Live: Deadly clashes between Iranian Kurdish groups In Sulaymaniyah

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The Kurdistan National Congress, a Brussels-based platform for Kurdish parties and organizations, has condemned today's lethal clashes in Sulaymaniyah, calling for peace.

They stated, "Resorting to arms is a self-destructive act that only serves the interests of Kurdistan's occupiers."
بەرەبەیانی ئەمڕۆ دوو پارتى ڕۆژهەڵاتى کوردستان، کۆمەڵەى زەحمەتکێشان و کۆمەڵەى شۆڕشگێڕان بەهۆی ناکۆکییەکانیانەوە لە گوندی زرگوێز شەڕ لەنێوانیاندا ڕوویدا و بەهۆیەوە دوو پێشمەرگە کوژران و  کەنەکە لە ڕاگەیەنراوێکدا ئەم کارەی شەرمەزار کردکۆنگرەی نەتەوەیی ک
کوردی - RojNews.News
A tweet from Reza Kaabi on 2 March exposed growing tensions within the recently unified Komala, following the creation of the 'Georgetown Coalition':

1. We will refrain from joining any coalition that doesn't acknowledge the national rights of the Kurdish people – a policy that the Toilers party has pursued for the past 15 years and has been repeatedly echoed by the Cooperation Center*.

2. Any party that decides to join a coalition independently risks causing a significant rift in the Kurdistan movement.

3. The Cooperation Center represents the unity of the Kurdistan movement. It is a national, party, and moral obligation to protect and expand it, encouraging the involvement of a majority of Kurdish parties. This will establish them as the political authority in Kurdistan and the sole Kurdish representative in Iranian and international forums.

*The Cooperation Center of Iranian Kurdistan political parties was established in 2018 between five Iranian Kurdish opposition groups.

More on that bombshell

NRT Kurdish, citing sources from the Komala Party, reports that as many as 20 fighters and five senior members have been detained by Asayish and counter-terrorism forces. 

The sources suggest that the objective of removing the senior members from the Zirgwez camp is to 'deescalate' the situation. 

The detained members include:

  • Omar Ilkhanizadeh, Deputy Leader of Komala
  • Abdullah Azarbar, Peshmerga Commander in Komala
  • Kako Aliyar, Central Committee Member of Komala
  • Amjad Hussein Panahi, Central Committee Member of the Toilers Party
  • Navid Mihrawar, Leadership Council Member of Toilers Party

Breaking: NRT Kurdish claims multiple Komala members, including Omar Ilkhanizadeh, have been detained

Other Iranian opposition groups, including the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI), are urging the factions within Komala to ease tensions.

The PDKI, a historic rival to Komala, says the ongoing clashes serve no one's interests and has offered to mediate between the Komala factions. 

he PDKI has voiced serious concerns over today's events and is appealing to all sides to avoid further escalation of the situation.
BBC Persian journalist Jiyar Gol provides insight into the repercussions faced by Abdullah Mohtadi for his participation in the 'Georgetown coalition'. Mohtadi drew criticism from party members and Kurdish political activists for his association with Reza Pahlavi, while also facing attacks from royalists.

To recall, eight Iranian dissidents, including Mohtadi, formed the "Alliance for Freedom and Democracy" during a forum called "The Future of the Iranian Democracy Movement" at Georgetown University in Washington in February. 
The initial signatories included:

  • Abdullah Mohtadi, secretary-general of the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan
  • Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi,
  • Hamed Esmaeilion of the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims
  • US-based journalist and anti-hijab activist Masih Alinejad
  • Reza Pahlavi, the son of the former Shah
  • Human rights activist Nazanin Boniadi.

The coalition stated its purpose as aspiring "to build the foundations of a secular democracy upon which political parties and civil society can be elected by, and serve the will of, the people."

