Change Movement (Gorran) said it welcomes serious efforts to resolve issues in the Kurdistan Region, adding that the party hopes that current issues will be resolved at their root. Gorran released a statement regarding the Kurdistan Region’s situation on Wednesday saying there have been attempts to silence the Kurdistan Region and its capital through the continued deactivation of the Kurdistan Parliament. “Attempts to subdue one voice and one color, frightening, politicalizing everything and monopolizing power, parliament, government, presidency, security institutions, banks, relation departments, markets and university are principles of the previous regimes and they have damaged the experience of the Kurdistan Region and the beautiful image of this city [Erbil]”, the statement read. The Kurdistan Parliament is the “only institution” to represent all the political parties and the people of the Kurdistan Region, Gorran said. “When the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) felt its bad philosophy of governance was facing changes and its private interests faced danger, it closed parliament and paralyzed the government”, the statement added. “Gorran hopes all the issues in the Kurdistan Region will be resolved at the root as soon as possible. In this regard, we welcome any serious effort and project which considers balance and public interest”, it stated. Regarding Kurdish independence and a referendum on the issue, Gorran said the party won’t allow a similar experience to that of South Sudan to be repeated in the region, adding that an independent Kurdistan should also not mirror a Saudi-like power structure. “We don’t want a state like Saudi [Arabia], where a group and a family have seized the nation’s benefits. We don’t want a person to give himself the right to remain on the chair of power and to be above law”, the statement said. Gorran also referred to an agreement with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) saying there are people within the PUK who are blocking the agreement from being carried out. “Total block to accomplish the agreement is inside the PUK. It is the PUK Leadership [that] doesn’t step up to fulfill it. They behave opposite of the content of the agreement. However, the small gang in the PUK who’re blocking the Gorran-PUK agreement will not stop our march, we will deal with the genuine PUK”.
Turkish military jets shelled areas around the district of Amedi in the Kurdistan Region for a second time, nearly four hours after airstrikes hit the foothills of a mountain in the district. NRT correspondents, Nihad Oramari and Abdulstar Rekani, said the Turkish warplanes conducted airstrikes around Kesta village in Barwari Balla area at 3:30 p.m. According to residents in the area, the Turkish jets conducted airstrikes three times near the village creating “fear and anxiety” amongst the residents. The airstrikes also caused a fire to break out in a nearby forest, the correspondents added. Casualties are still unclear. The air raids came just hours after Turkish warplanes shelled the foothills of Alhwiy Mountain in the district of Amedi, northeast of Duhok province in the Kurdistan Region, around 12 p.m. on Tuesday. Turkey has shelled areas in and around Amedi district seven times in the last month.
The Iranian Government will open polling stations for eligible citizens living in the Kurdistan Region to cast their ballot in the country’s May 19 presidential election, an official from the Iranian Embassy in Erbil said on Monday. Iranian official Mohammed Shirzad was quoted by Mehr News Agency as saying “Polling stations are already set to open in Erbil, Binaslawa and Soran for the upcoming Iran elections”. Shirzad said people eligible to vote in the Kurdistan Region will soon be informed about the whereabouts of polling stations. “Iranians who are in the region’s prisons will be able to vote due to preparations done”, he added. The campaign for the presidential race has been underway since April 28 and will continue until May 17. The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) Secretary, Mustafa Hejri told NRT on May 2 that his party, along with five other Kurdish parties, have decided to boycott the presidential election in Iran.
Kurdish Chancellor Masrour Barzani is leading a high-level delegation this week to Washington, D.C., where they will meet principle members of the US National Security Council (NSC). “On Monday, Chancellor Barzani will lead a high-level delegation from the Kurdistan Region to meet principle members of the US National Security Council”, read a statement from the Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC). It is Barzani’s second official visit to Washington in the past six months and first since US President Donald Trump took office in January. The Chancellor will underscore Kurdistan’s future bilateral relations with Iraq and the United States, read the statement. “Barzani will discuss the importance of continued US military and political support to the Kurdistan Region and its Peshmerga Forces”. The NSC is the White House’s primary advisory body on foreign and domestic security issues. Its members are selected by the current president and include Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. In addition to KRSC Chancellor Barzani, the Kurdish delegation includes Fuad Hussein, chief of staff to the Kurdish President, and the Kurdistan Regional Government’s representative to the United States, Her Excellency Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman. On Tuesday, Barzani will speak at the influential and conservative D.C. think tank, the Heritage Foundation. “Chancellor Barzani will also outline strategies to address Iraq’s unending conflict,” the Heritage Foundation wrote”. “[He] will give insights on the anti-ISIL campaign; immediate and long-term political challenges in Iraq and the broader Middle East”. Kurdistan’s Council of Ministers agreed to a joint Peshmerga and US proposed plan that seeks to unify and reorganize the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the next ten years, a government official told Rudaw on Sunday. In March, the US State Department approved a possible sale of military equipment to the Peshmerga to an estimated cost of $295.6 million. Kurdish officials have also emphasized the need for addressing the defeat of ISIS beyond the battlefield.
