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29. May 2023 20:08
The issue of halted KRG oil exports through Turkey remains unresolved. In a recent development, the KRG's acting Minister of Natural Resources led a delegation to Baghdad and met with the head of the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council.
The Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council confirmed today's meeting between Kamal Mohammed, the acting Minister of Natural Resources, and Fayeq Zedan, President of the Council. Their objective was to find a solution addressing the legal challenges faced by oil companies operating in the Kurdistan Region.
According to the draft of the Iraqi budget, the Kurdistan Region is obligated to hand over 400,000 barrels of oil per day to Iraq.
Approximately two months ago, Turkey halted the northern export of 450,000 barrels of oil per day from Iraq via the Iraq-Turkey pipeline. This was in response to an arbitration ruling by the International Chamber of Commerce, which ordered Turkey to compensate Baghdad to the tune of $1.5 billion for unauthorized exports by the KRG between 2014 and 2018.
The estimated losses incurred by Iraq and the Kurdistan Region due to the suspension of oil exports could exceed one and a half billion USD in less than two months.
According to a Reuters report last week, Iraq’s oil minister Hayan Abdel-Ghani claimed that Turkey attributed the delay in resuming oil exports from the Kurdistan Region to 'technical faults and maintenance issues.' Ankara has reportedly informed Baghdad that it is assessing potential pipeline damage resulting from a catastrophic earthquake in February.
However, this claim is questionable as the earthquake occurred in February, while the shutdown didn't take place until March 25. Furthermore, it's unlikely that technical issues would take such a long time to resolve, especially given the vast quantities of oil transported daily.
29. May 2023 18:52
Editor-in-chief of Spee Media detained in Sulaymaniyah
The editor-in-chief of the Spee Media website was reportedly detained for four hours in a police station in Sulaymaniyah, following a complaint filed by the PUK's Asayish (security) forces.
Shwan Mohammed was notified by the Bakhtyari Police Station about a complaint filed against him. Upon his arrival, he discovered the police had opened an investigation based on a charge under the communications laws.
The lawsuit is connected to the June 2022 events when Iranian aircraft attacked the headquarters of the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan in Zirgwez and the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan in Koya. Further details about the case were not provided by Mohammed.
Mohammed was released from the station after four hours, following payment of an approximately $382 bail, pending trial.
This incident occurred days after several journalists, from outlets like NRT TV, Rudaw TV, and Payam TV, were temporarily detained by security forces in Piramagrun, a town northwest of Sulaymaniyah. The journalists were covering a peaceful protest against the recent introduction of average speed cameras.
The Metro Center reported at least 431 violations against journalists in the Kurdistan Region last year, an increase of 78 from the previous year. The PUK was responsible for many of these violations, despite its leader, Bafel Talabani, asserting his “absolute belief in press freedom.”
Hazhan Khalid from the Metro Centre and recent reports from the US State Department and Amnesty International highlight the growing dangers faced by journalists in the Kurdistan Region.
29. May 2023 18:31
Protests in northern Baghdad demanding better services
This evening, dozens of residents in the Sabaa El-Bour area of northern Baghdad took to the streets to voice their discontent with the inadequate public services in their community.
According to Al-Sumaria News, the protesters are urging Prime Minister Muhammad Shia'a al-Sudani to personally visit their area and witness the dire state of the local services. Their demands include the urgent need for the completion of the local hospital, improvement of sewage systems, road paving, and the expansion of Dra'a Tigris road under safe conditions.
Occasionally, protests in Baghdad reflect public frustration with inadequate services and governance, prompting calls for improvements and accountability.
احتج عشرات المواطنين، مساء اليوم الاثنين، على سوء الخدمات في شمالي بغداد.
قناه السومرية العراقية
29. May 2023 18:28
Today marks a significant shift as controversial "point-to-point" (average) speed cameras become operational in Sulaymaniyah province. Twenty-four traffic enforcement cameras are now active along the highway from Tasluja to Dukan district in Sulaymaniyah, and opinions are divided on their purpose. Some view them as a means to generate profit, while the traffic police maintain their intention is to reduce speeding. This article will explore broader road safety challenges and the urgent need for infrastructure development in the Kurdish Region.
The recent installation of these average speed cameras has stirred considerable anger, especially among opposition parties such as the New Generation Movement (NGM). Just five days ago, during the initial testing phase, Shaswar Abdulwahid Qadir, the NGM's President, publicly pledged to take legal action against the company managing these cameras, accusing it of merely "stripping" people's money.