However, in April, Esmaeilion withdrew from the coalition due to the inclusion of Pahlavi. He cited "external pressure" to "impose a specific position" on coalition members using "undemocratic methods." He stated that "imposing opinions is not democratic, and the consensus of a group’s members, not just one member, is a precondition for a democratic movement," without directly naming Pahlavi. In a later interview with Iran International, he attributed the discord within the group to Pahlavi.
حامد اسماعیلیون درباره دلایل کناره‌گیری‌اش از شورای همبستگی به ایران‌اینترنشنال گفت در حالی که به همراه اکثریت قریب به اتفاق جمع برای پیشبرد طرح‌ها خواستار تشکیل کمیته‌های تخصصی، اساسنامه و سازوکار بودند، اما «از طرف آقای پهلوی» مقاومت وجود داشت.
ایران اینترنشنال

Some background on Komala 

Founded in 1969 by Ibrahim Alizadeh, the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan sought to secure autonomous status for Iran's Kurdish community.

Initially operating clandestinely, the party went public in 1979 when the revolution led to armed conflict and urban warfare between Iranian opposition forces and the government.

Komala, grounded in socialist principles, advocates for Kurdish rights and champions a "democratic, secular, and pluralist federal Iran."

It's one of two main Iranian Kurdish opposition groups, the other being the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI). Recently, the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK), a branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), has been active in the border areas of Iraq and Iran.

In 1983, Komala and two Iranian communist parties formed the Communist Party of Iran (CPI). By 2000, Komala co-founder and leader, Abdullah Mohtadi, separated from the CPI and restored Komala's original name. The CPI then rebranded as Komalah, reflecting the Persian pronunciation. However, further splits in 2007 and 2008 saw factions accuse Mohtadi of undemocratic leadership.

From 1983 to 1988, the PDKI engaged in conflict with Komala due to ideological differences and Komala's challenge to the PDKI's dominance.

Komala maintains a Peshmerga Force comprising hundreds of small guerrilla groups. Two camps in Iraqi Kurdistan house Komala's executive committee, clandestine organization center, radio broadcasting, printing, health center, and military training center.

Throwback to the party's heady post-unification days 

This is a tweet from November when Komala announced its unification. The picture shows the two leaders, Abdullah Mohtadi and Omar Ilkhanizadeh, against the backdrop of the red star.
According to Draw Media, a 15-year dispute within the Komala party has led to a new faction emerging. Despite attempts to reunify the party last year by Abdullah Mohtadi and Omar Ilkhanizadeh, discord within the party's armed wing, resulted in the formation of a new group.

The newly-formed faction, which is set to formally announce its structure soon, opposes disarmament, demands more than just federalism for the future of Iranian Kurdish regions, and endorses Kurdish independence should there be any changes in Iran. Some Komala fighters have expressed opposition to confinement in their current camps and are seeking to return to the mountains to resume armed conflict.

Earlier video evidence supports these claims. The tension escalated when Ilkhanizadeh, the deputy leader of the newly unified Komala, moved to the Bana Gawra camp in Zirgwez. This move was opposed by some Komala peshmerga members, leading to clashes.

Fighters interviewed by Draw accused Ilkhanizadeh of attempting a failed coup. Issues contributing to the failed unification range from differing visions and strategies to disagreements over leadership roles and tenures.

Further tranche of funds expected from Iraq for KRG salaries – NRT Kurdish

The KRG finance ministry is expected to receive an additional 400 billion Iraqi dinar ($306m) from Baghdad, and intends to pay all public sector workers ahead of Eid al-Adha on June 27.

The KRG often struggles to pay its civil servants' salaries, and so far only a few ministries have received their May payments.

Employees in other ministries are eagerly awaiting updates from the finance ministry. It was previously reported that the KRG intends to borrow an extra 400 billion IQD from Baghdad to meet its salary commitments, as it currently has a deficit of 350 billion IQD ($267m). The ministry received a payment of 400 billion dinars on June 15.

