Shrine of Yezidis – one of the religious minorities facing persecution in Iraq
Levi Meir

Live: KRG affirms Yazidi support; Turkish airstrikes persist

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UK Returns 6,000 archaeological artifacts to Iraq

On Friday, Iraqi Minister of Culture, Tourism, and Antiquities Ahmed Fakak al-Badrani received 6,000 archaeological pieces that had been on loan to the British Museum for research purposes since 1923. After a century, these artifacts are now returning to the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

The ministry released a statement on Friday, announcing that the artifacts would be transported directly from the UK to Baghdad on a presidential plane, accompanied by Iraqi President Abdel-Latif Rashid, Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, and the Minister of Culture.

President Rashid is currently in London attending the coronation ceremony of King Charles III. The statement also noted that the handover ceremony was attended by Iraqi Ambassador to the UK Jaafar al-Sadr, members of the Ministry of Culture, and a gathering of international media representatives.
Chato Salih
Chato Salih   credit: PUK Media
In an interview with Bas News, Cheto Salih, Deputy Interior Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leadership, provided insights into Lahur Talabany's recent political visits and plans. Salih explained that Talabany's visits to political parties, including Gorran Movement and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), aimed to emphasize the importance of holding timely elections in the region. Talabany believes that timely elections are crucial to maintaining the region's stability and that no excuse should justify their postponement. Many politicians and figures close to Lahur have briefed the media, stating that he is willing to field candidates on an alternate PUK list if kept in the cold.

Regarding the Kurdish areas outside the KRG, Salih revealed that Talabany wants all political parties to participate in a unified Kurdish list for the Iraqi provincial council elections in November. This approach, according to Talabany, would help preserve the interests of the Kurdish people in the conflict areas. Lahur Talabany was influential within the PUK security forces when the decision was made to vacate the disputed areas, including Kirkuk, back in 2017.

The interview also touched on the court decision that granted Talabany the right to co-presidency through legal procedures. Salih said that Talabany's visits to parties as co-chairman have not created problems with Bafel Talabani, as co-presidency is a legitimate right. The court decision was made by a court within the KDP's zone of influence and was unlikely to have been made independently. A court in Erbil ruled that Lahur Talabany remained "co-leader" and that all internal PUK votes and decisions expelling him were null and void. Federal Iraqi courts and the federal electoral commission rejected Lahur's attempts to void the PUK's decision to remove him.

Salih mentioned that Talabany has a specific project for the conflict areas but did not provide further details. Additionally, the interview addressed the situation in Sulaymaniyah and Halabja provinces, where there are concerns regarding services, lack of money in banks, transparency, and security.

Finally, Salih confirmed that Talabany plans to visit the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), considering it a major and influential party. Talabany is expected to meet with the KDP deputy leader during the visit in Erbil. Salih emphasized that neither Bafel Talabani nor anyone else can prevent Talabany's movements or political activities. Though he has been received by various party leaders recently, none of them have specifically addressed him as PUK co-leader.
Turkey's MIT confirms killing of PKK fighter

The Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT) has confirmed the killing of a wanted PKK fighter in the Kurdistan Region.

Turkey's pro-government English-language Daily Sabah, citing unnamed security sources, reported that the PKK member, Nechirvan Seven, also known as "Firaz Zilan," was allegedly involved in multiple attacks on Turkish security forces and participated in street protests. The sources claim he joined the PKK in 2015 and was active in the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H), a PKK offshoot, prior to February 2015.

The armed wing of the PKK, the People's Defense Forces (HPG), said earlier that Zilan was killed alongside two other PKK members on January 10. The conflict between Turkey and the PKK has been ongoing since the early 1980s.

Initially founded in 1978, the PKK sought to establish an independent Kurdish state in southeast Turkey. However, its objectives have since evolved to demand greater political and cultural rights for Kurds within Turkey.

The Turkish government has designated the PKK as a terrorist organization, and the conflict has resulted in the loss of over 40,000 lives, including Turkish security forces, PKK fighters, and civilians.

In recent years, Turkey has conducted numerous military operations against the PKK and its affiliated groups not only within its borders but also in neighboring countries, such as Iraq and Syria.
Over 400 women, including foreign nationals from multiple countries, have entered the second week of a hunger strike at a high-security prison in Baghdad, according to BBC Arabic.

These women, imprisoned for affiliations with the Islamic State group, argue they faced unjust trials. Approximately 100 children are also being held at the facility. Reportedly, the women are protesting their treatment and conditions, with some even ceasing water consumption.

The report includes videos from inside the facility, showing malnourished women and young children, many of whom were born in the prison.

Inmates at Rusafa prison in Baghdad claim that around 60 adult inmates and up to 30 children have died inside the facility over the past six years.

