Live: Election disputes, financial crises, and disagreements about Sinjar agreement

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Five sources debunk Sinjar mosque attack rumors – Kirkuk Now

Kirkuk Now, an independent Kurdish news outlet, reports that five sources have confirmed none of the protestors entered the Al-Rahman Mosque in Sinjar, and that nothing was burned or destroyed.

The report claims that no demonstrators entered the mosque to cause damage, and the only evidence of disturbance was a hit to the front door that left no significant harm. This appears to be the same hit apparent in the widely shared videos of protests outside the Al-Rahman Mosque.

Kirkuk Now investigated rumors that the mosque in central Sinjar was "attacked," set on fire, and destroyed. These rumors circulated on various media and social networks, prompting accusations of inciting religious violence and hatred.

A source within the 20th division of the Iraqi army told Kirkuk Now that nothing occurred inside the mosque. The photos and videos that were falsely disseminated online were from the aftermath of ISIS attacks on nearly Sinjar nearly a decade ago, not recent events. The images and footage date back to when the Nineveh province was being liberated from ISIS.

The dispute in Sinjar began when Sunni-Arab IDPs were being resettled in the city, sparking protests from the local Yazidi population, who accused some of them of being ISIS members or sympathizers. One female survivor pointed out her own rapist as one of the returnees.

The scuffle outside the mosque was exploited by dubious Islamic preachers who incited hatred against the Yazidi population online, encouraging social media users in the Kurdistan Region, who are predominantly Muslim, to criticize or verbally attack the minority religious sect.
Women on the Rise: Breaking Glass Ceilings in Halabja Province

A VOA Kurdish report has brought attention to the growing number of women stepping into senior roles across Halabja province.

From universities to local authorities and even the mayor's office, women are making their presence known and challenging traditional gender norms. The current female mayor stands as a shining example of this empowering shift in the region.

Halabja has a rich history of female leadership, with Lady Adela (or Adela Khanem, 1847-1924) as a prime example. Known as the "Princess of the Brave" by the British, she took the reins in her husband's absence, ruling Halabja with poise and determination.

In recent decades, Halabja has become synonymous with a rise in Islamic fundamentalism, marked by armed factions clashing with the secular PUK elite. This surge in conservatism might lead some to believe the region isn't welcoming for women in leadership positions, but the growing number of females in leadership positions shows things can trend in the other direction.

So, as Halabja's women continue to break glass ceilings, it's clear that they're not only defying expectations but also changing the face of leadership in the province.
KRG interior ministry initiates weapons confiscation campaign

Hemn Merany, director general of the Office of the Ministry of Interior announced that the ministry, along with relevant agencies, has started confiscating weapons in the Kurdistan Region.

Merany says their aim is to reduce the number of weapons in the region.

Despite attempts by NRT English to obtain more details from the ministry via phone and email, no responses were forthcoming.

The implementation of this weapons confiscation policy in Sulaymaniyah and Halabja provinces, which are under PUK control, remains uncertain. The increased tensions between the KDP and PUK could hinder local authorities in Sulaymaniyah from enforcing the law.

This uncertainty raises questions about the effectiveness of the new law. Moreover, given that armed political parties hold more power than official government agencies, doubts have arisen about the sincerity of the law.

KRG Minister vow legal action against religious attacks in the name of Islam

KRG Minister of Endowment and Religious Affairs, Pshtiwan Sadiq, has pledged legal action against anyone attacking another religion in the name of Islam.

He emphasized that the Kurdistan Region belongs to all its components, regardless of religion or nation.

Sadiq highlighted the deep-rooted ethnic and religious coexistence in the Kurdistan Region, dating back hundreds of years.

In light of the recent incident in Sinjar, where a mosque faced a potential intrusion, the minister maintained that there are no religious issues in the Kurdistan Region. He condemned any attacks on holy places, regardless of the perpetrator. 

Sinjar, the spiritual homeland of the Yazidi minority group, has experienced tensions following the return of Sunni-Arab IDPs. Protests have erupted against the returnees, with some accusing them of being ISIS members or supporters. This terrorist group is responsible for the massacre of Yazidis.

Reports of an attack on a mosque have circulated, fueled by religious preachers. Video footage shows stoning and the kicking of an exterior gate, but not a full-scale attack.

