MESOP WATCH :Kurdistan’s Weekly Brief, October 5, 2021 – A weekly brief of events occurred in the Kurdistan regions of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.
The Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Ground Forces (IRGCGF), Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour, issued more threats against Iranian Kurdish parties based in Iraqi Kurdistan
during a speech commemorating Iran’s Sacred Defense Week in Sanandaj. Pakpour claimed the Iranian military would destroy the “strongholds and bases” of Iraq-based opposition factions if Iraqi officials failed to expel the “terrorist groups from northern Iraq as quickly as possible.” Pakpour also accused the US of fermenting anti-Iran conspiracies, claimed the US could not confront Iran militarily, and said Iran has a “decisive role” in ongoing nuclear negotiations. The Iranian regime previously struck Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI) positions along the Iran-Iraq border with rockets and drones from September 9-12. Meanwhile, several Iranian Kurdish parties accused the regime of creating a regional crisis to distract from the domestic economic issues and political unrest caused by its own failed policies.
IRGC intelligence officers (Ettela’at) arrested two Kurdish environmental activists named Salah Salihi and Armin Aesparlous in Sanandaj. Concurrently, the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights reported Iranian authorities detained 39 Kurds for activism in September. September also saw Iranian and Turkish border guards kill several Kurdish border porters known as kolbars.
Iraqi political parties again brushed off predictions of low voter turnout and stepped up their campaigns in the final days before the October 10th parliamentary elections. Political parties in Iraqi Kurdistan will compete for 18 seats in Sulaymaniyah Governorate, 15 in Erbil Governorate, and 11 in Duhok Governorate. Kurdish parties are also hoping to win nearly a dozen seats spread across the“disputed territories” in Diyala, Kirkuk, Nineveh, and Saladin governorates. At the same time, a total of nine quota seats in the Council of Representatives of Iraq (CRI) are reserved for Iraqi minorities, including five for Christians and one for the Yazidis, Faili Kurds, Shabak, and Mandeans. The main Kurdish parties running in Iraqi Kurdistan are the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the Kurdistan Coalition formed by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Change Party (Gorran), the New Generation, the Islamic Union Party, and the Kurdistan Justice Group.
Rudaw released a report detailing the Iranian regime’s construction of 57 military posts in the vicinity of Iraqi Kurdistan’s Halgurd Mountain, situated in the Zagros Mountains between the Kurdish regions of Iraq (Bashur) and Iran (Rojhelat). Local hikers have complained that Iranian presence is pushing locals and foreigners away from the area, though the occupation is also likely to raise fears of additional Iranian military operations on Iraqi soil.
The Turkish military claimed it killed a senior member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) near Qandil. Concurrently, an airstrike wounded two civilians in a village in Kirkuk Governorate, with residents accusing Turkey of being responsible for the attack. On Sunday, Turkey’s Ministry of National Defense asserted Turkish forces had killed 18,549 “terrorists,” mostly Syrian Kurds and PKK members, since July 2015.
France’s Consul General in Erbil, Olivier Decottignies, hand-delivered a letter from French President Emmanuel Macron to President of Kurdistan Region Nechirvan Barzani on Thursday. Macron’s letter thanked President Barzani for his hospitality during their August 30 meeting in Erbil and stated, “France and the Kurdistan Region have old and unique relations which we need to preserve at the highest level.” France has stepped up its diplomatic efforts in Iraqi Kurdistan significantly since 2014.
A Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) delegation headed by SDC President Ilham Ahmed concluded its trip to Washington after meeting with several US lawmakers and officials from the White House and the State Department. Ahmed then said the SDC asked the Biden administration to exempt the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) from sanctions imposed on the Assad regime by the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act. Moreover, while the SDC’s trip coincided with that of the Turkish-backed National Coalition for Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, the two sides did not meet or engage in dialogue.
On Sunday, October 3rd, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced they had removed 54 child soldiers between the ages of 15-17 from their ranks and returned them to their families. The SDF then held a press conference with a regional child protection office and reiterated the organization’s “commitment to all international conventions and laws.” In July 2019, the SDF signed an agreement with the United Nations that prohibited the recruitment or conscription of children under the age of 18.
Turkey and its Islamist proxies shelled several SDF positions along the M4 Motorway near Ain Essa and the Christian town of Tal Tamer and injured a child. Simultaneously, a pro-SDF media outlet accused Turkey of using cluster munitions in a village west of Ain Essa on Sunday. Furthermore, the SDF’s official press center blamed Turkey and its proxies for 32 attacks on SDF-controlled areas in September and accused them of indiscriminately shelling civilian areas and employing chemical weapons.
The SDF announced the killing of two ISIS (Da’esh) terrorists and capture of three who were planning to detonate a car bomb in Raqqa on Sunday. Before Sunday’s raid, the SDF apprehended a Da’esh bombmaker south of Hasakah. Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported dozens of Russian airstrikes targeted Da’esh caves and bunkers in the “Aleppo-Hama-Raqqa triangle.” Lastly, Da’esh explosive remnants killed two children and wounded two more in Deir Ez Zor Province’s al Bahra village on Wednesday.
US Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and James Lankford (R-OK) addressed a letter to President Joe Biden that urged him to hold Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accountable for “disenfranchising Turkey’s Kurdish population.” The letter, cosigned by six Democrats, one Republican, and one Independent, also encouraged President Biden to forcibly condemn Erdogan’s “efforts to disband the country’s largest pro-Kurdish political party and to work with EU partners to prevent further democratic backsliding in Turkey.”
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-Chair Mithat Sancar called for the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Turkey’s main opposition party, to engage in “transparent policy, not behind-the-door negotiations.” The HDP, despite maintaining relations and holding secret meetings with other opposition parties, has struggled to secure open political alliances. With that said, however, the HDP announced an agenda for the 2023 elections that includes finding a “democratic solution to the Kurdish issue” and forging a “Democracy Alliance” with other opposition parties.
A Turkish court in Hakkari handed 30 Kurds prison sentences ranging from 8 years, nine months to 17 years, six months for “membership of an illegal organization” in what has become known as the “KCK Yuskavage case.” Further, the Turkish government filed a lawsuit against the head of the HDP in Iskenderun, Abdurrahim Şahin, for remarks made during a speech. Additionally, Turkish police raids in Amed, Ankara, Hakkari, Istanbul, Bursa, and Konya resulted in the arrest of at least a dozen Kurds, including an HDP youth leader named Ezgi Orak.