MESOPOTAMIA NEWS Kurdistan’s Weekly Brief, January 19, 2021

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

  • The Turkish Minister of Justice added more names to the summary of proceedings intended to strip Kurdish lawmakers of parliamentary immunity, including that of People’s Democratic Party Co-chair Pervin Buldan. The most recent additions come during a larger crackdown on over 100 Kurdish activists and politicians dubbed the “Kobanê Trial,” which has so far resulted in a Turkish court in Gaziantep sentencing seven people to life in prison for participating in protests against Da’esh in 2014. Furthermore, at least 24 people received prison sentences for participation in HDP-sponsored women’s rights rallies held in Bitlis in 2016. Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ignored repeated requests from European nations to release former HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas, who has been imprisoned since November 2016. Finally, a Turkish court in Diyarbakir (Amed) sentenced the former head of the province’s bar association, Mehmet Emin Aktar, to 75 months in prison for espousing “propaganda for a terrorist organization.”



  • The Council of Representatives of Iraq finished its second reading of the 2021 budget bill on Saturday. The CRI’s finance committee will now examine over 150 lawmaker edits regarding spending and public employee salaries. Meanwhile, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) awaits the passage of the bill so it can receive its share of the budget from the Government of Iraq (GOI) and pay its employees’ salaries, though it remains unclear if the bill will pass in its current form.
  • Turkish Minister of Defense Hulusi Askar, following a meeting with Prime Minister of Iraq Mustafa al Kadhimi in Baghdad, traveled to Erbil on Monday and met with multiple KRG officials on Tuesday, including President of the Kurdistan Region Nechirvan Barzani, to discuss security cooperation against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The Turkish military continues to carry out operations it claims are targeting the PKK in Iraqi Kurdistan and has established at least 40 bases and outposts in the region.
  • Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister of Iraq Kadhimi that suggested postponing the Iraqi election scheduled on June 6, 2021, to October 16, 2021. Concurrently, Kurdish parties in Kirkuk held additional meetings to finalize a united list for the upcoming elections, though the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) was absent due to its refusal to return to the governorate after the 2017 independence referendum.


  • Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergei Lavrov claimed Russia, despite its opposition to the US presence in Syria, would not initiate hostilities with US forces and instead engage in dialogue aimed at defusing tensions and ensuring compliance with agreements in the region. That said, Lavrov also stressed Russia’s opposition to any attacks on the Syrian state. Several hostile incidents have occurred between Russian and US forces since the US’s October 2019 partial withdrawal from northeastern Syria, and Lavrov’s comments come in the wake of additional Israeli airstrikes on Iranian militias and US sanctions targeting the Assad regime. Concurrently, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported 40 Russian airstrikes targeting rural locations in Raqqa Governorate, ostensibly in response to an increasing number of ISIS (Da’esh) attacks targeting Assad regime forces in Deir Ez Zor Governorate.
  • The Turkish military and its proxies launched several indirect fire attacks northwest of Manbij city on Saturday. At the same time, the positioning of a large number of Turkish proxies near Ain Essa stoked fears of a renewed assault on the city.
  • The Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East of Syria (AANES) released another 31 families (99 people) from al Hawl camp last week, continuing a policy that was instituted last year where individuals who had not committed crimes were released to the custody of Arab tribes that offered guarantees they would not engage in militant activities. Meanwhile, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced the arrest of three Da’esh terrorists and the confiscation of “documents” in Deir Ez Zor Governorate’s Al Shheell town.



  • The Iranian regime intensified its ongoing crackdown on Kurdish political rights and has now arrested at least 35 Kurdish activists across Iranian Kurdistan (Roihelat) during the past two weeks. Simultaneously, Sanandaj’s Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced a Kurdish activist named Fareed Waisi and his wife, Sirous Abbas, to two years in prison for “propaganda against the state” and “disruption of national security” after they organized and participated in November 2019 protests. Moreover, the Cooperation Center of the Iranian Kurdistan Parties denounced the mass arrests targeting Kurds and described the regime’s policies as “wrong, inhuman, and creating a dire economic situation for people of Iran.” The Kurdish parties also claimed the Iranian regime’s arrests of civilian activists were motivated by fear of anti-government protests.
  • Iranian border guards killed a Kurdish border porter (Kolbar) named Yousif Fatahzada near Baneh last week. Another Kolbar named Ahmad Mohammadi died after suffering a heart attack in the same area on Saturday. Iranian authorities also wounded two Kolbars near Nowsud last Tuesday and Sunday. Lastly, as of Tuesday, at least five Kolbars remained missing after an avalanche near the Somai Bradost region.