The NGM President strongly criticized the government for not providing alternative transportation options, like trains, asserting that the current road infrastructure is inadequate. He also claimed that the revenue from these cameras ends up in "the pockets of the Talabani family in Sulaymaniyah and the Barzani family in Erbil". He fervently called for demonstrations and protests against these cameras, promising that, if his party gains power, they would promptly "kick out the cameras and reclaim all the money that has been taken from the people by this company".
Critics argue that the high fines collected are not reinvested in road construction and enhancement. The lack of adequate infrastructure exacerbates the casualty rates, leading to calls for increased investment in road development across the Kurdish Region. Incidents of drivers blocking main roads, such as the recent one in Smaquli, further underscore the urgency of addressing these infrastructure deficits. Similarly, after several accidents and fatalities on the Darbandikhan road and tunnel, the NGM proposed tunnel renovation, but the KRG's intervention resulted in only minor road improvements.
There are potential benefits to these average cameras. The main one, of course, being prospects to reduce deaths. They could help drivers in Kurdistan by eliminating 'hidden cameras' installed without warning to target speeding vehicles. Some drivers, keen to exceed speed limits, may dislike the new restrictions and the inability to 'cheat' the system: a common sight on Kurdistan's roads is people speeding way above the limit only to dangerously smash the breaks when approaching a fixed speed camera.
Average speed cameras are common in many Western countries and are a standard tool for enforcing traffic regulations. However, the Kurdistan Traffic Police's reliance on fines alone does not address the root causes of aggressive driving. Offenders may pay fines (all at once when either selling their cars or renewing documentation), but there's no system in place to revoke their driving licenses, raising concerns about repeat offenses. In contrast, countries like the UK have strict regulations, where drivers accruing six or more points within the first two years of passing their driving test face their licence being yanked.
Traffic Police statistics and alarming trends
Despite the implementation of speed cameras, there remains skepticism about their effectiveness in reducing casualties from car accidents. Startling statistics from 2022 reveal 3,706 car accidents, causing 445 fatalities and injuring 7,225 people. These figures underscore the grim state of road safety, necessitating immediate intervention.
In the previous year, Traffic Police records documented over 1.8 million speed camera violations, underlining the prevalence of speeding within the region. Alarmingly, the number of deaths and injuries from traffic accidents has been increasing annually. In 2021, there were 662 deaths and 7,121 injuries, while in 2020, 432 people died, and 4,772 were injured. These statistics highlight the dire need for comprehensive road safety strategies and infrastructure improvements.
The significant increase in cars imported into the Kurdish Region, which currently exceeds 2.4 million registered vehicles, necessitates more efficient regulations. Many believe that the existing road infrastructure is ill-equipped to handle this surge, resulting in congestion and heightened accident risks. Measures must be implemented to ensure balance between vehicle registration and the region's capacity to accommodate them safely.
Currently, the Kurdish Region heavily relies on personal vehicles, taxis, and buses for transportation. Both the KRG and the Iraqi government have long promised to establish railway networks to enhance connectivity and reduce traffic congestion. The actualization of these promises would offer residents alternative modes of transportation, reducing dependence on private vehicles and alleviating pressure on the existing road networks. However, this initiative is often viewed as impractical due to the absence of a concrete plans or implementation.
29. May 2023 16:23
KRG PM Masrour Barzani also congratulated Erdogan soon after the official results were announced, stating that he is looking forward to "expand[ing] bilateral ties" with Ankara.
Erdogan's victory is welcome news for the KRG, as it has been building and strengthening its relations with Ankara (or, more specifically, Erdogan's AKP) for years now.
Kurds among those stranded on the Polish-Belarusian border – AFP
A group of migrants, including women and children, are stranded at the border between Belarus and Poland, according to Poland's border guard on Monday. Meanwhile, activists accuse the officers of denying the migrants the opportunity to request asylum.
Activists report that the group at the border includes people from Syria, Iraq, and Congo, among them 11 children. The group has been forced to camp for four days in the forest near Bialowieza, alongside the border fence erected by the nationalist government in Warsaw to prevent irregular crossings.
