KURDISH NEWS WEEKLY BRIEFING, 20 – 27 March 2015

 

NEWS

  1. Abdullah Ocalan’s Newroz Speech
  2. Kurds commit to Turkish peace process as PKK leader announces definitive end to ’40-year-long armed struggle’ with the state
  3. Ocalan stops short of disarming PKK
  4. Turkish Military Launch Operation Against PKK 
  5. Turkish military says clashes with Kurdish militants in southeast
  6. HSM: Turkish army deliberately increasing military activity
  7. Turkey’s parliament approves controversial bill increasing police powers, after Kurdish protest
  8. Kurdish Movement Demands Truth Commission For Turkey’s Kurdish Question
  9. HDP: Growing rift between Erdoğan, gov’t over Kurdish issue
  10. Interview with Figen Yuksekdag: Kurdish women’s movement reshapes Turkish politics
  11. New mass grave found in Dargeçit
  12. Syria conflict: Kurds targeted in Hassakeh bombings
  13. Clashes intensify in Cizîrê Canton of Rojava
  14. Syria Kurds struggle since battle for Kobani
  15. Hundreds turn out to mourn Kurdish former Royal Marine who died fighting ISIS extremists in Syria
  16. Vasiliki Scurfield’s Newroz Speech

 

 

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS

  1. AKP cracks inflict collateral damage on the Kurdish issue
  2. U.S. cautious with Syrian Kurdistan’s PYD to avoid annoying Turkey
  3. One Group Has Proven It Can Beat ISIS. So Why Isn’t the U.S. Doing More to Help Them?
  4. Battles and Wars: Bracing for Erdoğan’s Long Goodbye
  5. The Islamic State’s Backdoor Banking
  6. The Kobani Precedent
  7. Outrage but No Action: The Obama Administration’s Response to Syria’s ‘Caesar Photos’
  8. Are Syrian Islamists moving to counterbalance Al-Qaeda? Will it last?

 

REPORTS

  1. Democracy at Risk: IPI Special Report on Turkey

 

NEWS

  1. Abdullah Ocalan’s Newroz Speech
    21 March 2015 / Kurdish Question
    “TO ALL OUR PEOPLE;
    I am greeting the Newroz of all our people and friends who are on the side of peace, equality, freedom and democracy.   The crisis caused by neoliberal policies imposed on the whole world by imperialist capitalism and its despotic local collaborators is affecting our region and country. In this environment of crisis, ethnic and religious variations among our people and within our cultures are being erased by meaningless and brutal identity wars. Neither our historical nor our modern values, neither our conscience nor our political values can remain silent in this bleak political landscape. On the contrary, urgent intervention is our religious, political and moral responsibility[…]”
  1. Kurds commit to Turkish peace process as PKK leader announces definitive end to ’40-year-long armed struggle’ with the state
    22 March 2015 / Independent
    Above the jubilant cheers of the hundreds of thousands of Kurds celebrating the festival of Newroz, Kurdish new year, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Abudallah Ocalan yesterday called for a definitive end to the “40-year-long armed struggle” against the Turkish state. As Mr Ocalan’s statement was read to the huge rally, the sun broke through the clouds and the thudding rain eased: even the weather seemed to recognise a momentous occasion. His emphasis on a democratic solution is seen as a pivotal step in a process that many officials from both sides believe is the single most important issue the country faces.

 

  1. Ocalan stops short of disarming PKK
    21 March 2015 / Middle East Eye
    The jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Abdullah Ocalan on Saturday called on the outlawed group to convene an “extraordinary congress” to end its four-decade-long armed struggle against the Turkish state. However Ocalan stopped short of calling for the full disarmament of the PKK, a move Turkey’s government had hoped and expected. In an address delivered on behalf of Ocalan in the majority Kurdish city of Diyarbakir where thousands gathered for the celebration of Nevruz, the PKK head emphasised that a “democratic solution” was the only way to settle Turkey’s Kurdish problem.

