Unity Talks Among Syrian Kurds; A Way Forward

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Kurdish women hold flags of the YPG and PYD during a demonstration against the exclusion of Syrian-Kurds from the Geneva talks in 2016.(Photo credit: DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

By Junaid Jamali:

Over the course of the nine-year Syrian civil war, the Kurds in Syria have paid exorbitant prices in military and social terms. In 2018 and 2019, they lost the regions of Afrin, Ras al-Ain/Sari Kani and Gire Spi/Tell Abyad to Turkey and Turkish-backed militias, resulting in the displacement of most Kurdish residents in these areas. In addition, in the fight against Islamic State, the SDF, whose backbone is the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, lost 11,000 fighters and saw 22,000 wounded.

Despite controlling nearly 20% of Syrian territory, the SDF does not have political representation in the Geneva talks because of Turkish opposition to their presence.

Recently a French delegation holds a fresh round of closed door talks with Kurdish parties in northeast Syria (Rojava) as part of an international effort to bring rival Kurdish factions together, according to international media.

This is not the first meeting between Syrian Kurdish parties and foreign mediators. Several dialogues have taken place openly and behind closed doors involving the French, the Americans, and the Russians. France and Russia have even received delegations of Syrian Kurdish parties in their own capitals, each time focusing on the unity of Kurds in Syria.

What is the Kurdish National Council (KNC) and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) ?

The Kurdish National Council (KNC) is allied with the Kurdish nationalist party led by Ex President (KRG) Massoud and his Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Iraq, having been formed in 2011 with the KDP’s support. The KNC is an official part of the Istanbul-based Syrian opposition-in-exile.

The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) is a a Kurdish democratic confederalist political party established on 20 September 2003 in northern Syria. PYD is also part of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), the political arm of the Kurdish-led SDF fighting alongside the US-led international coalition. Turkey views the PYD, which espouses the ideology of the Abdullah Ocalan-led Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), as its top foe in Syria.

The Democratic Union Party (PYD), the largest and most influential Kurdish group in northern Syria which has been credited for destroying IS’s aura of invincibility, calls for a secular and democratic coexistence between different ethnic and religious groups in Syria.

Tensions between the PYD and KNC took a turn for the worse when the PYD became the most influential player in northeast Syria in 2012. The KNC viewed the PYD-led autonomous administration as a fait accompli and has refused to apply for a permit to engage in political activity there. The autonomous administration responded by exiling the KNC president, shuttering its offices and arresting dozens of its leaders and members during 2016-17.

For the first time since Oct. 28, 2019, when Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commander Mazlum Kobane announced an initiative to resolve inter-Kurdish differences, the Kurdish National Council (KNC) and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) kick-started secret, direct talks in April, 2020. The initiative is seemingly designed to include all the Kurdish parties in the PYD-ruled autonomous administration in northeast Syria, paving the way for the autonomous administration to join the UN-sponsored negotiations in Geneva to end the Syrian conflict. This a gesture of goodwill from the PYD to aid the progression of their talks with the other political parties of Syrian-Kurdistan.

The biggest issue of the Kurdish struggle is the lack of cooperation and internal unity both on the domestic and international levels. The prices that the Kurds pay do not have counter results. Kurds die and they pay a very high price but without favorable outcomes for them.

The Agenda of French-Kurd Talks for Internal Unity among Kurds:

According to International Media Reports: “The two Kurdish sides discussed the adoption of a unified political vision for Syria’s future based on discussion of a draft presented by the US side. After holding at least four meetings as part of the negotiations, the two sides agreed on the following: Syria will be a federal, democratic and pluralistic state; the current regime is an authoritarian and dictatorial regime that uses violence against its opponents; the Kurdish areas consist of an integrated political and geographical unit.”

The nature of Kurdish politics in Syria is convoluted and antagonistic, an alphabet soup of party names that often reach at dreams of a grand, unified Kurdistan, while the reality is that each must navigate conflicts and real-politik to carve out whatever gains they can.

France has an interest in Rojava’s long-term stability. Some of its citizens left metropolitan France to join ISIS, and though it’s a prominent member of the multinational coalition that armed Syrian Kurds to counter ISIS, it has refused to repatriate captured ISIS members to face justice at home. That’s partly because of ongoing radicalization issues in French prisons and out of fear that domestic law simply doesn’t cover the kind of crimes its citizens are accused of committing in Iraq and Syria.

Kurdish unity is very critical for the future of security within Rojava, The American draw-down in Syria has left Kurdish-led forces tasked with policing an area far beyond just their historical homeland, stretching to Arab areas that are not always welcoming. The PYD has had less need to avail itself of diplomacy, and now it will have to be give and take — such is the nature of diplomacy, a lesson that the young autonomous administration will have to learn if it is to govern with international support.

Junaid Jamali is a Lecturer (Sociology), at the Higher Education Department, Balochistan, Pakistan.

source: The Kurdistan Tribune

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Open Letter From Women To Kurdish Leaders

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Open Letter from Women to:

– Mr. Masoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)
– Ms. Bese Hozat and Mr. Cemil Bayik, Co-Chairs of the Executive Council of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK)
– Mr. Lahur Talabani and Mr. Bafel Talabani, Co-Presidents of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)

“Kurdistan should not become a battleground for regional or global wars. It
should be an inspiration for democracy and peaceful coexistence in the Middle
East.”

