his trial. This is a historic first: never before has an Iranian official been tried and convicted outside Iran (Le Monde).

Iran obviously rejected this judgment, described as “unacceptable”, announcing that it holds the Swedish government “responsible for the damage caused to bilateral relations”. Currently imprisoned in Iran, the Iranian-Swedish academic Ahmad Reza Jalali is facing a death sentence for “espionage” for the Mossad...

As previously mentioned, the regime also made numerous arrests in Kurdistan. One person in Sanandaj on 29 June, 2 still illegally detained in Baneh after 8 months, 4 people in Kermanshah and 3 in Piranshahr on the 5th... On the 8th, a female dance coach and member of a cultural association was arrested in Tabriz for publishing dance images on social media. On the 13th, 4 people, including a Sunni cleric, were arrested in Oshnavieh. The KurdPA agency suspects that this may be linked to the broadcasting of a speech over the loudspeaker of a mosque in a village in Oshnavieh... On the 19th, the Hengaw Association reported that 9 people had been arrested in Oshnavieh for broadcasting from two mosques the statements and poems of Abdulrahman Ghassemlou, General Secretary of the PDKI from 1973 until his death in 1989, on the occasion of the 33rd anniversary of his assassination, although it is not clear whether these were the same people.

On 16 July, 12 people were arrested in Tabriz, Naghadeh and Urmia. At least some of them must have been arrested in protests over the draining of Lake Urmia, as the Fars News Agency reported that “dozens of people in the cities of Naghadeh and Urmia [had] protested against the authorities’ indifference” to it. On the 17th, the West Azerbaijan police chief, who reported the arrests, described the protesters as “malicious and hostile elements, with no other aim than to destroy public property and disrupt the security of the population” (Rûdaw). On the 26th, security forces arrested 3 teachers who were protesting in front of the Ministry of Education offices in Divandareh against earlier arrests. On the 28th, a woman was arrested after being summoned by the Etelaat in Mariwan.

The situation in the prisons remains worrying. On the 12th, a 21-year-old political prisoner sentenced to five years in prison committed suicide in Mako while on bail. On the 13th, Reporters Without Borders sent out an e-mail warning that the lives of 24 journalists imprisoned in Iran were in danger: they are ill, physically and psychologically weak and deprived of the care they would need to survive. On the 24th, a Sunni cleric died in suspicious circumstances in Bandar Abbas prison. Sunni scholar Hassan Amini called on the authorities to clarify the circumstances of his death (HRANA).

On 1st July, the NGO Iran Human Rights (IRH) reported that the number of people executed in Iran had more than doubled in the first half of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021. IHR attributes this increase to the regime’s desire to terrorise the population in the face of growing protests. Amiry-Moghaddam, founder of the IRH, notes that 137 of these executions have taken place since the new wave of protests began on 7 May (AFP). The fact that, two years after their interruption due to the pandemic, Iran has resumed public executions supports this analysis. The first took place on 23 July (Ouest France). On 27 and 28 July, 5 prisoners were hanged, 3 in Sanandaj, and 1 in Bam and Rasht (HRANA).

Finally, Ali Qazi, son of the President of the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad Qazi Mohammed, died on the 10 July at the age of 89 in Germany. After initially allowing his burial in his home town, the Iranian regime prevented any gathering. Qazi’s family then sent his body to Iraqi Kurdistan, where President Nechirvan Barzani received his remains at Erbil airport. Qazi was finally buried in the Kalar district of Suleimaniyeh governorate.



In an op-ed in the American newspaper The National Interest, the representative of the Syrian Democratic Council in the United States, Sinam Mohamad, denounces the actions of the Turkish president. Not content with “stunning the world” by “blocking the memberships of Sweden and Finland” to NATO, she notes, Mr. Erdoğan has also “has also declined to implement any sanctions on Russia”... And now he has “issued new threats toward another ally of the United States and NATO, [...] Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (known as the AANES) [...], where the Syrian Democratic Forces are fighting in the counter-ISIS coalition alongside U.S. and European forces." Mohamad warns: “ISIS lurks just under the surface. All it needs to reemerge in northern Syria is for Turkey to attack”...

The American administration, which still maintains a small thousand men in Rojava, has been expressing its opposition to any new Turkish attack for several weeks. And for once, the United States and Iran are in agreement: on 2nd July, the head of Iranian diplomacy, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, warned from Damascus that any Turkish military action in Syria “would be a destabilising element in the region”. However, this same Amir-Abdollahian, visiting Ankara on June 27, had said “understand” the need for a new Turkish military operation against Kurdish fighters in Syria (AFP). For Bashar Al-Assad and his allies, the Turkish presence on Syrian soil offers an excellent means of pressure to force the AANES to accept concessions. But if the Autonomous Administration and its American supporters, who still hold nearly a third of the territory, remain a thorn in the side of the regime, the Turkish military and their Syrian opposition supporters are its main enemies. For the AANES, it is therefore a question of obtaining a measure of military support from Damascus, without abandoning its autonomy and returning to the bosom of a Ba’athist power that has still not learned anything.

Officially, the “cleansing operation endorsed on 26 May by the Turkish Security Council targets the regions of Tal Rifaat and Manbij, where Erdogan would like to build 200,000 houses to repatriate part of the 3.7 million Syrian refugees now in Turkey.

On the 15th, just before the planned summit in Tehran between Iranian, Turkish and Russian leaders, SDF Commander-in-Chief Mazloum Abdi urged Russia and Iran from Hassaké to prevent the Turkish attack. He said: “After recent discussions with Russia in order to protect these areas, we have agreed to let more Syrian soldiers into Kobani and Manbij in addition to the troops already on the border”. He also stressed the objective complicity between Ankara and the jihadists, at least three of whose leaders operate in Turkish-controlled territories (WKI). On condition of anonymity, a Kurdish leader confirmed to Al-Monitor: “We have agreed with the Syrian regime on the deployment of its forces in several areas under our control. [...] There is an agreement with the Syrian regime on several points, through Russia... Our military coordination with the regime will develop”.

Obviously, by deploying more troops in the AANES territory, the regime hopes to gain more influence there. But being in great need of the oil currently controlled by the Kurds, it is bound to continue discussions with them. Military attack is not an immediate option.

According to information obtained by Al-Monitor, the regime has already deployed extensively in Tell Abyad, north of Raqqa, in Ain al-Arab and Manbij, in the eastern countryside of Aleppo, as well as in Kobane. These deployments include dozens of military and armoured vehicles, including tanks, and heavy artillery, as well as over 400 soldiers. The SDF has raised regime flags on military buildings in the city of Manbij, and Syrian military checkpoints have been set up opposite the [Turkish-backed] “Syrian National Army”. Syrian officers and SDF commanders hold regular coordination meetings to consider the joint response to a Turkish military operation on the areas of Kobani, Manbij and Ain Issa. A joint operations command room is expected to be established soon in Manbij.

