B u l l e t i n

c o m p l e t

Bulletin N° 466 | January 2024



The security situation continues to deteriorate in Iraqi Kurdistan, the target of recurrent Turkish bombardments, explosive drone attacks by pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite militias and now by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Following the bombing on December 31 of a Peshmerga base near Pirmam, north of Erbil, by a drone loaded with explosives, pro-Iranian Shiite militias calling themselves the "Islamic Resistance in Iraq" launched new attacks on January 2 against an International Coalition base near Erbil airport, on January 4 against an International Coalition base in Harir, 77 km northeast of Erbil, and on January 11 again against Erbil airport. These suicide drones were shot down by the international Coalition's anti-aircraft defense and caused no casualties, but began to spread a feeling of anxiety and insecurity among the civilian population.

On January 15, it was an attack on a different scale that shattered the peaceful night of the Kurdish capital and sparked a wave of indignation. A salvo of 11 ballistic missiles from Iran landed on the outskirts of Erbil, a stone's throw from the American Consulate General, at the home of Kurdish property developer Peshraw Dizayee, 62, who was killed instantly along with his 11-month-old daughter Jîna, her Filipino nanny and a Christian businessman from Baghdad visiting Erbil. 17 civilians, including Mrs Dizayee, a dentist by profession, were seriously injured.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards claimed responsibility for the attack on "the headquarters of Israeli espionage in the region". A far-fetched accusation, since this prosperous businessman, CEO of the FALCON group and reputed supporter of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, was not involved in politics. A mission dispatched by Iraqi Prime Minister al-Sudani, led by his National security advisor Qassim al-Araji, visited the site and found it to be a civilian residence with no special technical facilities. The Iraqi Foreign Ministry immediately condemned the deadly missile strikes, denouncing them as "an aggression against the sovereignty of Iraq and the security of its people". Baghdad recalled its ambassador to Teheran and promised to take the matter to the United Nations Security Council.

The Kurdistan Region Security Council, recalling that the attacks had targeted civilian residential areas and that the Iranian accusations were totally unfounded, denounced this "flagrant violation of the sovereignty of the Kurdistan Region and Iraq". "The federal government and the international community must not remain silent in the face of this crime", states the Council's communiqué.

This unjustified crime occurred while many of the world's leaders were gathered in Davos, including the Prime Minister of Kurdistan, Masrour Barzani. Barzani met with President Macron, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, all of whom expressed their solidarity with the Kurdish people and strongly condemned Iranian aggression. The Iraqi Prime Minister and his Kurdish counterpart cancelled a planned meeting with the Iranian Foreign Minister in Davos. During his general audience on January 17, Pope Francis expressed "his closeness and solidarity with the victims of the missile attack in the urban area of Erbil" (see p.55).

In Kurdistan, after the victims' funerals, attended by former president Massoud Barzani and numerous political, cultural and religious figures from all walks of life, several popular protest demonstrations took place. A call to boycott Iranian products was widely echoed in the media (see p.63).

For its part, Iran continued to defend its official version. At a press conference in Teheran on January 17, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Amir-Abdollahian declared, "We hit a Mossad base in a location in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and we hit it with precision missiles. This does not mean that we hit and targeted Iraq. We targeted Israel, which remains a common enemy of our two countries". To "back up" this version, Iranian media, notably the TASMIM news agency close to the Revolutionary Guards, broadcast photo montages showing Kurdish businessman Dizayee in the company of an Israeli presented as a Mossad official. This crude manipulation was debunked by France 24 and the Kurdish channel RUDAW (, among other media, and denounced as a disinformation campaign by the US State Department (see p.79).

On the political front, Iranian-backed Iraqi MPs have begun collecting signatures for a petition calling for an extraordinary session to legally end the US presence in Iraq. The petition was introduced after Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al Soudani called the US air strike a "violation of Iraq's sovereignty" and announced the formation of a joint committee to plan the US withdrawal from the country. No Kurdish MP had signed the petition.

For the past four months, Kurdistan Region employees have not received their salaries, as the federal government has not yet published the Kurdistan federal budget. A delegation from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) visited Baghdad to discuss KRG contracts with foreign oil companies, while the federal government has taken control of Kurdish oil exports. That said, Kurdistan's oil exports have been halted by Turkey and Iraq since March 2023.