In the shadow of the deadly worldwide pandemic, while much of humanity is occupied with protecting itself against COVID-19, some states are taking the opportunity to continue and even intensify their militarist, aggressive and occupation policies. Despite the ongoing global health crisis, violent struggles for hegemony continue in Kurdistan and the rest of the Middle East.

During the past century, Kurdistan’s geostrategic location, across four key occupying states, has turned it into a systematic battlefield. Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria have all shared a policy of totally denying Kurdish identity, even as the international organisations and institutions have refused to extend legal, political, and diplomatic recognition of the Kurdish right to self-determination. As a result, Kurds have countless times become victims of crimes against humanity and war crimes. Parallel to this genocide, states have implemented feminicide as a special form of warfare against Kurdish women.

States attempting to implement their regional and global colonial policies have always used, as their dirtiest and most brutal tool, the exploitation of differences among those they wish to dominate; they have exploited internal disputes in order to divide and rule. The Turkish state, especially, insists on trying to weaken the Kurds, as it has done in the past, by stirring up internal Kurdish conflicts in Rojava and in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, in a divide-and-rule-and-eliminate policy.

The Turkish state is now preparing to launch a major military offensive in the region of Zini Werte, close to the Qandil mountains in southern Kurdistan (northern Iraq), located 40-50 kilometres from the Iranian border. As part of its preparation, it is putting pressure on local Kurdish political forces to deploy Kurdish forces there, as proxies. The Turkish state believes it can incite Kurds to fight Kurds, with the further goals of weakening and destabilising Kurdish political institutions and ultimately occupying ever more of Kurdistan.

Turkey is a member of NATO, the United Nations, the Council of Europe. It is a candidate for membership in the European Union. Yet it is flagrantly violating international law and agreements. The silence of these international organisations/ institutions allows the Turkish state to act unilaterally against Kurds. Indeed, their member states are using the Turkish state’s current hostility toward Kurds to further their own interests in the Middle East. By weakening the current Kurdish strategy for democracy, peace, and stability, they would further their attempts to gain hegemony in the region, even if that meant a continuation of war
and conflict.

The current dispute in Zini Werte is not an isolated problem. Rather, it is one of many conflicts that could easily escalate and provoke bloodshed, especially if the United States, Iraq and NATO grant the Turkish military a free hand. It is not solely an internal Kurdish matter. Given the context of US-Iran tensions and strife among various Iraqi groups, any seemingly localised aggression near Qandil could lead to aggression by Turkey and its jihadist allies as a strategy to broaden the occupation by Turkey or by the resurgent so-called Islamic State (ISIS). If any of these forces seek to fill the power vacuum, the result would be a larger regional crisis, in the hitherto relatively stable region of southern Kurdistan, and beyond.

The Turkish state’s ambition to attack and occupy areas outside Turkey’s borders is certainly well known, as we have seen in Turkish military aggression in Syria. The “Kurdish Problem” or the “Kurdish Question” thus concerns more than one people or one state and has farreaching local, regional, and global ramifications.

We believe that unity among your parties and movements in defence of Zini Werte and Qandil would not only benefit the Kurdish people but would also constitute a vital contribution to peace in the region. Furthermore, we believe that addressing the Kurdish Question is inextricably linked to promoting a democratic transformation of the Middle East.

Achieving a just and peaceful resolution to this issue could support democratisation in the wider region. We must not underestimate the potential impact of the Kurdish perspective on democracy and peaceful coexistence in the Middle East. It could contribute vitally to effecting and preserving democratisation in the key states of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

In recent years North and East Syria/Rojava have offered a democratic alternative, with freedom, justice, dignity, and democracy and based on principles of equality. The Kurds, and particularly Kurdish women, have victoriously battled ISIS and established an impressive system of democratic self-administration in North and East Syria/Rojava. The central role played by Kurdish women in this struggle has become a global inspiration and a source of strength for women far beyond Kurdistan’s borders. Defending and protecting the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria is thus imperative for democratisation of Syria and the broader region.

Since its foundation, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq, a constitutional and internationally recognised Kurdish governmental entity, has been a thorn in the side of the Turkish state, which seeks to crush any and all national aspirations of the Kurdish people. Turkish state regards any destabilisation or weakening of the KRG as a victory. The KRG, Iraq’s safest area, has been an important achievement for all Kurds, and we must work together to protect it through Kurdish national unity.

We as women see it as our duty to prevent war and defend peace and coexistence anywhere in the world. Finally we urge you: “Kurdistan should not become a battleground for regional or global wars. It should be an inspiration for democracy and peaceful coexistence in the Middle East.”

