Kurdish News Weekly Briefing, 30th May – 6th June 2016

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30/05/2016 – Özgür Gündem, Translated to English by KurdishQuestion.com

Interview with Rojda Felat, the Commander Leading the Fight Against Islamic State

Rojda Felat, the Kurdish woman commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces, who is leading the operation to rid Raqqa from the Islamic State (IS) and wider Syria, spoke to Binevs women’s newspaper about the SDF and woman’s role in the fight against IS.

Can you talk to us about the importance of the Raqqa operation?

We have talked of the importance of this operation from day one. The important thingis that the area we are moving into is a triangular area between the three cantons. We initiated this operation as part of the objective of liberating the north of Raqqa. This operation is being supported by the Tehrir El-Raqqa Brigades and the International Coalition. Another objective of this operation is to extend the buffer zones for Cizre, Gire Spi and Kobane.

Raqqa is a strategic region between the cantons of Cizre and Kobane. What we want is to secure this region to open up a corridor in order to ensure the safety of our people. Every operation we undertake is to secure the safety of our people. Our resistance is not only for the Kurdish people; it is for all our peoples, including the Arabs, Armenians and Assyrians. Wherever there is an attack against humanity we, as the Syrian Democratic Forces, will be there. Wherever there is a suppressed woman, that is a battleground for us.

When was the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) established and what are its aims?

The SDF was formed a year ago. Inside the SDF there are Arabs, Kurds, Armenians and Assyrians. Only after an intense struggle and many sacrifices were the peoples of Rojava able to enjoy significant gains. These gains unsettled the gangs. These gangs undertook inhumane attacks against women and the people. They decapitated people, killed children and raped women. We, as the SDF, aim to liberate our people from the atrocities of these gangs.

The women are the vanguards of the Rojava Revolution. What will happen to Raqqa when it is liberated?

There are very many YPJ (Women’s Defence Units) fighters within the SDF. This is very significant; we want to rid our region of this tyranny for the women. ISIS’s actions have no place in Islam. ISIS and all those supporting them have lost their significance in the face of the struggle of the SDF. We are not only preparing ourselves for an operation. People are joining the SDF and YPJ by the droves. Not only for the women of Shengal (Sinjar), wherever a woman is being suppressed, wherever a man is threatening a woman, our forces will struggle against this. Our struggle for the liberation of our people will become a beacon for all resisting peoples.

We will stand against all attacks aimed at women. Many villages and regions have been liberated already in the Raqqa operation. They are constantly attempting to attacks us with bomb-laden vehicles. It was the same when Kobane was surrounded by these gangs. However, this attack was rebuffed as a result of tactical attacks from Cizre, Hasakah and Qamishlo. The trust of the people has risen as a result of these successes.

What impact has the fact that a woman commander is commanding the operation had on the male fighters?

When we look at the Rojava Revolution it is women that are the vanguards of the revolution. Arin Mirkan was an example of this. These comrades showed us the path to follow. Our male friends are used to this path and are not surprised by this anymore, they respect and support us.

We know that Kurdish women are in the SDF. Are there any women from the other ethnic components in this operation?

Yes, there are Arab, Kurdish and Assyrian women. We, as women, are actively taking part in this operation. This operation is a strategic operation. The enemy wants to dominate this region in order to keep the cantons secluded. Their aim is to ensure that the people do not unite.

31/05/2016 – Kurdish Question

Two Internationalist Fighters Die in Fight for Rojava Revolution

It has been confirmed that two internationalist fighters who joined the Kurdish resistance against the Islamic State (IS) in Rojava and Syria have died. Australian national Jamie Bright, 45, was killed on 25 May near Shaddadi in Northeastern Syria while Mario Nunes, 21, from Portugal also lost his life in the same area a few weeks earlier.

Bright becomes the third Australian to die in the fight against the Islamic State. Ashley Johnstone and Reece Harding were killed in 2014 and 2015 respectively. In a video published on social media after his death Bright talks of why he came to fight with the Kurds, “The reason I came to Kurdistan was for the people, their struggle, and their fight... I came to assist the revolution as much as possible,” he says.

Mario Nunes had joined the YPG in early 2015. Nunes had said of his reason for joining the Kurdish forces, “I am here to fight with the people of Rojava on behalf of the Portuguese people. This is a cause worth fighting for. A new movement is arising here. This is true democracy. This is a revolution that everyone should support and praise.”