 

  1. Turkish Military Launch Operation Against PKK 
    24 March 2015 / Kurdish Question
    The Turkish military has launched a military operation today targeting shelters and stores belonging to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), contravening the goodwill developed by the Kurdish side in bringing about a peaceful and political resolution to the Kurdish question in Turkey.

 

  1. Turkish military says clashes with Kurdish militants in southeast
    25 March 2014 / Reuters
    The Turkish military exchanged fire with Kurdish rebels in southeast Turkey on Wednesday in a rare violation of a two-year old ceasefire, part of a peace process between the militants and Ankara. The clash occurred four days after jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan said the group’s 30-year insurgency against Turkey had become “unsustainable” and urged it to hold a congress on laying down its weapons.
  1. HSM: Turkish army deliberately increasing military activity
    26 March 2015 / ANF
    People’s Defense Central Headquarters Command (HSM) said in a written statement Thursday that the Turkish army deliberately increased its military activities recently. HSM drew attention to the fact that the resolution process the Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Öcalan wanted to advance was of great value and a resolution strategy promising a free a democratic future to the peoples of Turkey. Pointing to the attacks and operations of the Turkish army in recent days, HSM remarked that HPG (People’s Defense Forces) met the requirements of the rules of the ceasefire while the AKP state and the Turkish army however treated this process on the basis of various games and tactics rather than responding it in the same way.
  1. Turkey’s parliament approves controversial bill increasing police powers, after Kurdish protest
    27 march 2015 / eKurd
    Turkey’s parliament has approved a contentious security bill giving police heightened powers to search, arrest and use firearms. The bill, passed early on Friday, was criticized by opposition parties who say the government is leading Turkey toward authoritarianism. The measure is also a blow to a Kurdish peace process aimed at ending an insurgency that has killed tens of thousands of people.

 

  1. Kurdish Movement Demands Truth Commission For Turkey’s Kurdish Question
    24 March 2015 / Kurdish Question
    The Kurdish Movement, that is pressuring the Turkish state for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question, is demanding the formation of a Truth Commission under the auspices of parliament as a means to achieve a dignified peace between the Kurds and the Turks. The democratic resolution process that started in March 2013 with the initiative taken by the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan has taken a new turn with the joint declaration that the Turkish government and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) delegation made in February this year at the Dolmabahce Palace.

 

  1. HDP: Growing rift between Erdoğan, gov’t over Kurdish issue
    24 arch 2015 / Todays Zaman
    There is a growing rift between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the government over the Kurdish settlement process as shown by Erdoğan’s recent statements, pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-chairman Selahattin Demirtaş said on Tuesday. Speaking to Med Nuçe TV channel, Demirtaş stated that a planned visit by the monitoring committee to visit imprisoned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan at İmralı Island within the next two weeks will illuminate the course of the crisis for them and help them reach a conclusion on the crisis between Erdoğan and the government.

 

  1. Interview with Figen Yuksekdag: Kurdish women’s movement reshapes Turkish politics
    25 March 2015 / Al Monitor
    The People’s Democracy Party (HDP) has co-chairs for all representative levels. A female and male official share the responsibility. The party is chaired by Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag. The HDP has become the fastest-growing political movement in Turkey since the August 2014 election. Following the momentum of the last election, Yuksekdag explained, the HDP is now ready to participate in the next general election as a political party, believing it will be able to acquire at least 10% of the national vote, the threshold required to enter parliament. Previously, members of the HDP have entered the parliament as independent candidates.

 

  1. New mass grave found in Dargeçit
    25 March 2015 / ANF
    A new mass grave has been discovered in a cave near the village of Dilan (Ulaş) in the Dargeçit district of Mardin province. The human remains found in the Pekurte cave are thought to be of people who were abducted by JITEM in the 1990s. Hundreds of people were abducted and killed by JITEM, a unit established by the state and attached to the Gendarme, in Kurdistan in the 1990s, many of the bodies being thrown into acid baths or dumped in caves. A local villager who did not wish to give his name told ANF that he had found many human bones in a cave in Dargeçit district near the river Tigris.

