Iraq’s Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitaries have discovered 10 mass graves in areas they recently captured from ISIS militants in the Shingal region. These areas previously have been inaccessible to families of the victims, as well as local and international investigators. Rudaw’s Tahseen Qasim in Shingal reported that the Hashd al-Shaabi located three mass graves in the Siba Sheikh Khidir complex in the south of Shingal and another two in the Girzirgski complex. Qasim added five more mass graves were also discovered in Kocho village. Representatives of the Kurdistan Regional Government have used satellite imagery to identify many areas that likely contain mass graves; however, because of safety concerns and political differences, Kurdish investigators have been unable to go actually to the sites on the ground even when survivors like Yezidis provide testimony and evidence. A Yezidi member of the Iraqi parliament announced yesterday through a statement on the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) website that Yezidis will soon open an online repository for the documentation of ISIS atrocities. “We will launch an online museum in the near future in order to be able to document all the atrocities committed against our community,” Vian Dakhil wrote in the statement. “Everyone could send their stories to the museum and their evidence will officially in one of the documenting agencies in the world will be registered”. Kocho, the hometown of the UN Goodwill Ambassador Nadia Murad, is a symbol of ISIS atrocities against Yezidi people. It is 18 kilometers south of Shingal town. Some 4,000 Yezidis used to inhabit it. When ISIS militants attacked Shingal and its surroundings in August 2014, they arrested thousands of Yezidis, many from the village of Kocho. Some of them were collectively killed in the village, other girls and women were sold or taken by ISIS members. The fates of thousands of Yezidis still remain unclear. “There have been over 40 mass graves found in Sinjar. I am horrified by the thought of the remains of six of my brothers in those graves, along with 700 other Yazidis who were summarily executed on the 15th of August 2014,” Murad said earlier this week. She partially laid the blame on the international community for what happened against the Yeizids by ISIS, explaining that in the period before the group besieged Kocho — prior to the massacre — Yezidis had asked for help. “Kocho is one of the capital crimes of 21st century”, she added. “It is with this in mind that I ask the liberating and security forces to preserve all findings, so there will be living evidence of the Islamic State crimes forever”. Shiite forces force announced it had reached the Syrian border on Monday. The Hashd al-Shaabi “made a miracle in the month of Ramadan” with their arrival at the Syrian border, Hadi al-Amiri, the secretary general of the Badr Organization, an influential military wing within the Hashd al-Shaabi, stated in an announcement published on their website. Last week the force declared it had cleared the town of Qairawan and its 13 villages and complexes, of which many were predominately Yezidi.
Leader of the Change (Gorran) Movement, Nawshirwan Mustafa, returned back to Iraq’s Kurdistan Region on Saturday from a medical trip in London. Mustafa arrived early this morning into Sulaimani International Airport. His office had not previously provided a definitive time frame for Mustafa’s return to the Kurdistan Region, however the possibility of a May 9 return had been circulated according to a member of the Kurdistan Parliament from Gorran, Munira Othman, NRT reported. Mustafa went to Germany for medical treatment in September 2015. After his stay in Germany, he went to the U.K. for a “medical follow-up”. He returned to Kurdistan for a short time in April 2016. Shorsh Haji, spokesperson of Gorran told Rudaw that he was unaware of what prompted Mustafa’s return. Since then the Gorran head has been largely absent amid a political crisis that has threatened at times to destabilize the region. Gorran has 24 seats in now-closed Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament, the second most after the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
Recent frictions between the two parties have only deepened over the past weeks as Gorran’s acting Governor in Sulaimani Sardar Qadir resigned from office in protest against what he called lack of cooperation, and PUK’s increasing partnership with the dominant Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) to reopen the region’s parliament which has been closed since October 2015. The parliament was shut down after the KDP removed its Gorran Speaker Yousif Muhammad in retaliation for deadly riots that hit KDP offices in Sulaimani province nearly 2 years ago. The KDP has accused Gorran of masterminding the protests that killed several KDP members and wounded dozens more. The KDP has since opposed the return of the former speaker and asked the parties to reopen the parliament by electing a new speaker, something Gorran has insistently opposed. “If the parliament is reopened while the (current) speaker is removed, it will be against the agreement”, between the PUK and Gorran, said Mahwi Muhammad, head of Gorran office in Sulaimani referring to ongoing negotiations between the PUK and KDP to reopen the assembly. “We expect the PUK to officially announce the end of the agreement. It is true half of the PUK have opposed the deal but we still expect the other half to implement the agreement”, he added. The polemical PUK-Gorran pact sent shockwaves in Kurdistan Region when it was announced in May last year whose implementation could have upset the political order in the country dominated by the powerful KDP and its strategic alliance with the PUK. The deal would most notably allow PUK and Gorran to enter general elections on a joint ballot and consequently increase their chances to form the next Kurdish cabinet, which if implemented, would have diminished KDP’s dominance over government bodies since the 1990s. Gorran members have accused PUK of not “honouring” the deal not only in the parliament controversy, but also in Sulaimani province where both parties have the bulk of their power bases. According to Gorran of nearly 840 provincial posts in Sulaimani and Halabja, the party holds only 33 offices.
