Karwan Gazneyi, a PUK faction MP in the Kurdistan Parliament, who narrowly escaped a shooting incident on Sunday, held a press conference in Erbil today, providing a detailed account of the “assassination” attempt.
Gazneyi is an outspoken lawmaker that has frequently been harshly critical of the KRG's performance. His party is a coalition partner in the KRG.
Below are some highlights from his assertive press conference:
“Thank God, I am in good health.”
“I was targeted by a trained terrorist squad in three SUVs and a pickup truck. They rammed my car. When I got out of the car to identify myself, they didn’t listen and started firing heavily with the clear intent to kill.”
“I’m unsure of the motive. Maybe it was an attempt to silence me from discussing citizens’ livelihoods, civil activities, and other essential matters.”
“If they thought this would silence me, they are sorely mistaken. This incident only strengthens my resolve. Under no circumstances will we be cowed by threats.”
"I await the results of the joint investigation between parliament and Kurdistan's security agencies."
16. May 2023 16:56
Dilan Sirwan reports on the ongoing controversy surrounding Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Kurdistan Region.
The Iraqi Ministry of Migration and Displacement has denied allegations of withholding social security and aid payments to these IDPs. The claim was made earlier this week by the Kurdistan Region’s ruling party.
Ministry spokesperson Ali Abbas emphasizes a strong cooperative relationship with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs regarding this matter. This comes amid ongoing tensions between the Iraqi government and the KRG over the return of IDPs in the region.
PUK leader Bafel Talabani reported to journalists in Sulaymaniyah that today's meeting between the KDP and PUK Political Bureau members was positive, although certain issues remain unresolved. Talabani, known for his bombastic and humorous style, did not attend the meeting himself. He was unusually chipper today, his first media appearance in weeks after returning from medical treatment abroad.
He expressed optimism about the growing rapprochement between his party and its long-standing rival, the KDP. Nevertheless, he noted to an NRT Kurdish reporter that there are still outstanding issues concerning the forthcoming elections. "The elections will take place, but details need to be ironed out," he said.
Discussing his party's relationship with the KDP, Talabani revealed that he is "much more optimistic than before and very happy" about the ongoing meetings and evident progress towards reconciliation.
Regarding Sulaymaniyah's share of the KRG revenues, Talabani praised KRG PM Masrour Barzani's recent decision on "the restructuring of public finances in the Kurdistan Region" as a "brave decision" that considered the perspectives of other political parties for the benefit of the Kurdistan Region.
Last week, the cabinet, which included deputy PM Qubad Talabani for the first time after months of boycotting, unanimously agreed on a restructuring of public finances in the Kurdistan region. This decision is set to centralize revenues, liquidity, spending, and salaries, with a primary focus on reorganizing all revenue sources.
The cabinet reportedly agreed to create mechanisms for equitable allocation of expenditures beyond salaries based on each province's population and autonomous administration. This approach aims to address PUK's longstanding concerns that Sulaymaniyah and Halabaja do not receive their fair share of the Kurdistan Region's revenues.
Talabani commended these decisions as significant steps that represent years of hard work. He expressed particular gratitude to "Mr. Masrour Barzani and Mr. Qubad Talabani for their courage in making these decisions."
Speaking to a Kurdistan 24 TV reporter, which has close ties to PM Barzani, Talabani warmly welcomed them, jokingly noting, "we haven't seen you in a long time. Oh wait I'm the one who's been away." He also welcomed KDP leader Masoud Barzani's call for reconciliation between the two parties.
Talabani updated reporters on his health condition. He explained that his recent surgeries were due to a torn pectoral muscle on his right side and a bicep issue on his left arm. Both problems had persisted for several years, and he decided to address them simultaneously. He anticipates a full recovery within six months.
16. May 2023 16:01
Foreign representations, including the US, the EU and the UK, urge the KRG and Kurdistan parliament "to all necessary steps to ensure that elections take place without further postponement."
The Consulates General and diplomatic representations of UK, US, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, the EU, France, Czechia, Greece, Italy, Bulgaria, Poländ and Romania commend the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Kurdistan Regional Parliament, and the people of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq for their ongoing commitment to democratic principles and values and welcome the renewed spirit of cooperation between the parties.
It is in this spirit that we urge the Kurdistan Regional Parliament and the Kurdistan Regional Government to take all necessary steps to ensure that elections take place without further postponement.
