Crop fires in Iraq and Syria may be start of larger disaster

In Iraq and Syria, fires are destroying wheat, barley and lentil crops. Islamic State (IS) sleeper cells may be to blame, but other factors should not be ruled out.

Rainfall was abundant in the north of both countries over the winter, reaching levels that had not been seen in at least two decades. It was a welcome sign of hope for farmers, a prediction of good harvests and a much-needed income in a still harsh economic climate.

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Family business: Nechirvan Barzani takes over presidency of Kurdistan Region from uncle

On 10 June 2019, Nechirvan Barzani was sworn in as president of Iraqi Kurdistan. He follows in the footsteps of his uncle Masoud Barzani, who held the post between 2005 and 2017.

The inauguration ceremony was attended by Barham Salih, Iraq’s president and the Barzani family’s main rival. He is, after all, a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The understanding between the PUK and the Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) is that the PUK can propose a candidate for Iraq’s presidency while the KDP can put forward a candidate for Iraqi Kurdistan.

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The ceasefire depends on two strong leaders

(Turkce burada okuyabilirsini)

Infighting in the AKP. I’m sure many people are gloating, less than three months before the elections in which the AKP wants to win enough votes to single-handedly change the constitution. But what does it mean for the (so called) peace process? Especially when you add the possible weakening of Öcalan to the equation? The peace process, after all, has survived the total lack of progress partly because of the total faith the two leaders are shown by their constituency. What if that trust disappears? Continue reading “The ceasefire depends on two strong leaders”

The cynism of taking the PKK off the terrorist organizations list now

The US army has started arming the Kurds in Iraq to fight Islamic State, who have been making huge advances in the country. The weapons will be provided to the peshmerga forces of the semi-independent Kurdistan region. They are fighting IS alongside forces of the PKK, the group that is on the list of terrorist organizations of both the US and the EU. There are voices now to take the PKK off that list. However necessary such a step is, it would also be very opportunist now.

The US has seriously underestimated the power of IS, that much has become clear, and overestimated the Iraqi armed forces, who ran off as IS suddenly started to make advances in early June.

PKK and YPG troops protect sacred Yezidi site in Lalish, Iraqi Kurdistan.
PKK and YPG troops protect sacred Yezidi site in Lalish, Iraqi Kurdistan.

IS radically increased it’s operational capacity by seizing weapons and military equipment from the Iraqi army, all provided by the US. It became more difficult for the peshmerga forces, with less advanced weaponry, to fight IS, which started to make advances into the Kurdistan region. Only when the armed forces of the PKK and the YPG came to strengthen the peshmerga, the Kurdish fight against IS in Iraq started to become successfull. Bombardments by the US on IS positions also made a contribution. Continue reading “The cynism of taking the PKK off the terrorist organizations list now”

Ravished Armenia and Ezidi lands

While Islamic State was starting to take over Ezidi towns in Iraqi Kurdistan this weekend, I was driving around in Dersim and Erzincan provinces. I was following the trail of Arshalus Mardiganian. She was 14 years old in 1915, when she and her family and all other Armenians in Tchemesh-Gedzak were forced to leave their home town on foot, on the way to an almost certain death.

Arshalus Mardiganian
Arshalus Mardiganian

Tchemesh-Gedzak, that’s the name that is used for present-day Cemisgezek in the book Arshalus (meaning: ‘light of the morning’) wrote after she arrived in the United States shortly after the genocide. Well, she didn’t write it herself, she was only seventeen years old and didn’t speak a word of English, but she shared her experiences with a journalist, who wrote it down for her. In the States, her first name changed to Aurora. Continue reading “Ravished Armenia and Ezidi lands”

Kurds aren’t sexy

‘So’, the young man in the group I talk to in a park in Sirnak summarizes, ‘you are looking for several Kurds to interview about the situation thirty years after the first PKK attack on the Turkish state, and that will be published in the Netherlands? Somebody is interested in that?’ He laughs; he just cannot believe it. I can only say: ‘Yes’, and shrug my shoulders.

I understand why he doesn’t believe it. The world’s media don’t have history of showing much interest in the Kurds. And if the Kurds are written about, it is often in the context of the country they are living in. Kurds as a nation of their own, with their own history, their own culture, language, politics, dreams and problems, are somehow not very ‘sexy’.

Abdullah Öcalan after being capture in 1999.
Abdullah Öcalan after being captured in 1999.

Examples? It’s been hard to write about the thirty year struggle of the Kurds against suppression in Turkey. It’s a long-lasting conflict, which usually only attracts the media’s attention when something exceptional happens (like in 1999, when Öcalan was captured) or when the violence takes a higher than usual toll (like when more than 20 soldiers die in one attack). Human rights abuses? They happen anywhere in the world, so they have to be exceptionally cruel to make it to the media. Tortured Kurds? Who cares? Continue reading “Kurds aren’t sexy”