KURDISH NEWS WEEKLY BRIEFING, 19 – 25 July 2014

NEWS
1. Barzani voices support to Kurdish peace process
2. Exclusive: Turkey’s Presidential Candidate Selahattin Demirtas Talks To Kurdish Question
3. Turkey’s Kurdish candidate says peace does not hinge on Erdogan
4. Presidential candidate Demirtaş: ‘Turkey fanning the flames of the Middle East’
5. Öcalan: Attacks on tent protest unacceptable
6. A Kurdish general bombarded in Gaza
7. More than 700 killed in Syria as ISIS tightens grip on east
8. ISIS Tells Kurdish Families to Leave Mosul
9. HDP condemns Israeli offensive against Palestine
10. Ban on Firat News Agency lifted in Turkey
11. Margaret Owen Speaks To Kurdish Question
12. Syria Daily, July 21: Finally a Battle Between Assad Regime and Islamic State?
13. Clashes with PYD ongoing on Syrian border as death toll rises to nine
14. Christians flee Iraq’s Mosul after ultimatum by IS
15. Talk to Al Jazeera – Masoud Barzani: Kurdish independence
16. Kurds settle on candidate to be Iraq’s president, clearing way for vote

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS
17. A portrait of Selahattin Demirtaş
18. The Presidential Election In Turkey And N.Kurdistan And Our Votes Around The World
19. Duran Kalkan: Independence And Freedom
20. Alevis find saying no to Erdogan a tall task
21. Turkey’s benign neglect helped spur the Islamic State’s rise
22. Turkey’s Response to ISIS and the Crisis in Iraq
23. Islamic State uses Turkish Consulate in Mosul as headquarters
24. The Stupidity of American Foreign Policy
25. The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
26. The Dilemmas of the Kurds in Syria
27. The realpolitik of Turkish-Kurdish energy cooperation
28. Iraqi Kurdistan and Israel: A choice between political strategies and moral stances
29. The 194th State: The Kurds’ Bid for Nationhood
30. The rise of ISIS signals a deeper crisis of representation amidst the different communities of the region
31. Video: Christopher Davidson on the Islamic State’s funding and strategy

REPORTS
32. Briefing Paper: The Remaking of Syria, Iraq and the Wider Middle East

 

NEWS

1. Barzani voices support to Kurdish peace process
23 July 2014 / Hurriyet
Independent Diyarbakır deputy Leyla Zana and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Istanbul deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder have met with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani as part of their a week-long visit to northern Iraq. Barzani told Zana and Önder that the KRG was ready to support the ongoing peace process in Turkey. The KRG is ready “to give necessary support for the success of the peace process,” he said, adding that the recent legal amendments for the process were also significant. Talabani returned to Iraq over the weekend for the first time since he suffered a stroke and was flown abroad for medical treatment 18 months ago. His health appears to be in a good condition judging from the photos he appeared in with the two visiting Turkish deputies.

2. Exclusive: Turkey’s Presidential Candidate Selahattin Demirtas Talks To Kurdish Question
22 July 2014 / Kurdish Question
“I know that Alevis trust in me, Kurds trust in me, Turkish progressives and democrats trust in me, Muslim democrats trust in me, LGBTI individuals trust in me, women and youth trust in me, Armenians, Assyrians and Yazidis trust in me, Ecologists and Green movements trust in me. Now if all of these different groups have gathered around our principles and trust in us and are feeding and strengthening our hope, our job is to make sure we do not disregard or disappoint any of them and take this struggle to victory. Our aim is to represent all those supporting us in the right way by staying true to our principles, being clear, transparent and firm under all conditions.” Selahattin Demirtas.

3. Turkey’s Kurdish candidate says peace does not hinge on Erdogan
21 July 2014 / Reuters
Turkey’s peace process with Kurdish militants will go on whether or not Tayyip Erdogan wins the presidency in August, his pro-Kurdish rival said, but he declined to reveal whether he would back the prime minister in the event of a second-round run-off.
Selahattin Demirtas, the presidential candidate for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), is running a distant third in the polls. He left unclear which of the leading candidates he might support. Support from Kurds, who make up a fifth of the population, could be key to Erdogan’s securing the absolute majority he needs in the first round of the presidential election on Aug. 10, or equally important in the event of a run-off two weeks later.