Sincerely,

– Commission on Women of the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK)
– Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Laureate
– Ela Gandhi, Chairperson Gandhi Development Trust and Phoenix Settlement Trust,
South Africa
– Malin Björk, Member oft he European Parliament (MEP), The Left Party Sweden
– Silvia Modig, MEP, Vasemmistoliitto (The Left Alliance), Finland
– María Eugenia Rodríguez Palop, MEP, Podemos Spain
– Leïla Chaibi, MEP, La France Insoumise (FI), France
– Martina Michels, Die Linke, Germany
– Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, House of Lords, UK
– Baroness Jenny Jones, House of Lords, UK
– Margaret Owen, Director Widows for Peace Through Democracy, UK
– Julie Ward, Former MEP 2014 – 20, UK
– Maxine Peake, Actress and Writer, UK
– Professor Radha D’Souza, University of Westminster, UK
– Johanna Riha, Consultant Epidemiologist, United Nations University, UK
– Emily Apple, Investigation Editor, The Canary, UK
– Jill Evans, former MEP, UK
– Rahila Gupta, Writer and Journalist, UK
– Pragna Patel, Southall Black Sisters, UK
– Amber Huff, Research Fellow at Institute of Development Studies, University of
Sussex, UK
– Rachel Bird, Peace Advocate, UK
– Greta Sykes, Writer and Artist, UK
– Dr Sarah Glynn, Co-convenor Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan
– Jean Lambert, former MEP, UK
– Maggie Bowdon, General Secretary, Liberation
– Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson of One Law for All and Council of Ex-Muslims of
Britain
– Melanie Gingell, Barrister, UK
– Janet Biel, American Political Writer, USA
– Debbie Bookchin, Journalist, USA
– Prof. Ruchira Gupta, New York University &Founder President
– Benedetta Argentieri, Director – Journalist, New York, USA
– Helen Gilbert, Radical Women, Washington, USA
– Professor Anuradha Chenoy, Dean of School of International Studies, Jawaharlal
Nehru University, New Delhi, India
– Meredith Tax, Emergency Committee for Rojava, USA
– Dr. Amanda Metcalfe, UCCS Colorado, USA
– Anjumara Khan, Chairperson People Against Apartheid&Fascism (PAAF), South
Africa
– Kubeshini Govender, Chief Education at WCED, Western Cape Education Dep.,
South Africa
– Shabnam Palesa Mohamed, Activist, Journalist, Mediator, South Africa
– Dr. Ruchi Chaturvedi, Senior Lecturer, University of Cape Town, South Africa
– Dr. Sharon L. Gustafsson, Specialist in Country Medicine, Sweden
– Dr. Mechthild Exo, University of Applied Sciences Emden/Leer, Germany
– Barbara Spinelli, Italy, Bologna, lawyer, member of the executive board of ELDH
(European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights)
– Maria Paola Fiorensoli, Journalist, Activist-Scholar of Feminist Movements, Italy
– Laura Marcheselli, Committe Against War, Italy
– Maria Laura Pistrito, International Network against Extractivism in Abya Yala, Italy
– Lilian Galán, MP of The Broad Front (Frente Amplió) Uruguay
– Veronica Matto, MP of The Broad Front (Frente Amplió) Uruguay
– Graciela Lamancha, MP of The Broad Front (Frente Amplió) Uruguay
– Cecilia Bottino, MP of The Broad Front (Frente Amplió) Uruguay
– Margarita Libschitz Suarez, MP of The Broad Front (Frente Amplió) Uruguay
– Ana María Olivera Pessano, MP of The Broad Front (Frente Amplió) Uruguay
– Gabriela Susana Barreiro Alvarez, MP of The Broad Front (Frente Amplió) Uruguay

source: The Kurdistan Tribune

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“Kurds Have No Friends But The Mountains”

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By Muhammad Salah Balaky:

Kurds with an estimated population of 35 to 40 million who have been living for centries in the historical region of Mesepotamia, are the fourth largest ethnic group in the Middle East, inhabiting a mountainous region dividing into Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran, stretching roughly from the northwestren Zagros in Iran to the eastern Taurus mountain ranges in Turkey. Today, they make up about 20% of total population in both Turkey and Iraq and 10% of the total population in Iran and Syria, but they have never obtained a nation state.

The long history of the Kurdish question and nationalism can be traced back to the Sheikh Ubeydullah of Nehri rebellion of the late 19th century. The rise of modern Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria in the aftermath of the collapse of the Ottoman and Qajar dynasties in the early 20th century turned the Kurds into oppressed minorities in these four newly-created modern Middle Eastern states dominated by Turks, Persians and Arabs.

A series of failed attempts for a better status and broken promises have given rise to a widely quoted expression that ”Kurds have no friends but the mountains” in reference to the Kurdish rugged homeland that has historically served as a refuge against foreign invasion and persecution. A partial list of Kurdish uprisings, all of which were brutally repressed, such as Kocgiri revolt of the late 1920s, the Shaik Said rebellion of 1925, the revolt of Agri Dagh in the 1930s, and the Dersim uprising of 1937-38 in Turkey; the Simko rebellion of the 1920s , the 1946 Mahabad Republic of Kurdistan in Iran; the Barzani-led revolts of the 1960s and 70s in Iraq; and the short, albeit significant, 2004 uprising, Serhildan, in Syria bears witness to this bloody and repressive history.

Today, having survived a ”lost” century of denial and subjugation, Kurds are enjoying a political resurgence due in part to the monumental changes taking place in the Middle East in general and in countries in which they make up sizable minorities in particular. The Kurds in Iraq, who gained official recognition in Iraq’s 2005 constitution, have not only solidified their gains of the 1990s but have also emerged as a key player in the new Iraq and an invaluable partner of the United States (US) in stabilizing and democratizing the country.