The Independent Commission for Human Rights in the Kurdistan Region said there were 16 recorded murders in the region during April. The commission released statistics on violations, murder and suicide in the Kurdistan Region. There were a total of ten cases of burning and self-immolation during the month of April, the organization’s statistics also revealed. Along with the 16 murders, there were another 15 attempts to murder and seriously injure individuals, as well as eight recorded cases of crimes and violations against human rights. The Independent Commission for Human Rights added that said some of the committed crimes were related to a lack of specific laws to deal with the incidents, laws that should have been adopted in the Kurdistan Parliament had the institution not been in recess since October 2015. “Such as laws around protecting child rights, confronting human trafficking”, the commission said. “Another part is related to the amendment [of laws] to suit recent circumstances in the Kurdistan Region”. The commission also noted that some laws had expired, stressing that new laws should be adopted. The statistics for April show that murder cases have decreased in comparison to the previous month. Statistics released by the Independent Commission for Human Rights showed a total number of 25 recorded murders and seven known cases of suicide in March.
Italy is to continue providing treatment to members of the Peshmerga forces wounded during the fight against Islamic State (ISIS), the Italian Consul to Erbil. Masoud Barzani received the new Italian Consul to the Kurdistan Region, Serena Muroni, in Erbil on Monday, the Kurdistan Region’s Presidency (KRP) reported. According to a statement by the KRP, Muroni reaffirmed her country’s support and training for the Peshmerga forces as well as medical treatment to wounded Peshmerga forces. Barzani acknowledged the government of Italy, saying the country has expressed readiness to support the Kurdistan Region and the Peshmerga forces in the rainy days that have plighted the region. After Barzani brought up the issue of a referendum and the independence of Kurdistan, Consul Muroni said Italy supports any effort which brings stability and peace to the area, the KRP stated. Italy has about 750 soldiers stationed in military camps in Baghdad and Erbil, and mostly trains Iraqi army and police. The country has also provided Iraqi forces with 24 B1 tanks and provides air support with four Tornado warplanes and two Boeing 767 aircrafts. Iraq has also signed a contract with Italy’s Trevi Group worth €273 million ($296 million) to reinforce and maintain Mosul Dam for 18 months. In an unannounced visit, Italy’s Defense Minister visited Iraq on February 3 and met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Following her meeting with Abadi, Minister Roberta Pinotti held talks with senior Kurdish officials the next day. According to the KRP at the time, Pinotti said Italian assistance to the Kurdistan Region and Peshmerga forces would continue.
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.
Speaking to reporters in Baghdad, Abadi said the time is not ripe for a referendum, with ISIS on the doorstep, running parts of the country. Referring to comments by some Kurdish leaders who claimed holding a referendum does not mean the declaration of independence, Abadi said “Some say we will hold referendum, but we’re not going to implement it. Then what will you have to tell your people if you are to hold referendum and not implement it”. He reiterated Baghdad’s message to Erbil that “we frankly say, it will not be in the interest of the Kurdistan Region to hold a referendum at this time. I, as the prime minister, have to take the interests of my citizens into consideration. In my opinion holding referendum is not in their interest, but will create a set of problems for them. Being in a hurry in this subject is equal to a withdrawal from all the victories that have been achieved in the past”. He gave the short-lived Republic of Mahabad in Iranian Kurdistan which lasted less than a year as an example of a failure in the Kurdish movement in the region. The time was not right for the Republic of Mahabad, leading to its collapse. Abadi’s message to the Kurdistan Region was to not repeat the same experience. Commenting on the controversial flag issue in Kirkuk, Abadi said “Too much attention has been paid to the raising of the Kurdistan flag in Kirkuk. A solution to this subject has to be found. Our words with regards to this matter are clear. According to law, they do not have the right to hoist flags on the governmental buildings. Also, according to law, the Kirkuk governmental institutions are part of Iraq and the Iraqi government raises only the Iraqi flag”. Explaining a suggestion he sent to the Kurdistan Region authorities through a joint Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) delegation who visited Baghdad earlier this month, Abadi said “I suggested to them to take down the flags on the governmental buildings and put them on the political parties’ buildings instead. Then it becomes another subject, which I, as the prime minister, will not get involved in.”On the same question, he pointed out, “I talked to many politicians on the issue of the Kurdistan flag who were against it. But now they have done the job and cannot stand against it, believing that it is political rhetoric”.
The G7 group of powerful nations has emphasized its continual support for “unity and territorial integrity” of Iraq, calling on both Baghdad and Erbil to take their military cooperation as a model for a political cooperation after the defeat of ISIS in the country. The statement came out as the top leadership in Kurdistan Region, including President Masoud Barzani and Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani were in a meeting to discuss holding independence referendum in 2017. The international G7 group includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and were also joined by the High Representative of the European Union who met in Italy on April 10-11. The Kurdistan Region has already discussed holding the independence referendum with three members of the G7, the US, France, and the United Kingdom, according to a senior Kurdish official. “We reassert our continued support for the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Iraq”, the G7 statement said.