Is the AANES assured of Damascus’ “protection” in case of a Turkish attack? Not at all. In the past, the regime has withdrawn its troops in the face of Ankara’s, backing away from direct confrontation. Already, while Russia largely controls Syrian airspace, Turkish drones continue to carry out attacks against the Kurds. However, Turkey, too, certainly does not want an escalation with Damascus that would strain its relations with Russia... It is therefore difficult to assess the near future, especially since the Turkish President has made a specialty of coups d’éclat and that the war in Ukraine, which occupies Americans and Russians, offers him new possibilities...

Ankara, which needs Russian approval to use airspace in the target area, was hoping to secure a Russian-Iranian agreement for its attack at the Tehran summit. It did not get it. On the 19th, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reiterated his opposition when he received Mr Erdoğan, insisting: “A military attack on northern Syria would be detrimental to Syria, Turkey and the region, and would benefit the terrorists” (Kurdistan-24). On the other hand, the 3 summit partners agreed to “reject” in their final communiqué “all illegitimate self-determination initiatives” and “separatist ambitions that could undermine Syria’s sovereignty and integrity” and threaten the security of neighbouring countries with “cross-border attacks and infiltrations” (AFP)...

The lack of agreement from the regime and its allies as well as the American presence on the ground could force Ankara to revise its objectives downwards. During his return trip from Tehran, the Turkish President declared for the first time that he agreed with Russia and Iran to demand the departure of the Americans from Syria (Al-Monitor). Persisting in spite of everything in his project, he announced the same day his intention to launch an operation... “soon”. The next day, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu hammered home the point: “We will never ask for authorization for our military operations against terrorism [...]. It can happen one night, suddenly”. He recalled that the October 2019 agreements with Russia and the United States provided for a withdrawal 30 km from the Turkish border of Kurdish militias, but that “these promises have not been kept”... (AFP)

On the 25th, Salih Muslim, co-chairman of the power-sharing Democratic Unity Party (PYD) and other senior officials of the Autonomous Administration renewed their calls for the US-led coalition to establish a no-fly zone over northeast Syria. Asked about recent Turkish troop movements indicating an imminent move, Muslim confirmed: “They have already completed most of their preparations [...]. There is not much left for them to do except attack. He then regretted: “Russia is telling us: ‘Go and surrender to the regime’, nothing more”. But the PYD leader also blamed Washington for its inaction, as it has not “lifted a finger for us. [...] People see this and they feel angry and betrayed after all the sacrifices they made in the battle against the Islamic State”.

Whatever the future holds, everyone is preparing for it by sending massive reinforcements. The AANES has been put on alert. Earlier this month, a large convoy of Turkish forces reached the outskirts of Afrin. The regime and its allies also consolidated their positions. On the 2nd, a Russian military convoy arrived at the Ain-Issa base, and on the 16th, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) also reported a reinforcement of Syrian army positions near Tell Tamr, northwest of Hassaké. According to the SOHR, Turkish military activities throughout the whole Northern strip escalated significantly from 27 June to 3 July, with more than 600 rockets or shells fired at 33 Kurdish positions and 4 drone strikes resulting in at least 7 deaths, including 5 civilians. The Turkish military presence continued to be reinforced with the arrival of 2 convoys including heavy vehicles, armoured vehicles, troop carriers, minesweepers, tanks and heavy rocket launchers at the Bab Al-Salama border post near Azaz. A 3rd convoy crossed the border near Jindires. In parallel, the Syrian factions supported by Turkey were put on alert. Then on the 5th, four more convoys arrived in a row, with, for the first time in Syria, thermal guided anti-tank missile launchers, to position themselves south of Afrin. A further 5th reached Idlib... Over the following days, new Turkish military convoys were reported, all including tanks and heavy weapons... By the 23rd, Turkey had sent no less than 12 convoys into Syria, arriving mainly north of Aleppo and threatening in particular the Manbij area.

However, while tensions increased, joint Russian-Turkish patrols in the Kobane region and north of Hassake still continued at the rate of one per week. By the 25th, the patrol count had reached 107,  with 4 vehicles from each country accompanied by 2 Russian helicopters. Another patrol took place under more or less the same conditions on the 28th North of Hassaké.

The Turkish military and their Syrian auxiliaries have been carrying out harassment actions against the Kurds throughout the month in the north of Aleppo province and in particular on the villages near Manbij. The attacks frequently coincided with artillery exchanges between the Turkish and Syrian military. On the 2nd, a female SDF commander, Mazgin Kobane, was killed by a drone strike near Raqqa, and a civilian was killed by a missile strike north of Manbij. On the 3rd, a drone struck a regime checkpoint in Tel Rifaat, a town north of Aleppo hosting a Russian base, causing material damage. It was later shot down. From the 3rd to the 5th, the Turks bombed several villages near Manbij, while a Russian military aircraft flew over the area. Seven regime soldiers were injured. On the 5th, Turkish forces stationed at the Jilbul base in the Afrin countryside fired more than 100 artillery shells and rockets at villages in the Shirawa district. On the 6th, villages on the outskirts of Aleppo were targeted. Conversely, regime forces targeted the vicinity of a Turkish base near Aleppo with at least 4 rockets. On the same day, a military delegation from the Anti-ISIS Coalition comprising 40 American, French and British representatives visited Manbij to discuss the threat of a Turkish attack with its Military Council. The next day, a member of the Manbij Military Council was killed by a Turkish drone at a checkpoint near the city.

In the following days, Turkish artillery continued to shell villages in the north of the province, firing dozens of rockets and forcing dozens of families to leave. However, no casualties were reported. On the 13th, the SOHR reported artillery exchanges between Syrian and Turkish soldiers in this area, as well as the arrival of pro-Iranian militias... After new Turkish rocket fire on the 14th towards the positions of the Manbij Military Council, on the 17th, several rockets fired by regime and Kurdish forces hit a Turkish post near Azaz, without causing any casualties. On the 18th and 19th, Tel Rifaat was hit by two drone strikes in 24 hours. The second one injured a Syrian officer and a soldier. On the 20th, a Turkish 3rd drone injured several people near Kobanê. On the 22nd, another drone struck a regime military post again.

According to the SOHR, since January, Turkish drones had launched 37 attacks on the territories controlled by the AANES, killing 24 people, including 6 women and 2 children, and injuring more than 74...

The escalation continued until the end of the month, with more than 50 rockets fired on the 24th on Shirawa and violent artillery exchanges with regime troops near Al-Bab on the 24th and 25th. On the 27th, in Tel Rifaat, artillery and drone strikes targeted Syrian positions. The exchange of fire between the Turks and their auxiliaries on the one hand, and the Kurds and the regime forces on the other, continued until the 31st.