In a statement sent to AFP, the border guard indicated that the group of "around 20-30 people" was "outside the jurisdiction" of Poland. They added, "Therefore any administrative activities, including the possible acceptance of an application for international protection, if the intention of these people is to obtain protection in Poland, is not possible."
The rights organization Grupa Granica asserted that the migrants, despite not having crossed the fence, had already entered Polish territory. They also warned that the migrants were not allowed back into Belarus, with the country's border guards allegedly threatening them with dogs. They claimed at least two people had been beaten or injured by the officers in Belarus.
The Polish border guard stated that it had requested the Belarusian side to provide the migrants with assistance and support, but these calls went unanswered. "They only sent a person documenting the whole situation, certainly to use it for their own propaganda," the statement read.
On Saturday, Poland's deputy ombudsman intervened, issuing an "urgent request for information" about the migrants' status.
29. May 2023 14:47
Iraq's national security advisor affirms shared security with Iran
Today, a delegation comprising Iraq's security agencies, led by Iraqi National Security Advisor Qasim al-Araji, arrived in Tehran for crucial discussions focused on fortifying the border between the two nations. The talks center around implementing mutually agreed-upon measures to ensure border security and addressing Iranian opposition groups in Iraq.
A statement from Araji's office asserts that the visit is being conducted under the guidance of Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia' al-Sudani, with al-Araji leading the delegation.
In their initial meeting, the delegation met with Ali Akbar Ahmadian, the newly appointed Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), succeeding Ali Shamkhani after nearly a decade-long tenure.
Given the recent mutual agreement between Iraq and Iran, Ahmadian emphasized the need for Iraq to expel 'counter-revolutionary' (Iranian opposition) groups from its territory and secure the shared borders, according to Iranian Farda news.
In response, underlining the strong ties between Baghdad and Tehran, Araji declared during the meeting, "We view the security of Iraq as inseparable from the security of Iran, and vice versa." Both parties also reaffirmed their previous agreements regarding security and the economy.
This visit occurs against the backdrop of a recent threat from Mohammad Pakpour, the Commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps Ground Forces, who warned of further attacks against Iranian-Kurdish opposition parties. Pakpour stressed the expectation for the Iraqi government to fulfill its promises and act against these terrorists. Failure to do so would result in continued strikes by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Just days earlier, on May 27, Araji visited Sulaymaniyah, where he held discussions with Bafel Jalal Talabani, the leader of the PUK. According to NRT Kurdish, their talks encompassed the activities of Iranian-Kurdish opposition parties, and the presence of the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan camp in Zirgwez and the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI) camp in Koya.
The official statement regarding the visit to Tehran underlined its purpose: to engage in discussions and implement measures to enhance the security of the Iraq-Iran border.
Of note, Araji and Ali Shamkhani, the former Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, had previously signed a security agreement in Baghdad on March 19. This agreement reflected their joint commitment to coordinate efforts in safeguarding the shared border with the aim of countering the activities of Kurdish armed groups operating from the Kurdistan Region against Iran.
These groups' bases are frequently targeted by Iranian forces, leading to a significant number of casualties.
29. May 2023 14:29
In the wake of President Erdogan's reelection, the PUK extended its congratulations and saw this as an opportunity to initiate 'a new chapter for resolving outstanding issues'. Traditionally, the PUK's relations with Ankara have been less robust than those maintained by its rival, the KDP.
Lately, the PUK has been under significant pressure from Turkey due to its connections with forces in northeastern Syria that have links to the PKK. This tension heightened in April when Ankara imposed a flight ban on flights departing from Sulaymaniyah International Airport—an area under PUK control—citing alleged PKK activities.
Additional strains emerged when Ankara was accused of orchestrating a drone attack near the same airport. The drone was reported to target a convoy carrying Mazloum Abdi, the commander of the SDF, along with other US military officials. Despite no casualties, the incident was interpreted as a stern message to the PUK concerning its burgeoning relationship with the SDF—a move that has unsettled Ankara.
Your Excellency Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Türkiye We extend our sincere congratulations to you and the people of friendly and neighboring Türkiye on your reelection as president. We hope that the next five years of your presidency will be a new chapter and opportunity for opening up and resolving issues, as well as a source of peace and stability in Türkiye and the region. The PUK, in particular, wishes for a more pleasant and effective relationship between the Kurdistan Region and Türkiye. Congratulations once again.