The onset of civil war in Syria in 2011, and the ensuing state collapse brought a hitherto largely unknown group, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), to the the forefront of regional and global politics. The Syrian civil war has effectively turned the Kurdish PYD into the US’ most effective and reliable on-the-ground partner in the fight against the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and potentially a useful force in bringing an end to the ongoing civil war in Syria.

In Turkey, while the Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP), despite the repression,  commands great presence in local governance in Kurdish-dominated east, its sister party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), has been successful in receiving support from millions of Kurds including a minority who previously backed the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Thus, the Kurds have moved from being ”non-entities”, a ”side-show” or “expendables” in the power politics of the Middle East to the “most effective on the ground ally of the US” in the campaign against ISIS. Furthermore, their relative success in building democratic institutions, offering shelter and protection to non-Muslim minorities, and their stance toward women has set them apart in the war-torn Syria, Iraq, and beyond. The Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq has been described as an island of stability, a trusted ally of the US, and a fledgling democracy in a region marred by violence, instability, and gross human rights violations. The Democratic Union Party (PYD) the largest and most influential Kurdish group in northern Syria that has been credited for destroying IS’s aura of invincibility, calls for a secular and democratic coexistence between different ethnic and religious groups in Syria.

In sum, despite some questions and concern over the role Kurds could play in bringing about peace, stability and democracy to war-torn Syria and Iraq, and their potential contribution to democratizing Turkey and Iran, the gears of change are grinding. A number of factors, such as millions of mobilized Kurds, Kurdish groups’ organizational strength and fighting prowess, a geography rich in oil, natural gas, as well as fresh water, and the failing Middle Eastern state system are likely to increase the role Kurds will play in the new Middle East. in other words, as Wadie Jwaideh (2006) put it in the late 1950s, “the Kurdish behavior is one of the most important factors in the future stability and security not only of the Kurdish-inhabited countries, but of the entire Middle East.”

 Muhammad Salah Balaky is an Erbil based freelance-journalist and English translator working for various media organizations.

source: The Kurdistan Tribune

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Sardasht Osman: Death Did Not Silence Him

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By Arian Mufid:

We are republishing this article, first published in 2012, to mark the recent 10th anniversary of the murder of Sardasht Osman. It remains relevant today. 10 years on, there is still no justice for Sardasht Osman’s family. His killers remain protected by the KRG and unpunished.

At the beginning of May 2010 Sardasht Osman knew that his death warrant had been issued but, characteristically, this did not stop him from going to university and meeting with his friends. He knew very well that his days were numbered but he also understood that the price of truth is high. He did not fear death because he knew that he was a freedom fighter for his nation and his generation. On 4th May 2010 he was kidnapped from his university and, on the 6th, his brutally murdered body was found dumped on a roadside.

Sardasht’s death has shocked many across the world but … it did not silence him. Since his murder, there has been a steady stream of essays by eager journalists continuing his work in exposing the corruption and savagery of tribal rule.

Journalism is dangerous work in many parts of the world. This year to date 33 journalists have been murdered worldwide. A third of them were in Syria though most were not working in war zones but rather they were killed for writing about corruption – in countries like Pakistan, where journalists are murdered in order to frighten their colleagues into silence. Sardasht also wasn’t a war correspondent but a freelance journalist exposing corruption and the criminal gangs in the south of Kurdistan who control most of the wealth and oil resources for their own benefit.

We all know who killed young Sardasht.  His killers are alive and well. Sardasht’s killers are the people who hate freedom and openness for the mass of the people. Sardasht’s killers are the people who want to control the whole of Kurdistan for their own purposes and families. Sardasht’s killers are the people who recently illegally detained Sherwan Sherwani,  the editor Bashur Magazine.  Sardasht’s killers are the rulers who are building their mansions in Virginia and elsewhere around the world. Sardasht challenged all this corruption, cronyism and illegal activity.

On 12th December 2011 a seminar on human rights was held at the House of Commons in London and I was sat next to Sardasht’s brother, Barshdar. It was the biggest crowd I have seen in London at a meeting about south Kurdistan and this is further proof that the death of Sardasht could not silence him.

But in its response to his murder the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has failed to uphold the principles of true justice. Instead we have a perversion of justice reflecting the tribal rule of Barzani and Talabani.

2 May 2012

source: The Kurdistan Tribune

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KRG On The Eve Of Oil Calamity

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Graph showing recent collapse in US oil prices

By Arian Mufid:

The biggest campaign in the world today is against the coronavirus pandemic. The world’s governments, in order to save human capital, have ordered lockdowns in towns and cities including shops, malls, factories and also airports. As a result, there is no travel between countries and cities all over the world. There is almost no travelling by car between cities. The biggest economic sector hit by this is the oil industry. The demand for oil has plummeted by one third to an extent that has never happened before. The US has tried to stabilise the oil market and influence Saudi Arabia to come to agreement with Russia to reduce oil production. The two biggest oil-producing economies in the world came to an agreement at the beginning of April to reduce daily oil production; together with the G20 as well, all together this has come to 20 million bpd. The market did not react to this agreement as the world had doubts and reservations. The usual, pre-lockdown world daily oil consumption is 93 million bpd, covered by 10 million bpd from OPEC, 11 million bpd from the G20, 12 million bpd from Russia and 10 million bpd from the USA.

