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The United States and Turkey clash with the Kurds and Syria

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The United States will arm the Kurds in Syria, a decision announced on 9 May. Turkey reacted indignantly. On May 11, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urged Washington to “come back to his footsteps”, but more or less at the same time the US military confirmed that “very soon” will begin delivering mortars, heavy machine guns, light weapons and vehicles armored. For Turkey, the emergence of autonomous Syrian Kurdistan is therefore a huge problem. Turkey, in fact, can not do anything to prevent it. Ankara can not approach Russia more than it has already done, because it can not break with the Americans at a time when its relations with the European Union are at the lowest level.

Kurdish journalist Ibrahim Abbas detained in Erbil

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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.

Iraq: Most gun owners in Kurdistan are unlicensed

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Only around 3,150 gun owners in the Kurdistan Region have permits for their firearms, according to the interior ministry which issues licenses to gun owners across the Kurdistan Region in coordination with provincial authorities. There are no official data about the number of guns or people who carry them, but the ministry says the large majority of gun owners have no permission for their firearms. “The provincial authorities have the legal powers to issue licenses for applicants who fulfill certain criteria including medical reports that show they have no mental illnesses”, said Sami Jalal at the interior ministry. According to Jala the ministry has struggled to prevent unauthorized gun ownership, as the provincial and local authorities often have access to more accurate information about the background of the applicants. Those who apply for gun licenses are obliged to obtain recommendations from a doctor, the police and the security agencies. They also must be 18 years of age or older and with no record of past misconduct. At least 70 people were detained last week in Erbil after a police raid targeted unlicensed gun owners, most of whom were released on bail or after paying fines. Kurdistan Region laws have heavy penalties for unlicensed gun owners including relatively long jail sentences — up to one year in prison in addition to paying fees.

KRG expresses concern over Iran's opposition to Kurdistan independence

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The Kurdistan Region’s Department of Foreign Affairs expressed concerns over comments by Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi, who stated that Iran would be against an independence referendum in the region. Self-determination is a “natural” right of the Kurdish people who have suffered greatly to have their own state, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on its official website. “As it has been officially stated by the Kurdistan Regional Government, the referendum and Kurdistan independence is an internal matter for Iraq”, the statement read. “Through dialogue and understanding with Baghdad this will be discussed and decided. “We reject any statement beyond that and emphasize that intervention by any side is not allowed”, it added. It is up to the Kurdish people to decide on independence as is their own undisputed right, the statement read. Qassemi, said during a press conference on Monday that Iran supports the unity of Iraq’s soil and national sovereignty. “We oppose any division and separation from Iraq”, Qassemi added. “There is an endless distance to achieve this [independence of Kurdistan] because of different views between the Kurds and the region”. Qassemi said Kurds should not refuse the sovereignty and unity of Iraq as they have rights in Iraq’s constitution.

President Erdoğan: Turkey eyes new ties with US under Trump leadership

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Turkey is eyeing new ties with the United States under the administration of President Donald Trump, demanding a strong stance on the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) and the extradition of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said.Erdoğan and Trump are expected to hold their first face-to-face meeting on May 16 in Washington. “We can’t achieve anything with the logic ‘this terrorist organization is on my side, so it’s good, but the other one is against me, so it’s bad.’ All terrorist organizations are bad. Thus, we need to continue our struggle against terrorist groups in joint solidarity. When we do that, the world will be safe from these gangs and killers”, he also said.

Kurdish MPs show support for release of HDP lawmakers to European Parliament

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Kurdistan Region lawmakers made clear to the European Parliament of their conviction that Turkey must release the jailed co-leaders and lawmakers of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). Barzan Hassan said a Kurdish delegation from the Kurdistan Parliament presented the signatures of 40 lawmakers to officials from the European Parliament on Thursday as a show of support for jailed HDP politicians and co-leaders in Turkey. “We support the release of [Selahattin] Demirtas and his friends because they are Kurds”, lawmaker from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Salar Mahmoud, said. Mahmoud added they will meet with the deputy head of the European Parliament for talks on the same issue. The Kurdish politicians said they hoped that the European Parliament will consider the case of the HDP lawmakers’ detention by Turkey. Since the collapse of a ceasefire between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Turkey in 2015, the Turkish government has stepped up its campaign against Kurdish officials, including those from the HDP, accusing them of links to the PKK – an allegation the HDP denies.