German woman receives nine-year sentence for enslaving Yazidi woman, aiding IS war crimes

A German court sentenced a woman to more than nine years in prison Wednesday for enslaving a Yazidi woman, and for aiding and abetting war crimes and genocide as an Islamic State member. The 37-year-old defendant, Nadine K., was also convicted of crimes against humanity and belonging to a foreign terrorist organization, according to a court spokesperson in Koblenz.

Nadine K. was an IS member from December 2014 to March 2019. She and her husband traveled to Syria to join the jihadist group, moved to Mosul, Iraq, in 2015 and then back to Syria. Starting in April 2016, they enslaved a Yazidi woman, who IS had held since 2014.

The defendant prevented the then 22-year-old from escaping and forced her to perform household chores and participate in Islamic rituals. With Nadine K.'s knowledge, her husband regularly assaulted and raped the Yazidi woman. The defendant's actions contributed to IS's aim to eradicate the Yazidi faith, prosecutors said during the trial.

Nadine K. and her family, along with their enslaved woman, are believed to have lived in IS-controlled territory until Kurdish fighters arrested them in March 2019, leading to the Yazidi woman's release. The defendant was arrested upon her return to Germany in March last year during a repatriation operation.

In a landmark 2021 decision, a German court was the first globally to categorize crimes against the Yazidi community as genocide. The Yazidis, Kurdish-speaking people from northern Iraq, have faced severe persecution from IS, including mass murder, sexual assault against women, and child soldier recruitment.


English version of the Hengaw statement on Twitter

Hengaw was informed following the split and political dispute that occurred yesterday in the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan that this Thursday morning, due to unknown reasons,an armed conflict between the members of this party and the Komala of tailors of Kurdistan (splitting members) resulted in at least Two [sic] peshmerga named Saman Ebrahimi and Hiva Sadeghi losing their lives. Hengaw calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a negotiated settlement of any military conflict while vehemently condemning the incidents in question.


Full statement by the Toilers' Central Committee

To the brave people of Kurdistan,

To the champions of women, life, and freedom revolution,

To the political parties,

Members and supporters of Komala,

Several months ago, we announced the official start of a unification process with the aim of consolidating the Komala Party of Kurdistan's Toilers and the Komala Party of Iranian Revolutionary Toilers. Today, we regretfully announce that this process has failed due to unfulfilled agreements, a divergence from our unification goals, and political disputes.

Despite our aim for unity and consolidation, and despite the tireless efforts of the Toilers Party driven by a sense of responsibility and generosity, it appears this process was merely an attempt to undermine the Toilers for narrow political purposes.

The Jina Revolution, under its key mantra of "Women, Life, and Freedom," had infused the Kurdistan movement and egalitarian struggle with newfound strength and identity. However, the adoption of policies inconsistent with the Kurdish people's aspirations and the revolution's content by these comrades marks a clear deviation from the Kurdish nation's broader interests.

These policies not only stalled the unification process in its infancy, but they also widened the gap between the aspirations of the people, the revolution, and the responsibilities of the political party. The resources and historical achievements of the Unified Komala Party should not serve such misguided and narrow interests.

For over 15 years, the Toilers Party has maintained a clear policy and stance towards the Kurdistan mass movement and liberation struggle. These policy changes were unacceptable to us, as they could not represent our perspective on the movement and the Jina Revolution.

Given these circumstances, we assert that the Toilers Party will persist in its political journey and struggle.

From the Central Committee of the Kurdistan Toilers' Komala.

More footage of security forces heading towards the camps

The PUK's security forces continue to head towards the Komala camps, with heavy weapons in tow.

We've not been able to independently verify this footage.

Group of Toilers' Party fighters issue video statement

Fighters from the Toilers' Party have issued a video statement, published Wednesday, shedding some light on the disputes between the two factions.

One fighter in the video states they are not aligned with the "mistaken, anti-Kurdistan policy which is also an ally of the most renegade Iranian right wing. Therefore, we declare our support for the activists of Komala who have chosen the right path and the long-standing policy of Komala."