Northern Hasak         a province, with Ain-Issa and the M4 highway, was also frequently hit. A commander and 3 SDF fighters were killed on the 2nd by a bomb targeting their vehicle. Several civilians were killed and 2 children injured on the 3rd and 4th. In the following days, several villages near Tal Tamr were shelled, and on the 14th, artillery exchanges took place between SDF and Turks. Taking advantage of a precarious calm interrupted by sporadic firing, the regime strengthened its position in this area on the 16th. On the 21st and 22nd, two drone strikes injured occupants of SDF vehicles near Qamishli, and 2 civilians were injured by rockets near Ain-Issa. On the 23rd, Turkish artillery again disabled the Tal Tamr power plant, whose electricity production had already been interrupted in late June. This intensive bombardment, which continued until the end of the month, resulted in one civilian casualty and at least eight wounded and caused a mass exodus from several villages.

On the 26th, local civil society representatives and tribal leaders issued a statement warning the Turks that in the event of an invasion, they would fight alongside the SDF: “We [...] consider that the Turkish threats and attacks are directed against all Syrians, not against any particular component or group”.

Of the many Turkish strikes in July, the one most reported in the media was the drone strike that killed 4 Asayish (Security) members in their vehicle on the 22nd near Ain-Issa, including three women. Among them was the well-known commander Salwa Yusuk (or Yusuf), also known as Ciyan Afrin and Gian Tolhildan. The American channel NBC News announced her death quoting an American officer: during the fight against ISIS, she had undeniably saved American lives on the battlefield”. Thousands of Hasaka residents attended the funeral of the victims. The SDF then announced that it had launched a security operation targeting Turkish operatives in its ranks, called “Operation Oath”, which reportedly resulted in the arrest of 36 collaborators of the Turks (WKI). Moreover, the Asayish accused the Russians of having passed on to the Turks the coordinates of the victims: Chechen and Tatar fighters close to the Turks are indeed in the Russian ranks (SOHR).

This strike coincided with a large number of rocket attacks on Ain-Issa and the M4 motorway, which caused a new civilian exodus. On the 30th, fighters from the Tal Tamr Military Council carried out an infiltration operation towards the Turkish lines, which provoked new artillery exchanges. On the 31st, 4 Turkish soldiers and 5 militiamen stationed at a Turkish base near Suluk were injured by artillery shells fired from areas controlled by SDF and regime forces.

In the Turkish-occupied area of Afrin, the abuses of the Syrian pro-Turkish militias continued. In the last week of June alone, the Al-Sham legion, close to the Turkish secret service, in a crackdown on the residents of Shirawa, arrested 15 civilians, including several women, under the pretext of “relations with the former administration” or “communication with relatives living in areas controlled by Kurdish forces”. Syrian fighters or displaced persons also continue to sell on their behalf goods looted from expelled or displaced residents. For example, in the town of Afrin, members of Al-Jabha Al-Shamiyah rented the forcibly confiscated house of a civilian from Shirawa for US$100 per month. The SOHR also reported several new felling of fruit and olive trees. In Shiran, a group of displaced people cut down 75 olive trees in the village of Qartaklak, claiming that they belonged to a civilian living in an AANES-held area. In addition, fratricidal clashes again took place between different pro-Turkish factions, such as the Sultan Murad Division and Liwaa Al-Shamal in Afrin on the 8th. The looting of archaeological sites also continues, such as that of Tel Hamo (Jendires), bulldozed on the 9th by members of the “National Army” in search of treasures (SOHR).

Regarding ISIS, the most important news this month was Washington’s announcement on the 12th that its leader in Syria, Maher al-Agal, had been killed by a drone strike on a motorbike near Jendires. The SDF confirmed a motorbike strike in that area, but said the targets were linked to Ahrar al-Sharqiya, the pro-Turkish Syrian group responsible in 2019 for the assassination of Kurdish politician Hevrin Khalaf. But this Ankara’s proxy group has reportedly integrated former ISIS leaders into its ranks (AFP). Moreover, the jihadist organisation, although undoubtedly weakened, continues its attacks.  On the 17th, a woman was murdered in the Al-Hol camp, before another was executed the following week for having cooperated with the Kurdish security. Her husband had been beheaded 15 days earlier. Finally, on the 28th, a mass grave with at least 29 bodies including those of a woman and two children was discovered in Manbij. According to a statement by the city’s military council, some of the bodies “were handcuffed and blindfolded”. Manbij had remained under ISIS control from 2014 to 2016.



The political stalemate in Iraq has now lasted 9 months. The mass resignation of the 73 Sadrist MPs on 12 June gave the pro-Iranian Shiite “Coordination Framework” parties 40 more seats in parliament. With 130 seats, they have become the largest group, which theoretically gives them the advantage in forming the future government. However, the intra-community divisions fracturing the Iraqi political landscape make this advantage more theoretical than real. For example, Sadr’s alliance, previously the largest force in the assembly, have not been able to form a government.

Indeed, the prerequisite remains the nomination of a President to succeed Barham Salih. According to a cross-community consensus established since 2005, he should, like Salih, be Kurdish. As for the new Prime Minister, for the same reason, he should be Shiite... Until now, the President of the Parliament, the Sunni Mohammed al-Halbousi, is the only one of the three most important figures of the State to have been appointed. Internal disagreements within each community have so far prevented the appointment of the other two. At the beginning of July, the “Framework” parties were still looking for their candidate for Prime Minister, and as for the President, the two main Kurdish parties, Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and its rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), were still refusing to give up their respective candidates. The only positive point: after the resignation of the Sadrist bloc, which practically dissolved its parliamentary alliance with the KDP, the two Kurdish parties finally resumed their discussions.

In the 2nd week of July, an official of the “Framework” told the Iranian agency Mehr News that the bloc was considering Nouri al-Maliki, Qasim al-Araji or Muhammed al-Sudani as Prime Minister. On 12 July, Massoud Barzani issued a statement saying that the KDP did not attach any importance to the name of the future Prime Minister, but that it would examine very carefully the programme of the future government and its respect for the constitution.

It was not until the 25th that the Shiite coalition announced the nomination of its candidate for Prime Minister: it is Mohamed Shia’ al-Sudani, 52 years old, former member of the Dawa’ party, former minister and former governor of the province of Maysan, in the south of the country. In the late afternoon of the 27th, hundreds of supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr, denouncing the appointment of a “corrupt, occupied the parliament for two hours, despite the firing of tear gas from security forces supposed to prevent access to the hypersecure “Green Zone”. However, they left calmly after their leader called on them to “go home safely”, assuring them: “You have terrorised the corrupt”.

Faced with the apparent ease of their intrusion, the “Coordination Framework” accused the government of complacency towards the protesters and called for “firm measures to maintain security and order”. This did not prevent Moqtada Al-Sadr’s supporters from attacking the offices of Maliki’s Shiite Dawa’ and Al-Hikma parties on the evening of the 29th. Then, on the 30th, after new demonstrations marked by tear gas and stone-throwing, which left at least 100 demonstrators and 25 security forces injured, thousands of them again entered the parliament, this time determined to stay there until their rejection of Mr Sudani was heard. The Speaker of Parliament announced the suspension of parliamentary proceedings, calling on the protesters to “preserve state property”. Moqtada al-Sadr hailed on Twitter a spontaneous and peaceful revolution that liberated the Green Zone – a first step” and called for demonstrations of support across the country.