Iran’s Kurdish opposition call for boycott of May elections

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Iran’s exiled Kurdish opposition groups have jointly called on Kurdish voters to boycott upcoming general elections in the country describing the May elections as “a masquerade” staged by “a regime that has deprived the human and just rights” of the people in Iran’s Kurdistan. The six leading opposition groups based in Kurdistan Region, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (HDK), the Kurdistan Communist Party (Komele), the Kurdistan Communist Party-Iran (Shorishger), the Kurdistan Struggle Orgniztaion (Xebat), the Kurdistan Democratic PartyIran (HDKA) and the Iranian Kurdistan Communist Organisation said in a joint statement that the boycott of elections “is a way to prevent further oppression and crackdown through elections”. Election campaigns for the post of the country’s presidency and city councils kicked off last week with the incumbent President Hasan Rouhani leading the so-called moderate camp against the conservative hardliners including Ebrahim Raisi, a potential successor to Iran’s supreme leader and former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Kurdish voters overwhelmingly voted for Rouhani in the 2013 elections whose campaign promises included recognition of broader Kurdish cultural and educational rights. But critics have slammed Rouhani’s administration over the past years for what they have described as a continuation of state-sponsored discrimination against Kurdish population in the country. “We think that the boycott will eventually impact the elections given the fact that almost all opposition parties in Iran have also called on their supporters for a boycott”, said Ibrahim Alizade, Secretary General of the Komele after reading the statement at a joint press conference in Sulaimani.

Iraqi Parliament to vote on draft to ban foreign armed groups

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According to a draft, if passed by the Iraqi parliament, all foreign armed groups that are posing a potential threat to the security of the neighboring countries need to be banned. Shakhawan Abdullah, a Kurdish member of the Iraqi parliament, told BasNews that a draft is expected to be discussed in the Iraqi parliament on Thursday, according to which “no groups or parties are allowed to operate within Iraq and use its soil against another country”. Referring to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah said the presence of the party in Sinjar will constitute major issues for Iraq, Kurdistan Region and Turkey, noting that Turkey may continue its military operations on Sinjar. He continued to say that PKK has turned Sinjar into another Qandil, referring to the party’s main headquarter located in Mount Qandil in northern Kurdistan Region, stating that PKK is using the area against Turkey. He added that PKK has posed a threat to the security of the region

Kurdish factions call for inclusion of Kirkuk in referendum

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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.

Gulf Keystone’s Nadhim Zahawi received an ‘insulting’ letter

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An anonymous person, has sent an insulting letter to Nadhim Zahawi, a director of GKP oil company operating in Iraqi Kurdistan. The British-Kurdish millionaire Zahawi has posted on his twitter “This was delivered to my office today. It’s very sad some still want to attack me for my “background”. I’ll be reporting it to the police.” The sender could be an angry investor of Gulf Keystone Petroleum. The company operates in the Shaikan area of Kurdistan, and produces around 40,000 barrels of oil a day. It hopes to produce 110,000 barrels of oil a day in the near future. The company is currently valued at around £350m, with the share price jumping this week after reports of the discussions with Sinopec emerged. In 2015, Gulf Keystone faced huge financial problems after delays over payments from the KRG. From September last year, it has managed to negotiate payments of around $100m. As well as sitting on the select committee, Zahawi is also the co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Kurdistan. Zahawi has a close and long-term relationship with Ashti Hawrami, the minister of natural resources in iraqi Kurdistan who is routinely accused of corruption. Born in Baghdad to Kurdish parents in 1967, Zahawi left Iraq with his family as a nine-year-old boy, under threat of persecution from Saddam Hussein’s regime. Kurdistan considered as the most corrupted part of Iraq. According to Kurdish lawmakers billions of dollars are missing from Iraqi Kurdistan’s oil revenues.

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