Yazidi religious leaders have also condemned any clashes at Islamic religious sites.

Lahur Sheikh Jangi dismisses rumours of filling in absent PUK ministerial roles
Lahur Sheikh Jangi at an event in Britain's Westminster
Lahur Sheikh Jangi at an event in Britain's Westminster   credit: Official Facebook Page
Lahur Sheikh Jangi, the ousted co-leader of the PUK, has dismissed rumours that he will fill absent PUK ministerial positions. Talking to various local media outlets, saying this was 'social media talk'.

Kurdistan Press had earlier reported that according to a PUK leadership council member, Lahur Sheikh Jangi would be filling in the party's positions in government, as Prime Minister Masrour Barzani grows increasingly impatient and frustrated by him and his team abstaining. The report (amusingly) stated that Chato Salih, the incumbent Deputy Minister of Interior, would be taking up the Qubad Talabani's deputy prime minister post, Bakhtiar Shaways would become the Minister of Planning, and Parwin Kaka Hama would be the nominee for the Minister of Higher Education. 

Rumor also had it that the Minister of Culture and Youth would remain unchanged as Mohammad Said Ali has not complied with the current PUK ministerial team's absence and has continued his duties. A candidate to head the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs was apparently not yet decided.
Calls for implementation of Sinjar Agreement

KDP-affiliated Bas News reports that Kurdish factions in Baghdad are demanding the enforcement of the Sinjar Agreement to bring normalization back to the province. The Sinjar Agreement, brokered by the UN in 2020 to restore normalization in Sinjar, aimed to assist the return of Yazidi IDPs to the district. The agreement stipulates that the federal government must address political and security issues in the area in coordination with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Implementation of the agreement has been challenging due to the ongoing presence of various forces in the region. The existence of the People’s Mobilisation Forces, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and local forces with ideological links to the PKK has created issues for its implementation.

Critics of the Sinjar Agreement argue that Sinjar itself should lead efforts to bring stabilization and peace back to the region, rather than Baghdad or Erbil, who both played a part in abandoning the area when ISIS first invaded the region and committed genocide against the defenseless Yazidi population.
A man kills his brother in Sulaymaniyah neighborhood due to 'social frictions'

A witness told NRT that two brothers had an argument after 12pm, with the younger brother then shooting and killing his elder brother. According to witnesses, heavy gunfire occurred in the house of the citizen.

The person who killed his brother surrendered to security forces after the incident, and the investigation has been completed. According to an NRT reporter, the body was taken to the Sulaymaniyah Forensic Medicine Institute for examination, with his relatives ready to receive the body from the institute to be buried after completing legal procedures.

Spokesperson for Sulaymaniyah Police Directorate, Sarkawt Ahmed, told NRT English that around 1pm in Sulaymaniyah's Khabat Neighborhood, a 29-year-old man shot his older brother, 37, with an AK-47 rifle, killing him instantly. "The issue was due to social frictions over land ownership, and the suspect is now arrested," he said. Ahmed says that the suspect has no prior run-ins with the law.

Commander of the 1st Supporting Forces Command: The coalition has promised to pay us salaries and a budget

The commander-in-chief of the 1st Supporting Forces Command of the Peshmerga Ministry says that the coalition forces, consisting of several countries including the United States and European nations, will provide more support for them in terms of weapons and ammunition, after being placed under the Peshmerga Forces Reform and Reorganization Law.

The coalition, which is committed to fighting against terrorism and promoting stability in the region, has been supporting the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in their efforts against extremist groups, such as ISIS. One aspect of this support involves providing funding for salaries and budgets.

Lieutenant Colonel Mariwan Mohammed, who is the commander, told VOA Kurdish that after they were placed under the ministry, coalition support had increased. The commanders of the KDP's 1st Supporting Forces Command, which specializes in heavy weapons use, and the PUK's 2nd Supporting Forces Command have been placed under the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs since January last year.

On April 4, an inauguration ceremony for the 1st and 2nd divisions of the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG's) unified forces was held in northern Iraq. KRG President Nechirvan Barzani stated during the event that the new divisions, formed with personnel from the Joint Brigade, 70 Forces, and 80 Forces, are being transferred to the KRG's Ministry of Peshmerga. Each division will have four brigades, with 1,200 personnel in each.