The disputes appear to center on how to respond as Tehran ramps up its pressure on opposition parties following the widespread anti-government protests in Iran. Opinion within the party varies, with some advocating for armed struggle and others taking a softer stance.

Abdullah Mohtadi, speaking to the BBC last month, stated that his party has not engaged in armed conflict with Iran for years. "In fact, we haven't engaged in that for many years now, more than 25 years," he said.

Regarding Tehran's request for disarmament, he stated: "They say they want us to limit our activities, our presence but not expel us. They want assurances that we won't enter Iranian territory, and we accepted it."

One faction is said to have accepted proposals to relocate their fighters and their families into UNHCR-supervised refugee camps.

Statement from the Toilers' Party Central Committee – excerpts

To the brave people of Kurdistan, 

To our friends and supporters,

We regret to announce that the Revolutionary Komala wing, under the command of Abdullah Azarbar, has launched attacks on our schools and camps, with snipers targeting our Peshmerga.

It is with heavy hearts that we report the deaths of two Peshmergas from the Toilers Komala, Saman Ibrahimi and Hiwa Sadeqqi.

Following our announcement yesterday about the conclusion of the reunification process, an onslaught of chaos ensued. Omar Ilkhanizadeh was heard inciting violence, shouting from within the camp, calling for bloodshed.

We have strived to prevent this, but it appears no action or crime is beyond them in their bid to counter their failures. Abdullah Mohtadi, Omar Ilkhanizadeh, and their close associate, Abdullah Azarbar (Abe Soora), are held responsible for the martyrdom of these two Peshmergas.

From the Central Committee of the Kurdistan Toilers' Komala.
The human rights organization, Hengaw, has issued a statement condemning the ongoing clashes and urging an immediate end to the violence.
Hengaw emphasizes that the dispute should be resolved through dialogue rather than armed conflict.

In an effort to facilitate peace, the organization has also offered to mediate between the two conflicting parties.
Here's a background on the tensions

In November 2022, Abdullah Mohtadi, Secretary of the Komala Party, and Omar Ilkhanizadeh, the leader of the Toilers, announced their factions had reunified. This was a significant development considering they had separated back in 2007.

This reunification came to an abrupt end on Wednesday.

Reza Kaabi, the former deputy leader of the Toilers, announced in a statement on his Facebook page that the unification agreement's goals were not achieved. According to him, due to unresolved political disputes, the process had failed. 

Kaabi represents a substantial wing within the Toilers, which is said to be aligned with the PUK and the PKK. In contrast, Omer Elkhanizada is believed to have closer ties to the KDP. 

Kaabi suggested that the Toilers had initially believed that the unification would strengthen the parties. However, he stated that "the aim of those comrades [in Komala] was only to destroy the Toilers for their narrow interests."

In response, Komala issued a statement today accusing Kaabi's wing of attacking the base where Omar Ilkhanizadeh was present. This statement followed reports suggesting that Toilers fighters had surrounded Elkhanizada's home yesterday. However, the situation was defused after the PUK's Asayish (security) forces intervened.

Yesterday, the Bwar News website, known for its reported ties with the PUK's Kosrat Rasul, published a report stating that Kaabi's wing – which opposed unification– had staged a coup d'etat within the Toilers. They purportedly took control of all the party's bases, including those who supported the unification.

The Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan was initially established in 1969 by a group of Kurdish students and intellectuals from Tehran and various Kurdish cities.
House passes amendment to provide Peshmerga with air defense systems

According to a report by Middle East Eye, US lawmakers are moving towards equipping Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq with air defence systems. The region has been a target of multiple missile and drone strikes from Iran and Turkey.

The report states that the House passed an amendment proposed by Republican Congressman Don Bacon on Wednesday. This amendment, which was part of the fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), supports the transfer of air defence systems to the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga. Congressman Bacon highlighted to Middle East Eye that the measure had "strong bipartisan support".