We underline the importance of free and fair elections. As such, we call upon all relevant authorities, political parties, and all other stakeholders in the Kurdistan Region of Irag to work collaboratively and overcome remaining obstacles in order to guarantee an electoral process that adheres to international standards and upholds the rights of all citizens, including women and minorities, to participate in the democratic process.
Full statement by Speaker's office on the meeting between between Faiq and Varjola:
On Tuesday, May 16, 2023, Dr. Rewaz Faiq, Speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament, met with Ville Varjola, the Ambassador of the European Union to Iraq.
During their meeting, the upcoming elections in the Kurdistan Region were discussed in detail. The Speaker stated, "The Kurdistan Parliament has intensified its efforts to advance the steps and reach a final agreement between the political parties on the issue of the elections." She added, "The legal procedures for reactivating the commission have been completed, and we are awaiting an opportunity when the parties will soon reach an agreement on amending the electoral law."
Both parties during the meeting underscored the need to expedite preparations and finalize a draft addressing all outstanding issues that have been obstructing the electoral process thus far.
16. May 2023 13:45
Five suspects at large following fatal shooting in Koya
Following the Monday's fatal shooting in Koya, Erbil province, which resulted in the death of two civilians and injuries to three police officers, the Kurdistan Region's police forces have announced the formation of an operations room to expedite the arrest of the suspects.
The General Directorate of Kurdistan Region Police has declared a state of alert and established an operations room to coordinate efforts in apprehending the five suspects believed to be involved in the incident.
During a press conference, Lieutenant Colonel Karzan Amir, spokesman for the General Directorate of Kurdistan Region Police, revealed that one of the suspects attacked the Azadi police station in Koya. "The suspect opened fire inside the station, killing two citizens and wounding two other policemen, including a deputy officer," he said.
"The security forces in the district are on high alert until the arrest of the accused," Amir added. He emphasized that attacks on government departments, specifically police stations, constitute a violation of the law. The suspects, once apprehended, will face the full extent of the legal repercussions for their actions.
This incident has escalated tensions in the district, with local residents urged to cooperate with the police to ensure the swift apprehension of the suspects.
On the same day, PUK MP Karwan Gazneyi reported an assassination attempt on his life. He claims to have been targeted by "trained masked gunmen" at a security checkpoint near the Koya district of Erbil province.
16. May 2023 13:21
Just in: Kurdistan Parliament Speaker Rewaz Faiq has announced that legal procedures to reactivate the electoral commission have been completed. The parliament is now awaiting an agreement between the political parties on amending the election law.
Faiq made the comment in a meeting with Ville Varjola, ambassador of the European Union to Iraq in Erbil today.
Faiq and Varjola also emphasized the necessity to expedite preparations for the elections and to reach an agreement on the outstanding issues, which have been impeding the progress of the elections.
We wonder how much political capital the KDP yielded in return for that first paragraph.
16. May 2023 13:02
The KDP-PUK meeting ends with an agreement – to keep meeting
More examples of adherence to customs, the high-profile meeting ends not with concrete steps or compromise, but with platitudes and vague commitments to continue meeting.
Full joint readout below
Following Mr. Masoud Barzani's initiative on 11 May 2023, during the inauguration of the Barzani National Memorial, the political bureaus of the KDP and PUK convened in Sulaymaniyah on 16 May 2023.
At the outset of the meeting, both parties expressed appreciation for President Barzani's initiative. Deeming the timing crucial, they agreed to take practical steps in conjunction with other parties to follow up on this initiative. The goal is to reorganize Kurdistan's internal affairs and usher in a new chapter in all relations.
Both the Political Bureaus of the KDP and PUK congratulated the Council of Ministers for approving the financial restructuring project, which is the project of all parties forming the ninth cabinet, and both Political Bureaus fully welcomed it.
In another topic of the meeting, both sides expressed concern and agreed on strengthening the constitutional structure of the Kurdistan Region and developing urgent legal and political steps to ensure the Kurdistan parliamentary elections proceed on schedule this year.
Both sides encouraged everyone to cooperate in continuing the atmosphere of brotherhood and working together to resolve the issues of the past.
Both sides decided to work as a team and hold a series of further meetings to provide a favorable legal and political environment for holding elections and addressing the challenges in the region.
16. May 2023 12:52
We have a rather terse and irritated statement from Kurdistan President Nechirvan Barzani's office for you now.
