MESOP MIDEAST WATCH : Kurdistan’s Weekly Brief January 18, 2022 – A weekly brief of events occurred in the Kurdistan regions of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.


A Sanandaj court sentenced a Kurdish environmental activist named Armin Aesparlous, who was arrested in October 2021, to one year in prison for “cooperation with the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK).”

Further, Iranian security forces in Kermanshah arrested a Kurdish activist and renowned hiker named Hussein Saedi for “disrespecting the sanctity of Islam’s prophet” and a Kurdish poet named Kamaran Takouk for social media activities. Additionally, Iranian intelligence officers (Ettela’at) detained a Kurdish man named Hassan Omarpour in Urmia. Omarpour’s fate remains unknown.

The Hengaw Organization for Human Rights reported twenty Kurdish prisoners, mostly political detainees, were moved to solitary confinement after refusing transfer to a prison that offered fewer privileges. Dozens of prisoners previously launched a hunger strike to protest their transfer to a “security prison.” 17 Kurdish prisoners died in Iranian prisons in 2021, ten of whom were tortured to death.

Three Kurdish border porters (kolbars) went missing during a blizzard near Urmia. Concurrently, Iranian border guards ambushed several kolbars in Nowsud and Baneh, killing one, Mihran Rahmani, and wounding three.

On Sunday, local activists and international media outlets reported hearing “loud explosions” in several western Iranian cities, including Sanandaj, Hamadan, Mehra, Kermanshah, Kamyaran, Paveh, and Javanrud. On Monday, an Iranian official claimed the sounds were caused by thunder, but a few Iranian news sources asserted the Iranian military was testing “air defense systems.”


Several terror attacks targeted US bases and political parties aligned with the Sadrist-bloc shortly after Iraq’s new parliament convened and elected Mohamed al Halbousi to a second term as Speaker of the Council of Representatives of Iraq. The US’s C-RAM defense system repelled a rocket attack on its embassy in Baghdad on Thursday, but three civilians were injured during the incident. “We have long said that these sorts of reprehensible attacks are an assault not just on diplomatic facilities, but on the sovereignty of Iraq itself,” read a statement from the US Embassy. The US also countered a drone attack on Balad Air Base in Diyala Governorate on Saturday. That said, IEDs in Baghdad targeted the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and a Sunni lawmaker allied with the Sadrists. Though no one claimed responsibility for the attacks, Iraqi observers believe Iranian-backed militias are using violence and intimidation to pressure the Sadr-led coalition into including them in the next government.

The head of the Iranian-backed Badr Organization, Hadi al Ameri, visited Erbil and met with the President of Kurdistan Region, Neichervan Barzani, to discuss the formation of a new government. President Barzani’s office stated that he and Ameri discussed “disputes and obstacles to the political process in the country.” The Badr Organization is part of the Iranian-backed coalition known as the “Coordination Framework” and rejected the first session of Iraq’s new parliament. Meanwhile, the KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) remain undecided on the nominee for the presidency. The KDP vetoed the PUK’s choice of Barham Saleh, the current president, and nominated Hoshyar Zebari for the post. Four other Kurdish candidates have nominated themselves for the position.

General Abdulkhaleq Tala’at, the Peshmerga’s liaison to Iraqi forces in the “Disputed Territories,” told Rudaw that the formation of joint Peshmerga-Iraqi divisions for the region was 85 percent complete. The joint divisions will deploy along the border of the “Disputed Territories” and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to counter a resurgent ISIS (Da’esh).


The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) released statistics on Turkish attacks in northeastern Syria during the past two weeks. The SDF claimed Turkey and its proxies launched 225 attacks in the region, including 20 in Kobani, that killed one civilian and wounded at least 15. Attacks were also documented in Ain Essa, Tal Tamer, Giri Spi, and areas along the strategic M4 Motorway.

The SDF said it was closely watching reports on Da’esh activities and warned criminal gangs were smuggling people to Turkey and using the proceeds to support the terrorist organization. Separately, the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) released another 217 individuals from the al Hawl camp under the auspices of an October 2020 agreement with local tribes that requires a tribal leader to sponsor those released and confirm they did not participate in crimes against humanity. According to AANES officials, al Hawl camp currently holds 57460 people, including 8555 wives and children of slain Da’esh members from 54 countries.

Human Rights Watch released its annual report on human rights, World Report 2022, that included information on Turkey and its proxies’ human rights abuses in Turkish-occupied Syria in 2021. The report claimed the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army arbitrarily detained at least 162 Syrians and illegally transferred another 63 to Turkey to face trials where they could receive life sentences.


The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) called upon the international community and the European human rights organization to “take immediate action” for Aysel Tuğluk, a jailed Kurdish politician suffering from advanced stages of dementia. The HDP accused the government of “bogus terrorism charges” against Tuğluk, who has been jailed since 2016. Separately, the HDP denounced the recent racist attacks against Kurdish students and Syrian refugees by ultra-nationalist Turks. The HDP accused the ruling parties of Justice and Development (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) of protecting “organized lynchings of fascist gangs.”

Turkish police arrested a Kurdish lawyer, Sedat Düşünmez, spokesperson for HDP’s law commission in Van, after a raid on his house. Meanwhile, the Istanbul high criminal court ruled to continue jailing Turkish philanthropist, human rights defender Osman Kavala. The court hearing trailed dozens of people, including opposition figures. Kalava and several other defendants boycotted the hearing and remained in their jail, protesting the “unfair trials.” International organizations and governments around the world called for the release of Kavala, but the government, mainly President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, rejected the request.

In a public conference in Batman city, the HDP Co-Chair Pervin Buldan expressed readiness for a “new election” in Turkey. Buldan’s remarks came after HDP met with opposition parties and planned a meeting with several smaller left-leaning parties in an attem