01/06/2016 – Kurdish Question via aranews.net

Syrian Kurdish Region Witnessing Campaign of ‘Organic Agriculture in Rojava’

“The Rojava Plan”, part of Rojava economic committee, has initiated a project called “Feed the Revolution – Organic Agriculture in Rojava” which aims towards developing Rojava’s self-sufficiency of food by building its own facilities for the making of organic fertilizers. The neglect of the long-term effects of losing the fertility of the soil due to a lack of crop diversity and chemical imbalances has created huge challenges. The wheat monoculture in combination with the recent embargo imposed on Rojava has resulted in a 60 percent drop in harvests, which threatens to starve the population. And since the government of Iraqi Kurdistan (KRG) closed its border with Syria’s Kurdish region of Rojava, the necessity of complete self-sufficiency has become urgent.

“Enabling the production of organic fertilizers does not only solve the food problem and develop self-sufficiency, but it also allows Rojava to continue its disengagement with capitalism and promotes an ecological way of life,” the organisers claim.

To finance the project The Rojava Plan has started a crowdfunding campaign which is an internet-based fundraiser. The investment is expected to cover all expenditures including labor force, machinery and factory buildings. You can get more information and donate by following this link: https://coopfunding.net/en/campaigns/feed-the- revolution/

02/06/2016 – ANF News

Manbij - A city awaiting liberation

Manbij was invaded by the FSA in the start of the war in 2011, followed by Jabhat Al-Nusra and Ahrar Al Sham, and lastly by ISIS. It is located to the northwest of Syria. It has a strategic location connecting the trade routes between the major cities of Syria and western cities of Iraq such as Mosul and Baghdad. The city was comprised of 65% Arabs, 25% Kurds, 5% Circassians and 2% people of other ethnicities and faiths.

Tribal life and tribal ties are very strong in Manbij. Sunni Arab population is the majority in the city, like in Raqqa. The Sunni Arab population has ties and relationships with the Sunni Arab tribes in the west of Iraq. Manbij had a large Kurdish population, like Ayn Isa, but the Kurdish population in the region was diminished systemically over time. The systemic attack and collapsing policies against the Kurdish people increased after the Syrian civil war started. The Kurdish people faced increasing massacres in both the 2011-2014 period of SNC invasion and the ISIS invasion. The attacks continue to this day, with the aim of ridding the region of Kurdish people.

03/06/2016 – Kurdish Question

HDP's Demirtaş on Germany recognising the Armenian Genocide

Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş held a press conference in Switzerland yesterday and commented on the German parliament’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the lifting of parliamentary immunity in Turkey.

Demirtaş has evaluated Germany’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide as, “a decision taken 100 years too late. Today Kurds are being massacred. If Germany takes a decision about this 100 years later it will be meaningless... Merkel visited Turkey many times. But acted as if nothing was happening. What if 10 million refugees turn up tomorrow?”

Regarding the conflict in southeast Turkey (North Kurdistan) Demirtaş said, “Apart from opposition groups, there is silence and no criticism of Turkey in Europe. This is being done because of the refugee crisis. But one must not forget that this is making the situation even more difficult.”

03/06/2016 – ANF

Constitutional Court rejects the application of HDP parliamentarians

The Constitutional Court rejected the application of HDP parliamentarians for the cancellation of the lifting of their immunities. By rejecting the applications of HDP and some CHP parliamentarians, the court enabled the lifting of HDP parliamentarians’ immunities. HDP parliamentarian Meral Danış Beştaş condemned the decision of the Constitutional Court and said that the court acted upon the instructions of Erdoğan and the AKP government. Beştaş noted that they would continue applying to the Constitutional Court, and soon finalise their application to the European Court of Human Rights.

04/06/2016 – Kurdish Question

Allegations that Turkish Forces Executed 20 People in Nusaybin

An important allegation has been made in Mardin's Nusaybin district, where state forces have been bombarding neighbourhoods despite the Civil Defence Units' (YPS) announcement of withdrawal from the district. According to Dicle News Agency (DIHA) and local witnesses, state forces killed and then burned the corpses of about 20 people in the area between the Yeni Mahalle neighbourhood and the border with Qamishlo on the night of May 31.

If the allegations are true this will be the second recorded massacre by state forces after the murder of at least 178 people in the basements of Cizre. Mardin's Nusaybin district has been under military lockdown for the 81st day, with state forces battling Kurdish Civil Defence Units (YPS), following the declaration of autonomy in the district.