The prison houses women serving sentences for various crimes, including terrorism. Inmates assert that they are held in overcrowded cells and subjected to beatings and inhumane treatment.

The Iraqi Ministry of Justice recently dismissed the prison's director and acknowledged the issue of overcrowding.

Amnesty International has reported that convictions in IS-related cases often rely on confessions obtained through torture. The Human Rights Committee of the Iraqi parliament has called on authorities to expedite the repatriation process for foreign prisoners.
Yazidi journalist says authorities have not done enough 

Hayri Demir, a Yazidi journalist who has been reporting on the recent incident, told NRT English that he is deeply concerned about the rapid escalation of verbal attacks targeting the Yazidi community in Iraq.

Demir, the editor-in-chief of Ezidi Press, said it was initially hoped that the tragic genocide against the Yazidis would have led to greater sensitivity within Kurdish and Iraqi Arab societies towards Yazidis.

"Unfortunately, we have to conclude that this is not the case and that the same social stigmatization continues to this day."

He added that the unfounded accusations against the Yazidis acted as a catalyst for hatred, even though places like the al-Rahman Mosque in Sinjar (also Shingal) have never been targeted in revenge attacks. Such incidents hinder the Yazidis' attempts to become an integral part of the Iraqi population. Demir suggests that Yazidis in Iraq should seriously question whether living in such an environment is reasonable, citing the example of Turkish Yazidis who faced a similar dilemma decades ago and eventually chose to emigrate altogether.

While there have been voices of solidarity, Demir argues that it is not enough if authorities, especially the executive, remain silent, creating a breeding ground for further verbal attacks. He emphasizes that hateful words can quickly turn into violent actions and calls for meaningful social change and solidarity to protect the vulnerable Yazidi community in Iraq.

Strong statement from Nadia Murad's initiative regarding backlash against Yazidi community

Nadia Murad's initiative has issued a powerful statement condemning the "hate speech and false accusations targeting the Yazidi community in Sinjar."

The statement calls on political and religious authorities to condemn this harmful language before it escalates into physical violence.

Nadia Murad
Nadia Murad   credit: Nadia's Initiative

Full statement:

"Nearly nine years after the IS/S perpetrated genocide of the Yazidi people, it is heartbreaking to see the resurgence of their violent and discriminatory rhetoric.

Words have the capacity to completely dehumanize. Genocide begins with words and with othering. It begins with false flags and fake news. 

For Yazidi people to once again be subjected to these dangerous and false narratives is traumatic for a community still trying to heal from the recent genocide.

The dehumanizing narrative about the Yazidi people must be broken; tackling hate speech is everyone's responsibility.

We will not see peace in the region until hate, in all forms, is confronted at every turn."

Azime Arsu
Azime Arsu   credit: ANF

Conflicting reports have emerged about the alleged arrest of Kurdish woman politician Azime Arsu at Erbil International Airport. Arsu, who has been an advocate for the Kurdish people for many years, was reportedly taken into custody by Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) forces while attempting to travel abroad for medical treatment due to her serious illness.

The news was first reported by the PKK-affiliated news agency ANF, which claimed that Arsu, a native of Şırnak in North Kurdistan, was arrested while trying to leave the country for treatment.

However, Ahmad Hoshyar, director of Erbil International Airport, has since denied these reports to Rudaw, stating that no one by that name had been arrested at the airport.

Hoshyar added that arresting someone at the airport is not a simple process and requires a judicial warrent. "If someone is arrested, I will definitely be notified," he said.

Turkey has closed its airspace to Sulaymaniyah International Airport, leading to the mass cancellation flights. Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesman Tanju Bilgic attributed the decision to the increase in PKK activities in Sulaymaniyah.


Turkish warplanes have conducted several airstrikes in the Kurdistan Region over the past few days, targeting areas such as Gara, Matin, and Zebar in the Badinan region.

The bombings have been carried out under the pretext of targeting PKK headquarters.

Villages in Nehel were also heavily bombed by F16 fighter jets, causing fear and anxiety among local residents.

Despite the ongoing airstrikes, it remains unclear whether the PKK headquarters are indeed located in these areas, as the difficult mountainous terrain makes them difficult to access and verify.

Nadia's Initiative, founded by Nobel Peace Laureate @NadiaMuradBasee, posted this tweet on the backlash against the Yezidi community:
US concerns for the Yezidi community
Barbara Leaf presser in Erbil
Barbara Leaf presser in Erbil  

Assistant Secretary of State Barbara Leaf expressed concerns over the safety of Christian and Yazidi communities returning to their homes in Ninewa and Sinjar, Iraq during a press conference in Erbil last week. Leaf urged the Iraqi government to take responsibility for the safe and secure return of these traumatized individuals, citing concerns that they do not feel safe enough to return to their homes.