The major oil-producing countries such as Russia, US and Saudi Arabia are running out of space for storage. The oil sector is one of the biggest sectors in the US, employing 10 million people with 9,000 oil companies operating in 33 states. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) declared last month that the US oil price had crashed below zero as the coronavirus shattered demand. WTI used to pay $15000 per super-tanker for the storage of 2 million barrels of oil per day. Now they must pay $150,000 to get rid of 2 million barrels of oil per day.

The collapse of oil prices has hit the oil-producing countries badly. Saudi Arabia has called for further measures to combat the oil price reduction. Russia has been forced to revise its federal budget. Venezuela has declared a 60-day constitutional “state of exception” since 60% of state income has been slashed due to the oil price collapse. In Azerbaijan, people have been killed and injured because of rioting in the streets due to an increase in the price of foods. In Iraq, they have had to reduce their oil production in line with OPEC demands. According to Kurdistan 24, on 20th April the KRG finance minister announced that the KRG is ready to cooperate with Baghdad in this situation of oil price collapse. Iraq is the second-largest oil-exporting country in the Middle East, with 12% of the world’s proven oil reserves. Iraq’s oil minister announced that the monthly oil income will be $1.5 billion as a result of this market collapse, compared to the previous $4.5 billion per month. Iraq has the biggest share of its state income going to pay the salaries and wages for civil servants and as well as its contribution to the KRG budget. Due to the oil price collapse, the KRG could not continue with business as usual since the Iraqi government cannot contribute to covering the wages. The KRG’s oil minister and prime minister need to be straight with their own people since they cannot pay their wages and salaries for civil servants in the KRG area. These payments are four months in arrears, as the local observers have confirmed to me. In the KRG, 70% of the budget goes to pay wages and salaries of civil servants. In Iraq, 60% of the budget goes to pay wages and salaries of civil servants. The oil price collapse and economic crisis is the second-biggest disaster to hit the Kurdistan region. The president and the prime minister of KRG need to be up to this challenge and prepared for it.

source: The Kurdistan Tribune

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Kamaran Said Majeed, The Veteran Kurdish Fighter

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By Friends of Kamaran:

Kamaran Said Majeed, who died of Coronavirus complications on 9th April, was a Kurdish activist, humanist and dedicated family man. He held British citizenship, but he remained at heart a Kurd, through and through.

He was born to a large family of 9 in 1959, in Sulemani (officially called Al-Sulaymaniyah) in the Kurdish-populated northwestern part of Iraq. In addition to his older sister, he was the 5th of 6 brothers. He was born one year after the July 1958 coup that overthrew the monarchy in Iraq and began a series of alternating short-lived governments that succeeded each other in bloody coup d’états until 1968, when the Ba’ath party took over and remain in power until their forcible removal by the allied forces in 2003.

Kamaran’s was a Kurdish patriotic family that was firmly engaged in the Kurdish movement until the collapse of 1975, which saw the iron hand of the Ba’ath regime reaching Sulaimani for the first time since 1963, when they committed the 9th June massacre.

Still a teenager and a student in the Industrial Preparatory School (finished in 1979), Kamaran saw himself actively involved in the resistance movement that was burgeoning in the underground cells in the city and quickly spilled over to the rural areas, harnessing the first groups of Kurdistan Peshmarga Forces. His elder brother, Dler Said Majeed, a trusted aid to the late President Jalal Talabani and currently serving as a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Leadership Committee, was one of the first waves who joined those groups.

During those dark days that converted the city of Sulaimani into a large prison, Kamaran and his comrade often defied the curfews, braving the Amn (Iraqi security forces) that patrolled the streets to spray patriotic slogans on the walls in order to uplift the people’s morale and maintain their fighting spirit in the face of the Ba’ath regime’s repressive onslaughts.

Indeed, not only Kamaran, the whole of his family were recruited in that cause, turning theirs’ into a safe house for the underground movement and the Peshmargas. Remembering his comrade and friend in those days, Ata Mufty stated “not only those members of the underground movements activists who needed to evade the Amn hid in their house, but also some of the Peshmarga slipping from the rural areas to the city would pellet for a while in their house too”. Mufty added, “many of the publications that were sent from the leadership headquarters would be received by Jaza, his other brother, and then we’d distribute it in the city with him and others”.

In April 1982, a small demonstration in the town of Qaladiza started a wave of unrest in many Kurdish cities and towns that were organised and directed by the underground cells. These events, which were later dubbed the Kurdish Intifada, were eventually suppressed by the Amn apparatus, who later began a wave of mass arrests in the cities to punish the activists behind it.

To preempt the growing danger of arrest, Kamaran decided to join the Peshmargas, following the footsteps of his other elder brother, Adham, who had joined them two years before. According to Mr. Jawas Saeed, one of his comrades in arms, he served for a period with Mala Bakhtyar at the 1st Centre, then he joined the 2nd Centre that was operating in Jafaty valley, in the west of Sulemani, for the remainder of his years as a Peshmarga .

