MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : Kurdistan’s Weekly Brief – December 22, 2020

A weekly brief of events that occurred in the Kurdish regions of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.
IranThe Iranian regime’s campaign against Kurdish political rights, which has now resulted in the arrest of at least 257 Kurdish activists in 2020, continued last week with Iranian authorities arresting four Kurds named Omed Maroufi, Rahman Yousifi, Kamal Quitas, and Mohammed Hamzapour in Oshnavieh (Shinno). Likewise, Iranian security forces detained a Kurdish man named Aram Ismaeli in Divandareh (Diwandara) and provided his family with no information regarding his arrest. Simultaneously, Kamyaran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced a Kurdish man named Rostam Ibrahimi to ten months in prison for “cooperating with and promoting a Kurdish opposition party.” Another Kurdish man named Erfan Murtazie received a two-year sentence for similar offenses in Saqqez. Lastly, the Kurdistan Human Rights Association (KMMK) reported Iranian security forces arrested a Kurdish man at a university in Kermanshah for “disrespecting Qasem Soleimani” and claimed a total of five people have charged with the same offense since Soleimani was killed by a US drone strike in January 2020.

  • Iranian border guards opened fire on a group of Kurdish border porters (Kolbars) near Baneh on Thursday and severely wounded two. The Iranian regime is now responsible for most of the 75 Kolbars who have been killed and 175 who have been wounded in 2020, though Turkish authorities and unexploded ordinance have also caused some of the casualties.


  • A Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) delegation headed by Deputy Prime Minister of the Kurdish Region Qubad Talabani remained in Baghdad to continue talks with the Government of Iraq (GOI) that are intended to resolve ongoing disputes regarding the KRG’s share of the federal budget and other financial matters. The KRG previously stressed its willingness to exchange part of its oil revenue and customs income for its share of the federal budget, though both sides’ efforts to reach an agreement have been hindered by Iraq’s economic crisis, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, low oil prices, and the implementation of the budget deficit law passed in November. The GOI will also devalue the Iraqi dinar in an attempt to remedy the ongoing crises facing the country and agreed on a 2021 budget that will be sent to the Council of Representatives of Iraq (CRI) for approval. A leaked draft of the budget showed it estimated oil prices to be $42 per barrel in 2021 and forecasted Iraq’s oil production to reach 3,250,000 barrels per day (BPD), including 250,000 BPD from the KRG.
  • The Presidency of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq released a statement condemning Sunday’s rocket attacks on the US embassy in Baghdad that read, “Attacks on diplomatic and foreign missions undermine the sovereignty of Iraq and its interests. They also violate international laws and harm Iraq’s relations with other countries.” Pro-Iranian militias have recently launched an increasing number of attacks on US diplomatic and military envoys in Iraq, including two in Erbil.
  • ISIS (Da’esh) terrorists killed a civilian named Karim Jalal and burned him inside his vehicle after setting up a fake checkpoint on Saturday near Kirkuk Governorate’s Hawija District’s Rashad. That said, Iraqi security forces seized a Da’esh armory that contained rockets and small arms ammunition, though a Da’esh sniper killed a member of the Iraqi federal police near Hawija District’s Riyad sub-district. On another note, several small protests took place in Kirkuk city over a shortage of electricity provided by the provincial government.


  • Relations between Iraqi Peshmerga forces and the Peoples’ Defense Units (YPG) in Syria remained strained after both sides exchanged fire near Sahlia on Wednesday. The Peshmerga forces also detained several members of the YPG for 24 hours. Meanwhile, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) released a statement denying the Peshmerga’s claim the YPG, which is a part of the SDF, attacked them. The SDF statement went on to outline both sides’ continuing cooperation and described the incident as “nothing more than a matter of poor coordination between the security services on both sides of the border.”
  • The SDF announced it launched several raids in Deir Ez Zor Governorate that resulted in the capture of six Da’esh terrorists and seizure of weapons and explosives. Concurrently, the Commander of United States Central Command General Kenneth F. McKenzie traveled to northeastern Syria on Monday and met with SDF officials to discuss the ongoing fight against Da’esh. Moreover, Germany organized the return of three Da’esh women and 12 children of Da’esh fighters from al Hol Camp. That said, thousands of foreign Da’esh operatives and their relatives remain in SDF-guarded camps in northeastern Syria.
  • Turkish proxies continued to clash with the SDF near Ain Essa in an ongoing attempt to expand Turkish control in Syria’s Kurdish region. While the Kurds remain wary of the potential for Russia to green-light another Turkish invasion of the region, talks between Russia and Turkey continued in the absence of a firm US position on the issue. Russia previously asked the SDF to hand Ain Essa over to the Assad regime, but the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) denied this request and demanded Russia stop the Turkish attacks.
  • A senior political adviser for the Deir Ez Zor Civilian Council named Dawood Haj Ali, also known as “Hamza Tulhaldan,” died on Saturday. Though initial AANES reports claimed Ali was killed in a car crash, other opposition reports suggested he was assassinated by an IED while traveling between Deir Ez Zor and al Hasakah.


  • A Turkish court in Diyarbakir (Amed) sentenced prominent former Kurdish lawmaker Leyla Guven to 22 years and six months in prison for “membership of a terror organization.” Guven was arrested on Monday morning and sent to a closed prison. The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) refused to recognize the verdict and called the sentence a “hostile decision that is not only against Leyla Güven and the DTK [Democratic Society Congress], but also against all Kurds and the opposition.” Another Turkish court sentenced Ayşe Dicle, an NGO co-chair, to 127 months and 15 days in prison. Lastly, Turkish police arrested ten pro-HDP activists in Adana and two more in Balikesir.
  • The European Union’s Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Nabila Massrali  called upon the Turkish government to release imprisoned Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala last week and released a statement that read, “The European Court of Human Rights had concluded, more than a year ago, that Osman Kavala’s arrest and pre-trial detention took place in the absence of evidence to support a reasonable suspicion he had committed an offense and pursued an ulterior purpose, namely to silence him and dissuade other human rights defenders.” Kavala has been a long-time supporter of Kurdish rights in Turkey.