05/06/2016 – rudaw.net

Turks from Ukraine settled in Kurdish towns

Turkey has brought back some 300 Turkish families from Ukraine and settled them in embattled Kurdish areas in the southeastern part of the country in an apparent attempt to change the demographic makeup of the region.  Due to military confrontations between Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters and the Turkish state, hundreds of thousands of Kurdish families have fled their homes in Gavar, Nusaybin and Bitlis. 

The Turkish government has built some 72 residential units for the Turkish families in Khalat town, in the city of Bitlis. "The state brought in 72 Turkish families to Khalat. Some of these families were initially transferred from Ukraine to Bursa." "They are our brothers and sisters. They were stressed, living in regions [in Ukraine] locked in fighting. We will help them here," Mumtaz Choban mayor of Khalat, told Rudaw.

The Turkish families are happy for their relocation and their settlement by the state in the town. More than 80% of the city’s residents are Kurds. They believe that the settlement of Turks in the city is a policy to change the demographic makeup of the city.

05/06/2016 – ANF

Missile attack from Turkish land targets Kobanê

A missile attack has been conducted from Turkish land targeting the Kobanê town of Rojava (West) Kurdistan Sunday evening. According to a report by Hawar News Agency (ANHA), the missile attack was conducted from Turkish land at around 20:30 Sunday evening. Four missiles were fired into the Rojava territory, one of which hit the village of Xurxuri, while the other three hit a terrain between Kobanê town center and the Termik village. It grabs attention that the attack which fortunately caused no casualties came soon after the liberation of Abu Qelqel town and 4 villages during the ongoing the Commander Martyr Faysal Abu Layla Campaign (Manbij Operation) earlier this evening.

06/06/2016 – http://rudaw.net/

Demirtas sees “fundamental political shift” in Kurdistan and Mideast

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey— The leader of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahettin Demirtas said on Sunday that the region’s existing borders are prone to “fundamental change” and can “no longer can contain the people”. Speaking at a rally in his hometown of Diyarbakir, the 43 year-old leader also slammed Ankara for its “flawed foreign policy” with regard to what he described as “a changing world.”

“In the near future, a fundamental political shift will take place that will shake up the entire region from North Africa to the Middle East and the Kurdistan Region,” Demirtas said addressing his supporters. He said that the Sykes-Picot Agreement of the 1916, according to which the current borders were drawn, “is no longer respected by the peoples of the region.” His comments come amid an intense government campaign to indict lawmakers who express secessionist opinions in Turkey. The HDP’s official stance, however, is what they have often described as “democratic autonomy” within the existing borders of Turkey.   

Demirtas also sharply criticized President Receb Tayyib Erdogan’s foreign policy, which according to him had isolated Turkey on the world stage. “The government’s foreign policy for the past 13 years has failed. They made the greatest mistakes in Syria and with Russia. They made serious mistakes with Europe, Iran, Iraq, Greece and the Kurdistan region,” he added.  

08/06/2016 @ ARA News

Iraqi Kurdistan reopens border with Rojava

On Tuesday, Iraqi Kurdistan’s authorities decided to reopen the Semalka border crossing with Syrian Kurdish region [Rojava]. This comes after three months of border closure caused by political differences between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in northern Iraq and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria.

“I am very pleased the border between Kurdistan Region and Rojava has now been opened. We have a moral duty towards our brothers and sisters,” said Lahur Talabani, Director of the Iraqi Kurdistan’s Counter Terrorism Group (CTG). The border was closed by the Kurdish government on 16 March after disagreements between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) with the Democratic Union Party (PYD) over taxes and the use of the border gate. Speaking to ARA News in Kobane, Kurdish official Ruken Ahmed said: “Both the people from North Kurdistan [Kurdish areas in Turkey] and South Kurdistan [Kurdistan region of Iraq] pressured the government [of Iraqi Kurdistan, KRG] to reopen Semalka for it is a humanitarian gate between the people. But such parties try to separate people from each other.” 

The Kurdish parties from Syria have failed to implement agreements to share power since the beginning of the Syrian crisis. The PYD and the Kurdish National Council (KNC) backed by the KDP reached an agreement in October 2014 following ISIS attacks on both Syrian and Iraqi Kurds. However, the agreement was never implemented, and tensions continued.

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