4. Presidential candidate Demirtaş: ‘Turkey fanning the flames of the Middle East’
21 July 2014 / Journal of Turkish Weekly
Turkey is fanning the flames of turmoil in the Middle East, according to Selahattin Demirtaş, the presidential candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is seeking to expand beyond its Kurdish base in next month’s election.
Speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News in an exclusive interview, Demirtaş also criticized the government for halting the European Union accession process, saying the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) “stopped the reform process when it no longer needed the EU.”

5. Öcalan: Attacks on tent protest unacceptable
24 July 2014 / Kurdish Info
Following the burning of tents by Turkish security forces at the solidarity vigil with Kobane in the village of Ziyaret in Birecik district, the vigil is continuing.
Mehmet Öcalan, the brother of Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan, visited the vigil this morning.
Mehmet Öcalan said his brother had told him during his recent visit that the state’s hostile attitude to the tent protest was unacceptable.
The tents were erected on 9 July in solidarity with the resistance of the people of Kobane to ISIS attacks on it.
On 20 and 21 July the protest site was attacked and pillaged by police and soldiers.

6. A Kurdish general bombarded in Gaza
24 July 2014 / Kurdish Info
The fiercest Israeli attacks on Gaza have been concentrated on the neighbourhood of Shejaiya, where more than 100 people have died.
The name of this neighbourhood is derived from the name of one of Saladin al Ayubi’s generals, Shuja’ al-Kurdi, who was killed in a battle with Crusaders in 1239 AD. Shejaiya, whose residents are largely of Turkmen and Kurdish descent, was targeted during Israel’s two previous offensives on the Gaza Strip within the past six years, in 2008/9 and 2012.At least 644 Palestinians have died in the Israeli operations targeting Gaza that began on 8 July, and around 4,000 people have been wounded.
The vast majority of these casualties have been civilians, with at least a hundred children having been killed.


7. More than 700 killed in Syria as ISIS tightens grip on east
20 July 2014 / Asharq al-Awsat
More than 700 people were killed in Syria over the course of Thursday and Friday, in what activists say were the bloodiest 48 hours of fighting in the conflict to date.
The head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Rami Abdul Rahman, told Asharq Al-Awsat that this was the first time casualties had topped 700 in the space of two days since the conflict began in 2011. He contrasted the violence to the gas attack in the Ghouta region close to Damascus last year, which he said killed around 500 people. The UK-based SOHR tracks casualties on both sides of the Syrian conflict by collating reports from a network of observers on the ground in the country.
The final toll was announced after the SOHR reported that 270 people had been killed in fighting between pro-Syrian government forces and militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), when the latter seized the Shaar gas field east of the city of Homs on Friday.

8. ISIS Tells Kurdish Families to Leave Mosul
20 July 2014 / AINA
After the exodus of the Christian community from Mosul following [AINA 2014-07-20] threats by the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS), the insurgents are now allegedly threatening the Kurdish community, pushing them to leave the city.
Hashm Ali, a Kurd from Mosul, plans to leave the city as soon as possible due to the threats made by ISIS to his family.
“ISIS insurgents view Kurds in the city as infidels and non-Muslims, for this reason they threaten Kurdish families. They have warned Kurds to leave the city as soon as possible because Kurds are Peshmerga fight against ISIS rebels,” said Ali to BasNews.
Another Kurdish citizen in Mosul Salwan Hussein said “in spite of the continuous threats of ISIS, they have given us several days to leave the city.”