 

  1. Syria conflict: Kurds targeted in Hassakeh bombings
    20 March 2015 / BBC News
    More than 20 people have been killed in twin bomb attacks on Kurds marking Kurdish spring festival, or Newroz, in north-eastern Syria, activists say. Syrian state TV said the bombs exploded in the al-Mufti district of Hassakeh, a largely Kurdish-controlled city. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said one of the attacks was carried out by an Islamic State suicide bomber. Kurdish militia have been battling the jihadist group across northern Syria and neighbouring Iraq in recent months. On Thursday, IS published a video showing the beheading of three captured Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers, which it said was in retaliation for the bombardment of areas under its control.

 

  1. Clashes intensify in Cizîrê Canton of Rojava
    24 March 2015 / ANF
    The clashes that started with attacks by ISIS gangs on and around Serakaniye and Til Temir are said to be intensifying. Local sources have reported that ISIS gangs launched an attack on Til Xenzîr village 25 km to the west of Serekaniye early this morning around 03:00. The clashes intensified as the YPG/YPJ forces strongly responded to the attacks. It has also been reported that many gang members were killed during the clashes that are continuing in the area. In the meantime, ISIS gangs also attempted to launch extensive attacks on the village of Til Temir, but faced strong response from the Joint Defence Forces. 12 gang members were reportedly killed during clashes in the area in addition to 2 vehicles and 3 motorcycles being destroyed by the YPG/YPJ forces.

 

  1. Syria Kurds struggle since battle for Kobani
    23 March 2015 / The National
    For four months, Syrian Kurdish fighters battled the ISIL militant group in the rubble-strewn streets of Kobani as US aircraft pounded the extremists from the skies, a joint effort that ultimately expelled the militants from the town and marked their bloodiest defeat in Syria since the air campaign began in September. The Kurds earned praise from the Pentagon, which said they had demonstrated the importance of having “a reliable, willing, capable partner on the ground.” And yet, two months later, Syria’s Kurds remain largely on the outside looking in on the US-led coalition’s campaign against the ISIL.

 

  1. Hundreds turn out to mourn Kurdish former Royal Marine who died fighting ISIS extremists in Syria
    26 March 2015 / Daily Mail
    A Royal Marine who became the first Briton to be killed while fighting against ISIS was laid to rest today as hundreds of Kurdish mourners gathered to pay their respects. Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, 25, from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, became the first Briton to be killed fighting the terror group in Syria when he was brought down by mortar fire on March 2.  Mr Scurfield who was killed while fighting alongside Kurdish forces in the frontline village of Tel Khuzela in Syria was given a hero’s send-off by members of the Kurdish community in Nottingham today.

 

  1. Vasiliki Scurfield’s Newroz Speech
    23 March 2015 / Kurdish Question
    Thank you for inviting us here to share your new year’s celebrations. I know that Kosta was looking forward to participating in them with his new friends in Rojava. He spoke to me about Newroz with excitement and he would have loved to have been here. Newroz is a new celebration for me. I had heard of it but I didn’t really know much about it.  It seems to me that Newroz reminds us that the Kurdish people are one people no matter where they live. It reminds us that individually they are strong but together they could be unbeatable. It reminds us that they have a distinct, unique and ancient culture that should be valued and preserved.

 

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS

 

  1. AKP cracks inflict collateral damage on the Kurdish issue
    26 March 2015 / Al Monitor
    Last weekend witnessed the most important and serious crack in the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Turkey’s ruling party, when Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc engaged in a heated public argument with fellow AKP member and Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek. Only 75 days before the general elections, such a crack cannot bode well for the party’s fortunes. While the AKP’s ultimate power does not appear to be contested by any other contender, the party could lose its majority in the next parliament and the ability it has had since 2002 to form the government by itself.