On 31 July, the Parliament was still occupied, while the President of Kurdistan, Nechirvan Barzani, invited in a communiqué “the parties concerned to come to Erbil to initiate an open and inclusive dialogue and reach an agreement” (AFP).

The relations between Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq are still as paradoxical as ever. The President of Kurdistan, from the KDP, until the end of June one of the most important components of the Sadrist alliance, offers his good offices to help with intra-Shiite discussions, while the PUK still participates in the rival alliance with the “Coordination Frameworké: a constant since 2003, Kurdish parties play an important role on the Iraqi political chessboard. At the same time, the federal government in Baghdad and the regional government in Erbil (KRG) are increasingly at odds over two issues: the management of oil resources and the administration of the territories with a mixed population located South of Kurdistan, the so-called “disputed territories”.

These two facets of Baghdad-Erbil relations are however linked: the KDP, which dominates the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) where it is allied with the PUK, accuses the pro-Iranian anti-Sadrists of military and legal harassment to make it abandon its alliance with the Shiite leader. In particular, the KRG accuses the Baghdad “Supreme Court” of having invalidated its oil law on 15 February for political rather than constitutional reasons. Since then, the attacks on Kurdistan’s oil installations have not stopped. Between 22 and 24 June alone, the Khor Mor gas complex, an installation of the Emirati company Dana Gaz, was targeted by three rocket attacks. Although the attack was not immediately claimed, the pro-Iranian militias remain the main suspects, especially since the Iranian missile strikes of 13 March on Erbil already seemed to target the residence of the head of Dana...

The attack on Khor Mor did not cause any casualties or material damage, although a fire broke out. But the peshmerga, fearing that the Iraqi army would take advantage of the attack to take control of the facility, have been put on alert: the site is very close to the front line between the two forces. According to an anonymous source, a high-level Iraqi military delegation arrived at Halwa airport (Tuz Khurmatu) two days after the last strike, to ask the Peshmerga commanders to withdraw from the checkpoint and hand it over to the army, but they refused and opposed any Iraqi advance on the ground... On 25 July, the site was bombed again, for the fourth time in less than a month (WKI).

Legal and military attacks continued to alternate: on 4 July, a commercial court seized by the Oil Ministry in Baghdad invalidated as “not in conformity with the decision of the Federal Supreme Court” four oil contracts concluded by the Kurdistan Region with Canadian, American, British and Norwegian companies. The KRG reacted by filing two lawsuits, one of which targeted the Iraqi Oil Minister, Ihsan Ismail, accused of wanting to “intimidate” foreign companies operating in Kurdistan (AFP).

On the 23rd, Mustafa al-Kadhimi received Masrour Barzani in Baghdad, his first visit since 2019. Probably aware of the negative effect on foreign investors of the uncertainty resulting from their conflict, and in particular the cancellation of contracts already signed, the two leaders said they favoured “dialogue” to resolve their differences, admitting the need to strengthen “coordination” to “attract investment”. The statement from the Iraqi Prime Minister’s office also referred to an agreement to “work towards joint solutions and achieve complementarity in the management of hydrocarbons”, a first. This did not prevent another strike on Khor Mor two days later...

Another event that may have contributed to bringing the two sides closer together was the strike in Zakho on 20 June, which was blamed on Turkey and left nine people dead. The two leaders stressed the importance of a “unified view” on this attack...

The Turkish military presence and operations in northern Iraq are indeed becoming more and more burdensome and intrusive.

On the 17th, a Turkish drone destroyed a vehicle and killed its five occupants west of Mosul. The governor of the province, Najim Al-Jabouri, denounced the attack and asked the Iraqi government to “protest against such acts”. Several pro-Turkish sources claimed that the five victims belonged to the PKK.

But the most serious event of the month was undoubtedly the Turkish artillery strike which killed 9 people and wounded at least 28, all civilians, in the Perex (Barakh) leisure park near Zakho (Dohuk province), a shaded area with several water features. An initial report stated that 3 women and 2 children were among the dead. Most of the victims were Iraqi tourists who had come to spend a few days in Kurdistan to escape the scorching heat of the centre and south of the country. A survivor told the Iraqi agency INA: “More than twenty buses entered the park and 15 minutes later there was violent bombing, no less than five rockets”.

The attack caused outrage and anti-Turkish demonstrations throughout the country, from Najaf to Kirkuk, where the Turkish visa centre had to close, through Mosul and Baghdad, where the Turkish embassy was attacked. In Kerbala, a Turkish flag was burnt in front of the visa centre, another in Nassiriya. The Iraqi President condemned the strike, as did the Prime Minister, who also threatened a retaliation. Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein accused Turkey of “occupying Iraq” under the pretext of fighting the PKK, before lodging a complaint with the UN Security Council to stop Turkey’s continued invasion and attacks on Iraqi territory. In addition, Iraq recalled its chargé d’affaires in Ankara for consultations, and the Iraqi Ministerial National Security Council demanded an official apology from Turkey and “the withdrawal of its armed forces from all Iraqi territory” (AFP). Until now, Ankara has always been completely ignoring such demands...

The same evening, Turkey denied any involvement in the attack, attempting to implicate the PKK. But in Turkey itself, the Central Executive Board of the “pro-Kurdish” HDP party blamed the Turkish government for the strike, saying it was “politically and legally responsible for this massacre, which will go down in history as the second Roboski massacre”. On 28 December 2011, Turkish aircraft had killed 34 villagers who were bringing smuggled goods from Iraqi Kurdistan to their villages of Roboski and Becuh on the Turkish side...

On the 21st, Paris denounced an “indiscriminate strike” against “a recreational area”, recalling “its attachment to the sovereignty of Iraq and the stability of the autonomous region of Kurdistan” (L’Express), and Berlin described a strike against civilians as “unacceptable” and called for “light to be shed on those responsible” (AFP). The US State Department also condemned the attack, but its statement was considered “disappointing” by the President of the Kurdish Institute in Washington, Sirwan Nejmedine Karim, as it “does not mention Turkey as the perpetrator of the attack”.

While the remains of the victims were received in Erbil by the President of Kurdistan, accompanied by a large number of regional leaders, the Iraqi Prime Minister declared a day of national mourning for the following day (WKI). The coffins, flown to Baghdad, were welcomed at the capital’s airport by the Prime Minister.

For all that, AFP notes, the KRG will find it difficult to lash out directly at Turkey, the only way for it to export its hydrocarbons to international markets...

Anti-Turkish actions continued until the end of the month. On the 22nd, two drone bombs were shot down in the morning near the Turkish military base of Bamarnê (Dohuk), in Iraqi Kurdistan. There was no claim, but a pro-Iran Telegram channel welcomed the action of “the Iraqi resistance”. Finally, on the night of the 27th, four mortar shells targeted the area around the Turkish consulate in Mosul, damaging vehicles parked in the area. Again, there was no claim of responsibility (AFP). Almost at the same time, taking into account the time difference, the United Nations Security Council, meeting at the request of Iraq, renewed its condemnation of “the illegal presence of Turkish military forces on [its] territory”, calling for their “total withdrawal”. The Security Council “strongly condemned” the bombing. Ankara vowed to continue its fight against “terrorists” in Iraq.