9. HDP condemns Israeli offensive against Palestine
10 July 2014 / Hurriyet
The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has strongly condemned Israeli airstrikes against Palestinians, criticizing the international community’s silence over the attacks that have so far claimed the lives of 80 people.
“We feel sorrow and concern for the loss of more than 80 people and the injury sustained to 400 others who are all civilians, as a result of Israel’s comprehensive attacks against Palestinian cities, particularly Gaza. Targeting civilians is unacceptable for any reason whatsoever,” the HDP said in a written statement on July 10.

10. Ban on Firat News Agency lifted in Turkey
22 July 2014 / ANF
A court in Istanbul has lifted the ban on access to the Firat News Agency (ANF) website.
ANF’s lawyer Ramazan Demir said: “The illegality and arbitrary use of legislation that has gone on for years has now ended.”
Access to the ANF internet site http://www.firatnews.com, which was founded in 2005 and publishes in two dialects of Kurdish (Kurmanji-Sorani), Turkish, English, Arabic and Persian, was obstructed by a judgment in 2011 that prevented access to 36 Kurdish internet sites.
Since then access to the domain addresses of various extensions of ANF have also been blocked.


11. Margaret Owen Speaks To Kurdish Question
July 2014 / Kurdish Question
Mark Campbell speaks to UK human rights barrister Margaret Owen for Kurdish Question about her interest in the freedom struggle of the Kurdish people and especially Kurdish women.


12. Syria Daily, July 21: Finally a Battle Between Assad Regime and Islamic State?
21 July 2014 / EA Worldview
President Assad’s forces and the jihadist Islamic State have met in their first one-on-one ground battle in the 40-month Syrian conflict.
The pro-regime Al-Watan, citing a “military source”, wrote on Sunday of fighting over the al-Shaer gas field in the Palmyra district of central Syria.
The Islamic State, which already has control of oilfields in eastern Syria, moved into al-Sha’er last Thursday, killing scores of guards — a propaganda statement by the jihadist showed photos of 72 bodies. Syrian forces secured a nearby oilfield and counter-attacked on Friday. Al-Watan said at least 60 troops have been killed in the attempt to reclaim the gas field.

13. Clashes with PYD ongoing on Syrian border as death toll rises to nine
23 July 2014 / Cihan
A Turkish soldier wounded during clashes between the Turkish army and the Democratic Union Party (PYD), an offshoot of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), died on Tuesday, raising the death toll of soldiers killed during Monday’s clash with Kurdish militants to three. Yiğit Şahan was heavily injured after the Kurdish group opened fire on the Turkish soldiers late on Monday near the town of Ceylanpınar, in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa. He was taken to Harran University Hospital where, despite reports citing his doctors that Şahan was in good condition, he died late on Tuesday. His body was sent to his home city of İzmir after a funeral ceremony in Şanlıurfa.

14. Christians flee Iraq’s Mosul after ultimatum by IS
19 July 2014 / Middle East Eye
Hundreds of Christian families fled their homes in Mosul Saturday before an ultimatum from the Islamic State (IS) threatening their community’s centuries-old presence in the northern Iraqi city expired. An AFP correspondent in Mosul, the main Iraqi hub of the IS proclaimed “caliphate”, said Christians squeezed into private cars and taxis to beat the noon deadline.
“Some families have had all their money and jewellery taken from them at an insurgent checkpoint as they fled the city,” said Abu Rayan, a Mosul Christian who had just driven out with his family. IS who have run the city since a sweeping military offensive that began six weeks ago has told the thousands of Christians in Mosul they could convert, pay a special tax or leave.

15. Talk to Al Jazeera – Masoud Barzani: Kurdish independence
17 July 2014 / Al Jazeera
The president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region discusses the future of the nation and how change is a must for Iraq. Masoud Barzani is the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region which has a population of five million Kurds. “The Kurds are tired of this exhausting situation in Iraq. Change is therefore a must in Iraq. We will no longer accept other people deciding our fate. We will be the ones deciding our own future.”
Iraq’s Sunni heartland is currently in the grip of fighters from the self-declared Islamic State and other Sunni groups. The mainly Shia Iraqi army who initially fled from the advancing fighters are struggling to contain them.

