Kurdish News Weekly Briefing, 5 – 10 October 2013

NEWS
1. BDP speaks out against cross-border operations
2. Öcalan: I may recede from negotiations should the process go like this
3. BDP Co-Leader Denies Resignation, Criticizes Erdogan Stance on PKK Peace Deal
4. Crying “Wolf”: Why Turkish Fears Need Not Block Kurdish Reform
5. Erdogan’s new proposals are another step towards Kurdish peace – expert
6. Iraq’s Foreign Minister Calls For Direct Talks Between Turkey and Rebels
7. Kurdish Film About ‘Honor Killing’ Wins European Prize
8. Turkey building wall on Syria border
9. Kurdish National Council to hold talks with Turkish officials
10. Son of Syrian Kurdish leader Saleh Muslim killed in fighting: Report
11. Fighting between Kurds and ISIL Intensifies in Syria’s Hasakah, Aazaz
12. Video: Turkey facing threat of Syria insurgents: Hisham Jaber
13. Syrian Kurdish Refugees Fear Harsh Winter in Northern Iraq
14. Iraqi Kurds OK Abu Dhabi’s Taqa Plans to Pump Oil
15. Report: Kurdistan Election Results Mean Closer Ties With Ankara
16. Iraq: Coordinated blasts in Baghdad, other attacks kill 45 as al-Qaida claims earlier assault
17. Al Qaeda affiliate claims rare bomb attack in Iraqi Kurdistan

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS
18. Erdogan’s reforms: one step forward, no steps back?
19. Kurdish Questions at the Party Conferences
20. Syria’s Kurds Divided Over Geneva II Conference
21. VIDEO: Mideast Expert Jonathan Spyer on Syria Rebels
22. Iraqi Kurds: “No Friend but the Mountains”
23. The Kurdish Jihadist battleground in Syria: ramifications in Iraqi Kurdistan

REPORTS
24. Europe Report No. 227: Crying “Wolf”: Why Turkish Fears Need Not Block Kurdish Reform
25. The implications of EU antiterrorism legislation on post-conflict political processes and on the standing of the EU as a mediator in regional conflicts

CONFERENCES
26. A people without a voice: Syrian Kurds and The future of the Middle East, Presentation by Saif Badrakhan, Kurdistan National Congress- KNK, USA Representative
27. IBON International Conference on Democracy, Self-determination and Liberation of Peoples
28. Science and Culture for Progress in Kurdistan: 3rd World Kurdish Congress (WKC2013)

 

NEWS

1. BDP speaks out against cross-border operations
7 October 2013 / ANF
Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) group deputy chair and Iğdır deputy Pervin Buldan held a press conference in the parliament concerning the South Kurdistan motion the parliament is expected to discuss on Thursday. The motion the ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party) presented in parliament on 4 October demands the one-year extension of its authorization to launch cross-border operations targeting the guerrilla-controlled Media Defense Areas in South Kurdistan. The government presented the motion despite the ongoing democratic resolution process initiated by Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Öcalan and the unilateral ceasefire called by the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK). Buldan pointed out that the parliament has started the new parliamentary year by presenting motions for war, and said this was related with the government’s treatment of problems from the viewpoint of security policies.

2. Öcalan: I may recede from negotiations should the process go like this
8 October 2013 / ANF
Mehmet Öcalan spoke to DİHA (Dicle News Agency) about the details of yesterday’s meeting with his brother, PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) leader Abdullah Öcalan. Öcalan said the Kurdish leader talked about the ongoing democratic resolution process and the approaching local elections. According to his brother, the Kurdish leader said that he would make his thoughts public on October 15 should he be paid the expected visit by the delegations of the BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) and the state. Referring to the “democratisation package” unveiled by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on 30 September, Öcalan said that; “The package has had no relevance to Kurds since the beginning of its preparation process. It was prepared and announced by the state and the government and it leaves the Kurdish issue out of the scope”.

3. BDP Co-Leader Denies Resignation, Criticizes Erdogan Stance on PKK Peace Deal
9 October 2013 / Rudaw
Selahattin Demirtas has denied media reports claiming he has resigned as co-leader of Turkey’s Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), saying there will be no internal changes before next year’s presidential election. He also criticized Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying the Turkish leader had given up on a peace deal with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). “No internal changes will take place within the party before the next elections,” Demirtas said on Tuesday. “There are no disputes within our party over the post of the co-chair,” he explained, adding that some changes might take place in the structure of the BDP after next year’s presidential election in Turkey. The BDP is the biggest legal Kurdish party in Turkey, currently holding 36 seats in the national parliament. Demirtas’s denial came a day after Turkish media reports that he had resigned his party post over internal disagreements.