Pentagon Press Secretary Major General Pat Ryder responded to efforts by Iranian-backed parties to expel U.S. forces from Iraq by stating that U.S. personnel were focused on the anti-IS (ISIS) mission and were in the country at the invitation of the Iraqi Government. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al Soudani told Reuters that the Iraqi government was seeking a rapid US withdrawal but had not yet set a deadline for such a withdrawal. That said, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein told Al Arabiya that Iraq did not want to create a "chaotic situation in its relations with Washington" and stressed the importance of "internal preparation before the start of negotiations".

Attacks by pro-Iranian Shiite militias continued throughout the month. On January 20, the American base at Al-Asad, in western Iraq, came under rocket and drone fire from these militiamen, who wanted to avenge the death the same day of 5 high-ranking Iranian "advisors" in Damascus in an attack attributed to Israel (Le Figaro, NYT, January 20). Two American soldiers were wounded. On April 25, the US air defense system foiled a drone attack by a Shiite militia against a base near Erbil airport. On the same day, Iranian-backed militias had already struck the Khor Mor gas field with drones, depriving millions of people of electricity. Meanwhile, the Kurdish channel Rudaw revealed that the Iraqi government had not yet lodged a complaint against Iran with the UN Security Council, as it had announced after the Iranian ballistic missile attack on Erbil. In addition, the US Treasury Department has sanctioned three leaders of the Kata'ib Hezbollah militia and three companies, including Iraqi airline Fly Baghdad and al Huda Bank, for supporting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) and Iranian-backed militias through activities such as money laundering and arms smuggling.

The Kurdistan Petroleum Industry Association (APIKUR) called on Congress to take action "to help persuade" the Iraqi government to resume oil exports from Kurdistan, halted since March 2023. APIKUR has estimated the shortfall at over ten billion US dollars, and claims that international investment is threatened due to the pause in exports. APIKUR also called for the implementation of Iraq's budget law to ensure that companies investing in the region are paid. Kurdistan's civil servants remain unpaid for the fourth consecutive month, while Baghdad refuses to release the budget allocated to Kurdistan.

On January 28, Iraqi Shiite militias used a drone loaded with explosives to attack an American base in Jordan. The toll was high: 3 American servicemen killed, some thirty wounded. President Biden named "pro-Iranian groups" and threatened retaliation: "Have no doubt, we will hold all those responsible to account when and how we want" (AFP, Le Monde, January 28). Iraq was quick to condemn the murderous attack, but was unable to arrest and try those responsible. Iran, for its part, denied any responsibility.


Turkey is fully involved the campaign for the March 31 municipal elections. The stakes are high for the AKP-MHP government coalition, which is deploying all its resources to win back the municipalities in major metropolises such as Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir that were taken by the opposition in the last municipal elections.

To achieve this, the Turkish president, who is on a permanent campaign, is spending lavishly, multiplying his promises and making it clear that municipalities run by opposition parties will not benefit from the full cooperation of state services. For example, the disaster-stricken city of Antakya (Antioch), more than 80% of which was destroyed in the terrible earthquake of February 6, 2023, and currently run by an opposition municipality, can only hope for rapid reconstruction if there is good cooperation between the future municipal team and the state services, i.e. if both are on the same line, that of the AKP, President Erdogan reminded us bluntly.

In the spirit of this campaign, the Turkish government decided on January 2 to double the minimum wage in order to restore some of the purchasing power of the most modest members of society, who have been severely hit by galloping inflation. From now on, the minimum wage will be TL 17,000 (around € 520) per month. But inflation is among the highest in the world. Officially, its annual rate was 64.8% in 2023. However, according to economists from the independent group ENAG, this rate will be greatly underestimated, reaching 123% in 2023 (Le Figaro, January 3). According to the same source, Turkey will end 2023 as the fourth country in the world with the highest food inflation (+99% in one year), behind Lebanon (+208%) and Zimbabwe (+321%). A staple such as rice, which four years ago cost 5 to 6 Turkish Liras a kilo, now costs 121 Turkish Liras, making it "a luxury item".

The government promises that the worst is behind us, and that from next summer, after the elections, everything will be back to normal. In the meantime, in order to mobilize its Islamo-nationalist base, it is giving a great deal of space in the media to the "genocide of our Muslim brothers in Gaza", while at the same time continuing its juicy trade with Israel. During his official visit to Ankara on January 24, Iranian President Raissi denounced this in no uncertain terms. The fight against "PKK terrorism until the last terrorist is eliminated" is another recurring theme in Turkish propaganda. The death on January 12 of 9 Turkish soldiers in clashes with PKK fighters in the snow-covered mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan has rekindled the campaign for revenge in nationalist circles.