16. Kurds settle on candidate to be Iraq’s president, clearing way for vote
24 July 2014 / Sacbee News
Iraq’s Kurdish political bloc settled late Wednesday on a veteran politician from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan to be its nominee to be Iraq’s next president, a decision that seemed likely to clear the way for his election to the office Thursday.
Fouad Massoum had been one of three Kurds vying for the office in a field that on Wednesday had been winnowed to 41 from 103 a day earlier. His nomination as the sole Kurdish candidate was announced by a television station loyal to Jalal Talabani, Iraq’s current president.

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS

17. A portrait of Selahattin Demirtaş
17 July 2014 / Todays Zaman
Despite his young age, Selahattin Demirtaş is one of the most important political leaders in pro-Kurdish politics. He is extremely skillful in maintaining the delicate balance of representing a complex constituency comprising groups that participate in legal and illegal activities.  He does this by his courage, intuition and influential personality. This is not something just anybody could do. It is not an easy task to remain within the boundaries of legal politics and to voice the demands of an armed movement at the same time. Demirtaş is a politician who is able to do this. Considering the fact that the pro-Kurdish movement is multilayered and diverse, Selahattin Demirtaş is a young politician who is capable of uniting different strands within this movement by using his versatility and charm. Because of these abilities, he is appreciated not only by his support base but also by many other people who would not normally vote for him.

18. The Presidential Election In Turkey And N.Kurdistan And Our Votes Around The World
July 2014 / Kurdish Question
All three candidates for the upcoming elections in Turkey and North Kurdistan have been declared. Not surprisingly the AKP’s candidate is Prime Minister Erdogan; the HDP’s candidate co-chair Selahattin Demirtas, while the CHP-MHP joint candidate is Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, an Islamist newcomer to active politics. Ihsanoglu was the first candidate to be declared and the most furore and discussion has broken out over his candidacy. The Kemalist wing, nationalists and the few social democrats within the CHP have been openly critical of their party for declaring a man whose primary identity is his Islamic identity. At the grassroots level CHP’s core voters are also upset and angry with their party for not consulting them and their organisations. Alevis make up an important part of this unsettled group and see this candidacy as proof that the CHP is becoming more like the MHP and moving to the right rather than social democracy.


19. Duran Kalkan: Independence And Freedom
July 2014 / Kurdish Question
The latest developments in the Middle East has re-intensified the discussions of independence and freedom amongst the Kurds. The administration in Southern Kurdistan is stating that it will “declare independence”. The democratic autonomous cantons in Western Kurdistan are stating that they have installed a “free and democratic way of life”. This brings us nicely to the question of “what is the difference between independence and freedom?”
It is not even worth mentioning that the terms independence and freedom are not new to the Kurdish agenda. The Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Ocalan has been trying to develop a Kurdish consciousness regarding freedom and independence for over forty years. The Kurdish people — under the leadership of the PKK — have been struggling heroically for freedom and independence for the past thirty-six years.


20. Alevis find saying no to Erdogan a tall task
23 July 2014 / Al Monitor
On July 21 in Ankara, the Alevi Bektasi Federation (ABF) announced that it had politely declined an invitation from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for its members to attend iftar, the breaking of the fast during Ramadan. As the holy month draws to a close, Turkey’s presidential candidates have mobilized to attract different groups to their iftars. The prime minister and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) were already known for their lavish, high-end iftars, and the election campaign has only intensified dinner traffic. Every evening, the media carry reports of Erdogan addressing pre- and post-iftar gatherings, turning them into live events for the country to follow on multiple TV channels. Crowds are encouraged to cheer for Erdogan during the live broadcasts as he passionately campaigns. In the first days of Ramadan, a photo of Erdogan was shared on social media asking, “Are you ready? He is fasting and is even angrier.”