4. Crying “Wolf”: Why Turkish Fears Need Not Block Kurdish Reform
7 October 2013 / International Crisis Group

Negotiations underway since late 2012 between Turkey’s government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) are stalling. A ceasefire announced on 23 March 2013 remains precarious, as maximalist rhetoric gains renewed traction on both sides. While the PKK should be doing more to persuade Ankara that it wants a compromise peace, the government has a critical responsibility to fully address the longstanding democratic grievances of Turkey’s Kurds. One reason it frequently gives for its hesitation is fear of a nationalist backlash. In fact, the peace process has already demonstrated how willing mainstream Turks would be to accept steps towards democratisation. A much bigger risk for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), as it heads into a two-year cycle of local, presidential and parliamentary elections, would be if the three-decade-old conflict plunges into a new cycle of violence.

5. Erdogan’s new proposals are another step towards Kurdish peace – expert
7 October 2013 / Vestnik Kavkaza
Boris Dolgov, a member of the Institute for Oriental Studies of the RAS, called the new reform project announced by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan this week a positive step towards the settlement of the Kurdish issue in Turkey. Dolgov noted that the Kurdish problem was the main issue in the region. He said that he had attended a conference and heard that the Kurdish Spring, an analogue of the Arab Spring, was possible. Kurdish communities in Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey considered the formation of the national core.

6. Iraq’s Foreign Minister Calls For Direct Talks Between Turkey and Rebels
5 October 2013 / Rudaw
As Turkey is trying to reform its constitution that has long denied the existence of ethnic minorities such as Kurds, Iraq’s Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, says a comprehensive solution of the Kurdish question in that country requires Turkey to engage in direct talks with the Kurdish rebels. Mr. Zebari’s comments underscore the increasing significance of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) at a time when its fighters seem to have found a new safe haven in Turkey’s neighbor, Syria, where the government of Bashar al-Assad has voluntarily withdrawn its troops, allowing for PKK-affiliated rebels to take control.  Mr. Zebari says that the PKK has done its part in reaching a peace deal with Ankara.

7. Kurdish Film About ‘Honor Killing’ Wins European Prize
7 October 2013 / Rudaw
In Turkey’s conservative Kurdish southeast, 22-year-old Dilan pays with her life for loving a man in a neighboring village.  This is the theme of Kurdish-Belgian film director Bulent Ozturk’s “House with Small Windows,” which won the European Short Film Award at the 70th Venice International Film Festival. “With this film I hope to shed light on the terrible fate of thousands of girls who have to marry against their will or in the name of honor killings,” says Ozturk, whose own mother was forced to marry against her will. Co-writer and moviemaker Mizgin Mujde Arslan believes the topic is an important one: Every year, 5,000 women are murdered in so-called “honor killings” around the world. The problem is widespread among Kurds in Turkey and Iraq.

8. Turkey building wall on Syria border
7 October 2013 / Gulf News
Turkey is building a two-metre high wall along part of its border with Syria near an area of frequent fighting to try to stop people from illegally bypassing its checkpoints and prevent smuggling, officials said on Monday. Construction workers with excavators began digging foundations in Nusaybin, a border district 10km north of the Syrian town of Qamishli, where Kurds, rebel units and Arab tribes have regularly clashed. “We haven’t had border security problems in Nusaybin so far but in that area it’s extremely easy for people to cross illegally. It’s almost like there is no border,” said a government official in Ankara, asking not to be named. The wall would span just a fraction of the 900-km border, but highlights Ankara’s growing concern about the spillover of violence from northern Syria, a battleground for myriad armed groups in a scramble to grab territory.

9. Kurdish National Council to hold talks with Turkish officials
8 October 2013 / Hurriyet
Representatives of the Kurdish National Council (KNC) of Syria are set to have talks with Foreign Ministry officials today. “We hope that all [Syrian] groups, under the framework of the Syrian National Coalition, will participate in the upcoming Geneva conference in solidarity and with citizenship consciousness,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters yesterday, adding that the Kurdish National Council would visit Ankara to have discussions on this issue.  The Kurdish National Council set a clear attitude against the Syrian regime in principle so far and participated in the Syrian opposition, the minister said in an apparent reference to the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Ankara continuously criticized for not taking a clear position against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

10. Son of Syrian Kurdish leader Saleh Muslim killed in fighting: Report
9 October 2013 / Hurriyet
Şervan Muslim, the son of the Syrian Kurdish leader Saleh Muslim, has been killed during fighting near the northern Syrian town of Tal Abyad, Anadolu Agency reported on Oct. 9. Saleh Muslim is the current co-leader of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which controls the mainly Kurdish northern areas of Syria, called Rojava by the Kurds.
Şervan Muslim was killed during an outbreak of fighting between the People’s Defense Units (YPG), the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)-affiliated group’s armed wing, and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).