Turkey has also continued to send drones regularly to strike the Makhmour refugee camp, as on the 5th, when a nearby village was targeted. The camp authorities have recently restricted the movement of residents outside the camp as a security measure.

Turkey may one day have to answer for its activities outside its borders, particularly in relation to the genocide perpetrated by ISIS in 2014 against the Yezidi community. After three years of investigations into the behaviour of 13 countries during this period, the London-based Yazidi Justice Committee (YJC) published its report on 8 July ( It concludes that Syria and Iraq were negligent in failing to take measures to prevent the genocide. But the working group, chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, former Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and which includes British MPs, academics and lawyers, goes further with regard to Ankara: the report concludes that Turkey was complicit in the genocide and asks that it be prosecuted before the International Criminal Court. It criticises Turkish officials for failing to close their borders to stop the movement of jihadists and, worse still, for turning a blind eye to the sale, transfer and enslavement of Yezidi women and children. Furthermore, Turkey has been involved in training ISIS fighters to fight against the Kurds in Syria, thereby strengthening the perpetrators of genocide (The Guardian).

The day before, the German Parliament’s Commission of Inquiry into the case of the Yezidis had submitted its own report to the President of the German Parliament, which recommended that the Bundestag formally recognise the 2014 genocide. The Bundestag quickly approved a vote in the Petitions Committee calling for such recognition, pending a vote in the plenary session that will complete the recognition process. Germany, home to a large Yazidi diaspora, is one of the few countries to have taken legal action against the minority. It was in Germany that, for the first time in the world, an Iraqi jihadist was convicted of genocide last November (AFP).

In the disputed Iraqi territories, the jihadist organisation continued its attacks, although it is gradually losing strength. On 1st July, the Kirkuk Security announced the arrest of a jihadist leader named “Abu Talha”, while an air strike eliminated 2 jihadists near Dibis. On the 8th, the jihadists released a shepherd kidnapped on 17 June near Daqouq, after paying a ransom of $100,000. On the 25th, they attacked pylons on the Kirkuk-Tikrit power line. The next day, they wounded 2 federal policemen southwest of Daquq. Near Makhmur, while Kurdish-Iraqi coordination is still slow to take place, they remain dangerous. The nearby Qara Chokh Mountains have become one of their main bases of operations... However, Iraqi-Kurdish coordination is making timid progress. On the 13th, a Peshmerga detachment intervened to assist Iraqi soldiers under attack, three of whom were seriously injured. On the 19th, the Kurdistan Region Security Council announced that a 2-day operation in the area had eliminated 4 jihadists, thanks to coordination with the international coalition and Iraqi forces. In a first, Iraqi and Peshmerga forces joined forces in the area, eliminating any security vacuum between their lines. In Khanaqin, an Iraqi military delegation met with the peshmerga between Khanaqin and Kalar on the 26th. According to a statement from the Peshmerga, the discussions focused on the security situation in the region and the elimination of the security vacuum between the two sides. One can only hope that this trend will continue.

On the other hand, especially in Kirkuk, the Kurds are still facing the resumption of the Arabisation policy. On 1st July, 2 new management positions at the State Oil Company were taken away from Kurds and given to an Iraqi Arab and a Turkmen. Since 16 October 2017, when Baghdad took military control of the province, more than 125 government posts have been taken away from Kurds. On the 15th, the Kurdish head of personnel at the Kirkuk court was replaced by an Arab, and on the 27th, the governor continued his policy of favouring the hiring of Arabs by awarding them 60% of 1000 new posts...

On the 3rd, the interim governor, appointed by Baghdad in 2017, ordered the confiscation of the residence cards of anyone who does not own a house in Kirkuk. This measure would deprive nearly 200,000 Kurds driven out by the previous regime and returning after 2003 of residency cards and thus food rations. Public anger and the intervention of Kurdish MPs forced Al-Jabouri to suspend this decision for the time being. On the 18th, the representative of the Arab Council Party, Tahrir Al-Obeidi, whose leader is none other than the governor, filed a complaint on behalf of the Arab settlers asking for the allocation of land belonging to Kurds, i.e. the official resumption of Saddam Hussein’s Arabisation policy! She is the daughter of a former Ba’athist intelligence officer still wanted by the Americans for a $200,000 bounty. Before her, Hanan Jassim, director of the legal office of the Ministry of Justice, had blocked the return of settler land to the Kurds. She is also the daughter of a former Ba’athist official...



In Turkey, the COVID epidemic, which had been somewhat forgotten by the media for the past 6 months, re-emerged when the Turkish Ministry of Health reported in mid-July that the number of cases had increased tenfold in one month, after doubling every week during June. Indeed, while 10,954 cases had been counted in the week of 13-19 June, the figure jumped to 57,113 from 27 June to 3 July... On 18 July, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, this time without giving figures, said after a cabinet meeting that during the last 4 or 5 weeks, the number of daily cases had increased by 40 times!

This return of concerns on the health front comes on top of a still catastrophic economic situation. The official rate of inflation, although highly underestimated, exceeded 78% in June according to the TürkStat agency, a monthly price increase of 4.95% and an annual increase of 44.54%. Food is one of the sectors most affected with an annual rate of 93.9%, which means that daily life is becoming increasingly unbearable for households. But even these figures, already worrying, are exceeded by those of the independent economist group ENAG, which calculated an annual inflation of 175.55% in June (Bianet). These calculations led to ENAG founder being fired by his university, but the group continues to courageously publish its results...

The Turkish president’s response to this bad news is systematic censorship and repression of critical voices: it is easier to silence the bearer of bad news than to tackle the causes of the problems.

Thus, the great campaign of repression against journalists, which has in fact already been underway for months, has intensified. While Reporters Without Borders urged Turkey on 1st July to put an end to violence against journalists, calling on the interior ministry to “respect the work of journalists covering the demonstrations and to stop arresting them and subjecting them to violence”, the government attacked the foreign press by censoring the websites of Voice of America (VOA) and Deutsche Welle (DW) on the same day.

In February, the Turkish media regulator RTÜK had asked VOA, DW Turkish and Euronews to apply for a licence within 72 hours. The body withdrew its application in April for Euronews after the channel made some changes to its website. However, the other two media outlets had indicated that not only would they not comply, but take legal action as well. The Director of DW said: “Media licensed in Turkey are obliged to remove online content that RTÜK considers inappropriate. This is simply unacceptable for an independent broadcaster”. On the 6th, US State Department spokesman Ned Price tweeted that his administration regretted a Turkish decision that would further expand government control over free speech and media freedom in Turkey”, adding: “A free press is essential to a robust democracy” (Bianet). But who can still speak of Turkey as a “robust democracy”?

