Kurdish News Weekly Briefing, 17 – 19 August 2012

NEWS
1. Five soldiers died in Şemdinli
2. PKK Denies Involvement in Deadly Blast in Gaziantep
3. Turkey probes possible Syrian involvement in car bomb
4. Kişanak: We saw guerrillas in Şemzinan, not Turkish soldiers
5. Prosecutor Launches Probe into PKK, BDP Encounter
6. HPG Erdal assessed current situation in Kurdistan
7. Kurdish History Magazine Hits the Bookshelves
8. EU critical of sentence against Leyla Zana
9. Turkey and U.S.A meet today over Syria
10. US Concerned about Kurdish Revolutionary Movement in Syria
11. Assad’s Regime Has Totally Lost Northeastern Syria
12. VIDEO: Kurds seek autonomy in a democratic Syria
13. Kurdish parties of Iran sign cooperation agreement
14. Australia Re-lists PKK as Terrorist Organization

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS
15. Kurds in the New Middle East
16. Violent times: A worrying escalation of violence in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish south-east
17. Ankara moves on Damascus
18. Turkey’s Syria Conundrum
19. Where were you, Syria?
20. Crisis in Syria boosts Kurdish hopes
21. Why the Kurdish Genocide Needs Recognising

REPORTS
22. Syria’s Mutating Conflict
23.Syria: Prospects for Intervention

ACTIONS
24. UK Government e-Petition: Recognition of Genocide against the Kurds in Iraq

NEWS

1. Five soldiers died in Şemdinli
23 August 2012 / ANF
Five soldiers died and seven others were wounded in clashes in Şemdinli (province of Hakkari) on Wednesday, Turkish authorities said on Thursday. Clashes reportedly broke out following a landmine explosion during the passage of a military convoy between the villages of Bağlar (Nehri) and Zorgeçit (Gerget).  The Governor of Hakkari confirmed the number of casualties and claimed that 16 guerrillas also lost their life. The statement by the governor however hasn’t been confirmed by locals nor HPG (People’s Defense Forces) sources yet. The governor said that the aerial and land operations of the Turkish army continue.

2. PKK Denies Involvement in Deadly Blast in Gaziantep
21 August 2012 / Bianet
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) issued a statement through the Fırat news agency (ANF) and denied government officials’ claims that it was the culprit behind Monday’s lethal blast in the southeastern province of Gaziantep that killed nine people and injured 69 more. “Our forces bear no connection to this blast. The public and our people know all too well that our forces would never [target] civilians… Our forces are complying with the call issued by the KCK’s (Kurdistan Communities Union) Executive Council to refrain from clashes during the [Ramadan] holiday,” the PKK said in its statement.

3. Turkey probes possible Syrian involvement in car bomb
21 August 2012 / Reuters
Turkey is investigating possible Syrian links to Monday’s deadly car bomb attack near its southeastern border, officials said on Tuesday, underscoring fears that the conflict in Syria is fuelling instability on its own territory. A car packed with explosives blew up close to a police station in the industrial city of Gaziantep, around 50 km (30 miles) from the Syrian border, late on Monday, killing nine people including a 12-year-old child. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but senior ruling party officials in Turkey blamed the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Kurdish militants designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

4. Kişanak: We saw guerrillas in Şemzinan, not Turkish soldiers
17 August 2012 / Roj Helat
A delegation of BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) and DTK (Democratic Society Congress) who paid visit to Şemzinan areas was stopped by guerrillas of HPG (People Defence Forces) who set up checkpoints on the roads controlling the region. Speaking to ANF after completing its survey of the region, BDP co-chair Gulten Kişanak said that they didn’t come across Turkish security forces in the region.  “We came across guerrilla forces on the way back from the villages we visited but there were no security forces in the region except for a military point on the way out of Şemzinan province. A large number of cultivated areas and yards were completely burnt out in the villages where people say they are deliberatively targeted by the bombardment of security forces”, said Kişanak.

5. Prosecutor Launches Probe into PKK, BDP Encounter
20 August 2012 / Bianet
The Chief Prosecutor’s Office in the eastern province of Van launched a probe on Saturday into an encounter between members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and a delegation of politicians, including certain members of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP,) who were on a visit to the district of Şemdinli in the southeastern province of Hakkari on Aug. 17 Hakkari’s Şemdinli district was the scene of some of the most intense fighting between government forces and the PKK in living memory during the past month. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President Abdullah Gül and Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the head of the main opposition People’s Republican Party (CHP,) also issued public comments regarding the matter.