The Turkish army's losses have also sparked debate in public opinion. Some commentators and relatives of the soldiers killed have publicly questioned the wisdom of Turkey's strategy: "Why are we on Iraqi territory? Why do we have bases there that are difficult to defend, exposing the lives of our soldiers? are the questions most frequently raised. The government's answer is that "Turkey's survival" is at stake, and that "we must pursue the terrorists to their ultimate hideouts and caves, and eliminate them one by one". Such rhetoric has been heard in Turkey for several decades, with results that are well known. Cutting short this debate, on January 11 the Turkish army launched vast operations against Syrian Kurdistan, whose population has nothing to do with the war between the PKK and the Turkish army. Numerous civilian infrastructures, including 7 hydroelectric power stations, were put out of action, depriving nearly two million inhabitants of electricity. Turkish bombardments also caused extensive damage in Iraqi Kurdistan. Since then, the Turkish Ministry of Defense has been issuing daily victory bulletins with often fanciful numbers of terrorists eliminated, etc. And this propaganda seems to be appealing to a large segment of the population. And this propaganda seems to appeal to a significant fringe of Turkish opinion, reinforcing the image of the Turkish president as a "powerful and protective leader".

On the external front, he is now adopting a more conciliatory tone in the hope of attracting back much-needed foreign investment. On January 23, after a year of tension, arm-twisting and haggling, the Turkish Parliament approved Sweden's membership of NATO. The day after this decision was published in the "Official Gazette of the Republic of Turkey", the White House announced that it had given the go-ahead for the sale of 40 F-16 aircraft and the modernization of 76 other similar aircraft for a total of $23 billion (Le Monde, January 27). Excluded from the more advanced American F-35 program for having purchased Russian S-400 defense systems, Turkey has thus found a consolation prize. It says it will continue to seek to acquire European Eurofighter bombers as well.

In another gesture to Westerners, on January 3 Turkey arrested 56 people wanted by 18 countries for drug trafficking, organized crime and other mafia crimes. Some of these mafia bosses had long sought refuge in Turkey, prospered there and even acquired Turkish nationality at great expense, thus protecting them from any extradition proceedings (AFP). Le Monde published a well-documented report on this subject on January 30, entitled "Turquie : coup de sifflet au pays des narcos" (See p.91-94).

It remains to be seen whether these few gestures will be enough to ease Turkey's complicated relations with its Western partners. The Turkish president, shunned by his American counterpart Joe Biden, who never invited him to the White House, seems to be banking on Donald Trump's re-election. Meanwhile, he continues his flirtations with his other friend, Vladimir Putin, whom he invited back to Ankara for an official visit in February.


Plunged into a deep economic and social crisis, contested by the vast majority of the population, the Iranian regime is embroiled in fierce repression at home and is aggressive towards its neighbors. Thanks to its vast network of Shiite militias, it is sowing the seeds of violence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, while ensuring that Iranian territory is protected from possible American military reprisals.

This strategy, long implemented by the head of its al-Quds expeditionary force, General Ghassem Soleimani, killed on January 3, 2020 by an American drone in Baghdad on Donald Trump's orders, is showing its limits. Its nuclear blackmail also seems to be stalling. To dissuade any possible American military intervention, the regime has chosen to flex its muscles, deploying its short-, medium- and long-range missiles and drones, and intervening in numerous theaters of war through subservient militias. It has just stepped up its aggressiveness by bombing targets in two neighboring and theoretically "friendly" states with ballistic missiles: Iraq and Pakistan.

The pretext invoked is the bloody attack perpetrated on January 3 near the tomb of General Soleimani during the commemoration of the 4th anniversary of the assassination of this important figure of the regime. A double explosion killed 90 people in the crowd. It was the deadliest attack under the Islamic Republic since the 1980 attack by the People's Mujahedin in Teheran, which decapitated the regime and killed dozens of its leaders, including Ayatollah Beheshti.

The Iranian regime was quick to accuse the United States and Israel of organizing the massacre. The accusation was immediately rejected by Washington, which strongly condemned the terrorist act and offered its condolences to the families of the victims. Israel also denied any involvement. In the end, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming that General Soleimani was responsible for the deaths of thousands of ISIS jihadists, and that it was an act of revenge.

The Iranian regime's narrative then evolved into the well-known conspiracy version: ISIS is a creation of the Americans and Zionists, who manipulate it as they see fit to destabilize the Muslim countries of the region, pretending to ignore the fact that this terrorist organization, like its predecessor, al Qaeda, in Iraq, was organized, structured, armed and financed by the military cadres of the deposed regime of Saddam Hussein, with the complicity of certain petro-monarchies.