On the 4th and 5th, several journalists gathered in Ulus Square in Ankara on the call of the Dicle Fırat Journalists’ Association (DFG) and the Mesopotamia Women Journalists Platform (MKGP) to protest against the recent arrests of Kurdish journalists (16 of them arrested on 16 June in Diyarbakir for “terrorist propaganda”). The police violently attacked the rally, prevented the participants from reading the statement they had prepared, and dispersed or surrounded them, particularly beating and arresting 3 of them. They were Deniz Nazlım, a reporter for the Mezopotamya (MA) agency in Ankara, Yıldız Tar, and Sibel Yükler (Bianet), a feminist journalist who had just published a text on the website of the Heinrich Böll Stiftung in Istanbul on the criminalisation of LGBT people concomitant with Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention...

Journalists who escaped arrest gathered at the DISK-Presse union to prepare a protest statement that was also signed by Adana HDP MP Tülay Hatimoğulları and İHD Human Rights Association co-chair Öztürk Türkdoğan among others. The public reading of the statement led to several speeches, including that of journalist Özgür Paksoy for DFG, who said, “We are very used to state violence. We will continue to defend the people’s right to receive information. Our workplaces have been under a police blockade for 28 days. They are trying to find something that incriminates our friends. They have not found anything yet. We will continue on this path that they define as a crime. We will continue to write!” (Mezopotamya).

On the 11th, the police completed the search of the premises of two media companies launched on 8 June, during the raids that later led to the arrest of the 16 Kurdish journalists. The raids on 8 June had involved four companies, the JinNews agency and the production companies Pel, Piya and Ari. A large quantity of audiovisual and computer equipment was confiscated for investigation. The search of the last two companies thus took more than a month, exactly 32 days... (Bianet).

On the 29th, a court blocked access to 130 online articles and other content about a former lawyer of the Turkish President, Mustafa Doğan İnal. He had filed a complaint alleging that his personal rights had been violated. The magistrates censored the articles, considering that they could not fall under freedom of information, as they did not present evidence of what they claimed, namely that the lawyer had been involved in “corruption negotiations”. However, they did not ask the media concerned for their evidence... The now-banned articles were on around 20 different media outlets, plus several ‘posts’ on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and YouTube videos. The Association for Freedom of Expression counted for 2020 a total of 819 access blocking orders for 5,645 web addresses and 58,809 sites (Bianet).

This constant media harassment has not stopped the AKP’s fall in the polls, since according to the latest one it has now fallen to 27.7% of the voting intentions... (WKI)

Alongside its attacks on the press, the government is also continuing to harass the HDP, the “Peoples’ Democratic Party”. Earlier this month, the HDP held its 5th congress in Ankara, during which Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar were re-elected as co-chairs. This year, tens of thousands of people were present for the congress, including thousands of guests and more than a hundred participants from abroad, among others from several European countries (Germany, England, Scotland, Spain, France, Greece, Sweden...) but also from the Arab world (Maghreb: Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and Kuwait...). Among the banners displayed in the congress hall were: “The free press cannot be silenced”, “Democratic solution of the Kurdish question”, “Neither hunger nor poverty, but equitable distribution”, or “We will not give up the Istanbul Convention”.

In his brief opening speech, Pervin Buldan said, in particular, in criticism of the new invasion plans of the Turkish President: “The Middle East and Syria will not be shaped by your hostility against the Kurds, but by the will of the Kurdish people for coexistence, and by the democratic alliances they form with the peoples they live with. […] The next elections will not be about choosing a president or a prime minister. It will be about building a new democratic and egalitarian order in Turkey”. Mithat Sancar warned the AKP government: “Don’t play on Mr Öcalan’s isolation, don’t use such a sensitive issue for your power objectives. Do not speak on behalf of İmralı, do not mislead the public and do not create false agendas. Let the public know what Öcalan thinks” (HDP). Several foreign politicians and leaders of international organisations who came to the congress gave speeches in support of the HDP. Shortly after the congress, police arrested four people after the prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into the slogans and banners of the congress. Separately, Turkish police arrested 37 Kurds in Adana, mainly HDP supporters (WKI).

On the 12th, a criminal court in Manisa sentenced two HDP cadres, Mesuti Bökü and Naile Gümüştaş, to more than six years’ imprisonment each for “belonging to a terrorist organisation”.

On the same day, an op-ed signed from his cell by former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş appeared, in which he criticised the opposition for excluding the HDP from the agreement between its 6 components and called for “change”: “Change in politics requires courage, Demirtaş wrote in particular, implicitly accusing the opposition of lacking it... For her part, the HDP group’s deputy chairwoman, Meral Danış Beştaş, said she was ready to support an opposition candidate, but on condition that the HDP’s exclusion ceases: “A single candidate is possible, but this possibility is everyone’s responsibility”. She warned that if the HDP could not participate in “discussions”, it would not support any opposition candidate in the 2023 presidential elections... (WKI)

On the 18th, Selahattin Demirtaş spoke again, this time answering questions from T24 journalist Murat Sabuncu. Among other things, he said that his party is not “an extension” of the PKK, which he simultaneously called on to “silence the weapons” (WKI). VOA’s Turkish-language website gave large excerpts from the interview. “A party that pursues a democratic policy cannot be affiliated with an armed organisation”, the jailed leader said.

To escape the government’s tactic of using Turks’ fear to scapegoat the HDP, Demirtaş believes the party should “give more messages of peace”: “A significant part of society lives in fear of division, weapons, violence and terrorism. The government is constantly stirring up these fears and directing the anger towards the HDP. As a result, the HDP is turned into a scapegoat. To break out of this grip, the HDP should deliver more messages of unity and peace and make its policy concrete and visible”.  On the Kurdish issue, Demirtaş said, “The HDP’s approach to the Kurdish problem and its proposals for solutions are different from many parties and are the most realistic. Our solution proposal is not a military operation, but dialogue and negotiation. We have to make it clear to society that dialogue and negotiation are the only solutions”.

On ending the armed struggle, he said, “Our experience has shown that it is not easy, unfortunately, stating that there are two obstacles “that everyone should know” to the PKK laying down its arms: first, the Turkish government, which wants to prolong the armed confrontation, refuses discussion, and keeps Öcalan isolated in İmralı: “The person who can convince the PKK is Öcalan, and they have kept him in isolation for years. Despite these obstacles, I would be happy if the PKK silenced its weapons”. [...] “If the government talks to Öcalan to silence the weapons, they will do the right thing. Saving the lives of the children of this country is something no one can oppose”, Demirtaş continued. “It would be morally and politically reprehensible to oppose peace just because bloodshed will bring votes to the AKP. I don’t know if [peace] will benefit the AKP, but it will benefit Turkish society, everyone will breathe” (VOA Turkish).

In reaction, Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, leader of the CHP (Kemalist opposition), calling Demirtaş’s statements “important”, called for his release as a “political prisoner”. On the pro-government media side, however, the interview provoked a new smear campaign accusing the HDP of being “an extension of the PKK” (WKI).