21. Turkey’s benign neglect helped spur the Islamic State’s rise
22 July 2014 / The Daily Star
One night in 1995, I switched to CNN International to catch the evening news, and saw a long caravan of Toyotas driving toward a dusty city carrying solemn young men with flowing beards and Uzis. The Taliban had just entered the global scene. Its conquest of Afghanistan allowed Al-Qaeda to flourish, which led to 9/11 and triggered the ongoing war between Judeo-Christianity and Islam. The echoes of the Taliban are now resonating loudly once again, right in the middle of the most fragile of Muslim geographies: Mesopotamia. The Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), since renamed the Islamic State, is not Al-Qaeda’s first attempt to plant itself in this region, but it may be the first successful one. And if ISIS becomes a permanent fixture of the Mesopotamian landscape, its former supporter, Turkey, will suffer the most.


22. Turkey’s Response to ISIS and the Crisis in Iraq
16 July 2014 / RUSI
On 11 June 2014, fighters from the Islamic State (IS) stormed the Turkish consulate in Mosul and kidnapped forty-nine consulate staff and their family members. The hostage crisis has posed a set of unique challenges for Turkish foreign policy makers seeking to craft a new policy for the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. In Syria, Turkey has strongly advocated for the United States to use military force to topple Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. However, in Iraq, Ankara has opted for a more cautious policy and has spoken out against the prospect of US airstrikes.

23. Islamic State uses Turkish Consulate in Mosul as headquarters
17 July 2014 / Al Monitor
When Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the enigmatic leader of the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State (IS, formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS), appeared on a video posted online in early July addressing a congregation of faithful at a mosque in Mosul, pundits oozed commentary about his words and his attire. Was the self-declared caliph’s watch a Rolex? If so, how did this sit with the teachings of Islam? they mused.
But a no less significant detail escaped unnoticed. After his fiery speech, Baghdadi was whisked away to the Islamic State’s new headquarters — the Turkish Consulate in Mosul. “It is absolutely true that IS has been using the Turkish Consulate as its main headquarters and that Baghdadi spent several hours there,” confirmed Atheel al-Nujaifi, the governor of Mosul, in a telephone interview with Al-Monitor. “It is their office.”

24. The Stupidity of American Foreign Policy
25 July 2014 / Peace in Kurdistan Campaign
Although there can be no doubt that compared to most other countries in the world today and in the past, American foreign policy has been motivated by relative honesty and intelligence, currently there are several specifics in that policy that can only be characterized as sheer stupidity. The first point has to do with American foreign policy towards the horrific civil war in Syria. Although President Obama’s basic instinct not to enter another disastrous Middle Eastern war is sound, his administration’s continuing attempt to support increasingly non-existent moderate oppositionists against the Assad regime is at the best based on wishful thinking because with one exception (the Kurds) such moderates in Syria no longer exist.

25. The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
20 July 2014 / The Independent
Patrick Cockburn: The Greeks tell a story against themselves about their tendency to believe in conspiracy theories. They relate how God decided that he would give every nation as a gift a special national characteristic. On the appointed day, representatives of the nations of the world entered the divine presence and were handed their gifts. The Americans received optimism, the French elegance, the British stoicism, the Russians courage, the Iranians cunning, and so on. The Greek delegation was delayed and arrived late just as the other nations were leaving. God apologised and explained to them that he was sorry but he had already given away the most desirable characteristics and there were none left. The Greeks were enraged and protested furiously, shouting “so you too, God, have joined the plot against us as we always expected you would. Go on, tell us who is paying you and why do you conspire against us?”


26. The Dilemmas of the Kurds in Syria
24 July 2014 / Rudaw
Last week I wrote about the international community’s options of whom to support in Iraq. I did so in multiple choice format, concluding that only the Kurdistan Regional Government appears democratic, worthy and capable of taking on the Islamic State’s Jihadis. Since 2012, however, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s militants have also been fighting Kurds in Syria very actively. Most recently, they used weapons and vehicles captured in Mosul to increase their pressure on Kobane and other cantons controlled by the Kurds of Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan). The fighting has grown more desperate and fierce, but the Kurds of Kobane and other areas remain on their own. With little more than old Kalashnikovs and RPGs, they continue to hold back a determined and now better-armed force than what the Iraqi army fled from in June. Yet still the United States and others still refuse to provide support to the Syrian Kurds.


