Live: Dozens of Iraqi MPs back death penalty in new anti-LGBTQ+ amendment

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PUK's Counter-Terrorism Group joins Garmiyan operation, arrests three terror suspects 

The PUK's Counter-Terrorism Group (CTG) announced its participation in a joint operation with the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service. Aided by Global Coalition forces, they apprehended three suspects on terrorism-related charges.

The operation took place in the Garmyian region, near Mount Hamrin. The CTG also shared a video claimed to be of the operation.

Recently, the PUK has increasingly demonstrated its military prowess amid tense relations with its rival, the KDP, and internal tensions with ousted co-leader Lahur Talabany.
Speaking of water shortages, here is drone footage showing the Al-Hawizeh Marsh in southern Iraq grappling with sever drought.

Iraqi protesters decry Turkey's role in water shortage crisis

Protestors in Baghdad decry Turkish water policy
Protestors in Baghdad decry Turkish water policy   credit: Photo: AFP
Iraqi protesters assembled under the scorching sun in Baghdad's Nisour Square to denounce Turkey's contribution to the country's escalating water shortages. Protesters accused Ankara of exacerbating the crisis by building dams, leading to a marked decrease in the amount of water reaching Iraqi lands.
Hundreds of demonstrators also faulted the Iraqi government's handling of the situation, demanding improved solutions to the burgeoning crisis. Around 300 people gathered in Al-Nusour Square according to the Shafaq News Agency. They brandished placards protesting the water scarcity from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and criticized the Turkish authorities' apparent lack of adequate response. 

The demonstrators targeted the Iraqi government's ineffectual measures in managing this critical issue. The government's apparent stagnation on this crucial matter, despite the country's substantial budgets, incited significant public frustration. Protesters threatened to elevate the water issue to an international level and contemplate boycotting Turkish goods within Iraq. The protest followed an online call to action by a group identifying as "The Central Committee to Meet the Call of the Nation." 

The group organized the demonstration in response to water cuts and the resulting thirst faced by the population. Recently, Baghdad and Ankara have engaged in discussions about water flow from Turkey as Iraq contends with severe drought. The Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources disclosed that the country is dealing with its fourth consecutive season of intense drought, leading to urgent initiatives to address the issue. 

Minister of Water Resources Aoun Dhiab Abdullah noted a significant impact on the water levels in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers due to inadequate water releases, depleting the country's strategic reserves. However, there are encouraging signs of progress in discussions with Turkey to activate the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding, particularly regarding a summer operational plan for Turkey's dams and reservoirs. 

This cooperation will assist in Iraq's water planning, with Turkey indicating a willingness to increase water releases into the Tigris and Euphrates rivers this summer.
بغداد: شذى الجنابي ذكرت وزارة الموارد المائية، أنَّ العراق يمر بأصعب مرحلة للجفاف وللموسم الرابع على التوالي، وهو ما دعاها إلى وضع حلول ومعالجات عاجلة لتجاوز ذلك، كاشفة عن مؤشرات إيجابية بزيادة نسب الاطلاقات المائية من تركيا لنهري دجلة والفرات خلال الصيف الحالي. وقال الوزير عون ذياب عبد الله
جريدة الصباح
More on tensions between the KDP and PUK. Their long-standing beef is now being played out in the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs.

Treefa Aziz, the KRG's new representative in Washington posts a photo with her team

Outgoing KRG rep in DC, Bayan Sami Abdulrahan is there, too.

Also present is Safeen Dizayee, the head of the KRG's Department of Foreign Relations. He's in the US on a weeklong visit.

Iraqi security forces kill five IS suspects in Kirkuk

Iraqi security forces reported the killing of five Islamic State (IS) suspects in Kirkuk province, in retaliation for earlier fatal attacks on the Iraqi security forces in Altun Kupri, Dibis district, on July 7. 

A video shared by the Iraqi Security Media Cell included IS footage depicting the targeting of Iraqi security forces, resulting in several deaths. Subsequent sections of the video showed Iraqi security forces with the bodies of IS suspects believed to have participated in that operation.

The media cell stated that the Iraqi security forces "crushed" the IS suspects in a covert air drop operation and confiscated their weapons and equipment.

Despite a decline in IS activity over the past few years, militants occasionally launch attacks on civilians and security personnel, particularly in territories disputed between Baghdad and Erbil.

Amnesty International: Proposed Iraqi laws would 'seriously limit' freedom of expression and peaceful assembly

Amnesty International warns that if Iraq passes two newly proposed draft bills, it would "seriously limit" freedom of expression and peaceful assembly for its citizens. Amnesty International and the INSM Foundation for Digital Rights in Iraq suggest the move aligns with recent incidents where individuals criticizing government figures were prosecuted and an Interior Ministry-led campaign targeted "indecent content" online.