In keeping with this narrative, on January 15 the Iranian regime launched a salvo of missiles against the "Zionist espionage headquarters" in Erbil, killing Kurdish businessman Peshraw Dizayee, his 11-month-old baby Jina, her Filipino nanny and a visiting Iraqi researcher, and wounding 17 other civilians (see our article on Iraq).

On January 16, Iranian missiles bombed a town in western Pakistan's Baluchistan province. A base belonging to the Sunni Islamist group Jaish al-Adil (Army of Justice) was reportedly destroyed and several "terrorists" killed. Reacting strongly to this attack on its territory, Pakistan declared that all the victims of the Iranian aggression were civilians.

It responded to the Iranian attack with aerial bombardments of villages near the common border in the Iranian part of Baluchistan. According to the official death toll, the Pakistani attack left 9 people dead, including 3 women and 4 children, all "Pakistani refugees". A conflict between a nuclear-armed Pakistan and Iran, presenting itself as a military powerhouse mastering new missile and drone technologies, would have dramatic consequences in the region. China has offered its services to ease tensions between its two regional allies. Finally, the two states in crisis, which seem to have neither the desire nor the means to fight each other, decided, thanks to the visit of the Iranian Foreign Minister to Islamabad, to normalize their relations and "cooperate in the fight against terrorism".

Having avoided a major interstate conflict, the situation has reverted to shadow warfare and more or less covert operations between Iran and its adversaries in other theaters of operation.

On January 20, in a strike attributed to Israel, five Iranian "military advisors" were killed. They were high-ranking Revolutionary Guards serving in Syria, including General Sadegh Omidzadeh, "in charge of intelligence in Syria for the al-Quds force". Seven other people perished in this air strike against "a meeting of the chiefs" of Iranian military intelligence in Syria. On December 25, another air strike attributed to Israel killed Razi Moussavi, a high-ranking Iranian general. The Iranian President denounced "this cowardly attack" and promised that "the martyrs will be avenged when the time comes".

Here is a chronicle of the major events of the repression in Iranian Kurdistan.

According to the annual report of the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights, Iranian border guards killed 41 kolbars, cross-border porters, in 2023, and 259 others were injured. In 2023, the regime executed 823 people, including 31 prisoners. Baluchis recorded the highest number of victims (21.5%), followed by Kurds (18.5%).

The morality police inflicted 74 lashes on a Kurdish woman named Roya Hishmati for publicly refusing to wear the hijab in April 2023. The NGO Hengaw reported that Hishmati was initially given a one-year suspended sentence and a three-year travel ban. Hishmati claimed on social networks that the regime was threatening her with more aggressive action, including further indictment, if she did not cease her activism. A Kurdish teenager from Sardasht died after being tortured for a year by Iranian security forces for taking part in anti-government protests. Three protesters from Bokan face the death penalty after being found guilty of "spreading corruption on Earth" for their participation in the Women, Life, Freedom protests.

In the first week of January, seven Kurds were executed in Karaj prison for "drug trafficking". Another execution was reported on January 16, bringing the total number of Kurdish executions in 2024 to twenty. At the same time, two Kurds died under torture in prison after months of detention, identified as Iman Hassanwanad and Paiman Abdi. In addition, regime border guards and Pasdars wounded at least 18 Kurdish border porters (kolbar) and killed two in the bloodiest week of 2024, near Nowsud and Baneh.

On January 18, Iraqi border guards killed another Kurdish cross-border porter (kolbar) near Nowsud and wounded two others. Hoshyar Mahmoudi was traveling with a group of other kolbars carrying no cargo when he was shot by Iraqi border guards. The Iraqi border guards had already tortured six kolbars and shaved their heads before releasing them near the town of Tawela . The Iraqi authorities began cracking down on the kolbars after Baghdad and Teheran reached a security agreement in June 2023. On the Iranian side of the border, Iranian border guards killed one kolbar and wounded nine in Nowsud and Baneh.