 

  1. U.S. cautious with Syrian Kurdistan’s PYD to avoid annoying Turkey
    25 March 2015 /eKurd
    Despite the fact that the Syrian Kurds have proven to be reliable partners on the ground, Washington has avoided getting too close to the Kurds in Syrian Kurdistan, keeping in mind that close cooperation with the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), an affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), may damage the US-Turkish relationship.

 

  1. One Group Has Proven It Can Beat ISIS. So Why Isn’t the U.S. Doing More to Help Them?
    20 March 2015 / New Republic
    The defeat of ISIS in the northern Syrian town of Kobani last January brought Kurdish fighters well-deserved international recognition. Not only was their victory strategic, but it also struck a blow to ISIS’s image as an unstoppable force in its quest to create an Islamic state. U.S. airstrikes assisted in the battle, but credit for the success belongs to the Kurds of Syria and Turkey, aided by 150 Peshmerga from Iraqi Kurdistan (KRG).

 

  1. Battles and Wars: Bracing for Erdoğan’s Long Goodbye
    25 March 2015 / The Turkey Analyst
    On March 20, 2015, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan publicly criticized the announcement by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that it was planning to establish a monitoring committee to oversee discussions about reforms on the Kurdish issue. On March 21, 2015, Government Spokesperson Bülent Arınç bluntly told Erdoğan not to interfere in the running of the government. Arınç repeated his admonition the following day. It was the first time that a leading member of the AKP had issued such an outspoken public challenge to Erdoğan’s authority.

 

  1. The Islamic State’s Backdoor Banking
    24 March 2015 / Washington Institute
    Sometimes described as the world’s richest terrorist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS or ISIL) has famously raised tremendous amounts of money through oil smuggling, extensive criminal enterprises, kidnapping for ransom, and other means. Targeting the group’s finances has therefore become one of the anti-ISIS coalition’s five primary lines of effort. On March 19-20, the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Italy co-chaired the inaugural meeting of the Counter-ISIL Finance Group in Rome.

 

  1. The Kobani Precedent
    25 March 2015 / Rubin Centre
    Recently,  I attempted to undertake a reporting trip into the Kurdish Kobani enclave in northern Syria.  It would not have been my first visit, neither to Syria nor to Kobani.  For the first time, however, I found myself unable to enter.  Instead, I spent a frustrating but, as it turns out, instructive four days waiting in the border town of Suruc in south-east Turkey before running out of time and going home.

 

  1. Outrage but No Action: The Obama Administration’s Response to Syria’s ‘Caesar Photos’
    26 March 2015 / Washington Institute
    This month marks the fourth anniversary of the Syrian uprising. In March 2011, four children scrawled a message on a wall in the southern city of Deraa: “The people want the fall of the regime,” the same mantra that brought down governments in Tunisia and Egypt. After the Assad regime arrested the children, the people of Deraa responded with protests demanding reform on March 15, and the regime answered with live gunfire. With every death came a funeral and more protests, and popular outrage spread throughout the country.

 

  1. Are Syrian Islamists moving to counterbalance Al-Qaeda? Will it last?
    23 March 2015 / Brooking Institute
    On March 22, the Syrian insurgency witnessed the latest in a series of mergers, when the Islamist Suqor al-Sham faction effectively subsumed itself into one of the country’s most powerful organizations, Ahrar al-Sham. Both groups had been amongst the very first armed groups to form in Syria in mid-2011 and although Suqor al-Sham has reduced in size over the past 12-months, both have consistently been amongst the most consequential actors in the fight against the Assad regime. Following the union, Ahrar al-Sham now finds itself in command of approximately 15,000 fighters across Syria, with active operations in 10 of Syria’s 14 governorates.

 

 

REPORTS

 

  1. Democracy at Risk: IPI Special Report on Turkey, 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

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