The Peshmerga fighters, based in Iraqi Kurdistan, collaborate with the Iraqi security forces and receive arms and financial support from the US as part of the country's campaign against the Islamic State militant group.

Despite its relative stability, Iraqi Kurdistan has seen a rise in violence over the past year, with both Iran and Turkey launching airstrikes against Kurdish groups operating in the area. The KRG permits Iranian Kurdish groups to operate in the region, but also maintains connections with Tehran.

Last year's missile attacks on the Kurdistan Region capital, Erbil, underscored the vulnerability of Kurdistan Region to such cross-border strikes. Iran claimed responsibility for the missile salvo, alleging it to be a response to the "recent crimes of the fake Zionist regime." The US promptly condemned these actions as an "outrageous attack against Iraqi sovereignty and a display of violence."

This incident laid bare the Kurdistan Region's incapacity to fend off such ballistic missile attacks, even on its capital city, which houses both coalition forces and diplomatic missions.

The report also highlights that the Kurdish Peshmerga currently receive about $20m monthly from the US Department of Defence in the form of stipends. Jonathan Lord, head of the Middle East security programme at the Center for a New American Security, warned that the demand for US air defence systems is high and providing them for the Peshmerga could encounter supply constraints.


Video by NRT Kurdish reporter Goran Luqman shows security forces en route to the camp

Looks like a heavy security presence in being readied to stabilize the situation.

Update from the site of clashes in Sulaymaniyah province's Zirgwez

The situation has reportedly stabilised as of 9:30AM local time, according to NRT Kurdish reporter Goran Luqman. He is currently on the ground in Zirgwez.

Baban Muhammed, the head of the nearby Arbat district council, has informed Luqman of significant developments. He confirmed that Sulaymaniyah Governor Haval Abubakir has been in contact with the Sulaymaniyah security forces and that the governor's immediate priority is to manage and contain the situation. The urgency is amplified by the proximity of opposition fighters' bases to residential areas.

Meanwhile, a video is widely being shared online that shows the Toilers' base in the Bana Gawra camp under attack. The audio captures sounds of heavy gunfire, and a voice in the background can be heard urging, "lay down, lay down."

KRG interior ministry launches gun-registration centres

In response to escalating gun violence, the KRG Ministry of Interior is launching 48 new registration centres. These centres will enable owners of unlicensed firearms to register their weapons and obtain state-issued paperwork.

We urge citizens to visit one of these weapon registration centres as soon as possible and register your firearms at no cost

Ministry of Interior

This initiative is part of an intensified drive to reinforce gun control measures as the region grapples with a surge in violent incidents and firearm-related fatalities. 

Just last week, an Erbil resident allegedly murdered his wife and sister-in-law, underscoring a trend of such tragic incidents in the Kurdistan Region. Known triggers for these fatalities encompass tribal, trade, and land disputes.

Concurrently, increased tensions between the two predominant ruling parties have coincided with a rise in seemingly politically-motivated killings. See our previous report for more information on this issue:

Morning briefing

Greetings from London. Here's what we're tracking today:

  • Tensions escalated today within the Iranian Kurdish opposition when two fighters were killed and two others injured, in clashes between two factions of the Komala party. These confrontations occurred at the Zirgwez camp in Sulaymaniyah province, just a day following the party's split. With increasing Iranian pressure to relocate the opposition fighters to refugee camps and disarm them, internal friction within the Komala party factions is on the rise. The Organization of Kurdistan's Toilers announced on Facebook that snipers targeted their fighters, leading to the deaths of Saman Ibrahimi and Hiwa Sadiqqi. One party member appealed to the people of the Kurdistan Region for assistance, affirming that they have not provoked the other faction. This includes the faction led by a wing from the Toilers and the faction led by Abdullah Mohtadi of the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan.
  • Meanwhile, in the US, the House has passed an amendment urging the Biden Administration to equip peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Region with air defence systems.