MESOPOTAMIA NEWS Kurdistan’s Weekly Brief, February 16, 2021

A weekly brief of events that occurred in the Kurdish regions of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.
The Turkish military conducted multiple airstrikes in Duhok Governorate’s Amedi District’s Gara mountains last Wednesday and followed them up with a special operations raid on a PKK position that resulted in a lengthy engagement and casualties on both sides. Turkey then claimed 13 of its citizens were executed by the PKK, but the PKK denied the Turkish claims and reported the deceased were killed by Turkish airstrikes. At the same time, Turkish opposition parties accused the government of failing to reach an agreement to secure the release of the 13 captured intelligence, military and police personnel, as the PKK expressed a willingness to release them via civilian organizations and had previously released other captives through such a procedure. That said, the Turkish Ministry of National Defense announced it had killed 48 PKK members and carried out additional airstrikes in the area.

  • The Turkish government, following its failed raid on the PKK in Iraq, initiated an intense crackdown targeting Turkey’s Kurdish population and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and has arrested over 718 Kurds and HDP members since Wednesday. Moreover, the Turkish government is attempting to close the HDP to weaken the opposition and secure power for Turkish President Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The Turkish government also sentenced three journalists to six years and three months in prison for running a website critical of Erdogan. The HDP responded by accusing the Turkish government of attempting to “wash its hands out of this disaster and attribute all the responsibility of the losses inflicted by the military operation to our party who has always stood with the families throughout these times.”


  • An Iranian-backed militia named Saraya Awlia ad Dem (Guardians of Blood Companies) claimed responsibility for an indirect fire attack in which around 14 Iranian-made rockets were fired from a truck approximately 6 miles from the Erbil International Airport and struck a US base and several of the city’s residential areas. The attack killed one foreign contractor employed by the US, injured one US service member, three civilians, and eight foreign contractors, and was denounced by the US, UN, EU, and various regional actors. At the same time, both the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Government of Iraq (GOI) opened investigations into the incident, while the Ministry of the Peshmerga responded by saying, “Any attack on the coalition forces is an attack on the Peshmerga forces and the Kurdistan Region’s people.” The Erbil International Airport was closed for several hours because of the attack but resumed flights on Tuesday.
  • A KRG delegation headed to Baghdad in a final attempt to secure an agreement with the GOI on the provision of Iraqi Kurdistan’s share of the national budget. That said, disputes remain regarding the GOI’s share of the Kurdistan region’s income from domestic activities and natural resources, and Iraq’s Kurdish parties fear the Council of Representatives of Iraq’s (CRI) Iranian-backed parties will work to deny the KRG its share of the 2021 budget. The CRI intends to vote on the 2021 budget bill this week.
  • At least two ISIS (Da’esh) terrorists were arrested by security forces in Kirkuk. Additionally, Kirkuk Governorate’s Kurdish parties agreed to form a united list headed by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) to run in Iraq’s upcoming elections. The Kurdistan Democratic Party was not included on the list and has not maintained an office in the governorate since October 16, 2017.
  • Several Iranian-backed militias deployed to Shingal (Sinjar) in response to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s threats to occupy the Yazidi town. Shingal’s Yazidi residents have voiced concerns about a potential invasion due to the ongoing Turkish attacks on pro-PKK elements in the area.



  • The US denied an invitation to participate in the Russian-sponsored negotiations known as the “Astana talks,” whose 15th round began in Sochi, Russia on Tuesday and includes Iran, Turkey, and the Assad regime. The Kurds, as in the case of the UN-sponsored Geneva talks, were excluded due to Turkey’s veto.
  • The US-led coalition and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) increased their operational tempo against Da’esh in Deir Ez Zor Governorate last week. The SDF announced the arrest of eight terrorists in the eastern part of the governorate on Wednesday and Thursday.
  • Despite a Russian-sponsored ceasefire and ongoing mediation efforts, the pro-Assad regime militias known as the National Defense Forces (NDF) opened fire on Kurdish security forces at a checkpoint in Qamishli last week. Qamishli has seen several incidents in 2021 between Kurdish forces and the Assad regime, who remains in control of the city’s “Security Square.”
  • The SDF announced the continuation of talks between northeastern Syria’s ruling Kurdish parties and the Kurdish opposition group known as the Kurdish National Council. The SDF also released a statement that read, “The two sides have achieved tangible progress and serious steps during the previous talks sessions. We are very optimistic that the next phase will witness more steps on the road to the success of the dialogue, leading to an agreement based on solid national foundations.”



  • The Iranian regime’s most recent crackdown on Kurdish political activity slowed last week but has now resulted in the arrest of over 120 Kurds, most of whom were charged with offenses related to activism. The Hengaw Organization for Human Rights reported seven of those detained were transferred to Urmia’s main prison. Concurrently, Iranian authorities arrested a Kurdish man named Saed Husseini in Oshnavieh (Shinno). Husseini previously served three years in prison for “cooperation with a Kurdish opposition party.” Moreover, six Kurds from Piranshahr received five-year sentences for “cooperation with the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan,” and Sanandaj’s Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced a female Kurdish environmental activist named Farank Jamshiri to four years in prison for “membership of a Kurdistan party against the state.” Lastly, a Kurdish language teacher named Zara Mohammadi had her sentence reduced from ten years in prison to five. Mohammadi previously accused Iranian intelligence (Ettela’at) of failing to provide evidence to substantiate charges against her.
  • Iranian authorities injured three Kurdish border porters (Kolbars) near Baneh on Wednesday. Another Kolbar named Aram Jatan died after falling off a cliff near Sarvabad (Sewalava) on Thursday.