On the 21st, the HDP denounced the Turkish strike in Iraq that left 9 dead and dozens wounded in Zakho, saying “Zakho is the second Roboski massacre”, demanding that those responsible be revealed and tried for their actions. The party also called for an emergency session of parliament on the incident, arguing that since it was the parliament that authorised the cross-border military operations, it should examine the consequences. The HDP Executive Committee recalled in a written statement that since 2015, Turkish strikes in Iraqi Kurdistan have resulted in at least 112 civilian deaths. Meanwhile, the bar associations of six Kurdish-majority provinces in the country, Diyarbakir, Urfa, Şırnak, Van, Mardin and Bingöl, have called on the authorities to reveal those responsible. The Diyarbakır Bar Association said it would file criminal complaints for the identification and punishment of those responsible for the attack (Bianet).

The repression was swift on those who denounced the Zakho attack. In Antalya, the police arrested seven members of the HDP Youth Council on the 28th. The next day, 12 people were arrested in Istanbul. Besides, the HDP announced it prepared a rally on 6 August in Diyarbakir to demand an end to the government’s wars against the Kurds.

In addition, Turkish prisons continue to experience suspicious deaths, which the prison administration still classifies as suicides. On the 18th, a recently released prisoner testified anonymously to Mezopotamya about the death of another prisoner. Yılmaz Ekinci, 28, had "committed suicide" on January 13 in Aydın prison. According to the official version, the prisoner, who was 1.70m tall, hanged himself from a metal bar placed 1.48m above the ground. But the witness said another reason made the suicide even more implausible: “In the observation room, they even take your shoes away, so there is no way to find something to hang yourself! I think his neck was broken and they made it look like suicide”, he said. The family of the deceased never got the camera footage from the door of the observation room... On the 21st, the Diyarbakir prison administration told the family of Kadri Ekinci, who had been in prison for 5 years, that he had been found dead in the isolation cell where he had been placed, after slitting his wrists. But the relatives refused to believe this version: where could Ekinci have found a sharp object to slash his wrists, and above all, how could he have slit his wrists when he had a broken right arm, when he could no longer shave without making cuts on his face? “This is not a suicide, they executed my nephew”, said his uncle, “We will not give up on this case. The only one responsible for this death is the state” (Bianet).

The Turkish presidency’s stranglehold on the judiciary has drawn further condemnation from abroad this month. The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), the judicial arm of the Council of Europe, concluded on the 11th that Ankara had violated Article 46 of the European Convention on Human Rights by refusing to execute the ECHR’s judgment ordering the release of Osman Kavala. The Council of Europe on the same day reiterated its demand that Turkey release him “immediately”. This is only the second time in its history that the ECHR has condemned one of its 46 member states by a Grand Chamber judgment after a failure to fulfil its obligations (Le Point). Not content with keeping Kavala in detention, Turkey sentenced Kavala to life imprisonment last April on an empty charge sheet. On the 29th, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, on a visit to Istanbul, had a rather tense first exchange with her Turkish counterpart when she declared that the ECHR decision on Osman Kavala should be implemented.  Far from backing down, Mr Çavuşoglu retorted by accusing Germany of “encouraging all countries to exclude Turkey from the Council of Europe”.



On 5 July, for the first time, France carried out a mass repatriation of its nationals detained in Syria. This is a major break with the “case by case” policy followed until then. Two special planes chartered by the French government, one of them a medical plane, landed at dawn in Paris with 16 mothers, aged between 22 and 39, and 35 minors, all repatriated from detention camps in north-eastern Syria. Among the women, some are wives of jihadists but others are themselves jihadists, like Emilie König, 37, one of the best known.

Until now, Paris had only agreed to repatriate children who were isolated, orphans or whose mothers had agreed to renounce their parental rights. Fearing that they would be abandoned on the spot – or refusing to accept the legal consequences of their actions – the vast majority of mothers had refused to be separated from their children. Only 35 presumed orphans had been repatriated, the last ones in January 2021. Prior to what may be the first repatriation, about 80 women and 200 children remained in camps run by the Kurdish Administration (AANES).

Immediately after the landing, the women and children were separated. Eight women and a 17-year-old minor were immediately taken into custody, pending indictment by an anti-terrorist judge in the coming days. Eight other women with arrest warrants are also expected to be indicted soon, including Emilie König. The children have been entrusted to the Yvelines departement (county) child welfare agency and after a long process of health and psychological evaluation, will be entrusted to foster families (Le Monde).

Paris’ reversal can be explained by France’s increasing isolation on the issue of repatriation. Belgium, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany had decided to repatriate all their children, along with their mothers where possible. By the end of June, almost all Belgian nationals had returned. National and international condemnations also multiplied. On 29 April, the Human Rights Ombudsman called for “the repatriation of all French children as soon as possible”; the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH) took a position in favour of repatriation; the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) was due to rule on the appeals lodged by several French families: a condemnation of France was perhaps no longer far off. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child found in early February that France had “violated the rights of French children detained in Syria by failing to repatriate them”, a position identical to that of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Moreover, the situation in the camps has been deteriorating for several months, and they constitute a real “mini-Islamic state” where not only are murders committed regularly, but also young people can be recruited and indoctrinated.

Will there be more repatriations? The day after the repatriation, Laurent Nunez, the intelligence and counter-terrorism coordinator, said that there were still about 100 French women and about 250 French children in Syria. For security reasons, he is in favour of continuing the repatriations because, he noted, the area is “more and more unstable” and there are “threats perhaps of Turkish operations”. He also mentioned the danger that ISIS could release the detainees (AFP). The repatriated people would therefore be much less of a danger than “in the wild” in Syria... For her part, the lawyer Marie Dosé, who defends several women, reacted to AFP by saying that it was necessary to “continue the operation, and quickly”. “This morning, the children who are still in the camps were repeating: ‘Why not me?’ We can’t let the children think that all summer in a tent under 50 degrees”, she added. François Molins, the public prosecutor, also considers that France has a duty towards the children: “These children, who are French, some of whom were born there, did not ask for anything, are suffering a situation for which they are not responsible and which endangers their health, their safety and their education”, he said on RTL.

Another aspect of the return is that it allows investigators to take statements in order to reconstruct the paths of the jihadists and fuel the investigations: it puts an end to impunity.

The Autonomous Administration of North-East Syria (AANES), which manages the camps, has been calling for months for the repatriation of foreign nationals and, from a legal point of view, for the establishment of an international tribunal to try the jihadists on the spot. One or the other of these two solutions must be chosen, but so far, the calls of the AANES have not been heard.

On the 30th, a Canadian jihadist of Saudi origin, Mohammed Khalifa, 39, whose voice-over served the propaganda of ISIS in the organisation’s propaganda and recruitment videos, was sentenced to life imprisonment by the American justice system. Some of the videos in question included footage of the organisation’s attacks in France and Belgium. Captured in 2019 by the Syrian Democratic Forces, Khalifa, who showed no regret for his actions, wanted to return to Canada but not to be tried there. He was handed over to the American authorities in 2021 and transferred to the United States, where he was finally sentenced (AFP).