Kurdish journalist Ibrahim Abbas was detained by Asayish (security forces) in Erbil after he criticized the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and corruption in the Kurdistan Region. Abbas’ wife, Saadiya Mohammed, told NRT that security forces were waiting for Abbas from 8 p.m. on Wednesday until 1 a.m. on Thursday, saying that they wished to speak with the journalist. Abbas ended up being detained at the house of a friend on Wednesday night as he wasn’t at home, Mohammed added. The day of Abbas’ arrest, May 3, also coincides with World Press Freedom Day. The journalist’s brother, Aso Abbas, said that security forces had told the family that they were under orders when they detained the journalist. According to Mohammed, Abbas had previously received threatening messages over his criticism of the KDP and corruption.
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has agreed on a change of the speaker of the now-paralyzed Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament, and is believed to be ready to suggest the idea to Change Movement (Gorran) in the next meeting between the two groups, a source said. The source further said that the KDP had agreed to reactivate parliament and that the speaker position would be given back to Gorran,which has the second most seats in parliament, but that the current speaker, Yusuf Mohammed Sadiq, should be replaced. “Following several meetings and talks, we could convince [Massoud] Barzani to accept the suggestion”, the source noted. The PUK will suggest the idea to the Change Movement in the next meeting between the two parties, the source said, but it is unclear whether Gorran would accept such a change.
The Iraqi Parliament held a session on Sunday to discuss the deactivation of the Kurdistan Parliament. The session was however postponed until Tuesday to make decisions on the region’s parliament. The Gorran bloc head called on the Iraqi Parliament to instead play an “effective role” in reactivating the region’s parliament. Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) lawmaker in the Iraqi Parliament, Muhsin Saadun, said the discussion of the region’s parliament by the Iraq Parliament in such a way was “unconstitutional”. Amar Tuma, Head of the Fazila bloc, called on the parties in the Kurdistan Region to reach a compromise saying the deactivation of the Kurdistan Parliament was an “incorrect job”. Crises inside Iraqi Kurdistan deepened after the five major political parties failed to reach an agreement on the Kurdistan presidency issue in October 2015, following the expiration of Massoud Barzani’s term as president. Barzani refused to step down and remains unofficially in office. According to the law, Barzani cannot run for presidency anymore but the KDP insists that Massoud Barzani should remain president of the region. Gorran says Barzani cannot run for presidency again.
PUK official Adel Murad criticized Turkey’s attacks on Iraq’s Sinjar (Shingal) and Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) carried out in collaboration with the KDP, and said “The KDP sides with Turkey at a time when the rest of the world opposes it”. Adel Murad, co-founder of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) who is currently heading the party’s Central Council, spoke to ANF on Turkey’s attacks on the Kurds and the KDP’s policies, and emphasized that “the KDP values Turkey, not us”, an approach that bothers the Kurdish people. Murad recalled that Turkey has several military bases in South (Iraqi) Kurdistan, and continued: “Currently, the Turkish state has 19 military bases in South Kurdistan”. Zakho and surrounding territory has become a Turkish base. They are bombarding Qandil and its surroundings every day. They attacked Qereçox two days ago. This area is part of Rojava. Again, they attacked Shengal. The people in Shengal are Iraqi Êzidîs, not Êzidîs from Syria or Turkey. They are all Iraqi Kurds. YBŞ are not Kurds from Turkey or Syria. They are all Iraqi Kurds.
Nearly all Kurdish parties in the disputed city of Kirkuk on Monday showed support for an anticipated public vote on Kurdistan Region’s independence from Iraq and called for the vote to also include Kirkuk province. The Kurdish opposition Change Movement (Gorran) boycotted the meeting in Kirkuk, where all Kurdish factions gathered on Monday to discuss the referendum, in protest against the two dominant Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Gorran representative Ahmed Aziz told Rudaw. No official deadline has been set for the referendum but according to the Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani the vote will take place before the end of 2017.
Two of the main Kurdish parties have released a joint statement emphasizing that holding referendum for independence is a “national” matter and therefore needs to be discussed and “finalized” in the Kurdish parliament, an institution that has been paralyzed since October 2015. The ruling KDP, which holds the posts of Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s presidency and prime ministry has so far insisted that the long-anticipated referendum does not need a mandate from the Kurdish legislature. With regard to the so-called disputed areas, otherwise defined by the Kurdish authorities as the Kurdistani areas outside the Kurdistan Region, the two sides say that they are for holding a referendum in these places, which importantly include the oil-rich province of Kirkuk, claimed both by Baghdad and Erbil. “The two sides agree on holding referendum in the Kurdistani areas outside the administration of the Kurdistan Region”. The statement added that they discussed a number of pressing issues, including power sharing between the two parties in the provinces of Sulaimani and Halabja in accordance with the agreement they signed last year, paving the way for shared governance in these two provinces. The PUK announced last Wednesday that holding an independence referendum in Kurdistan cannot be realized without reactivating the Kurdish parliament and seeking solutions for the outstanding political problems.