MESOP MIDEAST WATCH: Kurdistan’s Weekly Brief March 8, 2022 – A weekly brief of events occurred in the Kurdistan regions of Iran, Iraq, Syria+ Turkey
On International Women’s Day, March 8, the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights announced Iranian authorities had arrested 35 female activists in Iranian Kurdistan during the last year. Twelve of the arrested activists have received prison sentences.
Separately, the fate of two Kurdish men, Kaiomaras Latifi in Sanandaj and Sorwan Mahmudi in Paveh (Pawa), remains unknown several weeks after they were detained by Iranian security forces. Likewise, the Iranian regime has jailed a Kurdish activist named Fairoz Mosalou for 32 months without trial in Kotol (Qutur). Lastly, Amnesty International released a call for urgent action to prevent the execution of seven Kurds affiliated with a Sunni group. The call claimed the Kurds were convicted of “corruption on earth” and sentenced to death in farce trials relying on confessions obtained through torture.
A Kurdish border porter (kolbar) named Mohammed Omedawar froze to death in the mountains near Sardasht. Moreover, Iranian border guards wounded a kolbar named Jabir Salihi near Marivan. Another kolbar, Mehdi Ibrahimian, lost an eye and a leg when a mine exploded near Baneh. 17 kolbars were killed by the Iranian regime, mines, or died in accidents in February 2022.
On March 1, the Federal Supreme Court of Iraq ruled against Speaker of the Council of the Representatives of Iraq Mohammed al Halbousi’s request to reopen the registration of several presidential candidates. The court said there is not a “constitutional or legal text” that grants the “Speaker of Parliament the power to reopen the door for candidacy once the deadline has passed.” Granted, the ruling also stated an extension can be approved via a parliamentary vote. On Saturday, Iraq’s largest coalition consisting of Muqtada al Sadr’s Sairoon, Sadr-aligned Sunnis, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) achieved quorum and approved a three-day extension that pushed the deadline from Monday to Wednesday. 203 lawmakers voted in favor of the extension, and 62 voted against it. The presidency remains a source of contention between the KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), with the KDP retaining the ability to veto the PUK’s preferred candidate, Barham Salih, and reaffirming their rejection of his reelection. Concurrently, several unconfirmed reports claimed Iraq’s pro-Iranian parties intend to nominate Haidar al Abadi for the post of prime minister, which would conflict with the Sadr-led coalition’s support of Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi’s reelection.
Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine caused economic turmoil in Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region, by driving up the costs of flour, cooking oil, grain, and steel. That said, several Kurdish officials, including the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Ministry of Trade and Industry, declared Iraqi Kurdistan would not face a wheat shortage. Iraq currently imports several agricultural products and cooking oil ingredients from Russia and Ukraine.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) rejected Turkish media reports claiming the SDF sent fighters to Ukraine. “We confirm that this information is false and comes in the context of the desperate attempts of the Turkish occupation authorities to harm our forces,” said the SDF. On another note, the SDF detained several ISIS (Da’esh) terrorists in al Shaitat, east of Deir Ez Zor, on Sunday. Simultaneously, Turkish-backed Islamists shelled several SDF-controlled locations, including Ain Essa and Manbij. The pro-Turkish outlet Baladi claimed a Syrian National Army (SNA) rocket attack killed six SDF personnel near Aleppo on March 7.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported local Kurdish security forces (Asayesh) foiled an attempt to smuggle Da’esh families out of al Hawl camp. The SOHR also detailed additional human rights violations committed by Turkish-backed groups, including the destruction of an agricultural site in Afrin and the arbitrary arrest of more Kurds.
The Turkish National Assembly stripped the parliamentary immunity of the Kurdish lawmaker Semra Guzel. The Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) left the session protesting the process while 313 Turkish lawmakers voted for the decision. The Justice ministry launched investigations against the Kurdish lawmaker after leaked photos showed Guzel with her finance, a Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) member, back in 2014 during the peace process. The lawmaker was part of the HDP delegation visiting PKK mediating talks with the government, but the Turkish authorities launched a smear campaign against Guzel. On Saturday, Turkish police raided her home in Diyarbakir (Amed), and currently, she is facing prison time for “membership of a terrorist organization.” Separately, the police arrested HDP Cizre district executives, Songül Küçük and Naim Inedi on Thursday.