6. HPG Erdal assessed current situation in Kurdistan
13 August 2012 / Kurdbox
In an interview to Yeni Özgür Politika paper about the recent military operations and clashes, People’s Defense Forces (HPG) commander Dr. Bahoz Erdal stated that in the last three weeks, 169 Turkish soldiers were killed and three Skorsky helicopters were shot down by HPG forces in the clashes in Şemdinli area. Bahoz said that Turkish security forces in the region of Şemdinli have been forced to withdraw in their bases. Asked about the recent strategy change of HPG forces, Erdal remarked that HPG forces have recently switch to a “area-control” strategy. This strategy of taking control over an area and limiting the war to that area has been witnessed in Şemdinli and Çukurca. Erdal noted that the actions carried out by Kurdistan Freedom Movement were directly related to the “state terror implemented by the ruling AKP government”.

7. Kurdish History Magazine Hits the Bookshelves
22 August 2012 / Bianet
The second edition of Turkey’s first magazine on Kurdish history has hit the bookshelves with the stated goal of popularizing the history of the Kurds and Kurdistan. Published bi-monthly in Turkish, “Kürt Tarihi” (“Kurdish History“) features an assortment of informative articles and other writings, ranging from a piece on a Kurdish Theater that appeared in the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and an ode by Şeyh Rıza Talabani to the Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamit to the first Kurdish Poetry Anthology, Kızılbaş Kurdish postcards and a 200 year old Kurdish medical book.

8. EU critical of sentence against Leyla Zana
21 August 2012 / ANF

Antigoni Papadopoulou, member of Dimokratiko Komma (DIKO – Democratic Party), member of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, tabled a parliamentary written question to the EU Commission about the prison sentence handed down to Labor Democracy and Freedom Block Independent MP Leyla Zana for “committing crime on behalf of an illegal organization despite not being a member of it” and “making propaganda for an illegal organization”.

9. Turkey and U.S.A meet today over Syria
23 August 2012 / ANF
Turkish and U.S. commissions on Syria will be meeting in Ankara today to discuss the fight against PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) and the establishment of a buffer zone on the Syrian border. The meeting in the capital city will be attended by military, intelligence and political representatives of both countries.  The “political, military and intelligence working group” which is to hold its first meeting today was decided on during the 11 August dated meeting of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in Ankara.

10. US Concerned about Kurdish Revolutionary Movement in Syria
22 August 2012 / Rudaw
According to American news sources, U.S officials and observers of the developments in Syria are worried about the escalation of violence and have accused Kurdish parties of “weakening the Syrian opposition” and “impeding its progress towards overthrowing the Assad regime.” The concern of the Americans is that Kurdish forces have taken over control of several areas in northern Syria. A number of Kurdish cities were liberated in late July from President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and are now being jointly run by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Kurdish National Council (KNC).

11. Assad’s Regime Has Totally Lost Northeastern Syria
17 August 2012 / Business Insider
We reported Syria could be a free-for-all if the Assad regime falls, and it seems the land grab has begun. Syrian Kurds have taken over about 50 percent of the territory in northeast Syria relinquished by Syrian forces and plan to create an autonomous zone, Orla Guerin of BBC reports. “We want to take over own affairs, and not just in Syria,” one man told Guerin. “All the Kurds want a greater Kurdistan.” More than 30 million Kurds live in Iraq (6 million), Iran (6 million), Syria (2 million) and Turkey (20 million), making them one of the world’s largest stateless people.

12. VIDEO: Kurds seek autonomy in a democratic Syria
16 August 2012 / BBC News

13. Kurdish parties of Iran sign cooperation agreement
22 August 2012 /AK News
Revolutionary Organization of the Toilers of Kurdistan (best known as Komala) and Democratic Party of Kurdistan (DPK), two Kurdish opposition parties of Iran, signed an agreement for cooperation, said a member of the central committee of Komala.  Komala General Secretary Abdolla Mohtadi and his counterpart in DPK, Mostafa Hejri, met yesterday in the politburo of DPK, said Salar Pashayi.  Pashayi said in the meeting which lasted five hours, the leaders discussed the current situation in Kurdistan, Iran and the Middle East and continued with discussing the draft of the agreement.

14. Australia Re-lists PKK as Terrorist Organization
20 August 2012 / Rudaw
In a media statement made Friday, Australia’s Attorney-General Nicola Roxon announced that five organizations have been re-listed as terrorist organisations under the country’s counterterrorism laws. One of which is the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Also included on the list were the Somalian Al-Shabaab, Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades.  Under the Commonwealth Criminal Code, Australia lists organizations that the Attorney-General is sure are “directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of a terrorist act or advocating the doing of a terrorist act.”