"Across Ninewa and in Sinjar, the Christian communities and Yazidis largely do not feel safe to return. This is what I heard from members of these communities, and this is a point that I discussed with officials in Baghdad," she said.

Thousands of families from the Sinjar district are still displaced due to the lack of security, public services, and reconstruction. The region continues to suffer from the devastation left behind by IS militants who took control of Sinjar in August 2014. During this time, IS killed more than 1,293 Yazidis and kidnapped 6,417 members of the religious community. According to the KRG, 2,693 abductees remain missing.

Barbara Leaf also called for the implementation of the Sinjar Agreement. "We do want to see the Sinjar Agreement fully implemented, and frankly, there are just too many of these armed groups running around these areas, including the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), who are putting these communities at risk. I would really like to see the federal government take the situation in hand."

The Sinjar Agreement, concluded between Baghdad and Erbil in October 2020, aimed to establish a new administration and reorganize security and services in the region. The agreement stipulated that the security of Sinjar be managed by local police, the Intelligence Service, and the National Security Agency, in coordination with KRG security forces. It also emphasized the removal of all other armed groups, including the PKK and its affiliates.

Despite the agreement, Sinjar still has two administrations and more than eight security forces and armed groups operating in the area.


In 2014, Halabja officially became the fourth province in Kurdistan, sparking hope for revitalization among its residents. However, the journey to federal recognition has been slow, and the youth of Halabja have been dubbed "a lost generation" due to the lack of development and opportunities in the city. 


    Anti-Islamic State coalition forces have published the details of their activities in April in Iraq and Syria, stating that the reduction in IS attacks during the Muslim month of Ramadan was due to increased operations. 

    Here is the full statement:

     During the month of April 2023, U.S. Central Command, along with coalition and other partners, conducted a total of 35 D-ISIS operations, resulting in 13 ISIS operatives killed and 28 detained.

    These operations showcase our enduring commitment to the lasting defeat of ISIS and the continued need for targeted military efforts to prevent ISIS members from conducting attacks and regaining a foothold. We remain focused on building local partner forces’ capabilities to prevent ISIS resurgence. 

    The following is a breakdown of D-ISIS operations for April 2023 by country:

    In Iraq:

    • 25 partnered operations
    • 0 US-only operations
    • 9 ISIS operatives killed
    • 7 ISIS operatives detained

    In Syria:

    • 10 partnered operations
    • 1 US-only operations
    • 4 ISIS operatives killed
    • 21 ISIS operatives detained

    During Ramadan we observed a significant reduction in the number of ISIS attacks compared to previous years. We assess this is due to the increased operations by our partners.

    In Iraq, CENTCOM troops continue to advise, assist, and enable Iraqi Security Forces, including the Kurdish Peshmerga, who lead the shared fight against ISIS in Iraq.

    In Syria, CENTCOM relies heavily on our local partners, the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the fight with ISIS.

    “CENTCOM is committed to the enduring defeat of ISIS,” said Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, CENTCOM commander.


    On the claim by some Imams that they didn't "did not have the intention to propagate harmful rhetoric"

    Yazidi activist Saad Murad posted a tweet last week stating that 17 mosque imams and religious leaders have been identified as describing the Yazidis "as infidels and devil worshipers."


    The KRG has issued a statement emphasizing its unwavering determination to protect and promote the rights of the Yazidi community, following recent criticism on social media platforms. The statement comes in response to multiple instances where imams addressed the issue of an so-called attack on a mosque in Sinjar during their Friday speeches.

    The KRG says that these imams claim they did not "intend" to propagate hateful rhetoric but sought to highlight the unfortunate incident. More on that gambit in other posts later today. 

    The KRG denounced any attempts to incite animosity towards the Yazidi community and assured that the actions of a few individuals do not represent the sentiment of the majority in the Kurdistan Region.

    The statement also highlighted numerous initiatives taken by the KRG to support the Yazidi people, including providing refuge, medical assistance, and education opportunities for internally displaced persons.

    Collaborative efforts with regional and international partners have led to the recognition of the Yazidi genocide perpetrated by ISIS, with over 5,170 cases recorded and more than 2,234 victims receiving social and psychological support. The KRG remains committed to upholding the rights of the Yazidi people and ensuring their safety in the Kurdistan Region.

    Here's the full statement:

    "Statement by the Office of Coordinator for International Advocacy: Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Possesses an Unyielding Determination to Safeguard and Advance the Entitlements of the Yazidi Brethren

    In light of some recent unjust and destructive criticism on certain social media platforms against the Yazidi community, and that several Imam’s, no more than four to five individuals, endeavored to explicate the matter in their Friday speech. However, a malevolent entity in the media and social networks attempted to mislead and detract from the issue at hand. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) staunchly affirms its commitment to safeguarding and promoting the rights of the Yazidi brothers.