The end of the Iraq-Iran war in March 1988 freed the Iraqi army’s hand and heralded a period of vicious and systematic attacks on the Kurds, culminating in the illegal use of chemical weapons, starting in the Jafaty valley in February and Halabjah in March of that year. The attacks were part of a series of 11 campaigns, known as the Anfal Campaigns.

Kamran was in Bargaloo, one of the villages that were targeted in the campaign in April of the same year. His niece, Soma Adham, lamenting the passing of her uncle recently, wrote on her Facebook pages “you were protecting me from the chemical attacks and shelling. Who will protect me from this hell now?”

Kamran and a handful of Peshmargas remained in the Jafaty valley, defying the imminent risk of another chemical attack until 1990. Eventually, Kamaran, Mr. Saeed and others left the area of Qasma Rash on the border with Iran in July 1990 and made their way to London by 2nd October 1990. However, his arrival and settlement in London did not last for long. As Saddam’s defeated army retreated from Kuwait, they turned their guns on the Iraqi people to suppress their short-lived uprising in March 1991. In Kurdistan, however, fearing another chemical attack, the people fled the cities and turned to the mountain and streamed across the border to neighbouring Iran and Turkey. The footage of the fleeing children and women shook the conscience of the world, but sent thousands from the Kurdish diaspora onto the streets of Europe and the USA in protest.

Kamaran found himself, once again, in the midst of a struggle to defend the Kurdish nation. He took part in every demonstration, every picket and meeting, that was aiming to attract attention to the plight of the fleeing Kurds on the mountains. He was one of the few who planned and executed a daring yet successful operation to occupy the building of the Iraqi Embassy in London. He was one of the few arrested for the act who stood trial and were let off with token fines.

Kamaran continued his activities in London throughout the 1990s until 2003, when Saddam’s regime was forcibly overthrown by the allied forces. It was a travesty of coincidences that he passed away on the 17th anniversary of that monumental day.

Kamaran did not confine his activities to supporting the Kurds from Southern Kurdistan. He reached out to other communities and supported the struggle of the Kurdish people in Northern Kurdistan, attending almost every demonstration condemning the aggressive policies of the Turkish state. He also worked hard in support of the Kurds in Rojava, especially when they heroically faced the forces of darkness that were embodied in the ISIS attacks on Kobani and later the Turkish incursions in Afrin and elsewhere. During that period Kamaran dedicated almost all of his time to the fight.

He is survived by his wife, Alwan Omar, his 24 years old daughter Aran, and 19 years old son, Arez.

source: The Kurdistan Tribune

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Prevention of Spread of Covid 19 in North East Syria: Open Letter to UK Foreign Secretary

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More than 4,000 people live in the Washokani refugee camp in Hassakeh, north-east Syria (Andoni Lubaki/Euskal Fondoa)

By Margaret Owen OBE, on behalf of Patrons of Peace in Kurdistan:

Rt. Hon. Dominic Raab MP
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Foreign and Commonwealth Office

15 April 2020

Dear Foreign Secretary

Ref. Prevention of the Spread of Covid 19 in North East Syria

We are writing to you in extreme urgency to implore you to use all your available means, diplomatic and economic, to ensure that COVID-19 does not rapidly spread in the AANES (the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria), also known as Rojava, (SYRIAN KURDISTAN). We beg you to break the silence over Turkey’s role in allowing this predicted catastrophe to occur.

The AANES, with a population of over 4,000,000, is now home to over 650,000 refugees and IDPs, of all ethnicities and religion, who have fled the attacks not only of ISIS but of Turkey. These people are now living in vastly overcrowded, unhygienic camps and ad hoc settlements. But the NES also accommodates over 5,000 ISIS captives. The AL HOL camp, housing 65,000 women and children, is a breeding ground for the spread of Coronavirus, with ISIS women propagating the message that only infidels and non-muslims are at risk.

In these conditions it is impossible for people to protect themselves by social distancing, and with the scarcity of water even the washing of hands is problematic. Furthermore, many of these people are affected by a whole range of underlying health issues, from malnutrition, war wounds, pregnancy, and untreated diseases such as tuberculosis, jaundice and diarrhea, which increase the likelihood of death should they become infected. The predicted death rate in camps and detention centres is 10%.

Nine years of war, systematic targeting of health and water infrastructure by occupying Turkish forces backed by Russia; lack of international recognition (in spite of the YPG and the YPJ being the most effective local troops on the ground liberating towns and villages held by ISIS), and Turkey’s January 2020 closure of the only UN aid crossing, at Yaroubiah. have left this region at extreme risk from the virus, for there is a severe lack of PPE and essential medical resources to prevent fatalities.

Both the UN and the WHO refuse to deliver aid to this enclave, but only to the Assad government, leaving the AANES reliant on its own very meagre resources, and of course it cannot access the resources available in Damascus. The WHO supplied 1200 test kits to the Syrian government but none to the AANES. There is only one ventilator to serve 100,000 people, but WHO delivered 40 ventilators to Damascus.

Furthermore, NGOs working with the Kurdish Red Crescent have been refused access to the special $2,000,000,000 UN COVID-19 funding.