27. The realpolitik of Turkish-Kurdish energy cooperation
24 July 2014 / Middle East Eye
One of the top priorities for the AKP (Justice and Development) government has been making sure that Turkey becomes an energy hub between eastern suppliers and Western markets. The Iraq crisis, despite posing a threat for Turkish interests, brings the government closer to its aspirations. However, the government may have to delay, if not totally relinquish, the ideal of being a game setter and assume a more unassertive position as a regional player that pragmatically adapts itself to the changing conditions.
The current policies indicate that this is actually what the Turkish government is set to do. After the Islamic State (IS) seized control of several oil refineries and pipelines adjacent to the Kurdish region, the AKP-KRG (Kurdish Regional Government) bloc saw the eventual emergence of a new regional “energy status quo” as the awaited occasion to increase the international legitimacy of their energy agreement.

28. Iraqi Kurdistan and Israel: A choice between political strategies and moral stances
19 July 2014 / Al Akbar
Over the course of the past decade, Iraqi Kurdistan, also known as South Kurdistan, has been pushing harder for secession from Iraq and forming an independent Kurdish state. If and when this occurs, will the Kurdish politicians and the population be comfortable allying with Israel? The journey for Kurdish self-determination has been long and arduous throughout the 20th century. As early as 1919, Kurdish groups in northern Iraq led by Mahmoud Barzanji rebelled against British colonial domination. The revolt was ferocious, only quelled after the colonial British air-force unleashed a barrage of deadly gas bombs on villages and towns. Barely two years later, in 1922, as Barzanji declared the Kingdom of Kurdistan, another Kurdish revolt against the British was sparked but it too was quickly repressed by force.

29. The 194th State: The Kurds’ Bid for Nationhood
17 July 2014 / The New Yorker
I snuck into Kurdistan, in 2002, on an old smugglers’ route. There was no legal way to get there, so I’d flown to Iran, taken a second flight to its western border, driven a couple hours, signed a log book in a hut acknowledging that I’d left Iran, then walked across a dirt road into the raw wilderness of northern Iraq. There were no buildings in sight, let alone border security, immigration, or even road signs—just vistas of craggy mountains.
The Kurds, who make up nearly twenty per cent of Iraq’s population, had been isolated from the world for more than a decade, since the United Nations imposed sanctions on Saddam Hussein’s regime in 1991. They had also been isolated from the rest of Iraq, as punishment for challenging Saddam’s rule. He squeezed them even harder than the world squeezed him. The Kurds’ regional governments suddenly had to fend for themselves.

30. The rise of ISIS signals a deeper crisis of representation amidst the different communities of the region
7 July 2014 / Oxford Research Group
Alarm has spread as the Islamist militant group Isis (Islamic State of Iraq & Syria) who now prefers to call itself the Islamic “state”, has crossed the border of  Iraq and Syria, threatening  the  implementation of  a caliphate and harsh Islamic law to any who do not practice its brand of violent ‘puritanism’. Sectarian hatred has begun to shape the regional DNA threatening to erode boundaries that have prevailed since the collapse of the Ottoman empire a century ago.

31. Video: Christopher Davidson on the Islamic State’s funding and strategy
23 July 2014 / Middle East Eye
Christopher Davidson, author of After the Sheikhs: The Coming Collapse of the Gulf Monarchies and reader in Middle East politics at Durham University, spoke to MEE about his thoughts on the Islamic State’s funding and future strategy in Iraq and beyond.
Davidson goes against what he calls the “conventional narrative” of believing IS has been self-funded, saying it is likely “considerable funding has been flowing in” from regionally based, as well as international, sympathisers.
Discussing where the group will head next, Davidson said: “my guess is they are attempting to create dominance over Sunni parts of the Middle East and perhaps even eventually the Arabian Peninsula”.

REPORTS

32. Briefing Paper: The Remaking of Syria, Iraq and the Wider Middle East, July 2013. By Gareth Stansfield, Royal United Services Institute (RUSI)


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