On the 25th, AANES handed over 146 women and children from the families of ISIS fighters in Al-Hol and Roj camps to the Tajik ambassador to Kuwait, Zabidullah Zabidov.



The 100,000 Kurds living in Sweden are worried. On 5 July, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg officially launched the process of integrating Sweden and Finland into the Atlantic Alliance. The day before, he had stressed: “We are preparing to welcome two new allies with formidable military forces and capabilities”, adding: “With 32 of us, we will be even stronger”.

It took long tripartite negotiations between Sweden and Finland on the one hand, and Turkey on the other, to reach this point. It is not the accession itself that worries the Swedish Kurdish community, but the fact that the Swedish government had to sign an agreement with Turkey on 28 June – discussions succeeded literally at the last minute – in which it undertakes to support Turkey’s fight against terrorism and in particular against the PKK, on pain of Ankara blocking the accession process. In particular, Helsinki and Stockholm have committed themselves to dealing “thoroughly” with Ankara’s requests for extradition of terrorist suspects, “taking into account the information, evidence and intelligence provided by Turkey”. It is this last point that is causing concern among the Kurds in Sweden, who form a community that is certainly less numerous than in Germany (nearly a million people) or France (250,000), but is culturally and politically very active, as evidenced by the fact that eight members of the current Swedish Parliament are of Kurdish origin. Comparatively, with a smaller Kurdish disapora (about 15,000 people), there is less concern in Finland.

Everyone knows that in Turkey it only takes a few words on social networks or a mention of the “K-word”, i.e. “Kurdistan”, to be labelled a “terrorist”. As further demonstrated by the recent life sentences on empty cases of sociologist Pınar Selek and philanthropist Osman Kavala, after the abusive imprisonment of Selahattin Demirtaş, Turkish justice is now little more than an empty shell totally at the orders of “Sultan” Erdoğan.

But the cause of the greatest concern is not actually the Kurdish diaspora in Sweden: as part of the tripartite agreement, Turkey also obtained a commitment from the Swedish and Finnish governments to “not provide support” to the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria and its armed wing (YPG), despite them being allies of the international anti-ISIS coalition within the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Furthermore, Sweden agreed to end the embargo on arms sales to Turkey that it had decided after the Turkish attack on Rojava in October 2019. It should be remembered that the Swedish arms industry, with a turnover of 3.5 billion euros in 2017, is far from negligible. Paradoxically, it is the result of the country’s neutrality, as it did not want to depend on any bloc for its defence. This resumption of exports would come at the worst possible moment, when Ankara is threatening the AANES with a new attack. However, in 2018, a few years after a project to build a missile factory in Saudi Arabia was challenged, the parliament incorporated a “democratic criterion” into the process of approving foreign arms sales, according to which the recipient country is assessed. However, the weapons themselves are distinguished from other equipment for military use, such as warning radars, which are the subject of major contracts from which Sweden wanted to retain the benefits...

It should be noted that the Turkish President retains leverage over the two new members, as the accession protocol grants them “only” guest status for the time being. Sweden and Finland will only become full members of the Alliance when all 30 member states have ratified the protocol. Turkey is therefore still in a position to exercise its blocking power: all it takes is for Mr Erdoğan to refuse to transmit the text to the Turkish parliament, and he did not hesitate to remind it after the signing...

After the NATO summit, the Turkish President also said (clearly for the benefit of his domestic opinion) that he expected Sweden to keep its promises, including the extradition of “73 terrorists”. Upon her return from Madrid, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson was subjected to a barrage of questions, especially from the left-wing parties: did she actually make such a promise? Refusing to deny the Turkish President’s words, she simply reiterated that the country would continue to respect national and international law and that it would remain faithful to its historical position that no Swedish national can be extradited. Finally, she recalled the independence of the judiciary: the decision will be taken by authorities and courts that are independent of the government.

The Swedish Left Party, which was the driving force behind the decision to impose an arms embargo on Ankara in 2019 and remains opposed to NATO membership, was hardly convinced. Its members fear that membership will lead to a shift in the country’s foreign policy, and in particular that the planned increase in cooperation between Swedish and Turkish intelligence services will lead to extraditions of Kurds in need of protection. “It is a huge betrayal to allow Turkey to have so much influence on Swedish foreign policy”, its website says.

It was also clear how the existence of the agreement with Ankara was beginning to impact not on Swedish foreign policy, but on its domestic policy. When on the 21st several Left Party MPs posed at a summer university with flags of the PKK, an organisation considered terrorist by the European Union, but also of the YPG (male Kurdish fighters in Syria) and the YPJ (female fighters), which are not, the Prime Minister reacted by declaring: “The PKK is on the list of terrorist organisations, not only in Sweden but also in the EU, and posing with this kind of flag is extremely inappropriate”. On the 23rd, the Swedish ambassador to Turkey was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Ankara to justify this “terrorist propaganda” for the PKK...

Returning to concerns about extraditions and arms sales, there are democratic safeguards and checks and balances in place to protect Kurds in the diaspora (many of whom have acquired Swedish citizenship) and residents of Rojava from Ankara’s hostility. More than ever, the question of this protection and democracy appear linked. But these mechanisms in themselves do not provide protection if there is no political will to implement them – or if there is a political will to circumvent them. With regard to Rojava, the lack of concrete reactions from the international community, and particularly from NATO and EU members, to previous Turkish military operations in Syria bodes ill for the future. If Swedish (or German...) weapons were to be used in a future Turkish attack on the AANES, would the governments concerned go beyond mere verbal condemnation this time?



On the evening of the 5th, after the shock resignation of his Finance Minister Rishi Sunak, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson nominated as his replacement the former Education Minister, Nadhim Zahawi, whose appointment was quickly approved by Queen Elizabeth II.

Mr Zahawi, born in 1967 in Baghdad to Kurdish parents, came to the UK at the age of 9 without speaking a word of English when his parents emigrated to escape Saddam Hussein’s regime. In England, he studied chemical engineering, from which he obtained a BA. In 1991, Zahawi and fellow Kurdish Briton Broosk Saib were assistants to Jeffrey Archer in the latter’s Simple Truth campaign to help the Kurdish victims of the Gulf War.

As for his professional life, in 2000 he was involved with Stephan Shakespeare in setting up the prestigious polling company YouGov, and in 2015 he joined Gulf Keystone Petroleum, an oil and gas exploration and production company, as a part-time strategy director.

Having started a political career in Conservative circles in London, after several elected positions in local councils during the 1990s, he was elected in 2010 as MP for Stratford-on-Avon, William Shakespeare’s home town, where he was re-elected in 2015, 2017 and 2019. He has served as Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) supporting the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Secretary of State for Education from 2021 to 2022, with the advent of COVID-19 he became Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the roll-out of the pandemic vaccine. The success of the UK vaccination campaign has made him very popular.

After his appointment as Finance Minister, he told the British SkyNews channel that he would do everything possible to ensure that the country could “return to growth”.

Just under 48 hours after his appointment, Zahawi withdrew his support for Boris Johnson and publicly called on him to resign, which Johnson did shortly afterwards.