Last week, several Iraqi and Kurdistan Region news sources reported that the Kurdistan Regional President had rejected a request from the Iraqi Prime Minister to disclose the details of the oil contracts in the Kurdistan Region. We would like to clarify that this news is entirely fabricated and far from the truth. No such meetings or requests have taken place, and there is no ambiguity regarding the oil contracts of the Kurdistan Region.
Statement of the Presidency of the Kurdistan Region
16. May 2023 12:46
Pro-PKK media outlet Roj News has shared photos from the attack reported as a drone strike on PKK positions. They allege that it was a house targeted and bombed by Turkish drones.
The website reports that the number of casualties is currently unknown.
As the KDP and PUK vie for minority seats, it's crucial to consider the grievances of minority communities themselves.
They have expressed concerns over the attempts of larger parties to influence how they're represented in politics. Here's what the U.S. State Department's report on International Religious Freedom states on this matter: "After October 2021 parliamentary elections, many minority community leaders complained that larger and more powerful parties – predominately Shia and Kurdish parties – succeeded in bolstering their preferred candidates for parliamentary quota seats reserved for minority communities, so that nonminority parties had significant influence in electing representatives for minority communities."
This attack took place in the Khanasur district of Sinjar on Tuesday afternoon.
16. May 2023 12:26
While they continue their discussions behind closed doors, let's recap the main issues between the two parties.
One of the primary points of contention between the KDP and the PUK is the election law. The two parties disagree over the structure of the elections and the method of electing the 11 minority quota seats in the 111-seat unicameral chamber.
Constituencies: The PUK advocates for multi-constituency elections with a predetermined number of MPs for each province. Currently, the entire Kurdistan Region operates as a single constituency with 100 seats, while another 11 seats for minorities are contested region-wide. The KDP, however, insists on maintaining the current structure.
Electoral roll: The PUK is also pushing for the use of the Iraqi biometric voter registry, renowned for its superior accuracy and integrity in comparison with Kurdistan's own voter register. PUK officials have noted that over 40,000 voters registered in the Iraqi registry are not included in the Kurdistan Region’s registry, particularly in Sulaymaniyah, which could potentially lead to lost votes for this PUK stronghold.
Minority quota seats: The allocation of minority quota seats within the 111-member chamber has been a source of intense debate. Eleven seats are designated for minority communities: five for Turkmens, five for Assyrians, and one for Armenians. Parties other than the KDP argue that these seats do not genuinely represent minority groups as most are won by proxy parties backed by the ruling KDP. There are also allegations of tactical voting among KDP-aligned security forces since anyone can vote for candidates on minority lists.The UN has proposed a solution to assign two minority seats, one each for Turkmens and Christians, to the PUK stronghold in Sulaymaniyah province.
Reports suggest that both parties have reached an agreement on most issues, except for the allocation of minority quota seats.
The PUK aims to amend the election law to regain a balance of power with its rival coalition partner, the KDP. Despite both parties being part of the KRG, the KDP holds the Kurdistan Region presidency and wields significant control over the cabinet.
While the PUK's Speaker, Rewaz Faiq, technically leads the parliament, the KDP’s astute legislative maneuvering has curtailed her power. The deputy speaker is the KDP’s Hemin Hawrami, and the secretary is Muna Kahveci, a Turkmen politician allied to the KDP. This pair can outvote Faiq, ostensibly their superior, on parliamentary procedures.
16. May 2023 12:10
And here's the customary photo album of happy delegates smiling at each other from across disproportionately large tables. No gritted teeth in sight.
The PUK's table has a table within a table. For good measure.
Greetings from London! Here's what's on our radar today:
Representatives from the KDP and PUK political bureaus are meeting in Sulaymaniyah today to deliberate on the upcoming November parliamentary elections and resolve outstanding disputes between the two rival parties. Their previous meeting in March didn't result in any major breakthroughs. We'll be examining the main points of contention between these groups.
In response to the recent closure of the Semalkaborder, which separates the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) and the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), border officials have cited weapons and ammunition transfers from Syria to Iraq by the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) as the primary reason for the border shutdown.
Updates on the suspension of oil exports in the Kurdistan Region: There is no sign yet of resuming oil exports. The President of the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani, denies claims that he has rejected Baghdad's request for specifics regarding the Kurdistan Region's oil contracts with International Oil Companies (IOCs).