Between January and June of this year, at least 20 individuals were prosecuted for peacefully expressing their views, with six jailed but later released.

Amnesty International is urging the Iraqi government to withdraw these restrictive draft laws and cautions the parliament against enacting laws that could dramatically curtail the human rights of Iraqi citizens.

The proposed Draft Law on Freedom of Expression and Peaceful Assembly could, under the guise of democratically passed law, allow Iraqi authorities to prosecute individuals randomly for public comments perceived as violating "public morals" or disrupting "public order". Likewise, the proposed Draft Law on Cybercrimes could result in a life sentence and a hefty fine of up to 50 million Iraqi Dinars (about $38,000) for anyone posting online content deemed to undermine the "country's supreme economic, political, military, or security interests," a definition which remains worryingly vague.

Amnesty International reports that local human rights advocates and activists have expressed concerns that these draft laws would give authorities more power to suppress peaceful protests.

The report highlighted the case of Haidar al-Hamdani, a journalist currently on trial due to a criminal defamation lawsuit. The governor of Basra lodged the complaint against al-Hamdani after the journalist accused him of corruption in a video shared on his Facebook page.

The proposed law restricts actions that challenge "religions, religious beliefs, sects." It imposes up to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to 10 million Iraqi Dinars (about $7,600) on anyone found "publicly insulting a ritual, symbol, or person that represents a sacred or revered entity to a religious group."

Amnesty warns that given the significant influence of religious figures in Iraq's major political parties, curtailing criticisms against them would severely hinder individuals' right to freedom of expression.

Furthermore, the draft law allows authorities to prohibit public gatherings unless permission is obtained from the authorities at least five days in advance. It lacks clarification on the criteria the Iraqi authorities would use in authorizing or banning protests, effectively giving them the power to prohibit all demonstrations.

In its interpretation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights' (ICCPR) Article 21 on freedom of assembly, the UN Human Rights Committee has emphasized that "requiring permission from authorities undermines the notion that peaceful assembly is a fundamental right."
The Iraqi government has re-introduced two draft laws to the Parliament which, if passed, would severely curtail the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly of the people of Iraq, Amnesty International and INSM Foundation for Digital Rights in Iraq said today.  The reintroduction of these draft laws coincides with a spate of prosecutions […]
Amnesty International

Kurdish federal MPs see Sudani's comments on regional elections as 'positive' pressure on Kurdish parties

Some Iraqi MPs have interpreted comments on regional elections by Sudani as both "positive" and exerting "pressure" on Kurdish parties to set a date for the elections.

Srwa Abdulwahid, the head of the New Generation Movement faction in parliament, suggests there's pressure from Baghdad on political parties to schedule the elections. She mentions that both the PM and speaker of parliament have underscored the need to plan the delayed elections.

Meanwhile, former PUK MP Ala Talabani, who is closely aligned with ousted PUK co-leader Lahur Talabany, says the statements by the prime minister are positive.

She believes it's a clear indication of the importance of setting a date and preparing for the Kurdistan Region's parliamentary elections.

Over 100 Iraqi MPs back anti-LGBTQ+ law, death sentence 

Over 100 Iraqi MPs are said to have backed the amendment of an existing anti-prostitution law to include homosexuality, gender affirmation surgery, and cross-dressing. Raed Al-Maliki, a member of the parliamentary legal committee, disclosed in a press conference today that many MPs support the amendment. They propose changing the "Law to Eradicate Prostitution" to "Anti-prostitution and Anti-homosexuality Law."

A draft of the suggested amendment, published by Iraqi media outlets and dated July 1, reportedly received the Speaker's approval to be forwarded to the legal committee for discussion.

If passed in its current form, the law would mandate a death sentence or life imprisonment for those engaging in continuous homosexual acts. Promoting homosexuality would warrant a minimum seven-year prison sentence.

The bill also recommends at least one year's imprisonment for individuals undergoing gender affirmation surgery, including the medical professionals performing the operation.

Furthermore, public servants charged under this law would face permanent dismissal from their jobs.

Last week, the Al-Sadiqoon bloc, the political wing of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq (Leagues of the Righteous) militia, endorsed drafting laws prohibiting homosexuality, citing "major deviations from customs and traditions" in the region. This is the second proposal this month on the same subject, following recent calls for such bans by influential Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr.

Public sentiment against the LGBTQ+ community in Iraq surged following protests last month against an Iraqi migrant accused of desecrating the Quran in Stockholm. Many demonstrators burned LGBTQ+ rainbow flags, a direct uptick seen since Sadr used his vast platform to demonise the LGBTQ+ community in the weeks prior.