In spite of the UN Secretary General’s plea to all member states for a universal cease-fire as the world tackles this pandemic, Turkey has continued to bomb and attack hospital and schools in Kurdish towns. 9 out of 11 hospitals have been damaged or totally destroyed. This January it closed off the Alouck station water flow to the north-east, leaving some 1,100,000 people without water for cooking or washing. Cutting off the water supply to civilians during a conflict is a war crime, yet the UN has failed to condemn this act which is, in the present circumstances, is putting millions of lives at risk.

At the time of writing this letter we have learnt that medical authorities in AANES report that Damascus is refusing to accept any samples from them.

We are sure that you will agree that everything must be done to avert the spread of the virus in the Kurdish region. Therefore we ask that you use your influential seat in the Security Council, and also, in the context of the role you wish the UK to maintain in global affairs, to demand that Turkey opens the UN aid crossing at Yaroubiah and immediately restores the water flow at the Alouk water station. Also that you request the WHO to work directly with the Kurdish Red Crescent to provide them with test kits, PCR machines, ventilators and other essential medical equipment and resources.

Yours sincerely
Margaret Owen OBE

On behalf of Patrons of Peace in Kurdistan

John Austin, Baroness Blower of Starch Green, former GS NUT, Prof Bill Bowring, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Prof Mary Davis, Lord Dholakia, Simon Dubbins, UNITE International Director, Jill Evans, former MEP, Desmond Fernandes, Lindsey German, Convenor STWC, Melanie Gingell, Christopher Gingell, Rahila Gupta, Nick Hildyard, Dafydd Iwan, Former President Plaid Cymru, James Kelman, Bruce Kent, Jean Lambert, former MEP, Elfyn Llwyd, Aonghas MacNeacail, Scottish Gaelic poet, Mike Mansfield QC, David Morgan, Doug Nicholls, General Secretary, GFTU, Dr. Jessica Ayesha Northey, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy, Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley, Kate Osamor MP, Margaret Owen OBE, Ali Gul Ozbek, Former Councillor and Mayor of Haringey; Gareth Peirce, Dr Felix Padel, Maxine Peake, actor, Trevor Rayne, writer, Lord Rea, Joe Ryan, Tony Simpson, Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Stephen Smellie, Jonathan Steele, Steve Sweeney, Gianni Tognoni, General Secretary Permanent People’s Tribunal, Dr Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Dr Tom Wakeford, Dr Derek Wall, Julie Ward, former MEP, Hywel Williams MP.

source: The Kurdistan Tribune

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Release All Political Prisoners In Turkey

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Peace in Kurdistan Statement:

As of 13 April 2020, Turkey had recorded 61,049 cases of Covid-19 and 1,296 deaths from it. Since the first case was diagnosed on 10 March the toll is rising quickly. Turkey’s prisons are dangerous; the Minister of Justice said that 17 inmates of five prisons had been infected with the coronavirus and that three have died. Prisoners report lack of personal cleaning materials, intermittent flows of hot and cold water, no disinfectant, insufficient gloves and masks and staff without protective wear. Prisoners are reported to be having to pay for masks. There are approaching 300,000 prisoners in Turkey and approximately one-fifth of these are political prisoners, many of them charged with terrorism-related offences since the failed coup attempt of 2016.

On 11 April Turkey’s parliament passed clauses of a bill that, if passed into law, would allow the release of 90,000 prisoners onto parole or house arrest. However, the thousands of political prisoners would be excluded from release. Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe rapporteurs responded saying ‘We are appalled to learn that these amendments could exclude politicians, journalists, academics, dismissed civil servants, civil society activists and many others detained on “terror related charges” for exercising their right to freedom of expression or assembly.’

When President Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party came to power in 2002 there were some 60,000 prisoners in Turkey. That number has quintupled. The Peoples Democratic Party is Turkey’s third largest political party. Seven of its elected MPs are imprisoned, including the party’s former co-presidents Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag. Dozens of elected mayors and over 6,000 HDP members and activists are in jail. Over 110 journalists are imprisoned; 49 were imprisoned last year alone. More than 150,000 public servants have been jailed since the 2016 failed coup attempt.

Turkey’s prisons are overcrowded and dangerous. We demand that all those in Turkey who are incarcerated for their political beliefs, for exercising freedom of expression, the right to assembly and to represent their electorates are released.

Peace in Kurdistan – Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question

 

source: The Kurdistan Tribune

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Turkey: Release Imprisoned Journalists and Human Rights Defenders at Risk of Coronavirus

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By the European Federation of Journalists:

Journalists gather outside the Ankara courthouse on March 10, 2020 behind a banner reading in Turkish “journalism is not crime”. (Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP)

Amid growing concerns over the spread of COVID-19 in prisons, the Turkish government is accelerating the preparation of a draft law that will reportedly release up to 100,000 prisoners. This is a welcome step. Overcrowding and unsanitary facilities already pose a serious health threat to Turkey’s prison population of nearly 300,000 prisoners and about tens of thousands of prison staff. That will only be exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. However, we remain concerned that journalists, human rights defenders and others imprisoned for simply exercising their rights, and others who should be released, will remain behind bars in the package of measures as currently conceived by the government.

