MESOP MIDEAST WATCH: Kurdistan’s Weekly Brief Nov 22, 2022

A weekly brief of events occurred in the Kurdistan regions of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.

  • The Iranian regime continued its campaign of repression during the nation’s tenth week of unrest and deployed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) across Iranian Kurdistan, mostly in Mehabad, Bokan, and Javanrud. The IRGC shot dozens of protesters in the streets, and Iranian authorities imposed curfews while shutting off electricity to several neighborhoods. Several Iranian human rights groups estimated that Iranian authorities have now killed at least 378 protesters, including 47 children, since the latest protests began on September 17. The Iranian regime has also wounded and arrested thousands of demonstrators and dissidents since then. U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken weighed in on the regime’s latest crackdowns in saying, “We are greatly concerned that Iranian authorities are reportedly escalating violence against protesters, particularly in the city of Mahabad.” At the same time, several members of Iran’s national soccer team expressed solidarity with the protesters by remaining silent during the Iranian national anthem at the World Cup. Further, the U.S. sanctioned several Asian and Middle Eastern companies for selling Iranian petrochemicals and petroleum products. Meanwhile, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen expressed concerns about the proliferation of Iranian drones and vowed the regime would face further sanctions. Lastly, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) adopted a resolution criticizing the regime for its lack of cooperation regarding the presence of man-made uranium at three Iranian nuclear sites.


  • The IRGC unleashed a new round of missile and drone attacks against Iranian opposition groups in Iraqi Kurdistan on Sunday night. The first attacks hit the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan’s (KDPI) headquarters and a medical center for Kurdish refugees in Koya, killing one Peshmerga. A second attack hit the Komala Party’s main office in Sulaymaniyah Governorate’s Zargwez village and caused no reported casualties. Sunday’s wave of attacks is the third since the latest round of civil unrest began in September. The IRGC is still accusing Kurdish opposition parties in Iraq of directing the protests, but the parties have refuted the accusations. The U.S. and several other Western countries condemned Sunday’s attacks, and U.S. Representatives Michael Waltz and Guy Reschenthaler called for the Biden administration to respond to Iran’s attacks on Iraqi Kurdistan. Concurrently, the commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, Esmail Ghaani, visited Iraq and threatened to launch a ground invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan if Iraqi authorities failed to disarm the Iranian Kurdish opposition groups within Iraq’s borders and dismantle their bases. The KDPI predicted the Iranian regime would carry out additional strikes in Iraq unless the international community took serious actions in response to Iranian aggression. Komala Party head Abdullah Mohtadi said, “A united and proud people cannot be defeated with rockets.” The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) also denounced the Iranian attacks and released a statement that read, “Iran’s repeated violations of the sovereignty of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq are inexcusable and a gross infringement of international law and neighborly relations.” The KRG then requested the international community and Iraqi government “take a clear and principled position on Iran’s continued aggression.”
  • Dozens of Turkish airstrikes that were allegedly targeting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) struck parts of Iraqi Kurdistan and northern Syria on November 19. The locations targeted in Iraqi Kurdistan included Sulaymaniyah Governorate’s Mawat District, Qandil, and Kurtak. The U.S. Consulate General Erbil warned Americans of potential Turkish military action in northern Syria and Iraq before the airstrikes.


  • Saturday’s Turkish airstrikes killed at least eleven civilians and dozens of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) personnel. The strikes hit Derik, Kobani, Zarkan, Tal Refaat and al Shahba. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported the strikes also killed at least 18 members of the Syrian Arab Army, including several officers. The SDF vowed to respond to Turkish aggression “effectively at the right time and place” and accused the Turkish government of exploiting the November 13 bombing in Istanbul to justify Turkish imperial ambitions in northern Syria. The SDF and its main armed wings, the People’s Defense Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), have repeatedly denied all involvement in the November 13 attack. On Tuesday, November 22, Turkish forces escalated bombing and air strikes hitting SDF’s anti-terror units inside a joint military base with the US in Hasakah. As a result, two SDC members were killed and three wounded. Simounelstly and for the first time, Turkey launched air strikes on the SDF positions in Deir al Zor and oil fields in Tirbespiye, near Qamishli, in addition to medical centers, clinics, and gas stations in al Shahba, Kobani, Afrin, and Manbij. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed a new invasion on Tuesday with tanks and soldiers. The Turkish attacks coincide with the 19th round of the tripartite Astana talks over Syria between Russia, Turkey, and Iran. The Turkish attacks are ongoing in different areas in the North and East of Syria. The Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) criticized the US and Russia for “the continuation of the Turkish military air operations” since Turkey signed separate ceasefire agreements with both powers in 2019. The SDC held” the Security Council, the United Nations, and the Arab League for Turkey’s persistence and disregard of international laws.”


  • The Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) rejected the Turkish aggression in northern Syria, accusing the government of being “politically bankrupt and unable to govern.” The HDP statement read:” We defend the right of the Kurdish people to self-rule in the region, the struggle of the peoples of the region to establish a democratic order, and we reject these aggressive policies.” The Turkish government lacked evidence of PKK’s involvement in Taksim’s terror attack, and the state-funded media outlets and officials accused America and renewed calls to shut down the HDP party. HDP’s co-Vice President, Tayip Temel, said the government is using the Taksim attack as a “lynch campaign against the opposition forces in society, especially the Kurds, the Syrian Kurds, the Kurds living in Turkey, the HDP and the forces of democracy.”