Iranian intelligence agents (Ettela'at) killed a 20-year-old Kurdish woman from Lorestan in a vehicle and seriously injured the driver. The NGO Hengaw reported that the Ettela'at agents were wearing civilian clothes when they asked the victims to stop and get out of the car. The driver tried to flee because he didn't know who the men were, prompting the Ettela'at agents to open fire. In addition, the Iranian regime arrested a number of Kurds, including seven in Piranshahr, six in Bokan, three in Naqadeh and a Kurdish singer in Ilam. Subsequently, Islamic revolutionary courts sentenced a Kurdish activist named Gulala Watendost to six years and seven months in prison in Marivan and another named Bayan Farajullah to one year in prison in Senna. Another court sentenced a Kurd named Yadullah Shakri to six months in prison in Delawan for "spreading propaganda". Meanwhile, a Kurdish prisoner named Amir Shahbazi committed suicide by taking pills after a court sentenced him to prison and amputation of his fingers for "theft". Finally, Kurdistan Human Rights reported that the Iranian regime had executed five other prisoners.

On January 22, the Iranian regime executed four Kurdish political prisoners in the notorious Ghezel Hesar prison in Karaj, near Tehran. The four Kurds, Mohsen Mazloum, Vafa Azarbar, Pejman Fatehi and Mohammad Faramarzi, had been arrested in the summer of 2022 in Ourmia and accused of spying for Israel - a charge often levelled at political prisoners - and belonging to the far-left Kurdish party Komala. Mazloum, Azarbar, Fatehi and Faramarzi were subsequently sentenced to death in September 2023 for "spreading corruption on Earth". Several human rights groups called a public strike on January 23 to protest against the executions. The Komala Party and the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) also condemned the executions and the regime. Meanwhile, the Kurdistan Human Rights Network reported that the regime had executed three more Kurdish men on charges unrelated to political activities. Finally, the NGO Hengaw reported that the Iranian authorities had arrested fourteen Kurdish activists and civilians in Bokan, Piranshahr, Marivan, Shinno, Jwanro, Baneh, Miandoab and Mahabad.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on January 24 to discuss Gaza and the flourishing trade between the two countries. Turkey does not apply Western sanctions against Iran, just as it refuses to apply those against Russia. It is even considered to be the hub for the detour of these sanctions. A Turkish state-owned bank, Halk Bank, has been prosecuted for several years by the US justice system for its role in circumventing US sanctions against Iran. Turkey's public television channel TRT World reported that Erdogan also stressed "the importance of Iranian support in Turkey's fight against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)". In addition, the Iranian government released images of Raisi and Erdogan signing "ten cooperation documents" aimed at expanding "economic cooperation and regional interaction".


The Turkish army carried out intense aerial bombardments on January 12, 14 and 15 against the civil and military infrastructure of Rojava. During this new offensive, seven power plants supplying the Kurdish region were seriously damaged and taken out of service, depriving hundreds of communities and nearly two million citizens of electricity in the middle of winter. According to the Kurdish administration, cited by AFP, all water pumping stations in the Kamishli region are now out of order, exposing the civilian population to epidemics. 45 other civilian infrastructures were destroyed.

Lacking air defense means, the Kurdish administration called on the countries of the International Coalition, led by the United States and Russia, to “put an end to Turkish aggression against our regions and the targeting of civilians” . Call remained unanswered because no country wishes to confront Erdogan's Turkey, a NATO member whose war crimes against the civilian population thus remain unpunished.

AANES also said that Turkey has been committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in northern Syria for years. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) refuted Turkish claims that SDF members were killed in the strikes and called the attacks "a systematic destruction of basic service institutions and a deliberate targeting of the vital infrastructure of millions of people”.

Ankara justifies these bombings by its so-called “right to self-defense” after the death of 9 Turkish soldiers in clashes with the PKK in Iraqi Kurdistan. To take revenge on the PKK, the Turkish army bombs the Syrian Kurdish civilian population, just as to take revenge on Israel, which eliminated many of its military leaders in Syria, Iran bombs Erbil.

Separately, the SDF, supported by US forces, launched a new security operation targeting Daesh terrorists in the al Hol camp, which continues to host thousands of Daesh members and their relatives. SDF officials said ISIS was exploiting the camp's "dire humanitarian conditions" and the SDF military and security forces' "preoccupation with confronting attacks from Turkey." Additionally, the SDF revealed that ISIS was planning an attack on al Hol in coordination with terrorist cells inside the camp. Simultaneously, the SDF carried out a massive security operation in Raqqa, arresting numerous criminals, Daesh members and mercenaries of the Assad regime.

Finally, the Pentagon denied reports that the United States was considering withdrawing from Syria. On January 22, al Monitor claimed that U.S. officials had discussed a plan to withdraw from Syria and protect the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) by associating them with the Assad regime to fight the Islamic State (ISIS).