11. Fighting between Kurds and ISIL Intensifies in Syria’s Hasakah, Aazaz
5 October 2013 / Al Manar
The UK-based Syrian Observatory said that 14 militants of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front terrorist group were killed after clashes with Kurdish People’s Protection Units militants in the vicinity of the village of Safa in the southern countryside of Jal Agha in Hasakah province. Four Kurds gunmen have been also killed during the engagement. In Aleppo countryside, the observatory reported that ISIL gunmen and the rest of opposition militants attacked a checkpoint of the PPU in the vicinity of the village of Qustul Jendo in rural Afrin.

12. Video: Turkey facing threat of Syria insurgents: Hisham Jaber
4 October 2013 / Press TV
Press TV has conducted an interview with Hisham Jaber, director of the Center for Middle East Studies, about the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warning Ankara that its support for militants fighting against Damascus will backfire on Turkey.
– Now the question here would be if you agree with that statement that the support that Turkey is giving to the insurgents is going to backfire?
– President Assad was absolutely right. Turkey from the beginning made very hostile policy against Syria and went so far against Syria. Turkey did close the main gate – eastern gate – to Syria, to the Middle East in order to open the western gate in order to be member of the European Union. They did not know – the Turkish – that there is no way that Turkey or eighty million Muslims will be European citizens.

13. Syrian Kurdish Refugees Fear Harsh Winter in Northern Iraq
7 October 2013 / Voice of America
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians, mostly Kurds, have fled into northern Iraq, many living in abandoned houses in the region’s capital. They are now facing the prospect of battling harsh winter conditions. It’s morning on the outskirts of Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Aisha, a refugee from Syria, is cooking food for the four families that are squatting together in a half-built house. The house has no kitchen, so she cooks in a neighboring construction site, burning discarded wood to make bread.
Because the families don’t live in a refugee camp, they survive by eating food handed out by their neighbors.

14. Iraqi Kurds OK Abu Dhabi’s Taqa Plans to Pump Oil
7 October 2013 / ABC News
Iraq’s northern self-ruled Kurdish region has given the green light to a consortium led by a United Arab Emirates state-run energy investment company to pump oil, a statement said Monday, in a latest move shows the Kurds’ determination to pursue ambitious oil plans despite central government objections. Ethnic Kurds and the Arab-led government in Baghdad have been in a long-running dispute over rights to develop natural resources, with each side relying on a different interpretation of the constitution. Baghdad says it is the sole authority to negotiate and award deals, while Kurds argue that the constitution allows them to do so without going through the Federal Oil Ministry.

15. Report: Kurdistan Election Results Mean Closer Ties With Ankara
7 October 2013 / Rudaw
The success of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in last month’s elections in Iraqi Kurdistan mean closer ties between Erbil and Turkey, the Ankara-based International Middle East Peace Research Center (IMPR) said in a recent report. The 18-page report also said that the September 21 polls for the autonomous Kurdistan Region’s own parliament were orderly, honest and transparent. It said they were an assurance of stability and security for Turkey’s southern borders. The KDP received the largest number of votes at the polls but the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), its partner in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), did not fare as well. It lost its standing as the second-strongest party to the opposition Change Movement, Gorran. The composition of the next government is yet to be decided.

16. Iraq: Coordinated blasts in Baghdad, other attacks kill 45 as al-Qaida claims earlier assault
7 October 2013 / Washington Post
A string of attacks across Iraq, including a coordinated wave of evening bombings in Baghdad, killed at least 45 people Monday as al-Qaida claimed responsibility for a recent spate of rare suicide attacks in the relatively peaceful Kurdish north. Monday’s bombings marked the third day in a row that insurgents were able to unleash attacks powerful enough to claim fatalities numbering in the dozens. The mounting bloodshed is heightening worries that the country is returning to the widespread sectarian killing that marked the years following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

17. Al Qaeda affiliate claims rare bomb attack in Iraqi Kurdistan
7 October 2013 / Reuters
An al Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility for a rare bomb attack in Iraq’s usually peaceful Kurdistan region and said it was in revenge for the enclave’s support for fellow Kurds fighting Islamists in Syria. At least six people were killed when militants tried to storm the headquarters of the security services in the Kurdish capital Arbil last month in the first big attack there since 2007. In recent months, a Kurdish militia has been fighting mainly Arab rebels and Islamists in northern Syria, opening an ethnic front in a civil war that has increasingly been fought along sectarian lines.