The undersigned organisations call on the Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally release journalists, human rights defenders and others who have been charged or convicted simply for exercising their rights. Additionally we believe that the Turkish authorities should re-examine the cases of all prisoners in pre-trial detention with a view to releasing them. According to international human rights law and standards, there is a presumption of release pending trial, in accordance with the presumption of innocence and right to liberty. Pre-trial detention should only be used as an exceptional measure, yet it is applied routinely and punitively in Turkey.

The government should also seriously consider releasing prisoners who are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, such as older prisoners and those with serious medical conditions. The authorities should ensure that all prisoners have prompt access to medical attention and health care to the same standards that are available in the community, including when it comes to testing, prevention and treatment of Covid-19. Prison staff and health care workers should have access to adequate information, equipment, training and support to protect themselves.

Under the current Law on the Execution of Sentences and Security Measures, prisoners are eligible for parole after they have served two thirds of their sentence. The draft law that is expected to be passed in Parliament within days reportedly makes prisoners eligible for parole after they have served half of their sentence.

Under the new law, pregnant women and prisoners over 60 with documented health issues will be placed under house arrest. Individuals convicted of a small number of crimes, including on terrorism-related charges, will not be eligible for reduced sentences. The draft law does not apply to those held in pre-trial detention or whose conviction is under appeal. The measure is expected to be introduced as the third reform package under the government’s Judicial Reform Strategy revealed last summer.

In Turkey, anti-terrorism legislation is vague and widely abused in trumped up cases against journalists, opposition political activists, lawyers, human rights defenders and others expressing dissenting opinions. As we have documented in the large number of trials we have monitored, many are held in lengthy pre-trial detention and many are convicted of terrorism-related crimes simply for expressing dissenting opinion, without evidence that they ever incited or resorted to violence, or assisted illegal organizations.

This includes high profile journalist and novelist Ahmet Altan, Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, and businessman and civil society figure Osman Kavala, in addition to many more academics, rights defenders and journalists. Demirtaş has previously reported heart-related health problems in prison, and both Altan and Kavala are over 60 years old meaning they could be at increased risk from Covid-19. These people should not be detained at all, excluding them from release would only compound the serious violations they have already suffered.

We, the undersigned, call on the government and Parliament to respect the principle of non-discrimination in the measures taken to lessen the grave health risk in prisons. The effect of the draft law is to exclude certain prisoners from release on the basis of their political views. Thousands of people are behind bars for simply exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Now they are also faced with an unprecedented risk to their health. According to its commitments under international human rights law, Turkey is under a clear obligation to take necessary measures to ensure the right to health of all prisoners without discrimination.

We invite Turkish authorities to use this opportunity to immediately release unjustly imprisoned people, and give urgent consideration to the release of those who have not been convicted of any offence and those who are at particular risk in prison from a rapidly spreading disease in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions where their health cannot be guaranteed.

Signatories:

Amnesty International

ARTICLE 19

ARTICOLO 21

Association of European Journalists (AEJ)

Cartoonists’ Rights Network International (CRNI)

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

Danish PEN

English PEN

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

Freedom House

Frontline Defenders

German PEN

Index on Censorship

Initiative for Free Expression – Turkey (IFoX)

International Press Institute (IPI)

IPS Communication Foundation/bianet

IFEX – the Global Network Defending and Promoting Free Expression

Norwegian PEN

Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)

P24, Platform for Independent Journalism

PEN Canada

Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)

Swedish PEN

Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project (TSLP)

Wan-Ifra/World Association of News Publishers

source: The Kurdistan Tribune

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Coronavirus: South of Kurdistan Upbeat While UK Scrambles to Respond

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By Arian Mufid:

When I look at the latest coronavirus statistics in the south of Kurdistan, I cannot help but feel proud. Since the 11th of March 2020 the whole region of KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) is locked down and people only go to the local mini-market to get their basic food. KRG are banning and restricting movement between the towns and cities of the south of Kurdistan. Schools, universities and shopping centers are all closed. Up till now, there are a few known cases of not more than 38, and only one death. The long borders with Iran have been monitored by security forces, and the checkpoints with Iraq are screening people more than ever before. The original curfew was for 72 hours but it has been extended and people are responding well to government guidelines. The South of Kurdistan proved that if they have the will, they can prioritise and mobilise resources in combating this epidemic. Mobile hospitals in the cities of Suli and Hawler have been set up and mass testing and screening are in place. In Sulaymani and Erbil international airports, there is screening and regular testing.

However, the UK, as the world’s fifth largest economy and the second biggest in Europe, has scrambled to respond to this epidemic, with around 2000 officially infected and to date more than 71 deaths as a result. The approach of the Conservative Government is the most inhuman one. The UK prime minister has come to press conferences and told people that ‘your loved ones will die at the result of this deadly virus’. It is not human to tell people that elderly people are expendable in some experiment in ‘herd immunity’. To date restaurants, cafés and fitness centres are open and the government has not used its mandate to enact closures and the lock-down of the public. The UK has failed to take into account the Asian lessons in virus control such as in Taiwan, Singapore and Japan. The UK has failed to learn from the catastrophe in Italy. The more you learn about the UK resources available for combating this epidemic, the scarier this aspect is.

The UK needs a robust response and should listen to all the research centres involved with this epidemic. The UK government should use its mandate to deal formally with this global issue, not just telling people to not attend pubs, restaurants and public gatherings.

source: The Kurdistan Tribune

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