MESOP MIDEAST WATCH:Kurdistan’s Weekly Brief January 11, 2022 – A weekly brief of events occurred in the Kurdistan regions of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.
A Kurdish language teacher and activist named Zara Mohammadi turned herself in to Iranian authorities after an appeals court confirmed her five-year prison sentence for “creating a group to disrupt national security.”
The Iranian regime initially arrested Mohammadi for teaching Kurdish to Kurdish children in May 2019 and sentenced her to ten years in prison in 2020, though the sentence was later reduced to five years. Several human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, denounced the regime and criticized Mohammadi’s arrest and sentencing. Concurrently, several of Mohammedi’s friends and relatives gathered to wish her well before she reported to prison.
The Iranian regime continued its crackdown on Kurdish political rights by arresting at least 19 Kurds last week, including eight in Divandareh (Diwandar), four in Naqadeh, four in Oshnavieh (Shinno), two in Sanandaj (Sena), and one in Baneh. Moreover, in Paveh (Pawa), a female Kurdish activist named Shina Ahmadi turned herself in to authorities after a court upheld her sentence of three months in prison for “membership of an exiled Kurdish party.” Additionally, a Piranshahr court sentenced a Kurdish man named Ahad Hassan to one year in prison for “cooperation with an opposition party.”
Iranian border guards ambushed a group of Kurdish border porters (kolbars) and injured two near Nowsud on Friday. Also, near Nowsud, a kolbar was injured when he fell from a truck, and another had his leg amputated below the knee after tripping a mine.
Iraq’s new parliament capped off an eventful night by overcoming objections from Iranian-backed parties and some Sunni politicians and reelecting Speaker of the Council of Representatives of Iraq Muhammad al Halbousi to a second term. The session was chaired by Iraq’s oldest lawmaker and Halbousi’s main competitor, Mahmoud al Mashadani, but Mashadani suffered a medical emergency and was taken to a hospital before the vote. Mashadani later claimed the vote was unconstitutional. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the New Generation both voted for Halbousi, while the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) left the session without voting for Halbousi or his two deputies. The KDP and PUK, despite maintaining a joint coalition, also remain divided on the renewal of Barham Saleh’s presidency.
Germany’s Federal Minister of Defense, Christine Lambrecht, traveled to Erbil from Baghdad and met with several Kurdish officials, including President of Kurdistan Region Nechervan Barzani, to discuss the ongoing war on ISIS (Da’esh). Lambrecht also “reaffirmed her country’s support for Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.”
Turkey escalated operations in Syria and launched at least 15 attacks on the Autonomous Administration of North and East of Syria (AANES). On Saturday, a Turkish drone strike killed one civilian and wounded at least 11 others, including a four-year-old boy, 12 miles east of Kobani. Other Turkish attacks targeted five rural areas near Geri Spi (Tal Abyad) and Ain Essa. Meanwhile, the Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, Nadie Maenza, condemned Turkey’s most recent transgressions and encouraged the US-led coalition to pressure Turkey to stop its incursions during her visit to Syria. “Turkey is causing destabilization because it wants to take more land,” said Maenza. Moreover, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said Turkish proxies killed one of its fighters on Wednesday. Concomitantly, the SDF-affiliated Syriac Military Council (SMC) released a statement on its ninth anniversary that denounced the atrocities inflicted by Turkey and its “mercenaries” on Christan towns and villages.
Amidst constituted violations and war crimes by Turkish proxies in the occupied Afrin, a rights group said it had documented the arrest of 584 people in the area in 2021. Moreover, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported more destruction of archeological sites in Afrin by Turkish proxies while some parts were stolen by militants backed by Turkey.
Racist attacks occurred against both Kurdish natives and Syrian refugees in Turkey last week. On Monday, a Turkish mob attacked a Syrian business store in Istanbul’s Esenyurt district and attacked a home of a Syrian, killing a 19-year old refugee while he was asleep. In Ankara, 30 people attacked three Kurdish students, injuring two. However, after a brief arrest, two main attackers were released by the Turkish authorities. Kurdish activists accused attacks of affiliation of the radical Gray Wolves. Separately, the Turkish police arrested Muhammed Eren Sütçü, attacker on the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) building in Istanbul, after two weeks and public outcry.
The Turkish police arrested two activists, Nebahat Işçi and Hüseyin Inedi, members of peace organizations, in the Cizre district of Sirnak province. Further, the police detained two local Kurdish politicians, Mustafa Kuşman and Cemal Aslan in Van on Tuesday.
The Turkish government started a process of stripping the immunity of Semra Güzel Kurdish lawmaker, member of the HDP, after an old photo leaked to the press, showing her next to a member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Güzel will face prosecution, but she accused the government of smearing her and said the photo dates back to the era of the peace process between the Government and the PKK.