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
29. May 2023 13:59
Ex-Sulaymaniyah Prosecutor General: Judicial power subjugated by executive power in the Kurdistan Region
Criticism continues to mount following yesterday's Judicial Council session, with a former prosecutor general contending in VOA that in the Kurdistan Region, real power resides solely in the hands of the Executive. Naz Nouri, the former prosecutor general of Sulaymaniyah, cited the decisions made by the Judicial Council as evidence, asserting, "We are neglecting our national interests and instead serving political parties. The seeds of political conflict were planted long ago, and we are now facing the repercussions."
Characterizing the judicial power as restricted, she holds the belief that "the judiciary in the Kurdistan Region cannot enforce any laws without the approval of the executive authority."
Nouri, who resigned from her position due to her outspoken remarks on the state of the judiciary in the Kurdistan Region, is of the view that political parties "have set aside national interests and are solely focused on their own party interests."
Reactions and criticism have surfaced in response to the official swearing-in of two new members of the Kurdistan Electoral Commission by the Judicial Council, which took place despite not reaching a quorum.
Ali Hama Saleh, a former MP of the Change (Gorran) Movement, declared that the session of the Judicial Council was "illegitimate" under the laws of the Kurdistan Region. He made an ironic remark, stating, "It is highly unpleasant for judges to break the law."
An even more severe statement came from Latif Sheikh Mustafa, another former MP of Gorran in Iraq and a former judge. He described the Council's action as "the final nail in the coffin of the judiciary in the Kurdistan Region." He further elaborated on the event, claiming that the "KDP faction within the Judiciary Council convened and made decisions without the PUK faction."
He gave a deeper analysis of the situation regarding the judiciary, arguing that in reality, there has been "no true judiciary" since 2018, and the recent actions of the Judiciary Council have only made this clearer. As he noted earlier, the division of the Court of Cassation between the KDP and PUK was bound to lead to this result.
Unsurprisingly, the PUK seems unhappy about the Kurdistan Judicial Council swearing in two new members of the electoral commission.
An article published on its official platforms begins with this paragraph:
"After unlawfully attempting to reactivate the Electoral Commission in Parliament, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) continues on its illegal and misguided path. Today, under KDP pressure, two individuals were sworn in as members of the Electoral Commission during an illegal session of the Judicial Council, even though Parliament has not appointed anyone to the commission."
The article further argues that the Judicial Council meeting did not meet the quorum and is, therefore, procedurally void. This appears to be accurate based on a preliminary review of the relevant laws and bylaws. The article quotes non-PUK judges and MPs to show that this perspective is not exclusive to the PUK.
29. May 2023 13:34
Nechirvan Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan Region, was among the first to congratulate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his re-election. On 'behalf' of the people of the Kurdistan Region, Barzani extended his congratulations—his second to Erdogan since 17 May.
Over the past few years, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), headed by the KDP, has developed a growing reliance on Ankara both economically and politically.
As a result, the Kurdistan Region frequently finds itself vulnerable to Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian influence, which extends beyond Turkish borders.
Greetings from London! Here's what's on our radar today:
As the preliminary Turkish presidential election results came in, the president and prime minister of the Kurdistan Region both promptly conveyed their congratulations to Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his victory. This sentiment was echoed by other leaders of political parties in Kurdistan. These congratulations come amidst a dispute with Baghdad that leaves the status of Kurdish oil exports through Turkey uncertain.
Today marks the launch date of the controversial point-to-point speed cameras in Sulaymaniyah province. During the initial phase, 24 traffic enforcement cameras along the highway from Sulaymaniyah's Tasluja to Dukan district will be activated. While some drivers view these cameras as a means to generate additional fines, the Traffic Police maintain that they are intended to reduce speeding.
The independence of the Kurdistan judiciary is being called into question (again). Despite a 'failure to reach quorum', the Judicial Council proceeded yesterday to officially swear in two new members of Kurdistan's electoral commission. Today, we will provide further analysis and quotes from legal experts on this matter.
Shifting our focus away from the Kurdish Region, a security delegation from Iraq, led by Qasim al-Araji, the Iraqi National Security Advisor, arrived in Tehran today. This visit follows Iranian warnings that cross-border attacks will continue unless Baghdad and Erbil take measures to secure the borders and disarm Iranian-Kurdish opposition groups. Araji's visit to Tehran comes on the heels of a meeting in Sulaymaniyah on Saturday, during which border security with Iran was discussed.