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS

18. Erdogan’s reforms: one step forward, no steps back?
6 October 2013 / Al Arabiya
After raising expectations among the Turkish public, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan unveiled a package of reforms this week aimed at putting a fragile and deadlocked Kurdish peace process on track while responding to critics that his government still has a reformist agenda. The most important reforms include removing restrictions on the wearing of Islamic headscarves; providing for education in mother tongue; the restoration of original names of villages, districts and provinces that existed before 1980; sweeping changes in the law on political parties, including the possibility of lowering the 10 percent electoral threshold for entering Parliament; improving freedom of assembly; and other more specific rights for religious and ethnic minorities.

19. Kurdish Questions at the Party Conferences
7 October 2013 / Huffington Post
The annual British political party conferences and the leaders’ keynote speeches this year were mainly concerned with domestic matters which isn’t surprising given the increasing intensity of electoral competition in the long run-up to the general election in May 2015. Foreign relations figured a little though. The Labour Leader’s speech majored on his success in stopping what he called a “rush to war” in Syria. At last week’s Conservative conference in Manchester, Prime Minister Cameron challenged the idea that it is “time for Britain to re-think our role” because “if we shrunk from the world we would be less safe and less prosperous.” Expect more from this debate.

20. Syria’s Kurds Divided Over Geneva II Conference
9 October 2013 / Al Monitor
Representatives of the Syrian Kurdish parties visited Turkey on Oct. 8 to discuss border issues and Kurdish participation in the Geneva II peace talks, which will most likely take place in mid-November. However, the Syrian Kurdish parties are divided on how to participate. They all want to be represented independently from the opposition, but not necessarily together. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the Kurds should be part of Geneva II. “We would like the opposition to represent the entire spectrum of the opponents of the regime, including the opposition which is active inside Syria such as the National Coordinating Committee and the Supreme Kurdish Council,” he said.

21. VIDEO: Mideast Expert Jonathan Spyer on Syria Rebels
CBN TV

22. Iraqi Kurds: “No Friend but the Mountains”
10 October 2013 / Huffington Post
The Kurdistan Region of Iraq has been an island of peace and stability surrounded by sectarian strife and civil wars. Until last week when several suicide bombers struck Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, decimating the Interior Ministry, killing 6 people, wounding scores, and sparking gunfights in the streets of this serene city.  The explosion shatters the myth that Iraqi Kurdistan can immunize itself from Iraq’s violence between Sunnis and Shia. It also shattered hope that Iraqi Kurdistan’s security forces – the “Peshmerga” – could keep Syria’s civil war at bay. The attack was launched by jihadist groups linked to al-Qaeda fighting in Syria with bases in Nineveh province, adjoining Iraqi Kurdistan.

23. The Kurdish Jihadist battleground in Syria: ramifications in Iraqi Kurdistan
7 October 2013 / Open Democracy
On September 29, a rare attack occurred in Arbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), in which the headquarters of the Kurdistan security forces (Asayish) were targeted. The KRG has brought about rapid economic development in Iraqi Kurdistan, a region of Iraq that enjoys peace and security and is nothing less than a haven for Iraqis. A day earlier, the results had been announced of the parliamentary election of the KRG, which was applauded by some western countries, such as the UK, for its democratic process. However, the attack does not seem to be directly related to the election, which was won by the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (KDP) securing the highest number of votes. Gorran cam second as the main opposition party while the third party of the region, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), was reduced to third place.

REPORTS

24. Europe Report No. 227: Crying “Wolf”: Why Turkish Fears Need Not Block Kurdish Reform, 7 October 2013, International Crisis Group. Report available in full.

25. The implications of EU antiterrorism legislation on post-conflict political processes and on the standing of the EU as a mediator in regional conflicts, July 2013.

CONFERENCES

26. A people without a voice: Syrian Kurds and The future of the Middle East, Presentation by Saif Badrakhan, Kurdistan National Congress- KNK, USA Representative. Conference at the American University, School of International Service, Center of Peacebuilding and Development, 30 September 2013.

27. IBON International Conference on Democracy, Self-determination and Liberation of Peoples, European Parliament, Brussels. 23 September 2013. All conference papers and speeches available here.

28. Science and Culture for Progress in Kurdistan: 3rd World Kurdish Congress (WKC2013), 11-13 OCTOBER 2013 • Stockholm, Sweden

 

 

 

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