Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for the Coalition Forces to counter Islamic State (ISIS), Brett McGurk, of supporting Kurdish forces in Syria, and called for the removal of McGurk from his position. “Brett McGurk, the USA’s special envoy in the fight against Daesh [Islamic State], is definitely and clearly giving support to the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] and YPG [People’s Protection Units]. It would be beneficial if this person is changed,” Cavusoglu told NTV television on Thursday (May 18). Turkey sees the YPG and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) as “terrorist organizations” as it says they have ties with the PKK, which is designated as a terror group by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU. The comments by the Turkish foreign minister came after McGurk, along with officials from the State Department, paid a visit to Syrian Kurdish controlled areas on Tuesday (May 16) in order to meet Kurdish officials there. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he told U.S. President Donald Trump that Turkey would not hesitate to attack if it faced any sort of attacks from the YPG, according to Turkish media. “We clearly told them this: if there is any sort of attack from the YPG and PYD against Turkey, we will implement the rules of engagement without asking anyone”, Erdogan said being cited by Sabah newspaper. In the battle to free Raqqa from ISIS, the U.S. has actively supported the YPG-led SDF, but was initially wary of allying directly to the YPG due to concerns from NATO ally Turkey. U.S. ties with the Syrian Kurds have grown deeper despite the concerns of NATO ally Turkey, which views the YPG as a terrorist group because of its links to the PKK.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Iraq’s Shi’ite ruling coalition would oppose Kurdish plans to hold a referendum on independence after the defeat of Islamic State, its president, Ammar al-Hakim, has said. Speaking to Reuters in an interview in Cairo, Hakim advised the Kurds against any unilateral move to annex a disputed oil-rich region which they had gained during the war against the jihadists. Iraq’s majority Shi’ite Arab community is located mainly in the south while the Kurds and the Sunni Arabs live in opposite corners of the north. The centre around Baghdad is mixed. Iraq’s main Kurdish parties announced this month a plan to hold a referendum on independence this year. The Kurds say the expected “yes” outcome will strengthen their hand in talks on self-determination with Baghdad and would not mean automatically declaring independence.
At least 100 Iraqi lawmakers have now signed a petition that calls for the parliament to impeach and possibly remove Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim from his post after raising the Kurdish flag used by Iraqi Kurds in the contested province, several MPs have told Rudaw. The Turkmen and Arab provincial lawmakers have threatened to bring the case to the Supreme Court in Baghdad which is the highest judiciary office in Iraq and could reverse the decision. Turkmen lawmaker Niazi Miemaruglu said they plan to collect over 200 signatures in the Iraqi parliament in condemnation of the flag decision and impeachment of the embattled governor who has vowed not to lower the flag. high-ranking Kurdish delegation visited the Iraqi capital last week partly in a bid to reduce the ethnic tensions that could derail an anticipated referendum for Kurdish independence and possible integration of Kirkuk with the Kurdistan Region.
Erbil: Of the nearly 1,000 people who were recently employed by the Iraqi North Oil Company (NOC) in Kirkuk, only 25 are Kurdish, displaying Baghdad’s increasing opposition to hiring technicians with Kurdish backgrounds, according to NOC manager Yousif Shwani, a Kurd. “We have been trying for some time now to increase Kurdish share of the employments, but Baghdad is making the decisions unilaterally and has not been responsive”, Shwani said. According to Shwani, the NOC management which is based in Kirkuk has little influence over the employment process as the Iraqi central government is the main provider of salaries for over 12,000 employees that currently work for the company.
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) representative Dlawar Azhgayee told NRT European countries have supported a united Iraq. European officials during meetings and visits from their Kurdish counterparts have repeatedly said the issue is related to Kurds on whether to split from Iraq or hold a referendum, Azhgayee said. European countries will further support Kurds during independence due to the effect Kurds have had in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), according to the KRG envoy. Senior Kurdish officials have made calls for an independence referendum in the region to gauge people’s appetites for such a move, despite the number of crises currently affecting the KRG. KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said on March 23 that a referendum on the independence of the Kurdistan Region was set to take place this year.