A similar proposal was introduced in 2022 but did not become law.

This latest proposal aligns with recent anti-LGBTQ+ movements, sparked by cleric Sadr's reaction to US President Joe Biden's critique of Uganda's harsh new laws against homosexuality. Sadr's condemnation of US policy on Twitter garnered significant support from many Iraqis on social media.

شفق نيوز/ أعلن عضو اللجنة القانونية النيابية رائد المالكي، يوم الثلاثاء، أن عشرات البرلمانيين قدموا مقترحا لتعديل قانون مكافحة "البغاء" في البلاد والذي يتضمن محاربة الزنا والشذوذ الجنسي وتبادل الزوجات
شفق نيوز

Barzani, Aliyev discuss economic ties

State-owned Azertac reports that Barzani and Aliyev have discussed "the expansion of economic and trade relations with the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, investments, energy cooperation, increasing tourism opportunities, opening of direct flights and other issues."

Dilshad Shahab, the spokesperson for the KRI presidency told KDP media outlets that one of the topics discussed at the meeting was "to encourage Azerbaijani investors to come and invest in the Kurdistan Region."

Here is the full statement from the Azerbaijan presidency website:

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has held a one-on-one meeting with head of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq Nechirvan Barzani, who is on a working visit to Azerbaijan.

They first posed together for photographs.

During the conversation, they recalled their meeting in Munich this February. The sides noted that during that meeting fruitful discussions were held on identifying the main areas of cooperation. President Ilham Aliyev said that Nechirvan Barzani`s visit would contribute to increasing the dynamics of bilateral cooperation.

The meeting continued in the presence of the delegations.
The head of state recalled President of Iraq Abdullatif Jamal Rashid`s visit to Azerbaijan this March on the sidelines of the Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement and their discussions on the development of bilateral ties, as well as his meeting with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs Fuad Hussein during the latter`s visit to Azerbaijan and discussions on the development of bilateral bonds.

During the conversation, they discussed the expansion of economic and trade relations with the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, investments, energy cooperation, increasing tourism opportunities, opening of direct flights and other issues.

Flights resume in Kurdistan after brief pause

Flights resumed normal operations following brief disruptions at the Kurdistan Region's two civilian airports in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah. The cause of the suspension remains unclear, with early reports citing security concerns and military drills.

Shafaq News reports intel from a security source that Iraqi air defense radars at Erbil and Sulaymaniyah airports had detected three unidentified drones.

Kurdistan Region Transportation Minister Ano Abdoka, told NRT Kurdish that there were no security, technical or administrative issues at the Erbil and Sulaymaniyah airports. He attributed the short delays to decisions made by the Iraqi civil aviation authorities. Abdoka also denied rumors of increased security presence at the airports.

Contrary to the disruption claims, Sulaymaniyah International Airport officials, in an interview with an NRT Kurdish reporter, maintained no flight schedules were disrupted. However, the airport's website failed to list any flights after 1633 local time on Monday. Typically, eight to 10 flights, including a few night flights, occur on Mondays. Yet, none of these appeared on the airport's website for yesterday.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani has underscored the importance of setting a firm date for the Kurdistan Region parliamentary elections in a meeting today with the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) officials.

While Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani had called on the IHEC to organise the regional elections, the exact date is yet to be locked in. IHEC is preparing for the provincial elections on 18 December, and it is yet to be decided when they can hold the regional ones. There were reports that both elections could be held around the same time, but IHEC rejected this idea on feasibility grounds. 

A date in early 2024 seems more likely but depends on both the PUK and KDP agreeing on terms. In his meeting with the IHEC, Sudani reviewed the ongoing groundwork for upcoming provincial elections, expressing satisfaction on progress. He said he was particularly keen on ensuring a fair, transparent, and unblemished election process. He stressed that the government would throw its full weight behind the commission in facilitating all necessary measures for a smooth conduct.

Morning briefing

Good morning. Here are the stories we are following today:

  • The Iraqi PM joins calls for setting a date for Kurdistan Region parliamentary elections.
  • Flights to and from Erbil and Sulaymaniyah airports are operating as usual, following a brief disruption due to security concerns and reported overhead drones.
  • More meetings are taking place between Kurdish political parties ahead of the Iraqi provincial elections. Today, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) met with Change Movement (Gorran) officials in Sulaymaniyah, while the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) met with other smaller parties.
  • Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani is in Baku for talks with the country's president, Ilham Aliyev. Azerbaijan Deputy Prime Minister Ali Ahmadov received Barzani, according to the Azertac website.
  • The French Defence Minister is set to visit Baghdad and Erbil today.
  • Several suspected Islamic State (IS) members have been arrested in Kirkuk.