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS

15. Kurds in the New Middle East
22 August 2012 / The National Interest
The breakdown of authority in Syria and creation of a Kurdish enclave there has unexpectedly pushed Kurds to the forefront of regional politics—and almost nobody’s happy. The opposition Syrian National Council, the umbrella group leading the fight against the regime’s forces, has refused to accept Kurdish demands for self-rule, causing a rift with the Syrian Kurdish parties. Turkey, which is battling its own Kurdish rebellion, is concerned about the effect of a new Kurdish autonomous region right on the border and has threatened military action against the enclave. Meanwhile, the United States, which says it wants Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to go but doesn’t want to commit forces to make it happen, has stated its opposition to Syrian Kurdish autonomy.

16. Violent times: A worrying escalation of violence in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish south-east
18 August 2012 / The Economist
ON AUGUST 12th rebels from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) kidnapped Huseyin Aygun, a prominent opposition MP, as he toured the mainly Kurdish eastern province of Tunceli. He was released 48 hours later, but the rebels got their desired publicity by abducting an MP right under the authorities’ noses. “They did it for propaganda purpose, they did me no harm,” declared Mr Aygun before passing on his captors’ “desire for peace”. Yet peace does not seem to be on the PKK agenda. Over the past month the group has increased its violence. It tied down the army for two weeks in a mountain enclave near Semdinli. It killed two soldiers in the Aegean resort of Foca. Hardly a day now passes without news of another PKK attack.

17. Ankara moves on Damascus
16 August 2012 / Al Ahram
Not a few Turks muttered curses as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Istanbul last week for talks with senior Turkish officials, and perhaps Clinton herself will have even caught a glimpse of the demonstrator who charged towards her convoy, shouting “stop your offences against Islam and the Muslim people” as she arrived in the city. The man was immediately arrested and brought in for questioning, and though the results of the investigations have not been made public, some observers have conjectured that he could have been an agent of the Syrian regime, told to thrust himself before the television cameras in order to rouse anti-American sympathies.

18. Turkey’s Syria Conundrum
August 2012 / Foreign Policy Centre
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu must be secretly dreaming of a world where past statements would vanish into thin air.  He had told Parliament in April that ‘a new Middle East was emerging and Turkey would continue to be the master, the leader and the servant of this new Middle East’ .  Barely four months later, on August the 20th with the number of Syrian refugees on its soil approaching one hundred thousand people, Mr Davutoglu declared that Syria is no longer a national or regional problem. He said ‘It now poses a security risk to neighboring countries and the United Nations should intervene in accordance with its mission’.

19. Where were you, Syria?
9 August 2012 / Support Kurds in Syria
It was raining my first day in Qami?lo. Small puddles were forming in the streets. My aunt pointed at them and said: “Look at the bubbles. We call them spring bubbles.” From that day I was aware that even though it was June and summer in Syria, spring had come to West Kurdistan these fateful months in 2012. Only one and a half year ago the Kurds in Syria did not exist. Today, Turkey is threatening to send its army into Syria because it fears that the now very much existing Kurds are seeking to found a self-ruled Kurdistan.

20. Crisis in Syria boosts Kurdish hopes
18 August 2012 / BBC News
With Syrian forces focused on the fighting in the big cities, Kurdish leaders say they now control half of their region in the north-east. Travelling undercover, the BBC’s Orla Guerin found many already looking forward to autonomy in a democratic Syria. With gold-rimmed glasses, a neat black moustache and a pinstripe shirt, the middle-aged man who came to meet us could have been a bank manager.   He was unmarried, he explained, and had no children. He wanted us to know that was a choice, not a twist of fate.

21. Why the Kurdish Genocide Needs Recognising
21 August 2012 / Huffington Post
The possibility, as rightly red-lined by President Obama, that the beleaguered Assad regime in Syria could use chemical weapons in its desperate efforts to remain in power is a horrific reminder of the use of toxic bombs by another Ba’athist regime in neighbouring Iraq. It is knocking on 25 years since the Ba’athist regime of Saddam Hussein used mustard gas against Kurds in Iraq in the closing stages of a decades-long effort by Hussein and other Iraqi dictators to exterminate the Kurds. Anyone who wishes to understand modern Iraq should appraise themselves of this toxic legacy and if at all possible visit the town of Halabja, near the Iranian border.

REPORTS

22. Syria’s Mutating Conflict, Middle East Report No. 128, International Crisis Group. 1 August 2012.

23. Syria: Prospects for Intervention, Meeting Summary, Chatham House. August 2012.

ACTIONS

24. UK Government e-Petition: Recognition of Genocide against the Kurds in Iraq.

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