The US-led coalition praised the inauguration as a vital step towards Peshmerga reform, as it has long advocated for and supported the unification of the two Kurdish parties' forces under the Ministry of Peshmerga. There have been signs that the continuation of support may come with strings attached, namely, satisfactory progress on reform and unification initiatives.

The coalition pays stipends for vetted personnel and, in 2022, reported that the ongoing unification process had provided the Ministry of Peshmerga with just over 48,000 personnel serving in various capacities.

The formerly KDP 1st Supporting Forces Command and formerly PUK 2nd Supporting Forces Command were transferred to the Ministry of Peshmerga in early 2022.


We recently covered the story on the tensions Sinjar of Sunni resettlement and the standoff at a local mosque.

Check out this thread by Yezidi genocide survivor and NL Helpt Yezidi co-founder Wahhab Hassoo, who shares his perspective on the events over the past few days.

Report: Iraqi prime minister repeatedly denies PUK's request for direct budget allocation to Sulaymaniyah

Independent media outlet Spee reports that Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani has repeatedly denied the PUK's requests for Sulaymaniyah to receive a direct share of the budget.

The PUK has been vocal about its desire (whether genuine or a negotiation tactic) for direct budget allocation, with members of the leadership council, MPs, and the party leader himself frequently calling for it. This reflects the party's loss of trust in the political process in the Kurdistan Region due to ongoing issues with the KDP.

PUK leader Bafel Talabani has built strong relationships with influential players in Baghdad, indicating a shift in the party's political strategy towards the central government. The PUK now sees political solutions as only possible in Baghdad given its ongoing issues with the KDP and Turkey.
Minority Quota Seat Explainer

As promised earlier:

The allocation of minority quota seats in Kurdistan has become a hot topic of discussion among the ruling parties. There are 11 seats in the 111-member chamber that are allocated to minority communities, with five seats designated to Turkmens, five to Assyrians, and one to Armenians.

Criticism has intensified that these seats do not genuinely represent the minority groups, with most of them being won by proxy parties with the assistance of the ruling KDP party. The KDP-affiliated security forces have also been accused of tactical voting en masse for minority political parties founded by KDP members or with KDP financial assistance. This lead some to some highly unlikely results previous elections where minority candidates in region without significant minority constituencies earned hundreds of votes in early voting (which is reserved for members of the region's security forces).

While the PUK, Change Movement (Gorran), and opposition parties have expressed concerns about the quota seats in the past, the PUK has now made it a hot topic. They have stated that they will not participate in the election unless the rules are changed.

The KDP has so far shown inflexibility in changing the laws for minority quota seats so that only members of relevant minorities be allowed to vote for them. Reports suggest that the KDP even rejected a UN proposal that would distribute the minority quota seats among provincial constituencies.

However, this proposal has its own issues. Confined to provinces in Sulaymaniyah and Halabja, it could allow the same practices as seen in Erbil and Duhok provinces. Other parties in Kurdistan have historically supported their own proxy parties without being able to replicate the KDP's success.

Quota seats have been seen as an easy way for larger factions to attain seats and have been historically used by the KDP. The only real way to block this practice is to allow only minorities to vote for seats legally designated for them.

One possible solution is to distribute minority quota seats among all political parties, as is done for gender quota seats. This could aid the integration of historically marginalized minority groups that have been used as political tools by Kurdish elites.

However, such a move may not guarantee genuine representation of minority communities as a group. Additionally, minority members are often distrustful of political elites, which may pose a stumbling block for this suggestion. 

This distrust has almost certainly been stoked by the current system, where larger factions have historically supported their own proxy parties, leading to a lack of genuine representation for minority communities.
The spokesperson for the KRG Deputy Prime Minister, Samir Hawrami, has said that if financial disputes continue, the PUK will bypass Erbil and turn to Baghdad.

He added that they will seek an agreement with the federal government to free Sulaymaniyah from 'oppression' if the province, alongside Halabja province, does not receive its allocated budget share from the regional government.

Ongoing issues surround the finances that Sulaymaniyah is owed, with the PUK growing impatient with the KDP's lack of willingness to come to an agreement.