    The KRG also vehemently denounces any diatribe of animosity, emphasizing that there are approximately 6,500 mosques and religious loudspeakers in the Kurdistan Region, and only a handful of four to five Imam spoken of the attack on the Muslim mosque in Sinjar.

    Additionally, those Imams stresses [sic] that they did not have the intention to propagate hateful rhetoric, but rather aimed to draw attention to the unfortunate incident where handful youths had attacked a mosque in Sinjar through throwing stones. Notwithstanding, those Imams persisted in asserting that this occurrence does not entail culpability upon all Yazidis for said actions.

    Conformably with the sanctified precepts of Islam, due regard should be accorded to all other religions, while any external factions that endeavor to undermine the harmonious cohabitation of communities in the Kurdistan Region ought to be forestalled. The KRG resolutely denounces any reckless aggression directed at the Yazidi Kurds and any vitriolic dialogue that seeks to vilify the Yazidis in an adversarial manner.

    The (KRG) underscores that the utterances of a handful of reckless persons are not commensurate with the prevailing sentiment of the populace of the Kurdistan Region, and that in previous instances, persons who have propagated deprecatory comments regarding certain communities have been subject to retribution.

    In Kurdistan, hate speech is not tolerated, as evidenced by the fact that previously an Imam who once delivered a hateful speech was brought to court and publicly expressed remorse. While several Imams have explicitly and actively denounced the attack on the mosque in Sinjar by Yazidi youths, they have also made it clear that this should not be held against the Yazidi community as a whole.

    Similar to how the actions of the terrorist organization ISIL should not be viewed as representative of the Islamic faith, the behavior of a few individuals should not be used to generalize an entire community.

    KRG reassert that notwithstanding the financial encumbrances and the presence of extrinsic forces that seek to undermine the harmony among communities in the Kurdistan region, the KRG persistently advocates for the rights of the Yezidis, and that the most resplendent emblem of the Kurdistan Region is its coalescence and cohesion.

    The KRG has implemented numerous initiatives to safeguard the Yazidi community, encompassing the provision of refuge, medical assistance, and academic opportunities to the internally displaced individuals within the vicinity. The KRG has demonstrated unwavering dedication to the Yazidi Kurdish cause and has endeavored to eradicate any virulent rhetoric targeting them.

    Moreover, the KRG has forged collaborative relationships with both regional and international partners to recognize the heinous crime of the Yazidi genocide perpetrated by ISIS and to secure acknowledgment of the genocide from various countries and international entities.

    Thus far, 5,170 cases have been recorded, with over 2,324 cases resolved in court, while another 2,000 are still awaiting resolution and under investigation. Additionally, 2,916 people are currently listed as missing, and over 2,234 victims have been provided with social and psychological assistance. Meanwhile, in order to document the atrocities committed by ISIS, the KRG has worked in collaboration with the United Nations Investigation Team (UNITAD) under the auspices of the Iraqi National Coordination Committee (NCC) to advance accountability for the crimes committed by ISIS, particularly those committed against the Yazidi Kurds.

    The KRG remains steadfast in its commitment to uphold the rights of the Yazidis. A committee has been established to amass data and scrutinize instances of individuals who have been abducted, and has earmarked financial resources for this endeavor.

    As of the date of 22nd February 2022, a total of 3552 individuals have been retrieved, which includes 1207 females and 339 males, while 2,719 individuals are still unaccounted for."

    Morning briefing

    Good morning from London and welcome to the NRT English live blog. Here's the morning lowdown:

    • The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has released a statement defending its commitment to the Yazidi community amidst recent criticism on social media. The government emphasized its dedication to protecting the rights of the Yazidis, condemning hate speech, and working with regional and international partners to recognize the Yazidi genocide perpetrated by ISIS.
    • In 2014, the city of Halabja became the fourth province in Kurdistan, sparking hope for revitalization. However, the city's progress has been slow, leaving a generation of youth with shattered dreams and calling themselves "the lost generation."
    • During April 2023, U.S. Central Command, along with coalition partners, conducted 35 D-ISIS operations, resulting in 13 ISIS operatives killed and 28 detained. The operations highlight an enduring commitment to the defeat of ISIS and the need for continued targeted military efforts.
    • Turkish warplanes have bombed several areas in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, targeting alleged PKK headquarters. Local sources report fear and anxiety among the people due to the constant bombardment.
    • Turkish intelligence agency MIT claims to have targeted and killed a PKK leader, Ahmed Gomus, who was a training officer and bodyguard of Murat Karayilan, in an operation in Gara Mountain.