Masrour Barzani, the KDP strongman and KRG PM and, has alienated Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani. Talabani, who has been criticized for being too flexible towards KDP colleagues in government by members of his own party over the years, has been boycotting cabinet meetings for months.

These ongoing disputes and statements show warning signs of the return to dual administration, where both the KDP and PUK govern their own areas of control.

This would undo years of attempting to form a unified administration, which received political and economic support from the international community, and set the region back decades.
According to a report by Kurdistan 24, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry has confirmed that 254 Iraqis have returned from Sudan.
The ongoing unrest in Sudan has prompted the Iraqi government to act quickly to ensure the safe return of its citizens, with Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein engaged in continuous dialogue to facilitate their repatriation as soon as possible.

This hasn't stopped mounting criticism of the pace of rescue efforts on social media.
PUK accuses KDP of stalling elections

It's the PUK's turn to accuse KDP of stalling elections

Esta reports that the KDP rejected a UN proposal to distribute minority quota seats across Kurdistan and insisted on using the same bylaws as previous elections.

PUK's head of coordination and monitoring board, Latif Nerwayi, has also accused the KDP of not genuinely wanting to hold elections, citing the party's rejection of the UN proposal. 

Shaswar Abdulwahid, leader of the opposition New Generation Movement (NGM), tweeted last night that the KDP and PUK have double standards, publicly expressing support for elections while privately telling their members they will block elections from taking place out of fear of losing. 

The KDP and PUK remain at odds over issues surrounding finance and security, which continue to be stumbling blocks.


We have an interesting update from Kurdistan's legislature.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) seems to be employing a multifaceted approach to put pressure on the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). This includes using media, diplomatic channels, and parliamentary tactics.

In a memo (first seen by Kurdistan24) sent to the speaker of parliament by the KDP's group of MPs, the bloc 'insists' on holding the elections on time¹

In the latest move, the KDP faction in the Kurdistan Parliament has sent a memo to the Parliament's Presidency, urging them to reconvene and ensure the elections proceed as scheduled. The KDP's call for a 'timely' and 'transparent'² electoral process can be seen as a strategic move to corner the PUK both politically and in the public eye.

Here are the two key points from the memo:

1- The session of 14/3/2023 has concluded, and the decision to form the committee should be added to the agenda of the parliamentary session within the next few days and before 18/5/2023. This is six months before the scheduled election date, ensuring that there is an efficient election commission and no excuses for postponing the elections.

2- In the past, one of the obstacles for politicians has been the electoral law. However, now there is a positive understanding between the political parties to amend the electoral law, and our party has demonstrated great flexibility in this regard. The proposed legal amendments from the different factions of the parliament should be submitted for the first reading and enter the legislative process. This will ensure the new law is available to the Election and Referendum Commission of the Kurdistan Region before 18/5/2023, allowing the elections to be held as scheduled.

Memo from the KDP's parliamentary party to the speakership
Memo from the KDP's parliamentary party to the speakership   credit: Kurdistan24
The PUK, meanwhile, are saying calls for reforms to how minority quota seats are allocated have been ignored by the KDP.

As the situation unfolds, we'll continue to bring you updates on the political maneuvering between the KDP and PUK in Kurdistan.

We will also bring you an explainer on the minority quota seats issue.

¹The election was meant to be held last year, but it was delayed because the KDP voted alongside its coalition partners to delay it and 'extend' the parliamentary term by one year.

²The KDP is famous for its unconventional/creative interpretations of the terms 'timely' and 'transparent' when it comes to the integrity of the electoral process.

Hello from London! You've landed on the NRT English live blog. Let's jump right in to the morning briefing:

  • Esta News Network, affiliated with the PUK, reports that the KDP has turned down the UN proposal for minority quota seat distribution, opting to stick with the same mechanism, laws, and voter registration as in previous elections.
  • The spokesperson for the KRG Deputy Prime Minister reveals that if financial issues in Sulaymaniyah remain unresolved, the PUK might reach out to Baghdad for an agreement, as the province's financial woes continue to mount.
  • Finally, KDP-affiliated Bas News states that Kurdish factions in Baghdad are urging the enforcement of the Sinjar agreement to restore normalcy to the region. However, the agreement has yet to be implemented due to the presence of several armed groups.

Stay tuned for updates, background, and crucial context to the headlines of the day.